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Vintage Tape (Audio), Cassette, Wire and Magnetic Disc Recorders and Players Open-reel tape recorders, cassette recorders, 8-track players etc.

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Old 14th Sep 2023, 6:27 pm   #1
G6Tanuki
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Default Gramdeck.

Looking through some magazines published only a year or so after I was born, I came across an ad for Gramdeck.

You put this contraption on the turntable of your record-player and it turned it into a tape-player!

That I have never heard of it before makes me think that the idea - rightfully - died without trace.

Pragmatically, it would have been truly cumbersome as a way to make 'in-the-field' recordings [which to me would have been the only real interest] and the idea of any music-publishing business releasing their content on open-reel tapes when they could do it on 33/45RPM vinyl and hit massses more buyers never made sense either.

Has anyone else ever come across Gramdeck machines??
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 6:49 pm   #2
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

Haven't met one in the flesh myself, but they must have met with a measure of acceptance as they were widely advertised for a while. We've had a few previous mentions here, such as

https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...ad.php?t=68025

Interest I expect was chiefly from folk who couldn't afford a separate tape recorder, or perhaps wanted to make use of an existing radiogram rather than accommodate a further bulky item. As regards pre-recorded open-reel tapes, one factor in such success as they had may have been - someone please put me right if I'm misremembering this - that stereo tapes preceded by a little the availability of stereo discs.

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Old 14th Sep 2023, 7:01 pm   #3
Keith956
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

I vaguely remember it, a schoolfriend had one in the 60's and I borrowed it for a week to try it out.

From what I recall, it did work but rewinding the tape had to be done manually with a small handle (I think).

Possibly useful if you wanted a cheap way of playing tapes, but we had a Philips EL3541 so it was just a curiosity.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 7:03 pm   #4
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

I'd missed that previous thread; thanks for pointing it out.

That it never really caught on really reinforces my idea that it was a dead-end.

Likewise the idea of releasing content on open-reel tapes; though it _may_ have got Stereo out there before Alan Blumlein's designs for stereo discs made it big-time it would surely only ever been a niche-market thing.

Looking in my copy of The Setmakers reveals that in the late-50s EMI promoted "Stereosound" pre-recorded tapes using a commendation from Sir Malcolm Sargeant. I guess this would have gone unnoticed by the real world who would have been more interested in what The Shadows, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent or Elvis were releasing at the same time.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 7:10 pm   #5
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

I have distant memories of my family having one when I was a child. My recollection is that it was pretty awful - speed pretty unstable (probably caused by over-stressing the turntable motor) - which probably assisted its early death, along with the factors mentioned above.

I think the idea was to save having to buy a full-blown tape recorder, presumably when they were expensive items.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 7:37 pm   #6
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

A member of this forum in Coventry has one and was kind enough to demonstrate it when I was visiting him. To my surprise it sounded very good. Obviously quite a bit of faff to actually use it but at the time of its introduction it would have provided a cheaper way of entering the reel to reel world than buying a dedicated machine. You have to remember that after the TV and radio, the tape recorder was the probably the next most popular source of home musical entertainment during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Many families would have aspired to one but would be put off by the cost. A low end machine would have cost £25-£30 around the mid 60s, a very considered purchase for many.

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Old 14th Sep 2023, 8:36 pm   #7
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

The machine would run at 7.5 i.p.s. or 3 other (unrelated) speeds. I think mainly for making one's own recordings as the released recordings I've seen have been at 3 3/4 i.p.s. And of course the 3 other speeds would have been useless for pre-recorded tapes except as a novelty. I wonder if they were faster or slower - maybe 2 of one and 1 of the other.
I suppose 7.5 i.p.s. was chosen to make the best of the limited quality available.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 9:19 pm   #8
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Smile Re: Gramdeck.

Hi,
I have a Gramdeck that I got in exchange for some valves at a rally years ago. A while later I found the transistorised electronics part on a flea market.
Alas, despite having them for many years, I still haven't got round to trying it out.
When I get a little time, I'll take some pics.
Cheers, Pete.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 9:32 pm   #9
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

There was at least one record club which issued recordings on RTR tape. In the 1970's, a time when my local council tip was happy for you to help yourself to anything others had dumped, I came across a box containing a couple of dozen pre-recorded tapes. I didn't have a RTR recorder myself, and the music was not to my taste, but took them for possibly using the spools for my 8mm cine films. As a friend then gave me a box of empty cine film spools, I ended up giving them to another friend whose father had a RTR recorder and liked the type of music the tapes contained. I don't remember who made the tapes, possibly Readers Digest or World Record Club. They are the only prerecorded tapes I have encountered in the flesh.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 9:47 pm   #10
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by llama View Post
And of course the 3 other speeds would have been useless for pre-recorded tapes except as a novelty.
Unless the fortunate owner had a Lenco or other deck with continuously variable speed... or perhaps just a portable gramophone!

