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How to make your stereo sound real (Read 7898 times)
Steve Deckert
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How to make your stereo sound real
12/24/22 at 18:01:53
 

Before I start this post - there is sound real and there is sound real good.  To have the later takes exceptional musicians on top of everything else.


We've all heard talk about getting things to sound real.  Certainly I've babbled about it dozens of times on these forums. But this night something extraordinary happened and took it to a new level.  What could possibly take it higher than past ramblings?  The recording.  And this particular session at UltraAnalogue Recordings was the catalyst for a mind numbing experience I recently had -- on video none the less...

The recording, Mendelssohn Piano Trio No.1, Op.49 - Alena Baeva, Narek Hakhnazaryan, Vadym Kholodenko,  was first watched on YouTube and listened to through headphones and then again through my stereo.  Here is a link to that: https://youtu.be/08DQm3ecDu4

Then I listened to it on my smaller tape machine, the 1500 which has been fully serviced and re-capped.  I didn't like the sound... in fact for a minute or two I began to wonder if Ed had lost his mind?  It was lean and the imaging was impossible to lock into a visual. Very blurry.  I was so intrigued by this horrible sound I had to find out what is causing it... so I removed my custom preamp from the signal path thinking a tube had gone south.  Played the tape again on just the machine, and same result.  

I then got out my best tape machine and rolled it into the listening room and listened to the tape again.  This time it was very nice.  Still, all we've accomplished is getting something from sounding like shit to sounding very nice.  Woohoo! Roll Eyes  A $375 reel of tape needs to sound a lot better than this, I thought.

Then I remembered a switch setting on the machine that I had forgotten about, flipped it, and listened to the tape again.  Now it was sounding really good.  So, I decided to make the first video, which was this tape being played on the tape machine.  This was the sonic plateau I was looking for to motivate me to take it to level three, which involves a whole different setup.

Because frankly, using a solid state tape machine to play back one of these tapes make it hard to hear what all the fuss is about with Eds insane recording path shown here:





Which is to say that most any other master tape from some run of the mill studio would sound nearly as good. SO, lets hook up level 3 and see what happens...

Level 3 is hooking the tape head directly to an all tube tape head preamp with zero negative feedback and an adjustable EQ, the output is fed into a ZROCK2 set flat but to add the extra 4dB of needed gain and lend some of it's intoxicating midrange magic to the equation and this directly connected to the Sarah 300B amp driving the Zen Master Series baffles.

By the end of the listening session my head was so fried that I didn't know what to do.  I was flabbergasted.  As you'll see at the end of the video my reaction was unscripted.

So to make your stereo sound this real takes a lot of ducks in a row, and more importantly is this:  The levels.  Level 1 was listening to the digital recording of it on youtube.  Level 2 was listening to it on the good tape machine.  And Level 3 was changing over to an all tube signal path with ne feedback.  Between level 2 and level 3 my thoughts were borderline if the experience was really worth $375 or $13/minute.  In fact I would say it wasn't.  However after level 3 it left a life long impression that even if I never get to hear it again was defiantly worth the money and then some.  You can spend more than this eating a hamburger at Disneyworld with your family and forget the experience with ease.

So to make master tapes worth the steep price of admission the following ingredients are needed:


Record real instruments in a real space.  Use real microphones with the very best tube microphone preamps using the very best Western Electric tubes.  Use silver wire.  Record on pimped out tape machines so you have a real recording. That's step one.  Can't happen without this step.

Playback on pimped out tape machines with feedback free all tube signal path directly from the tape head.  Use Decware amplification and large speakers.




https://youtu.be/tHvdt8EgEt8







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Ed Pong
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #1 - 12/25/22 at 18:07:19
 
Steve,
This was definitely a fun video, & I could hear, even on this simple YouTube clip, the juice that’s on this tape!

Just some thoughts on these Piano Trio tapes. As I was sitting, listening to this concert, I was blown away by the beauty of the overall soundscape. It had it all, a light delicacy & a huge dense sound when all the music reached the fortes. The soft marriage of the violin & cello sounds was magical. This Mendelssohn Trio has both of these extremes in spades.

Roger, my Studer tech, used to record the rock bands in London England & loves to be listening on the headphones at the tape deck. I love the live & would not miss this for the world!

