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What Reel to Reel decks to get and where (Read 812 times)
Steve Deckert
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What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
05/05/14 at 19:44:25
 
This thread will be about what tape machines to buy, where to find them, what to look for and why.

For example:  While consumer grade tape machines can sound real good, the transports are often less than ideal, require belts and adjustments, break tapes, and can be hard to find parts for.

Prosumer, or Pro tape machines built in the 70's 80's had logic controlled transports with direct drive motors.  There were no belts, and the parts were designed for constant duty so if you find one that was well taken care of, you'll probably never have to fix it.  Pro and Prosumer machines also will have more adjustments that can effect the sound quality and give neurotic audiophiles something to play with.

Steve
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Lonely Raven
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #1 - 05/08/14 at 14:47:30
 
I'm going to expand this thread a little bit, beyond just where to get tape decks and add where to find accessories as well. I saw some fantastically blinged out reel to reels at Axpona this year; and while that's not my sort of thing, it's nice to see that enough attention is still being paid to reel to reel to make modern aftermarket parts; I just wish said parts weren't so expensive.

For starters, these two decks seem to be the popular ones. The Technics RS1500/1520/1700 series, and to a lessor extent the Otari MX-5050. I personally picked up the Otari MX-5050 as they are a workhorse that was often used in radio stations (good balance of price, size, and reliability for radio work) and with some patients some great deals can be found. The Technics seems to be more of the Pro-sumer/audiophile choice, and honestly it's quite a good looking machine, but also more expensive. These are the decks that The Tape Project recommends and uses, and their working with Bottlehead for upgrades/mods.

http://bottlehead.com/reel-to-reel/

J-Corder is the Technics guru and where I believe all the blinged out Technics I saw at Axpona come from.

http://shop.j-corder.com/main.sc

Darklab is a German shop who's accessories seem to make their way over here.

http://www.darklab-magnetics.de/darklab_webshop/index.htm

NAB-Shop makes some NAB hub adapters for those with Pro or Prosumer grade decks that can take 10.5" reels. They also have some custom machined reels.

http://www.nab-shop.com/index.php?page=shop.browse&category_id=1&vmcchk=1&option...

For super bling - Reeltronics makes some fantastic looking precision reels. Their page was up a week or two ago, so it seems they are rebuilding it right now, but here is an article on them.

http://www.tnt-audio.com/sorgenti/reeltronix_e.html


So, why besides bling would you want precision aluminum NAB hubs and reels? The hubs is more for convenience; the big extrusions allow you to rock the tape back and forth to cue up a specific spot on the tape like big pro-decks do. Not really necessary IMHO. However, having precision reels helps to reduce or remove that shush-shush-shush-shush sound of tape slide into a not-so-straight reel which can be distracting during quiet passages. While I don't think the uber-expensive ReelTronix are necessary, I highly recommend tracking down some "precision NAB takeup reels". I know Steve has at least one I saw at Decware, it's got a heavy precision milled hub that the whole reel is built around. I picked up a similar one that I believe may have been used on an old-skool computer that used big tapes.

I'll add more to this as I have time and I find more stuff, and if we plan on keeping this tape hobby alive, it helps to know what all those resources are.


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« Last Edit: 05/08/14 at 16:33:11 by Lonely Raven »  
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Steve Deckert
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #2 - 05/15/14 at 23:50:20
 
The following machines are audiophile worthy.  The list is not complete.


Studer A807
Teac A 7300
Ampex ATR-700
Teac X 2000M
Otari MX5050
ReVox A700
ReVox PR99
ReVox B77
Technics RS1506

Akai GX 650D

TEAC A 6600
TEAC A 6300

TEAC 35 2B
TEAC X10R

Probably the one I would have gotten was the MX5050 or the ATR-700 as they seem to be the biggest bang for the buck, ranging from 500.00 to 1500.00 on ebay.


Beyond this, you want to look for 1/2 track machines.  That means the machine only plays 2 channels on one side of the tape.   Some machines do both 1/2 track and 1/4 track.  1/4 track, means the machine plays 2 channels on each side of the tape for twice the music, but less resolution.  This btw is almost always mistakingly called 4 track.  4 track is quad, not 1/4 track.  

Also, the machine should play 7.5 IPS and if it plays 15 IPS you can listen to a lot more master tapes since the majority are mastered at 15 IPS.

