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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 13th May 2019, 7:58 pm   #81
Ted Kendall
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

Well, the Otari MTR90 transport is capstanless and works as well as any 2" multitrack machine. It runs up to speed pretty quickly, too. Ampex made capstanless transports for 2" down to 1/4". The ATR 100 is sworn by among some mastering engineers and sworn at by those who have to fix them when they catch fire. Yes - really!
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Old 13th May 2019, 11:54 pm   #82
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

I thought that Otari described the MTR90 as pinch rollerless rather than capstanless as one of the rubber rollers is motor driven and that motor is described as the capstan motor. They're an amazing feat of technology - especially when you consider how heavy a 14" reel of 2" tape is and how much energy is involved in going from stop to 30ips in around a second. While I know that Ted has the later microprocessor controlled version, mine is an early logic controlled version with lots of 74HC series IC's on the control boards.
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Old 13th May 2019, 11:58 pm   #83
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

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Originally Posted by Station X View Post
Could not a modern RTR Recorder follow the path of VCR development where much of the mechanical operation was moved into firmware?

I'm thinking of a microprocessor with switches on its inputs controlling motors and solenoids.
I have a collection of Fostex machines which are all microprocessor controlled. Still lots of signal conditioning and motor drive electronics involved though.
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Old 14th May 2019, 5:09 am   #84
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

I'm thinking of the Philips N45xx and N44xx machines such as the N4504. Three DC motors and - two solenoids? - one for the brakes and one for the pinch roller? Not microprocessor controlled though, but still relatively nice on the tape.
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Old 14th May 2019, 6:53 am   #85
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

We seem to have formed a general view that the A77 is cruel to tape.

I've used 2400ft tapes on 10.5 inch spools by EMI, Maxell, Zonal and BASF and 7 inch spools of TDK Audua for many years without any problems. Stopping from fast winding is smooth enough with the brakes, smoother if you use 'reverse thrust'

The only issue is that there is no protection against someone pressing play before the reels come to rest. That can be disastrous.

Feedback control of tape tension is nicer and gentler, but lack of it isn't the end of the world.

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Old 14th May 2019, 7:27 am   #86
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This is a misconception that goes back fifty years. In one of the first reviews of the A77, David Kirk was misinformed by the importers about the function of the outer positions of the speed switch, which provide reduced tension for cine hubs, and dolefully recorded that he was now the proud possessor of several feet of Kodak quadruple play plastic string. This led hm to recommend that thin tapes and small hubs should be avoided. However, with these conditions and the use of the reverse torque trick on rewind, at that time also beloved of Brenell owners, "the A77 then becomes the gentlest mechanism on the market".

Subsequent marks of the A77 did have slightly more refined brakes, but the difference was not enormous.

Motion sensing was almost unheard-of in audio machines at the time - the short-lived Unitrack concern made a point of it around 1970, and there was an article in Studio Sound around 1974 about adding it to an A77. It was of course standard wear on the B77 (1978) and the A700 (1974 and big bucks).

In hi-fi, there have been several products which have been derided by promoters of the new this or the latest that, but within a short time the challengers faded and old Aunt Sally just kept rolling on. The A77 is one, the Quad 33/303 another. Fill in your list to taste...
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Old 14th May 2019, 9:17 am   #87
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

Aye the A77 is a fully useable machine AND it's free of unobtainable ICs.

THe B77 PR99 didn't introduce any major improvements to performance, so I've just treated them as cosmetic face lifts The B77 allows IR remote control via a Revox preamp, and the PR99 has balanced audio connections but the performance of the heads is just about the same and maybe the discrete transistors are just a little bit better on noise.

My usual advice to someone looking for a machine is to pick the track/speed format you need, be wary that a lot of 'HS' models on the market are bodge-ups rather than the real thing. Go for something in good physical condition and whatever model turns up in good condition.

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Old 14th May 2019, 12:22 pm   #88
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

We seem to be getting off the main issue here. This should not be about which is the 'best'/ 'longest lasting' /'most indestructible' reel to reel - that alone could go on for months - but which design aspects are realistic for a new machine.

For a proper 'reel to reel revival' which is of any substance, there has to be current production of machines which are a) suitable for mass market and the non-specialist user and b) are cheap enough to mass manufacture, whilst producing good enough sound for the domestic user.

In both a) and b), much though it clearly pains some here, that precludes new production of the likes of Revox designs, which were never cheap even back then. Some seem unable to accept the economic realities that would be involved.

The (rightly praised) solidity and weight of construction of said A77 are unviable for mass produced item aimed at today's domestic users, to say nothing of the unintuitive tape handling. There is no way Joe Average, who at most would have had tape experience of a VHS or mini system, is going to remember to go via the opposite fast wind before stopping, or wait until spools have halted before playing. Not a problem for us dinosaurs, but for the masses? Not a chance. With advances in transports, servos and logic/micro control, borne of the video recorder boom, there is no reason to use control methods dating from the 1960s. Instead, I maintain that it would be worthwhile looking at the features of reel to reels made in the late 70s and 80s, towards the end of the format's popularity, with all the advances in electronics that had been gained over the previous decades. Also, IR remote control is also what most people have become accustomed to, so logic control would be essential. Plenty of people control things today in their home via smartphones and tablets, presumably via wi-fi rather than IR, but that is at least something to consider IMO.

The idea of plates and swappable parts is interesting from the longevity point of view, but again, could add to the cost, and remember that today's society does not prize longevity anyway. If this was not done during the cassette era I doubt it would be viable here. Perhaps decent access would at least make for a service friendly product without adding too much to production.