When I first heard these tracks, the naturalness of the sound really messed with me, as I’ve never heard such a presentation of sound. This is really the effects of the 1956 WE437a in the mic-pre amp. This is the only change from my other recordings. The combination of these 3 instruments also created an unbelievably beautiful sound…The fascinating thing in audio, is one never knows the effects of anything, until you hear the effects. Then there’s a “Oh WOW, I didn’t know it can sound like that, or so good!”

That’s why I told you, “the sound of these tapes will mess with you.” Judging from your reaction at the end of this video, I think I was right!

The absolute 1st step requirement to hear this sound, is to have world class soloists, happy to perform at their top level… I really see that is the critical thing in these recordings. All the great tubes/electronics/tape decks/room mean nothing, if the performance being recording is not mind blowing.

The 2nd requirement is the instruments being recorded, because, they create the soundscape we’re trying to record… sounds logical, but many have no idea what goes into making a violin or cello sound “good”… None of this recording would’ve created this emotion if not for the instruments being played here…

The 3rd and easiest of all these things, is the recording chain… as difficult as it was to build this sound path, it’s something we can do. Lastly, but not least is the room. Without a good/pleasing natural reverb, the magic would be missing. The 2 earlier requirements are out of our control…

My conclusion is a magical recording happens rarely & I was lucky we were ready & captured it this time!

Ed
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JBzen
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #2 - 01/05/23 at 00:57:46
 
Down another rabbit hole... Wink

I listened to both videos of Ed's recording on a set of big box store bought head phones. It was a noticeable improvement between the solid state tape machine electronics as compared to the repro head>ZP3 tube pre. So much so I jumped on a Otari 5050 in well maintained shape. It's going to be a bit of a learning curve to add those recommened tweaks. Kind of exciting to own a 40 year old workhorse.

This was further reinforced when I played the two videos on a SE84 sourced from the TV rca outs to a toslink converter feeding a ZDAC. Big difference between the two videos! Exciting times are here again!

John
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JBzen
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #3 - 01/14/23 at 13:55:05
 
The Otari had some issues Huh
Be careful when searching for reel to reels.
Do your research before buying.
Know what you are going to use the machine for before a purchase.
Try the machine before buying.
Do not buy a machine that has not been tested.
A honest description of the machine is worth a thousand pictures on ebay.

My purchase on ebay excited me but when it arrived there was an issue with the capstan motor. It has a noise when running and needs a twirl of the thumb and forefinger sometimes at power up. This can be fixed but could easily cost 1/2 the price paid for the machine or more!

The seller admitted that it was not used for awhile. He did not detect the noise when checking it before the listing. He also reimbursed me for this issue.

I decided to keep the machine. This particular model has known inheritat issues. All things do! I will do a complete going over and the head mod. The ZP3 will need a tape input added. Hopefully it will not take a couple years! It is in very good cosmetic condition. I like the style 😎



John

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Steve Deckert
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #4 - 01/24/23 at 03:39:51
 

Ed,

The reaction you saw me have at the end of the video was rare. It was a one two punch. I couldn't believe it sounded so real -- that was one.  And I couldn't believe the musicianship was so good --that was two.  

It is amazing how going from the tape heads directly into the ZP3 with tape mod and a ZROCK2 let the recording come alive.  Really no comparison between that all triode signal path and the solid state tape machine.  Just goes to demonstrate we really only hear the weakest link.  If you're going to pay money for all all tube signal path recording on tape, you best plan to have an all tube signal path to play it back from.  That was the true takeaway.

Steve

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JBzen
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #5 - 01/30/23 at 11:54:16
 
One of the main reasons an Otari was chosen was repairable ease. Let's face it, no tape machines are being produced today for the consumer market. If it was, it would not be the quality of these old machines. A modern day reel to reel would also fall into the present day throwaway economy.

Well all the comments noted online are correct about this machine. Built like a tank ✔  Ease of service ✔  Repairability ✔

I've tore down the Otari yesterday. The DC capstan motor is a nice piece of work. It looks like it can be rewound easily if needed. The boards are of good quailty. The hardware is the same quality. Aluminum cast frame. Thick aluminum mounting plate for motors and controls. Aluminum faceplate. Very little plastic used.

Love it Grin

John
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Ed Pong
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #6 - 01/31/23 at 02:00:54
 
That's wonderful you're able to service the Otari yourself!
And I agree, most things made many moons ago, were engineered to last.