I'm sure I recall occasional classified ads seeking to buy or borrow a Sound Belle, as far as I know the only mains-powered recorder to use a constant speed take-up spool rather than constant tape speed, in order to hear or copy valued recordings that no other machine could play: so perhaps there will have been folk put in a like predicament by the non-standard Gramdeck tape speeds.

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Old 14th Sep 2023, 10:19 pm   #11
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul_RK View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by llama View Post
And of course the 3 other speeds would have been useless for pre-recorded tapes except as a novelty.
Unless the fortunate owner had a Lenco or other deck with continuously variable speed... or perhaps just a portable gramophone!

I'm sure I recall occasional classified ads seeking to buy or borrow a Sound Belle, as far as I know the only mains-powered recorder to use a constant speed take-up spool rather than constant tape speed, in order to hear or copy valued recordings that no other machine could play: so perhaps there will have been folk put in a like predicament by the non-standard Gramdeck tape speeds.
Quick work with a calculator gives 4.3, 3.2 and 1.6 ips as the other speeds. Motek used 4.3 or something close on an early deck, to make a tape spool last as long as a cine film, if memory serves.

Spool drive tapes are near hopeless, even on another type of spool drive machine, without some post processing - there are just too many variables involved. For example, I had some reels to sort out recorded by a distant relative on a spool drive machine of Japanese origin. It had a pronounced motor drone, so I keyed my Cedar Respeed to that. Close, but no banana - the poor woman changed sex between the first and last turns. I finally deduced that the extra weight of accumulating tape on the take-up spool was dragging the motor speed down over the course of the reel, so the recorded drone itself was changing pitch. Enter ears mark one and a fiddle factor such that the voice sounded consistent. The reaction of those who knew her to the final recording was reward in itself.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 10:41 pm   #12
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

It doesn't just turn a record player into a tape recorder - it turns it into a first-class tape recorder (the advert says so!).

I have seen one, but not heard one.

I remember reading a report in a 1960's 'Which?' magazine, they were sufficiently popular to be worth reviewing.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 10:43 pm   #13
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post
Likewise the idea of releasing content on open-reel tapes; though it _may_ have got Stereo out there before Alan Blumlein's designs for stereo discs made it big-time it would surely only ever been a niche-market thing.

Looking in my copy of The Setmakers reveals that in the late-50s EMI promoted "Stereosound" pre-recorded tapes using a commendation from Sir Malcolm Sargeant. I guess this would have gone unnoticed by the real world who would have been more interested in what The Shadows, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent or Elvis were releasing at the same time.
The Stereosonic tapes - and the 7.5 ips mono releases which preceded them by about eighteen months - were part of a campaign instigated by Sir Joseph Lockwood, the incoming chairman of EMI, to restore its reputation for technical innovation. In a fairly short space of time the 1807 TV set had bombed and Decca had succeeded in making EMI look flat-footed by introducing microgroove discs nearly three years before them.

EMI, despite having pioneered stereo in a single groove, albeit 0/90 rather than 45/45, jumped in with both feet at the Stereosonic launch and declared that stereo reproduction of a hi fi standard could only be obtained with tape. Despite the remarkable results obtainable, about which I have written at length elsewhere, the system was doomed from the outset, largely by cost. Playback systems started at 275 gns, at a time when £10 a week was not a wage to be sniffed at, and an issue of a Sibelius symphony cost something like four times its disc equivalent. Worse, stereo duplication was initially done in real time, and never faster than double speed, on banks of BTR-2s which had constantly to be tweaked to maintain optimum results. EMI left the system to wither on the vine once it became apparent that disc systems were in development, although one disgruntled customer provoked a late burst of releases by writing in virulent terms to the Chairman. The duplication rig later produced the Stereo 21 series for World Record Club, which also quickly fizzled out.

