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MCI JH5 anyone?

Does anybody know anything about MCI JH-5 modules? I was given an old Ampex 1" 8trk reel-to-reel machine with MCI JH-5's. I fired it all up a year or so back, and one of the reel motors on the machine is fried. Im not really thinking about trying refurbish this machine, but I'm considering using the MCI JH-5 modules as preamps? Would these even sound decent at all going into a digital recording system? I have No info about these units, and most of the info I am coming across is about the JH-16 and JH-24 MCI units. I would try and set these modules up and listen to them but my recording setup is where I am living now, and the tape machine and JH-5 units are in storage out of state. Does anyone think that these units could be worth any of my time or attention? Does anyone know anything about them at all? Thanks in advance for looking over this post.


RemyRAD Mon, 03/05/2007 - 17:49
Hey there Gib! Funny you should mention the MCI JH-5. One of the reasons you keep getting bounced back to people that have the JH 10, JH 16, JH 100, is that they all basically use the same playback, record and bias cards. Of which "The Brothers Gib" also helped to make MCI famous as all of their recordings were made upon this very equipment!

The JH-5 is actually an identical replica/copy of the Ampex AG 440, which was also the same for the MM1000, MM1100 and MM1200! They were so identical that you could swap the cards between the different manufacturers machines and they would still work! I was never sure why Ampex never sued Jeep at MCI or copying their electronics? We're not just talking similar here, we're talking identical.

Now as to whether you would want to keep these electronics or not? To the best of my knowledge, they never had microphone inputs, only line level in and out. They were considered to be one of the finest sounding machines to track on and the electronics were 90% of that. So they still have an element of coloration with their input and output transformers and simple topography transistorized electronics without integrated circuit chips. Without running your transport for the obligatory saturation sound, I really wouldn't see any point in keeping them? So even though your transport has a blown out take up motor, it's generally pretty easy to get the motor rewound and/or a replacement. With that 8 track machine in decent running condition and an eight Channel computer interface, you could have some of the sweetest sounding digital tracks in your area.

There are plenty of schematics and manuals available and even an Ampex 440 manual would be applicable to your JH-5 electronics. Just not the transport which were substantially different from each other.

Authorized MCI and Ampex technician from the 1970s
Ms. Remy Ann David

Gib Tue, 03/06/2007 - 04:59
Thanks for the response Remy! You have renewed my interest in this unit. I have had it for a couple of years, originally wanting to refurbish it to good working condition. Recently I have lost hope, but you have helped me regain that! THanks! And you are right, the JH-5 modules have only line in and outs. I just checked them out. Hopefully in a few months I can start reworking this machine. Any ideas of any good techs in the Cleveland OH area or not too far from here that would be a good starting place to service or troubleshoot this machine? Thanks again for the regained hope!


RemyRAD Wed, 03/07/2007 - 20:06
JoeH has made a good suggestion. I think that's Eddie Cileti's place? There is also I believe, Mike Spitz at ATR (?) Somewhere else in the Pennsylvania area that has specialized in refurbishing Ampex ATR series machines and probably also could take care in getting that machine back up.

Everybody still loves what happens to drums and other instruments when you saturate the tape in a certain manner. With 8 decent microphone preamps, fed into that analog Ampex/MCI hybrid, when you go to track a band, you can take the output of the playback head, in real time, to print to the computer. After you get done tracking, you can go back and do all of the overdubs digitally. If you should want that tape saturation sound again on any of the overdubs, you can't do that during overdubs. What you would have to do is you would want to play the computer back, while isolating that track, after overdubbing, and send that track, to the analog machine and fed back to the computer, in real time, off of the playback head, while recording on the analog deck. No time code or other synchronization requirements would be necessary, that way. You really can't expect to playback a track from the computer, go to the tape recorder, stop and rewind the tape recorder and then transfer back to the computer and still be able to hold synchronization. Not really possible without time code, a synchronizer and eating up a channel on the 8 track machine, along with the MIDI time code and interface for the computer, that way, after-the-fact. Did you understand what I'm trying to say?

Additionally, Eddie recently wrote a fairly comprehensive article, which I had fun reading, I think, in Electronic Musician Magazine, this past month, on how to tweak up an analog machine. He covered all lot of territory in just a few pages. I am also quite well versed on what exactly you need to do to that machine. Obtaining a used reel motor, for an Ampex transport, shouldn't be difficult. The Ampex, as in the Scully and MCI, used beefier reel motors, than they used for the 1/4" & 1/2" transports, for their 8 track machines an even larger motors for the 2 inch machines. So you can't effectively use just any used reel motors as they will not have the torque for proper tension. Thankfully, with my above mentioned suggestion, you can pretty much use the same piece/reel of 1 inch tape over and over again since it won't be a tape supplied to the client. Especially since you may have trouble finding, 1 inch tape anymore? It takes a couple of hundred passes or more, to wear out recording tape. So when your machine is finely aligned for record to play back, you might want to adjust the record section with the used tape as opposed to a fresh new virgin roll? Why? Simply because, you will want the flattest response from record to play back and with used tape, its high frequency response won't necessarily be as flat as it would be with a roll of fresh Virgin tape.

If I seem biased, it's because I am ... 3 DB over at 10kHz that is.
Ms. Remy Ann David

Gib Thu, 03/08/2007 - 05:08
Yes Remy, I do understand what your saying. I think its a great idea, and would totally want to add that process in some drum, bass, and whatever else recordings. Im going to start putting away some money over the next months to go toward the refurbishing of this machine. I am totally excited. Thanks to you and JoeH for the helpful info, knowledge, and links!