However, there are some completely new 15ips 2 track tape decks now that look well made. I've had 1 customer in the US , that has the new Analog Audio Designs deck from France.
I've emailed with the designer, Christophe Martinez who's very passionate about tape & used to work for the tape manufacturer Recording The Masters.
https://www.analogaudiodesign.com/

I also saw the new Ballfinger deck in London a few years ago.
So it's very interesting, that there are newly designed tape decks coming to market... Fares well for the future of 15 ips 2 track tapes!

Ed
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #7 - 01/31/23 at 11:55:17
 
Thanks Ed. I see a few companies are in the market including Thorens.

It is passionate folks like you that are creating a need for quailty players. The players are pricey. Ballfinger's looks to be built as well as the Otaris. Interesting use of ribbon cables thruout.

I got my ducks in line and will be knocking soon,  hopefully!

Cheers!

John
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Geno
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #8 - 01/31/23 at 21:00:13
 
Hi John.

I'm just seeing that you got an Otari. Congrats! I love mine!  

You are correct about doing research ahead of time. I had first gotten a Teac SX3300S about 4 years ago. It was in great cosmetic shape, so I bought it, not knowing that there is a long list of things to research first. I finally found that it would need a complete restoration, and found someone to do it. There are only a handful of guys across the country that specialize in this type of work - so with you being a DIY guy, you have a jump on that.

Luckily, about the same time I was ready to send the Teac off to be worked on, I noticed that there was a guy on the Reverb site, selling fully restored Otari MX5050 BII2's (he told me that he had done about 20 of them!) He was a retired sound engineer and tech.

The main thing was, the heads were new, and I knew that they would last me the rest of my life, and more.

If you don't know it already, you will need to get your hands on a calibration tape for the initial calibration.

And, you will need to calibrate the machine to record on the type of blank tape you decide to use. I've done a good bit of experimenting with blank tape, and my favorite is ATR MDS-36. It is 3600'.  Get you two 10 1/2" metal reels on ebay, so you can put blank tape on one, and use the other for a take-up reel.

Good luck on getting it up to snuff - it sure does look to be in great shape!

Best,

Geno
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #9 - 02/01/23 at 11:52:50
 
Hi Geno,

Good to see your as passionate about your machine as I. There is something about having a device like this in the loop setting and waiting to knock the socks off a visitor over a listening session. Looking forward to the rest of this journey of getting there!

Back in the late 70s, I had an Akai GXxxxx. It was touted as having long lasting glass heads. It also was a 4 track with auto reverse. Its main use was to record music with the idea of preserving vinyl LPs. Life back then took a natural change into marriage with all the demands of a relationship. The Akai turned into a boat anchor and was sold. I really did not think of replacing it but over the last couple of years the thought resurfaced with the occasional browse on ebay at machines.

This casual search was initiated with the noticable difference in Ed's recordings that Steve would upload to YouTube. Steve's a little devil 😅  I could hear a good bit of difference in the tackfullness even thru the compromised media delivery.

The Chariot's system is at the point of maturity that has opened up the doors for a step back into R2R (Oxymoron statement for sure!). Over the last six months that browse on ebay became more intense and very frustrating. There is a lot of junk being offered and mosly consumer R2Rs that simply will not play 2 track tapes at 15 inches per second(ips). Ed's tapes are offered in this format and the reason for my purchase.

It took a good bit of searching over many platforms to find a suitable machine at a reasonable price. The lead up to the purchase is interesting on how it transpired. It's like a one two punch that knocked stress out! Steve started this thread Christmas eve. The listing for the machine was posted the day after Christmas. I woke up the day after with that listing on my mind and found positive answers to questions asked to the seller. The Otari 5050B2 was shipped the next day in its original box with all manufacture included accessories. Ahhhhh....

R2R brings a whole new set of terms(jargon) to the table. Setting up a turntable is comparable but a R2R adds the recording function that can be very confusing to set up. A calibration tape would be needed and some test equipment. Otaris do have some test tones built in to assist with different tape densities but when it comes to replacing or adjusting heads and speed on the machine a calibration tape and at least a good voltmeter would be needed.

One does not want to buy a machine with worn out heads! Those machines end up being part donors. Avaiablity of heads is slim and bring a premium. I've seen minimal worn head stacks(erase, record, play heads) asking up to $400 for a 1/4" tape machine! All specific to certain machines, IF available.