EMI's last try at stereo on open reel was a short lived 3 3/4 ips quarter track stereo line, which was well received in the press. All I can say is that their samples must have been very carefully selected, for the half dozen I have heard are hissy, usually with an offset stereo picture disturbed by frequent dropouts, and distort very obviously on peaks. Still, it gives Beatles collectors another version of the White Album and Abbey Road to lust after...
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 10:43 pm   #14
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

I'd quite forgotten this thread not so many months ago

https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/....php?p=1535730

which led to my buying a tape recorder and getting a Gramdeck leaflet thrown in (I'd forgotten the leaflet, not the recorder). One surprising detail is that purchasers of the unit received a card entitling them, if their radio or radiogram wasn't already suitably equipped, to a visit from Gramdeck's "country-wide service organisation" who would fit it with pick-up sockets free of charge.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 10:50 pm   #15
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kalee20 View Post
It doesn't just turn a record player into a tape recorder - it turns it into a first-class tape recorder (the advert says so!).

I have seen one, but not heard one.

I remember reading a report in a 1960's 'Which?' magazine, they were sufficiently popular to be worth reviewing.
The Gramdeck was the brainchild of Alec Tutchings, long standing reviewer for Tape Recorder, and was initially described in a series about experimenting with tape in the first issues of that journal. Despite permanent magnet erase, the device produced quite creditable recordings, and some used the preamplifier with the Garrard battery deck for field work. It could serve well as a second deck for dubbing or other purposes at a time when two full recorders were out of reach for many enthusiasts.
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Old 14th Sep 2023, 11:30 pm   #16
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

The release of the Philips compact cassette in '63 probably didn't help the fortunes of pre recorded reel to reel tapes or the Gramdeck.
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Old 15th Sep 2023, 4:52 am   #17
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

I have a couple of Gramdecks...

I bought one at a school jumble sale almost 50 years ago. It worked for playback but I never could get it to record. I later discovered that the bias oscillator coil, which is mounted on the track side of the PCB on the studs for the control rotary switch, had been broken off and lost by the previous owner.

Much later I bought a second pre-amplifier unit (complete, the coil is there...) at a museum sale. And when a mechanism turned up for a few pounds at the local antique market that came home with me too.

I believe that the 7.5ips at 78rpm was chosen to allow the thing to be used on a portable clockwork gramophone for recording 'in the field'. The preamplifier is transistorised, running off a PP9 battery, and is all the electronics you need for recording. For playback you use that preamplifier fed into the pickup sockets of a radio or similar.
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Old 15th Sep 2023, 5:17 am   #18
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyDuell View Post

...I believe that the 7.5ips at 78rpm was chosen to allow the thing to be used on a portable clockwork gramophone for recording 'in the field'. The preamplifier is transistorised, running off a PP9 battery, and is all the electronics you need for recording. For playback you use that preamplifier fed into the pickup sockets of a radio or similar.
That would have made sense back then. Some of the early portable tape machines used a clockwork motor, allowing much lower battery consumption. I think the first Nagra ran on a clockwork motor.
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Old 15th Sep 2023, 8:19 am   #19
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyDuell View Post
I believe that the 7.5ips at 78rpm was chosen to allow the thing to be used on a portable clockwork gramophone for recording 'in the field'. The preamplifier is transistorised, running off a PP9 battery, and is all the electronics you need for recording. For playback you use that preamplifier fed into the pickup sockets of a radio or similar.

Very likely but also if you had used 33rpm the capstan for 7.5ips would have been over 3 1/2 inches in diameter, not ideal.

I imagine quite a chunky old fashioned turntable design would be required to drive both the tape and the take up spool.

I seem to remember Gramdecks being frequently advertised in the early sixties, mainly TV Times and Radio Times.
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Old 15th Sep 2023, 8:52 am   #20
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Default Re: Gramdeck.

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I believe that the 7.5ips at 78rpm was chosen to allow the thing to be used on a portable clockwork gramophone for recording 'in the field'.
Yes, that makes perfect sense. From the instruction booklet:

"Outdoor recordings can easily be made with Gramdeck. All you need is a portable clockwork gramophone or turntable, the Gramdeck with its Control Unit, and a suitable microphone. As long as you remember to set the gramophone turntable speed to 78 r.p.m. (or whatever speed you propose to use for the playback), and wind up the gramophone fairly frequently so that it does not lose speed, you can record outdoors with a microphone in exactly the same way as you would with a microphone indoors, and the procedure is identical. You can have a lot of fun doing this and, if you cannot borrow a clockwork gramophone, it will be well worth your while to pick one up inexpensively at a second-hand shop".

All a tad make-do-and-mend, but a gateway to an activity not otherwise readily available to the impecunious. A few really lucky Gramdeck owners may have found a Vidor CN374 in the second-hand shop

https://www.snellingsmuseum.co.uk/ar...-record-player

- clockwork motor plus the possibility of instant playback.

Paul
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