A tape recording head in which reading and writing functions are provided by separate modules is presented. The read-only module may be fabricated with a thinner gap than conventional read-write modules. This was shown to provide >40% less gap recession in a controlled wear test. Writing modules are configured to contact tape in one tape motion direction only, thus reducing the wear duty cycle twofold. Modeling indicates that broadband signal-to-noise ratio decline due to wear can be up to several dB less for the separated reading-writing head, which therefore may enable advances in linear and thus areal density. © 1965-2012 IEEE.