I did purchase ADS-MDR 1mil on a 7" reel for test purposes. A lot of people have positive comments about its use. I have one 10" Otari reel and will try to aquire another Otari reel.

Cheers!

John

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Geno
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #10 - 02/01/23 at 13:02:24
 
John,

Yep, the Otari’s 15ips play capability was the main feature that caused me to want one - especially after learning about Dr. Ed and his home studio and quality tapes and the outstanding musicians recorded (Steve is indeed a devil of fueling temptation).

The tape that I purchased from Ultra Analogue is, without question, the best that I’ve heard my system sound. The perfect combination of the clarity of the best digital recordings, but with the deep organic sound of analog. “Real” is the best description.

I think that to fully realize the quality of analog, you need to have grown up in that era, listening to that format. Then when the digital era arrived, suddenly, the noise floor dropped significantly, reaching deeper into the music. Amazing clarity.

But as time passed, and analog sources and quality equipment (like Decware) gained popularity again, what you realize, is that what you gained from digital clarity, you lost in that magic natural and realness of analog. For me this is the case with vinyl, but Ed’s tapes take this several levels past that. Amazing!

Very best,

Geno
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #11 - 02/01/23 at 13:38:47
 
Quote:
But as time passed, and analog sources and quality equipment (like Decware) gained popularity again, what you realize, is that what you gained from digital clarity, you lost in that magic natural and realness of analog.


Amen brother!

Quote:
For me this is the case with vinyl, but Ed’s tapes take this several levels past that


Easy man, I feel stress building again Grin

My vinyl rig is sounding the best ever after beefing up the mains feed and doing a good cleaning of the records. Records are all that is playing lately. Just can't get enough. The thought of shipping the ZP3 back to Steve is anticlimactic! Like parting with a new found friend for awhile. Going have to give him a call.

John
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Ed Pong
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #12 - 02/01/23 at 17:46:09
 
It warms my heart to hear you 2 talking about analogue & what my tapes bring to the table... Thank you for your most kind words!
It really is the reward & reason for why I do this!

I totally understand, 1 change can transform a whole system, as it's only as good as it's weakest link... recently, when I put the 1956 NOS WE436a tubes into the input of the amps for my Quads, I was shocked at what I heard. Dynamics & resolution just went thru the roof & suddenly, I had a whole new record collection! I also put these 1956 tubes into the inputs for the sub & super tweeter amps so the timing would be matched. It got even more coherent & I even thought it brought the sound much closer to tape...

I think it's really a miracle, dragging a tiny diamond along some grooves can recreate such a sound. But as good as an LP can be, it started it's life as a 2 track 15ips tape! Without changing formats, a GOOD tape can knock your socks off & not just dynamics, but transparency & realism are off the scale...

The new piano trio tape Steve played on those YouTube videos, for me, is the ultimate recording, for music, performance & sound... but I always try to push the envelope forward, planning the next concert/recordings!

Ed
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Geno
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #13 - 02/01/23 at 21:15:06
 
Quote:
The thought of shipping the ZP3 back to Steve is anticlimactic! Like parting with a new found friend for awhile. Going have to give him a call.


I assume that you mean, send it back for the tape head mod so that you can connect straight from the tape heads to the ZP3?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around how that is accomplished?

With your DIY ability, I assume that you will do the tape head connection at the Otari, part of the mod yourself?

Geno
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #14 - 02/02/23 at 12:24:12
 
Ed you may be aware of this guy:

https://youtu.be/M4_dtXZoygE

Geno, Yes that is what I mean. It is a relatively simple task of disconnecting the repro 2 track play head from the deck's internal electronics then connecting a shielded cable to that head and terminating the other end of the cable with RCAs plugged into the modified ZP3.

Like you I am still trying to wrap my head around Steve's ZP3 mod. The ZP3 owners manual offers some further explanation of the tape mod.

https://www.decware.com/newsite/ZP32016manual.pdf

John
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #15 - 02/02/23 at 13:08:41
 
Thanks! Yes, it's a really caustic environment at times and I can totally understand the frustration this type of waiting list for a product creates. But some are completely putting misinformation out there that the waiting list is four years or more (when the recent announcement from Sarah is two years) and that Steve is making a fortune by taking a ten percent deposit for no reason, and. . .etc. And the worst of it that chaps my hide the most. . . all these ways they are trying to tell Steve (with no direct communication or even an attempt) how to run his business and fix his "huge problem" from redesigning the components to be "modular" and outsourcing assembly to shutting down orders til things are more manageable to completely stopping any development of any new or existing components to. . . you name it. And what really bugs me about this is that they assume Steve and Decware are either not doing anything at all to address the situation, or are incapable of doing so.

