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2 inch Tape Machine Recomendations

Discussion in 'Vintage Analog Gear' started by phuzzy_lumpkin, May 11, 2003.

  1. Hi,

    Newbie poster here. I'm going to be purchasing a 2" machine in the near future (probably 24 trk to make the clients happy, but would like to have the option of sticking a 16 trk head on there without too much trouble, to make me happy). I've been doing a fair amount of research and I'm leaning toward the Otari MX-80 for it's sound/maintance ratio (seems to be pretty good). I've looked at all the graphs at http://www.endino.com/graphs/ and it would seem to support my tentative decision... Any one have any suggestions? I'm wanting to stay in the $8k and under area...

    Groove on and thanks for the great threads!


    ps - especially the drum phase/micing techinque one... that rocked!
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I would not spend that much on a 2" machine. $6K max and if you look around good machines can be had for even less. They are not much in demand these days. Be sure to have a good tech check the machine out thoroughly. It will be money well spent. I also would not get an MX-80. Way too much maintenance and transport problems. I recommend a MCI JH24. Be sure to get the MCI version and not a SONY JH24. The Sony's have surface mount electronics and are much more difficult to repair. The MCIs have through the card mounting of the components and are much easier to fix in the field. MCIs have much better bass response than any of the Otaris also. They run a close second to Ampex machines in quality. BTW, I have a 16 track MCI headstack in VGC I want to sell. PM me if you are interested. Kurt
  3. i was under the impression that the mci machines add too much 'color'... I'll look into it further as i have an mci jh24 on my 'possibles' list (it's goin for around $4.8k ish)

    btw, do you know of a site or other resource that lists a number of records made on/with each of the different types of machines? that would be a kinda cool reference.

    thanks again,
  4. sign

    sign Guest

    Hi Doug

    Kurt is right, the MCI JH24 is a hell of a machine, great for rock and pop music, although I've heard a recording of a big band from an MCI that sounded awesome.

    If memory serves me well there can be some problems with the wiring, the Molex pins or something like that. And you have to keep the power supply clean. I also have read something about tape speed problems.

    There has been some bashing on the Otari MX80 machine, and in fact Kurt has a point about the transport problems. But these problems are caused because the machine can run very hot when it's in a poor ventilated place.

    About the maintenance problems I disagree (sorry Kurt). I have the machine some six years now and still am very happy with it. It needs little care and the heat problem is easely solved with a small fan in the back of the machine. The sound is quite good and it punches like no other machine. The way it handles tape is great.

    It's not a Studer 827 but hey, that costs five times as much.

    Hope it helps, Han
  5. wwittman

    wwittman Active Member

    In my opinion, both the MCI and the Otari MX-80 machines sound awful.
    An MTR-90 is a MUCH better choice.
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    All of the records that came out of Criteria Studios in Miami, in the '70 were done on MCI gear. KC & The Sunshine Band, Eric Clapton, The Eagles.. That's the MCI sound.

    MCI’s have been reported to have better bass response than any of the OTARI machines and are reasonably easy to maintain. wwittman is correct that the OTARI MTR-90 is a great machine. They are a world standard and I have never heard any complaints about keeping them going. It would be a hard machine to beat but I would have to disagree about the sound of the MCI's. I had one for quite a while and I think it sounded wonderful. I would take it over any OTARI any day. But to each his own. Some like marmalade and some like apricot pineapple jam. It's all very subjective. Han is in a position of being able to perform maintenance himself so I would say his opinion of the MX-80 might be just a bit slanted on that point.

    Han, is the MX-80 a PLL transport? I have heard that they are much like the Ampex machines in that the tape speed varies at different positions of the reel. It’s not so much of an issue unless you want to edit different parts of a tape. But really, who edits 2” tape these days? With the Ampex machines this problem was usually solved by using a Time Lynx to synchronize the tape speed.
  7. sign

    sign Guest

    Han, is the MX-80 a PLL transport?

    Kurt, I don't know. I'm not in the studio right now, I'll look in the manual tomorrow.

    I know guys who say the MTR sucks, some guys say analog is a disease. We all feel the need to defend our gear every now and then, which is nonsence.

    Some guys have very strong opinions and make heavy statements about certain pieces of gear.

    I only trust what I hear and I don't believe smalltalk and nice advers.

    I have this MX80 and it serves me very well. Aligning is a piece of cake and it is very stable.
    I've made a couple of fans in the backside and it never had any speed problem after I did that.

    I prefer it at 15 ips though.

    Some people bash the machine, but never have worked with it for a long time.

    I know of a nice JH24 machine in the Netherlands and probably will buy it.

    I'm also "hunting" a Studer 827 machine.

    Peace, Han
  8. that thread on gearslutz is really great... i'm deffinately off the MX-80 and still not sold on the jh24... i just found an A80 MK2.5(?) here in austin that i may be able to get my hands on for around $7k... i can't imagine buying a studer being the 'wrong' choice... but, if i can't get that one, i think i'm gonna try to find an MTR-90. Thanks for all the info and i'll keep you posted as to what i finally get.
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I myself prefered to run the mulititrack at 15ips and then run the 2 track at 30. I thought it sounded wonderful. It seemed to keep hiss build up to a minimum and I never felt the need for NR. I had an automated board also, so when there wasn't anything on a track, the channel just went mute in the mix. I did some great albums on that system. I would still have it if I knew how to work on it. But I wanted to move to Oregon from SF Bay Area and I didn't think there would be any techs up here to help me maintain it. So I sold the tape machines and the console and went to DAW. I never looked back.