There was a chinese made reel to reel which used cassette tape on open reels. I wonder if something a bit more standardized (i.e. quarter inch tape, max 7" reels would be sufficient for domestic use) could be concocted form that basic design? After all, it made it to production so some important lessons may have been learned. The more usable Xindak which was discussed here in 2010 never took off but maybe now it might stand more of a chance. Anyone know how much that retailed for?
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Old 14th May 2019, 12:37 pm   #89
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Some seem unable to accept the economic realities that would be involved.
See post #2.
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Old 14th May 2019, 12:41 pm   #90
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

I think any revival is going to be similar to the vinyl revival with people buying "serviced" Elizabethan RTR recorders from eBay, finding they don't work and the seeking advice on here.
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Old 14th May 2019, 1:15 pm   #91
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

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This is a misconception that goes back fifty years. In one of the first reviews of the A77, David Kirk was misinformed by the importers about the function of the outer positions of the speed switch, which provide reduced tension for cine hubs, and dolefully recorded that he was now the proud possessor of several feet of Kodak quadruple play plastic string. This led hm to recommend that thin tapes and small hubs should be avoided. However, with these conditions and the use of the reverse torque trick on rewind, at that time also beloved of Brenell owners, "the A77 then becomes the gentlest mechanism on the market".

I might (very carefully) risk a triple play or even quadruple play tape on my A77 but only on large hub NAB reels, and using reverse to slow the tape before hitting stop. I dont think it's peculiar to the A77 but to any such machine designed to carry large reels, equipped with direct drive reel motors and without servo controlled tension.

On small hub 3" reels and very thin tapes, a potentially deadly combination, even my servo tension controlled A700 I dont completely trust. I'd rather transfer the tapes to larger centre reels before risking a play.
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Old 14th May 2019, 1:19 pm   #92
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Fair point, but 7" spools are safe. Properly set up, the A700 is almost completely benign, but then it was eight years newer and twice as expensive as the A77.
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Old 14th May 2019, 1:43 pm   #93
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Was it Bill or Graham said higher up the thread... we'll know there is a revival underway when Crossley bring out a reel-to-reel machine.

Can't you just see it now, a plasticky horrorfest with the heads mounted on something bendy and a pseudoveneered case held together with hot-melt glue. If we're lucky a metal capstan. Microprocessor control, usb, headphones and a tiny speaker output. All styled by Captain Nemo himself.

Maybe fixing old lizzy portables isn't so bad. Can you still get edgewise pots?

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Old 14th May 2019, 2:05 pm   #94
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

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Motion sensing was almost unheard-of in audio machines at the time - the short-lived Unitrack concern made a point of it around 1970, and there was an article in Studio Sound around 1974 about adding it to an A77. It was of course standard wear on the B77 (1978) and the A700 (1974 and big bucks).

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Old 14th May 2019, 2:46 pm   #95
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I think any revival is going to be similar to the vinyl revival with people buying "serviced" Elizabethan RTR recorders from eBay, finding they don't work and the seeking advice on here.
I pre-empted this a few posts upthread
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Old 14th May 2019, 3:11 pm   #96
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

How about dummy reels, all the retro attraction of moving physical parts combined with the black box that does everything that they've now got totally reliant on. Magic eye and no consumables too. Not really much different to putting a DAB tuner in a "valve radio", or a replacement amplifier in a Dansette.
As said, our interpretation of reel - reel isn't going to happen.
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Old 14th May 2019, 8:07 pm   #97
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There are some "tape sound" plug-ins which provide this experience already, albeit on a screen rather than in the flesh. They strike me as faintly risible, anyway - I have spent many hours over many years meticulously lining up tape machines such that they have no discernable sound of their own...
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Old 14th May 2019, 10:12 pm   #98
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

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On small hub 3" reels and very thin tapes, a potentially deadly combination, even my servo tension controlled A700 I dont completely trust. I'd rather transfer the tapes to larger centre reels before risking a play.
I did the same on my BR-20 when transferring some old 3" half track tapes of dad's. Sure, they would have been standard play or long play, originally played on a Ferrograph 2, and the BR-20 was about the pinnacle of development of this tech (only discontinued in 2004) but one was acetate and they were irreplaceable family recordings!
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Old 14th May 2019, 10:54 pm   #99
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

To make any predictions about a (probably impossible) revival, we need to understand not the machines so much, but the people. What sort of people would want them and why? What would they do with them? What pleasure would they derive that would justify the cost and effort?

The surge of interest in record players seems much more logical. They were ubiquitous for decades - if you wanted to listen to recorded music 97% of the time that meant playing a record. Passable results were and still are obtainable with simple, cheap machines, while the format ran the gamut from those up to the very best of HiFi with full interchangeability. Known, understood and fondly remembered worldwide, if you wanted to rekindle an interest in a physical audio format, vinyl is a no-brainer.

Tape, meh. Untidy, complicated, incompatible. I would imagine that most people looking for the 'tape sound' have an unrealistic impression of what that meant. They see a 2-valver with a BSR deck and imagine it's a small version of a BTR3 and expect it to bring a little bit of Abbey Road into their living room.

Never mind the fun I had a few weeks back, firing up an EL3541 in the workshop and putting on Flanders & Swan's 'At the drop of a hat' including the 'Song of Reproduction' for the amusement of the crew. I think it falls to us to popularise the notion that tape is not a patch on vinyl, quality-wise, to encourage hapless punters to leave it well alone. If they want to record, perhaps Crosley could bring out an R/P with optional cutter head?
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Old 14th May 2019, 11:02 pm   #100
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

Not a cutter as such, Pye's take on a recordable disc: https://www.soul-source.co.uk/forums...-these-before/
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