I have to learn to just let them babble among themselves. It's hard! I go to the mat for Decware because of the huge enjoyment their products have made in my life and because they deserve to have truth and autonomy.
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #16 - 02/04/23 at 09:59:56
 
Press the the post button on the wrong thread Lon Smiley

Geno, it just dawned on me this morning on what is going on with the ZP3 tape mod. Three double pole double throw switches are employed to isolate the RIAA circuit and add the NAB/CCIR eq to the ZP3 circuit board plus change resistance at the RCA inputs of the ZP3. One switch is on the right channel with one of its poles tied to the first 12AX7 plate and the second pole tied to the second 12AX7 cathode with the RIAA circuit being cut at the points of the pole insertion. The throws on one side of the switch forms a loop inserting the RIAA at the cuts while the other throws form a loop of the added NAB/CCIR with the adjustable potentiometer. The left channel is done in the same way using the second switch. The third switch is placed at the input with the poles tied to the cathode of the first 12AX7 tube and the throws are tied to the resistor( network?) - one throw that forms the 47k input impedance and the other throw forms the 600 ohm input impedance. While this might not be ideal for all tape heads, it most likely great for our Otaris being Steve has a few of those! So maybe there is one circuit board humping another in the ZP3....Sexy Smiley


John
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #17 - 02/04/23 at 10:25:01
 
Thanks for pointing that out. I've moved it to the right spot.
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #18 - 02/04/23 at 13:00:23
 
So Ed, I ordered Kirsten Edkins Shapes & Sound album as a basis of the ultimate sound capabilities of vinyl using Kevin Gray's all tube pressing. It is going to be great when this all comes together for me!

It is hard to digest the 10Xs expense of a hot album as compared to back in a day. Inflation is a hard thing to deal with when there is real life past spending habits.

“You know, sometimes me conscience bothers me… but not this time.” Smiley

John
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #19 - 02/04/23 at 13:38:39
 
Hi John,
I've not heard of Kevin Grey, but I'm not really up on a lot of what's going on... I did order an ERC LP years ago from England, as those people resurrected the whole Lyric tape recording decks & went to great lengths to to create some LPs... 350 Pounds for 1 LP! Ouch! Packaging was beautiful with a signed "birth certificate"! (It was OK... but I since sold it to a collector)

Inflation has caused a lot of pain & if tape was not expensive enough before, it's getting really crazy now. But we've got to keep having some fun!

Ed
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #20 - 02/05/23 at 13:54:00
 
I took a look at the 5050BII2. It looks to be basically the same as the B2 but a newer version with updated improvements of learned issues of the B2.

The thing about Otaris is the are modular. A couple of screws can be removed to access all areas. The head stack can be removed with three screws and replaced without worry of creating miss alignment. The rec/repro board is accessible with the removal of a few screws. The 2 track repro head has it's own modular plug in the repro board.

I have not done the mod yet. Ed recommends to run solid silver wire from the 2 track head. The wire is at hand. It could be attached at the back of the modular plug head stack solder points. Or, the stock shielded head cable could be used. The latter would be easier and reversal just as easy with installation of a matching female modular plug on the ICs. There are many ways this can be configured to keep all the original features of the 5050 and still tap into the 2 track head for that special listening session.

The only question that comes to mind with the ZP3 mod is the inability of adjusting the test tone on Ed's tapes to 0db. I am thinking that Steve's 600 ohm input and marks on the potentiometers would suffice for output of the tape/head(?) and NAB eq.

When the Otari mod is done I will post it here and hopefully get some input on my misdirection, if any Smiley

John
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #21 - 02/07/23 at 00:18:16
 
Quote:
The only question that comes to mind with the ZP3 mod is the inability of adjusting the test tone on Ed's tapes to 0db. I am thinking that Steve's 600 ohm input and marks on the potentiometers would suffice for output of the tape/head(?) and NAB eq.


John,

Steve should be able to help with that.

Quote:
I took a look at the 5050BII2. It looks to be basically the same as the B2 but a newer version with updated improvements of learned issues of the B2.


