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Reel to Reel Question

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by iamfrobs, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. iamfrobs

    iamfrobs Guest

    So I have been interested in getting a tape deck for a while now. The deal on the AG-440s fell through, and I was very depressed for a few weeks... :lol:

    So now that I am looking elsewhere, I was wondering if anyone could explain to me why so many decks have RCA inputs? I would assume this is not something to look for in a unit that I want to dedicate to recording. This is going to be an investment, so I want to do it right.

    I guess what I want to know is, is this detrimental to the unit's functionality in a recording environment?

    Thanks RO
  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    If it has RCA jacks you can consider it a consumer or prosumer deck. Major differences in most brands being the robustness of the transport, quality of the preamps and the heads lap thickness. Some other things too but these are the points to consider. In professional decks, they are made for hours and hours and hours of continuos use without failure, the internal parts are more readily accessible for maintainence, and the quality of the electronics goes up considerably.
  3. iamfrobs

    iamfrobs Guest

    Well I don't necessarily need hours and hours and hours, but I would like a nice machine. In your opinion would a prosumer deck be good as a mixdown deck, possible to do some drum tracks to?
  4. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    Hello iamfrobs,
    Have you considered an Otari machine? I worked with them in school back in 1990 and found them to be fantastic sounding for the money.

    Are you looking for a 2 track? Try searching for a Otari MX-55, if you can find one in great shape. Great 2 track 1/4" Deck in my opinion.
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Your question really depends on what kind of console or preamps will be feeding the analog deck? And what kind of analog deck will be feeding what kind of console?

    If you are using anything similar to that API 1608, in your Avatar picture, that's all + 4, with reference to .77 volts, line inputs & outputs. Stuff with RCA jacks generally indicate -10 with reference to 1 volt which are low level line levels which work better with consumer equipment.

    While most any console can work with -10 DB output recorders. Not all recorders, especially those with RCA inputs, can contend with + 4 DB output consoles, without overloading the input to the recorder.

    Some Japanese machines have XLR inputs & outputs and are designed as professional pieces working at + 4. Decks like OTARI MX50-50's are designed for professional studio line level inputs & outputs at + 4. There are a couple of TEAC/TASCAM machines also designed for professional studio levels of + 4 but most of their product line was designed for -10 and have RCA connectors.

    If you can't get the Ampex units you're looking at, you may also want to look into old Scully 280 & 280B line of professional recorders. Scully never made a 24 track machine. Their 2 inch 288-16 & model 100-16 were both awesome. The 280 series of machines were also available as 1/4", mono & stereo, 1/2" 4 track & 1" 8 & 12 track versions. There is a yahoo group devoted to Scully machines. I'm a former quality control manager from Scully.

    Any other questions?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  6. iamfrobs

    iamfrobs Guest

    Would you recommend a MX-5050 for my purposes (mixdown/Drums)? I understand they don't have the same sound as the Ampex decks, they are a bit more of a clean sound (relatively), which would be alright.

    I have a few options as far as what I'm going into, we have a Mackie VLZ, Amek Angela, SSL 4000+ at school, I have a Presonus Firestudio for mobile stuff, and I will be looking at a console this summer for my house.

    Has anyone run a main out from Firestudio/Equivalent interface into the deck?

    The tape machines here are Otari MTR90s in the big studios.

    I would prefer quarter or half inch due to the prices for tape.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    You won't have any problems mixing down to a 5050. But if you think you are going to mix down to a stereo machine & it's only drums, do you intend to bounce back to the computer? You're going to have to do it in real-time in record/repro. And you'll be streaming right back in do your DAW. Tape stretches & you'll need a track to lay time code to and you'll need a four track machine, since you'll need a guard band from the time code crosstalk.

    No doubt about it, the old Ampex & Scully transistor machines were the best sounding transistor machines ever made. This also includes the MCI series JH10/16/24, since their electronics were identical clones of the Ampex. So identical in fact that you can swap cards between the two brands of machines. Mind you there are slight differences between 440/MM 1000/MM 1100 cards in comparison to the MM 1200's. They swapped out some components for slightly lower noise & the fact that record & playback heads were designed for quality playback through the record head. The Japanese machines don't quite have the character that the two old American workhorses had.

    Think about this also. The cost of tape? If you are using this to simply obtain that analog saturation? You can use that same tape over many times. Unless you are delivering in analog for a mastering house? Or your clients are requesting analog masters? I doubt that. Of course those might be the only archives we'll have that will play back 50 years from now? But certainly not if the EPA has anything to do with it. Can you say "sticky tape"? So make sure you only use old tape manufactured before 1978.