    If you end up with that JH24, keep in mind I have a 16 track headstack for it that I want to get rid of. Kurt :tu:
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The Studer A80 is a hard machine to get parts for. A lot of maintenance too. The OTARI MTR-90 would be a better choice. The Studer is a great soundoing machine but the upkeep will kill you. The 80's are the older ones and that price is out of the question in my opinion.. Kurt
  11. sign

    sign Guest

    Doug, if you go for the MTR, make sure it's an MTR90 series two!

    Edit: Oh, and look carefully for headwear, heads are expensive!
  12. sign

    sign Guest

    Kurt, that JH24 machine is not far away in a dusty corner doing nothing. I mailed the guy and he's thinking of selling it.

    I bought 50 reels of used tape from that guy that were recorded on this MCI machine and some sound wonderful.

    The problem with 2" machines is you must have a current one I suppose. A friend of me who's an instrument maker can make every part, so I don't have much problems. He can even make pinch rollers! :D

    Peace, Han
  13. well... there are going to be issues with whatever machine i get because it's just so subjective. all i want to do is get more business into my studio and i have had a lot of people say the old, "i'd cut all my stuff here if you had an analog machine" (the room used to be a church and sounds really good... huge drums). in the end, this is a helluva fun business we are in and being able to go to boards like this and get all kinds of useful info from you guys is part of what makes it so.

  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Funny thing is.. when I had my 2" analog and large format console, I had people saying "I'd cut all my stuff here if you had a DAW."

    People will always have a reason not to be working in any room. It mostly comes down to it's not free. This is a tough business to be in. Especially nowadays with everyone having a pretty good system in a spare bedroom that can do almost anything that can be done in a big studio. There are threads all over the place about how all the large rooms are closing down. Even in Nashville, which has been a real hold out for the studio business, artists are beginning to build their own personal studios. There is a good article on Steve Wariner’s new studio in this months EQ’s feature, “Room With A VU”. I think we are seeing the end of the commercial studio as we know it. The only rooms that will be left will be the ones that do scoring dates and can accommodate orchestral sessions and those will be far and few between. The times, they are a-changin’….
  15. agreed... but, i'm lucky in that i CAN accomodate scoring sessions and i do have a DAW (HD24 to help speed initial tracking then into DP on dual 800 g4)... besides, at least here in austin, people are willing to pay (albeit not much, heh) to get the band out of the bedroom and feel 'professional' by actually paying someone else to record them. hell, i don't wanna get rich (good thing, eh?) but i don't wanna have to have a 'day job' again, either. it also seems a little better now than it did 2 years ago... hell, i had to go work at GC to pay bills for a little while... now THAT sucked.
  16. sign

    sign Guest

    You are so right about that Kurt! Yesterday a couple of my son's friends were rehearsing in my studio and they had brought a Roland VS with them.

    They borrowed a D12, an M201 and two 441's for the drumkit and a couple of 421's for guitar and bass plus they had their own 58 for vocals.

    Guess what? It sounded pretty decent, although the owner of this VS asked me: where do you use this "solo" for? :)

    This weekend I'm going to record a bigband, mainly because a bigband doesn't fit in the bathroom?

    I'm afraid the end of many commercial studio's is near.
  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Just keep in mind that with a 2" tape machine you can be looking at least a three or four hundred dollars every two or three months for repair and maintenance. I spent 5k in 4 years on my machines and console. And that is if you get a machine that is in good shape. If you get a lemon, it can be much more. And are you getting scoring and orchestral dates now? If not, there is no reason to expect that you will in the future. There is more to it than having a large room. Do you have forty sets of headphones and feeds to drive them? Do you have rest room facilities and accommodations for 50 + people at one time? If you are just getting by right now, getting a 2" machine is not going to make things better, believe me it will just be even harder with the associated costs. Trust me, I have been there... Kurt
  18. hmmm... well, yes i have done small ensemble stuff (string quartet, woodwind trio, 20+ member choirs, etc.) but mostly as arrangements for rock/pop songs, although my business partner did record the Tosca/Glover Gill/GloverTango stuff for Richard Linklater's "A Waking Life" (but that was done at Glover Gill's house). the point was only that i CAN if i have the opportunity. but ultimately, what i've gotten from this thread is that the otari MTR-90 Series 2(+) is the best machine for me... probably

    a fairly cajun blackened doug
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I am glad you got what you needed. I wish you good luck in your venture. I am just playing devils advocate for you. Usually if someone is as settled in the decision to do something as you seem to be, things work out. Where there's a will, there's a way. :tu: Kurt
  20. sign

    sign Guest

    "Just keep in mind that with a 2" tape machine you can be looking at least a three or four hundred dollars every two or three months for repair and maintenance. I spent 5k in 4 years on my machines and console. And that is if you get a machine that is in good shape. If you get a lemon, it can be much more."

    Kurt, with all respect, but is that so? If the answer is yes, I guess I must be very lucky with the MX80 because it has cost me nothing in the six years I have it.

    I fire it up in the morning and it always works like a charm. And still some people say it's a bad machine.

    I know a MTR 90 MK2 machine in Belgium that's almost like new, very few hours and it's for sale.


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