I really lucked out finding the gentleman selling these on Reverb. I spent a pretty penny, but with no technical ability, I knew from my first go round, the list of requirements. This fellows machines fit the bill. Matter of fact, when I was ready to calibrate it to the tape I use to record on, he had told me up front to call him. So, with him on the phone, together we made the record adjustments. I would have been lost without his help.

With your electronics know-how, and your previous experience with R2R, you have a leg up on all of this. Please keep us posted on your progress. I’m anxious to hear your comments on the ZP3 mod.

Best,

Geno
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #22 - 02/07/23 at 13:41:00
 
Seems Steve already addressed it on a previous post in this topic. The four posts below(first two are Steves and last two Eds) gives some light on how the ZP3 can be tuned for playing back any tape by ear. No test tone or meters required!  

Quote:
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Reply #12 - 08/30/16 at 11:59pm With the OTR10 and 12 machines, there is plenty of room for isolated RCA jacks to be installed only inches away from the playback head. You can use a ZP3 with the Tape Option and plug the heads directly into it with a good shielded RCA terminated microphone cable.

The cards on the front of the  machine for the left and right channel can simply be pulled out a few inches to disconnect them when you are using the tube playback electronics.

This setup, even with the stock heads gets everything really right with impeccable staging and imaging that comes with single ended triode circuits that employ no negative feedback.

The ZP3 is infinitely adjustable from RIAA to a reference NAB and beyond to IEC. As you adjust more towards the IEC calibration the ZP3 can add a mild bass boost depending on the input impedance setting for the heads ( a switch on the ZP3). This can be and is a handy tool for playback of European tapes with the IEC equalization since you effect the bass drive as well as add or subtract as much treble as you want.

From there the focus is on tubes for the ZP3, and if you want to go further, you can install aftermarket heads and at the same time have the headblock laser aligned. Getting the heads aligned perfectly is far more important than the pedigree of the heads themselves. Having both is the ideal.

When you consider the overwhelming adjustments on the OTR models a nice contrast is having a simple tube playback amplifier with nothing more than 1 switch for bass drive, and a treble control for each channel (if you want to look it that way)  which gives you everything you need to instantly make any tape sound good without a bunch of confusion.  

When comparing it with more expensive active equalization coming from feedback, the ZP3 creates a more believable experience by virtue of it's balance in both frequency and dynamics, but equally important in the arc of sound they reproduce.  It is like a CNC machine plotting 3 dimensional space on an X Y Z grid.  So precise, and so believable.  Nothing is larger or smaller than it should be, nothing is more forward or more reserved than it was... it's just incredibly right.  In contrast, the feedback designs sound artificially expanded where they shout at you unbalancing the harmony of the layers.  On the surface for the first few minutes you would interpret it as better ( and in every bar you would interpret it as better) but for the connoisseur of perfect audio it's a pretty typical let down in so much as it gets so close to actually right, but fails to achieve.

Hows that Wink






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Re: HELP! I can't stop
Reply #13 - 08/31/16 at 12:13am
I would like to point out to those getting into tape that reference tapes from professionals like Ed, and most of today's producers of master tapes for sale create a consistent almost standardized product. That means that NAB is NAB and IEC is IEC and 1KHz is 1KHz so it would seem there should be little need for adjustments, but if you're a tape enthusiast collecting tapes wherever you can find them from all over the world via places like ebay, you going to find that the 1K test tone can be anywhere from 940Hz to 1030Hz and the record EQ that was used, the head alignment and the bias adjustment of the deck that recorded the tape are almost as individual and fingerprints. Playback of these tapes with the ability to make all sound good, vs. the one in nine that match your machine is essential. I don't see it as an option which is why the ZP3 has infinite adjustably of the playback EQ with a single knob for each channel... because yes, the EQ on many tapes varies from channel to channel. One channel will have more highs or more bass than the other... frequently.

Steve
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Re: HELP! I can't stop
Reply #14 - 08/31/16 at 7:04am That's so well put Steve!
To put the stock machine sound vs. a single ended tubed dedicated tape head amp in perspective... my Studer tech Roger Ginsley brought his tweaked stock Studer A810 to my place & we played one of my tapes on it then on my modified Studer A80.... he was shocked & blown away buy how much more low level detail, air, transparancy, dynamics there was from the modified deck... " sounded like a different recording..."

The biggest problem, is tape is not really a "plug & play consumer format" but Steve here has engineered a way to achieve this quite painlessly...

