Any recommendations on a good "starter" 1/2&qu

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by jkmiller, Jun 16, 2003.

  1. jkmiller

    jkmiller Guest

    I'm doing my best to assimilate all of the great posts on this forum! You guys are really great.

    I am looking to enhance my mastering setup by adding an 2-track tape machine, mostly for experimentation at this time. I want something that will eventually allow me to offer my clients a decent sounding tape saturation sound but I don't want to spend a fortune yet. I also don't want to dick around for hours trying to troubleshoot hardware. I currently have an opportunity to purchase an Otari MTR-10 1/4" (up to 30 IPS capable) machine in good shape for $2-300.00 from a local mastering dude. Any recommendations?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    It will still cost you at least $2000 more for 1/2" rollers, guides and headstack.. 1/2" machines ain't cheap. They require healthy doses of maintenance also...
     
  3. horowizard

    horowizard Guest

    In this day and age you will find all kinds of people unloading their analog gear which is just falling more and more by the wayside and collecting dust in the wake of today's digital revolution.
    But I wouldn't purchase a ¼" Two Track deck for the purpose of giving clients the option of having the sound of tape saturation in a Mastering application. You are more than likely to just end up with more tape hiss, and that would be doing your clients a disservice.
    Now, if you were interested in archiving and restorations, then I would say that is a wiser choice of reasons for the purchase.
    Certainly for starters you can't go wrong with an Otari. They're a pretty good bang for the buck and they happen to handle tape beautifully.
    Just be careful and take into account the condition of this machine. Just how many hours of use are on this deck? Is it squeaky clean?
    Are the electronics good? How are all the solenoids and relays? Do all the switches work?
    How about the transport? Is it solid or is it worn and shot to hell? How much wear are on the rollers and guides? How many times have the heads been relapped? How many more relappings will they take? Is this machine on it's last relapping? Are the bearings shot? Will the motors blow during your first session with a client? All these things are to be taken into account when purchasing a used machine with which your reputation and livelyhood will stand upon.
    Yes, people are dumping their analog gear in droves, but they also know it's value in today's market. I hope this seller is a good buddy of yours willing to give you a good deal on a piece of gear which is worth considerably more in top condition.
    Also, if you do get youself committed to using this machine in your work, spend some extra money and buy an MRL (Magnetic Reference Laboratory) Test Tape. It contains reference tones recorded on a full track under the strictest of quality control standards. Learn the proceedure on how to line up, calibrate and maintain your machine. Learn how to set the input, record and bias levels. Get a quality demagnetizer such as an Annis Han-de-mag. Don't use the cheap Radio Shack one. It won't do the job properly and will probably cause more harm than good.
     
  4. jkmiller

    jkmiller Guest

    Thanks you guys for the feedback. I am going over to visit the studio where the deck is located next week. You mentioned that the 1/4" is going to be too noisy to be of any use. Would it make any difference if I used a form of Dolby NR?

    I probably won't go to the trouble of upgrading this particular machine to 1/2" format. I really just want to learn the ins and outs of running tape including some of the issues y'all touched on like calibration and set up. I have very limited experience running tape as most of my professional experience has been in the digital domain.

    Would I be better off just saving my pennies for one of the cranesong hedd units? I've heard several mastering guys sing the praises of the HEDD as an excellent alternative to using real tape. But they are somewhat pricey from what I gather.

    Jeff
     
  5. horowizard

    horowizard Guest

    Hi Jeff,

    I didn't say that a ¼" deck would be too noisy to be of any use. I said that if you used it as a means of achieving analog saturation, you are defeating the purpose of properly mastering your materials. The concept is to enhance and improve what you have, not degrade it. I've heard all the stories of running digital programs through analog circuitry at one phase or another of it's signal chain, but it's usually an outboard piece of professional quality gear, such as a tube EQ, dynamics processor, classic console channel strip or the electronics of some transistorized device that you like the sound of.
    The thinking here is that analog processing is required to warm up the harshness of a recording that has always resided in the digital domain. The reality is your are not going to get out anything more than what you are putting in except for distortion, or let us say coloration as a kinder term. It's the sound that we are used to from listening to all those old records and therefore that must be the correct way it should sound.
    As far as incorporating Dolby noise reduction is concerned, according to the Pros the only game in town is Dolby A or Dolby SR and those go for about $2,500 per channel. In addition, you will need one pair of units to do the job of encoding to tape and another pair to do the job of decoding from tape. So unless you are prepared to do a lot patching and recalibrating in between every time you record and every time you want to hear a playback, then you are in for roughly an investment of about ten grand in basic noise reduction circuitry.
    The more you get into this stuff the quicker you begin to realize what it is that sets the men apart from the boys in this business.
     
  6. sign

    sign Guest

    The thinking here is that analog processing is required to warm up the harshness of a recording that has always resided in the digital domain. The reality is your are not going to get out anything more than what you are putting in except for distortion, or let us say coloration as a kinder term. It's the sound that we are used to from listening to all those old records and therefore that must be the correct way it should sound.

    You have a good point here Gary, but if I may say so, I've heard some wonderful things happening when running a CD through a hi end tape machine.

    As far as incorporating Dolby noise reduction is concerned, according to the Pros the only game in town is Dolby A or Dolby SR and those go for about $2,500 per channel.

    A couple of years back I've bought a 24 channel Dolby A unit for 1800 euro.
    Last saturday I've bought a hi end tube 1/4" tape master machine in mint condition for 200 euro.

    Peace, Han
     

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