3. The instability and vulnerability of audio carriers

For traditional paper based documents, the long-term preservation of the original carrier is (with a few exceptions) generally feasible. In general, audio carriers (except metal matrices of mass replicated carriers) will have a shorter life-expectancy than that of good quality traditional text materials.

In addition, audio carriers are more vulnerable to damage caused by poor handling, by poorly maintained or malfunctioning equipment and by poor storage than conventional text documents. Due to the high density of information, digital carriers are generally more vulnerable to loss of information through damage than analogue carriers. If a carrier is damaged by poor storage or mishandling, the information may be lost. This applies to both digital and analogue material.

The level of risk of a carrier will depend upon the vulnerability of the carrier, the quality and maintenance of replay equipment, the professional skills of the operator and the quality of the storage. The level of risk ranges from the very high for an LP frequently replayed by conventional mechanical pick-up systems to relatively low for a rarely used analogue quarter inch polyester tape replayed by well maintained equipment.