Bravo!!
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Re: HELP! I can't stop
Reply #15 - 08/31/16 at 6:35pm Realistically, for less than the price of a fancy cartridge for LP, you could have a tape deck & single ended tubed tape head amp that will blow the socks of any LP turntable system - that's value!!

I really encourage you all who are on the fence about tape to tip your toes into the world of 15 ips 2 track analogue tape.... you'll be pleasantly surprised... IMHO

The only thing missing is the plethora of software available to the TT fans... but there are more & more tape companies coming on stream...


My take is the lower 600 ohm impedance will place a larger load on the head giving more dynamics while the lesser 47k load will just skim the heads output leaving a more sterile sound. Once a tape from UltraAnalogue is dialed in to one's preference it should play any other UA tape without any more need to adjust IMO.

The extend of my past experience with R2R was limited to just recording personal tapes for personal use. I bought the deck used. For all I know it could have been completely out of adjustment. It did seem to add some dynamics to the source material leaving an unforgettable mark that spurred me on now.

Thanks Geno for the push to explore. We all know that Steve's extensive audio knowledge is spread all over Decware's site. All one has to do is read!

John  
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #23 - 03/14/23 at 20:09:05
 


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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #24 - 03/14/23 at 20:38:36
 
Ah the one that got away . . . to one John and then another.
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #25 - 03/14/23 at 20:42:54
 
It found a good home! All that jazz sweetened it.
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #26 - 03/14/23 at 20:48:48
 
Good. Sometimes I miss it but I really dig the PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter that replaced it.
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #27 - 03/17/23 at 10:33:43
 
Don't think it is the same when it departed your possession! It went through a few mods in the other John's hands Cool
The Mono feature was eliminated. Inputs were moved closer to the first 12AX7 grid. Some of those unused parts were put to good use in other projects here. There are still some unused extra parts in there.
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #28 - 03/17/23 at 11:21:08
 
I'm aware of the mods that John did to it after he picked it up here at my place. I'm sure it sounds great. I certainly would have kept the mono switch as many of the LPs I play are mono and it makes a real difference.

I found it was such a chameleon--every tube change, every footer change, every cable change was evident. . . I never settled into a complement that gave me a great baseline in the way that my PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter does automatically via gain adjustment, and the other benefit is that I can use its very good ADC to run the playback via DSD and I2S via HDMI into my PS Audio PerfectWave DSD DAC and the sound is even better than via the balanced analog outs--due to better cabling and a better output section in the DAC. A win win--and as my DAC improves as it did once by modding and will again next week via installing the Mk2 that will arrive--my LP playback improves. I'm happy right now, may get a ZP3 in the future to play with if I ever can afford it and another ZBIT.
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #29 - 04/14/23 at 12:45:29
 
This is a quote from Steve in the above post regarding the ZP3.

Quote:
When comparing it with more expensive active equalization coming from feedback, the ZP3 creates a more believable experience by virtue of it's balance in both frequency and dynamics, but equally important in the arc of sound they reproduce.  It is like a CNC machine plotting 3 dimensional space on an X Y Z grid.  So precise, and so believable.  Nothing is larger or smaller than it should be, nothing is more forward or more reserved than it was... it's just incredibly right.  In contrast, the feedback designs sound artificially expanded where they shout at you unbalancing the harmony of the layers.  On the surface for the first few minutes you would interpret it as better ( and in every bar you would interpret it as better) but for the connoisseur of perfect audio it's a pretty typical let down in so much as it gets so close to actually right, but fails to achieve.


Folks that ramble from Steve above is GOLDEN and one of and maybe the best reason for zero feedback play. It is the reason why zero feedback can keep us humans at rest for many upon many hours of listening to amazing reproduced music without fatigue.

John
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #30 - 06/20/23 at 10:33:32
 
Found this stand for the Otari. Might just gray it out to better match. Placing it here makes it closer to the ZP3' position.
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #31 - 07/30/23 at 13:36:26
 
Success at last! The analoge tape rig is complete and performing for the first time this morning. Not using the the word performing lightly, the Mendelssohn Piano Trio tape from Ed Pong is sounding extremely close to what was heard at Ed's place on June 11th. Perhaps with a bit more bass(a Wicked One sub was added to the Chariot positioned mid lenght in the room with much better blend) and not as sharp but very very good none the less.

