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Davesax1965 View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Reel to reel tape
    Posted: April 06 2016 at 03:16
Oh dear, I'm getting a reel to reel tape recorder in a while. :-)

When I was a kid, I used to mess around with Grundig reel to reels (with "magic eye" valves) - at the time, they sounded fantastic, but, of course, technology moves on. Pretty soon after, I'd converted to tape recorders and then digital and reel to reel got forgotten about. But nothing sounds quite like tape.

I was thinking, a few days ago, that when I do a live gig (or just for recording sax) I'd pretty much like a reel to reel. I'd be using this to play "synth sound effects" - analogue sweeps and whooshes - as background music. That could be done in a number of ways, but... I like tape, with all its' limitations, of course. 

One of the problems of owning a now vintage reel to reel is that (a) Revox and Nagra go for a fortune (and always will) and (b) with any tape recorder, the recording and playback heads wear and go out of alignment very quickly. The heads have to be relapped and re-adjusted periodically, and that's not a "home user" job. The problem with reel to reel is that a lot of younger buyers think "that looks cool" and that there's no drawbacks in having one.... not the case. Reel to reel tape recorders come with a number of issues, if you want to keep one up and running well. Vintage electronics, for a start. 

So the plan is to set a budget aside and get a "second line" reel to reel - TEAC / Tascam / Akai / Marantz etc - use it for a couple of years and then sell it on. Won't happen for a while, but..... it'll eventually come around. Oh yes. Have a look at the price of tape on Thomann now, wooo !!! 

There is an unfortunate climate that "everything retro is cool or good" which results in the crap guitars of my youth - Flytes, Breadwinners, Dan Armstrongs, Vox Teardrops etc - selling for ridiculous money. I seem to recall them being crap then and probably doubly crap now, so I approach "vintage" audio gear with caution. Let's hope I don't spend 250 on a lemon which has had a rose coloured filter applied by my own inexact memory. ;-)

Anyone else here into tape ? Please don't say "yeah, it looks cool.... " or "cassette tape recorders" (even worse. ) ;-)



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 06 2016 at 03:31
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:


Anyone else here into tape ? Please don't say "yeah, it looks cool.... " or "cassette tape recorders" (even worse. ) ;-)

That counts me out. 


"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."   -- John F. Kennedy
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 06 2016 at 04:00
I haven't owned one for audio work for forty years (eg Revox A77 and some old Ferguson portable) and haven't worked on one for data recording in almost thirty-five years. (talking about " tape here, I used " digital tape well into the late 90s).  I've always preferred reel-to-reel over cassette but never enough to want to revive my interest. The only downside is the media itself - tape deteriorates very quickly if not stored correctly,even if it's been kept in sealed wrapping with silica gel desiccant. There is an optimum stage in the oxide ageing process where it is not too soft to just rub off and not to hard to flake off, we found that brand new tape fresh out of the box needed a few days of periodic spooling from one reel to another before it was put anywhere near the tape-heads. We also dated the tape and discarded it after a few months because aged oxide acts like micro-emery paper and can quickly abrade the tape heads. Different tape speed also affects the wear on the tape and tape heads but we only ran at one speed so this wasn't an issue. Tape heads seemed to need less cleaning as a result of all this and they didn't seem to wear as much either, but whether this was true or was just confirmation bias is something I can't answer. Certainly, like all other aspects of audiophillia, a bit of ritual when using tape can go a long way psychologically.

From a technical perspective the electronics of the deck shouldn't be too much of a problem, rubberware and electro-mechanicals are another matter. Whatever you buy, if it's old then all the rubber will be in a pretty poor state - there is no good way of reviving perished rubber so it will have to be replaced (I've tried coating perished pinch-wheels in various substances but the fix doesn't last) - rather than be a purist here I'd suggest going for pinch-wheels and belts that use modern synthetics rather than sticking (literally) to old india-rubber compounds (if such things exist).


If you do use a tape deck on stage will you call it Son of Winston?


Edited by Dean - April 06 2016 at 04:02
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 06 2016 at 04:34
Absolutely, Dean, I forgot about spooling tape continuously from one reel to another. ;-)

The joys of tape ownership. Yep, the electronics aren't a problem for me (basically, replace electrolytic capacitors as a matter of course, crackly potentiometers, etc) - and finding spare drive belts isn't too difficult with one of the more common "second line" decks. They're still around. 

Luckily, it's only going to get some light studio use for sax and vocals, and have the occasional stage outing (I hope) so !!! I won't be approaching it from a complete "audiophile" perspective. Otherwise I frankly wouldn't buy one. 

"Son of Winston" sounds a very good idea. ;-)

Yeah, sorry about the "it looks cool" comment, but we are in Tech Talk, after all. ;-)


Edited by Davesax1965 - April 06 2016 at 04:34

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 06 2016 at 04:51
One word of caution - make sure the deck is 50Hz operation as the motors could be synchronous AC induction motors, so buying a used deck from the USA could run at the wrong speed so would need a different size capstan to set the correct speed. Obviously this isn't an issue with DC motors or decks with crystal controlled AC motors.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 06 2016 at 05:10
Yep, going to be UK only, Dean. ;-) 

Mainly for shipping as well !!!!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 06 2016 at 09:56
I have used a R2R for audio purposes since I was a teen, I still use one now. There is no nostalgia in my reason because it's part of what I grew up with regarding audio gear. I use it more now than I did in the 90's when I was into the CD craze, that would be more nostalgia for me...CDs Big smile.

R2R decks are not for the faint of heart. They are mechanical and the guts wear out, as Dean stated things can "gummy" up after time. You really need to have some DIY skills as repair shops for these decks are not easy to find and shipping them all over is not a good thing nor cheap. The good thing is the internet has TONS of information on almost any deck, my go to site is the Tapeheads.net forum for when I have a question/help to fix something. My deck is in pristine condition, works flawlessly and creates simply amazing sounding tapes, I have a Teac X-2000R.....I have had Akai, Pioneer in the past, all fine machines.

I did have an issue with my deck last year where it would simply stop playing after 5 seconds......I went thru the service manual, checked arm tensions, cleaned contacts with Deoxit, checked power supply.....Nothing worked. I checked with guys on Tapeheads and there is one guy who was a service technician for Teac and he gave me the exact fix.......I had to go on the PCB board and look for a specific diode and he told me it was probably burnt or a cold solder joint....BINGO!! Cold joint, the diode was a tad brown so I replaced it, re soldered and she works like a charm now, about a $3 fix....Like I said you need some DIY skills. Teac in California still has belts, pinch rollers and other parts for sale. Plus there are non OEM folks that have parts too....

Tape is the biggest issue.......New tape is not cheap and only one mfg exists that makes new tape to my knowledge, RMGI. Their LPR35 is good tape for general tape recording, or for archiving use SM468. Other than that your left with the online auction sites and hope the used tape you buy has not been used like a 100x, estate sales are another good source to find tape. I bought 6 brand new, still wrapped Maxell XLI 35-180B 10.5" metal reel tapes from an estate sale for dirt cheap....Most of the time the sellers have no clue, but the early bird gets the worm...Eventually you will see these tapes online going for $50.00 to $100 a reel.....Yikes!!

Chicks dig R2R Tape.........That's why I use one LOL

Have fun!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 06 2016 at 10:08
Fantastic, thanks, Catcher10 !!

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