    Something else to think about. If your goal is to obtain that analog saturation on drums, and you originally tracked to digital? You need only to run your drum tracks out, 2 tracks at a time. You run them to the analog machine and loop back to your DAW, 2 tracks at a time in real-time record to reproduce. Why do this when it will take multiple passes? So you have full saturation control on each drum & overheads, separately & still be able to create a digital mix with everything else and then, no synchronizer necessary. Otherwise you are being silly. That's the only way to go. And it's the argument for having at least a 8 or 16 track, full-blown, 1" & 2" machines, wide track width. You don't want those stinkin' skinny "squeezed sounding" tracks from kiddie Japanese multitrack decks. Well, I don't know? Maybe you do?

    Tape tweakin' animal
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  8. Greener

    Greener Guest

    "Of course those might be the only archives we'll have that will play back 50 years from now? But certainly not if the EPA has anything to do with it. Can you say "sticky tape"? So make sure you only use old tape manufactured before 1978."

    Can you talk more about this?

    I've been looking into cellulose production but it hold hat and I get stumped a bit.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    You mean talk more about sticky tape? Tape Manufacturing?

    The first, & the original recording tape was red barn paint, yes, paint, on 1/4" slit paper.

    Scotch 111 was the first acetate based plastic film based recording tape. Only some of those still in existence can be played. Most have turned to dust. The same was true of early condenser microphone capsule membranes. It wasn't until mylar polyester was invented that we had a tape that wouldn't break. Stretched beyond playback capabilities but it wouldn't break. Iron oxides were improved throughout the years.

    It wasn't until our heightened awareness of toxic materials in the later 1970s that caused a change in the glue that binds the iron oxide to the plastic film. This new environmentally more friendly urethane based adhesive was "rigorously torture tested under extreme tropical conditions" that a change in binders came about. Of course, all of those chemical engineers, working for all the tape manufacturing companies throughout the world, who told us these newer high-performance tapes would last 100 years were....100%.... WRONG! Most it was found wouldn't last much more than 5 to 10 years. Yup, all of your favorite music recorded back in the 1980s, 1990s, can't be played back unless it is put through an extraordinary recovery process. For whatever reasons, most modern tapes suffer from "hydrolysis", in that, regardless of highly controlled environments, the glue, Absorbs moisture from its environment & turns back to "GOO", rendering the tape both unplayable & unusable. It would also slough enormous amounts of oxide which would glue itself to every contact point in the tape path, until the tape actually came to a "screeching" halt, quite literally. Unbelievably!

    In the conversion to digital & CD releases, in the early 1980s, this problem of the tape became painfully & historically threatening to our "recorded history". So the same stupid chemical engineers had to figure out how to recover these precious master tapes. As it turned out, it was found that the binders could be "re-volcanized", by baking, yes, baking the tape, in industrial/scientific, highly temperature controlled ovens. They were baked/are baked on the reel, for no less than 4 hours, at no more than 125° Fahrenheit (you'd think I'd know what the temperature would be in Celsius?) And for no more than 24 hours. Then you would have to wait for it to cool & then transfer it immediately to digital since it was only playable from 1 day to approximately 1 week before it turned back to GOO again.

    Heat also causes an increase in "Print Through". Heat could actually cause the magnetic particles, from louder sounds to align & impart signals to the adjacent layers above & below. These were heard as tiny echoes leading up to sounds before they happened & after they happened. Like some kind of awful nightmare special effect. So kids, don't go purchasing used, and/or older new stock recording tape, sealed or not, since it may actually be unusable. This, all thanks to the EPA to protect workers from toxic exposure. Never mind about us engineers that have spent a lifetime around high power/high-energy VHS & UHF transmitters. Can you say living in a "microwave oven" & where's my MTV?

    I stood in a cyclotron that was down for service a little too long.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  10. Greener

    Greener Guest

    I'm absorbing that like the glue in tape does water.
    And, given 4 to 24 hours of "baking" I could probably spit some of it out again, but only for a short period of time... Then short term memory loss kicks in again.

    You rule, Ms. David.
  11. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    Greener wrote:
    I second the motion!
  12. iamfrobs

    iamfrobs Guest

    Believe me Ms. David, I would most certainly love an MM1200 or Studer.

    Unfortunately I have my current financial situation, living situation, girlfriend situation, and overall lack of preparedness stopping me.

    I would gladly pay you Tuesday for an Ampex today?
  13. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Remypedia is no joke.
  14. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Of the 'prosumer' decks the Otaris are the hardiest and the best sounding. I believe there is a 5050 8 track 1/2"" machine. The 5050 is a series of machines in differing formats.

    My suggestion for your purpose wont sit well with those who have spent so much time on GREAT machines, So no slamming me.... but is still a viable piece of gear for the home enthusiest on a buget...Tascam MS16.

    Everything about it is decent. It is like a little sister machine to the BIGS.And you can still easily get parts and service.

    1" 16 tracks of analog tape compression. There were two speed options from the factoy. 15 ips and 30. The 15 had better bass and the 30 was higher fidelity.
  15. AudioGeezer

    AudioGeezer Active Member

    just get a TG 1

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