The original lead from the 2 track head is being used along with the modular connector. An adapter was made with old computer motherboard board cables and RCA jacks. Pure silver wire is used in the interconnect.

The female connector is zip tied to the remote control jack on the Otari. The male connector can be seen on the board.


A view of the connector with the rear cover installed.


The adaptors installed and secured.


ICs connected to the modded ZP3.


I did not want to molest this machine that is in near pristine condition.


Cheers!
John
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #32 - 07/30/23 at 16:16:06
 
So awesome John! Congratulations on getting this going.

I’ve talked about this before, but this really makes me wish that we forum members weren’t so spread out, and far away from each other. It would be so cool to be able to listen to various members setups.

I have several friends that love music, but I have no one that wants to just sit and listen - much less listen to evaluate, learn and make suggestions about possibilities for improvement. This would be so fun and beneficial for we like-minded audio nuts.

Best,

Geno
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #33 - 07/30/23 at 17:30:03
 
Quote:
Posted by: Geno      Posted on: Today at 08:16:06

...I’ve talked about this before, but this really makes me wish that we forum members weren’t so spread out, and far away from each other. It would be so cool to be able to listen to various members setups...


Well, if anyone wants a break from the heat its in the low 70s here on the Central Coast if all ya'all want to come over. I'm between Decware amps ATM but still happy to sit and listen.

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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #34 - 07/31/23 at 00:07:17
 
Gosh, does the 70’s sound good!

In central Mississippi, today was the hottest day we’ve had this summer. 100, but with the gulf humidity, it is absolutely stifling! It is hard to bear, but our complexions are so good here. Our skin stays nice and moist🙄
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #35 - 07/31/23 at 11:33:18
 
I received the full transfer warranty, new set of tubes, new input output Roll Eyes caps, new input RCAs, and tape mod. Basically a new ZP3 unit with required break in time to perfection. The first time that the trio tape was played with the Otari's repro amp it sounded thin and cold. The first play with the ZP3 tape mod, thin and cold was gone and replaced with a bit of strain/scratch. Second trio play after 5 or so hours of using the vinyl loop, I found myself being transported to a lofty placed completely unattached to normal sense of being for a short time as the music played. This is an excellent sign in the normal break-in process....looking forward to the full monti!

CAJames, I should be in the Bodega Bay area via Sacramento the 20th of September. A bit north of you with little more than a bicycle and airfare to get back home. Maybe we can coordinate something.

Geno, I'll be in Charlotte NC next week. I did listen to your latest video. WOW!

Lon, your old friend is back to original shape minus the mono switching circuit Wink

If any of you guys and forum members are ever in the Pittsburgh area give me a shout out and we surely can get together.

Smiley

John  
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #36 - 07/31/23 at 16:07:57
 
John,

I'd like to check out what you got cooking sometime. My daughter just finished her travel softball season yesterday so Ive got half a life back until school starts. Very bittersweet ending, they went up against the toughest team in the championship game last night. A team that gave up FOUR runs in 4 games this weekend. They crushed us twice in the past. We had them on the ropes 10-3 and completely stunned...then rain came and washed out the thing. The league decided to not continue the games and not crown a champion.

Sounds like you got some traveling going on, let me know when you'll be home for a bit and hopefully we can set something up.
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #37 - 07/31/23 at 20:07:07
 
Sure thing Sean, I will send you a text. Hope you can stand straight up in the Chariot Cool
John
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Re: How to make your stereo sound real
Reply #38 - 10/12/23 at 09:50:07
 
Just added a new to me tape recorder to the collection of vintage machines. It is a consumer grade 1962 Sony tube bare bones machine. The sound has the flow of analoge. So far only 3 3/4ips tapes have been played on it which demonstrates the machines cut off of the frequencies above 10000 hz. Despite the cut off the sound is engaging fed to the CSP2+.

Buying old machines like this has it's drawbacks. It has a purely mechanical operated tape transport system using idler wheels, rods, springs, and carefully crafted metal guides. This one needed cleaned of hardened grease. One idler wheel needed a bicycle tube retread to get fast forward working. The capstan rubber needed a new oiler felt washer. The tape counter needed a new belt(rubber band). Other then a good cleaning and lube the machine works well now and sounds good. Albeit it is like driving a model T as compared to maneuvering around in the Otari corvette.

Found on FB Marketplace for $20. Bought to cull the lot of tapes purchased this past summer.
John
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