Most of the machines listed above have switches for both TAPE BIAS and EQ.  Being able to switch between two or more bias settings or at least be able to adjust tape bias while you listen is THE KEY.  Record and Playback EQ are also nice to have, as the combination of these switch settings can MAKE or BREAK the sound of a tape.  Especially master tapes as the formulation of masters is all over the place.  Consumer grade reel to reel tapes with pre-recorded music most popularly configured for 1/4 track machines are likely all the same type of tape, negating the need for bias and eq adjustments.

So if you decide to go consumer grade with 1/4 track and 1/2 track heads try to make sure it has these settings.

Also insist on a close up picture of the heads before buying anything.  If you can't tell what condition the heads are in, e-mail me the picture.

Steve
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Nick Danger
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #3 - 05/19/14 at 23:46:07
 
Glad to see a few other folks here interested in oxide, both cassette and open reel. Currently have 4 cassette decks and 4 open reel decks in my kit and a few more as backup. Still spend a bit of time trading oxide with people on other forums.

Current lineup in system:

Cassette:
Nakamichi RX 202
Pioneer CT WM 70R
JVC TD V661
JVC TD V621

Open Reel:
Pioneer RT 1020L
Pioneer RT 707
Pioneer RT 909
TEAC X 700R

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lLance
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #4 - 06/13/14 at 02:27:46
 
Has anyone purchased from The Tape Head sales and service in Appleton Wisconsin. They have quite a few Otari MX5050's and sell on ebay. Craig Detert - Sales Manager there says they're given the top to bottom check up and are in perfect working order when shipped out. That sounds nice but he sounds a little like a used car salesman on the phone.
Lance
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ZMA, Tori MK3, Audible Illusions M3B pre, NAD M51 DAC, VPI Scout 1.1 & Soundsmith Zepher Cart, Janszen zA2.1 Speakers, Berkeley Audio Alpha USB, PS Audio P10, Win 8 & J River app, Audioquest Sky XLR, Triode Wire Labs #7 & Black Sands Z1 PC, VooDoo AES/
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Brian
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #5 - 06/29/14 at 06:48:32
 
Nick Danger,
Are your tape machines listed in your order of preference?
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lLance
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #6 - 06/29/14 at 13:32:14
 
It looks like I found an Oatari MX5050 already at Southern Reel to Reel. They do a pretty good restoration on old decks and provide a decent warranty.

Lance
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ZMA, Tori MK3, Audible Illusions M3B pre, NAD M51 DAC, VPI Scout 1.1 & Soundsmith Zepher Cart, Janszen zA2.1 Speakers, Berkeley Audio Alpha USB, PS Audio P10, Win 8 & J River app, Audioquest Sky XLR, Triode Wire Labs #7 & Black Sands Z1 PC, VooDoo AES/
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Lonely Raven
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #7 - 06/29/14 at 16:46:40
 

Did you pull the trigger on it, Lance?
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lLance
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #8 - 06/29/14 at 17:10:15
 
Not yet but close.

Lance
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ZMA, Tori MK3, Audible Illusions M3B pre, NAD M51 DAC, VPI Scout 1.1 & Soundsmith Zepher Cart, Janszen zA2.1 Speakers, Berkeley Audio Alpha USB, PS Audio P10, Win 8 & J River app, Audioquest Sky XLR, Triode Wire Labs #7 & Black Sands Z1 PC, VooDoo AES/
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Steve Deckert
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #9 - 06/29/14 at 19:02:38
 
Here's a nice Tascam for Auction with 7 hours left on it.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/231265190841?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STR...

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Nick Danger
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #10 - 06/30/14 at 21:04:12
 
"Nick Danger,
Are your tape machines listed in your order of preference?"

No Brian, but I do have a soft spot for my Pioneer RT 1020L's Smiley.

My TEAC probably makes the best recordings.

I have an Otari MX 5050 and an Akai 635D that should be here in the next few weeks. Not sure what work the Otari needs, but the Akai suffers from transistor rot an will need a little TLC. Good thing my soldering iron just died on me....ugh.
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Brian
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Re: What Reel to Reel decks to get and where
Reply #11 - 06/30/14 at 23:59:19
 
Thanks, Nick.
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