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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 6th May 2019, 8:42 am   #1
brenellic2000
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Default Reel to reel revival?

An interesting news-article in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday (5/5/19), reports a huge upsurge in interest in reel to reel tape decks on a par with the revival of vinyl. I wonder if this will coerce manufacture of a modern day analogue tape deck and universal heads and motors to replace all those open circuit Bogens and Papst jobs? One can but dream!

So what spec should this new tape deck have?
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Old 6th May 2019, 10:40 am   #2
Ted Kendall
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

Dream on - it ain't gonna happen. The projected revived Revox ran into the sand, and the Ballfinger is mere high-end indulgence. Worst of all, new tape stock is down to a single supplier, as far as I know, and vastly expensive. And as for pre-recorded material - 300 and up for an album's-worth of material?

The best hope would be a constant linear tension design like the Revox A700/Studer B67 - but don't hold your breath. The capital investment would require an end market in the hundreds of thousands.

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Old 6th May 2019, 11:15 am   #3
Edward Huggins
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

Thorens have just announced a "Limited Edition" R&R using interesting technology. Very expensive.
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Old 6th May 2019, 12:09 pm   #4
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

Is it now our responsibility to start restoring decks and offering them up on eBay or should we just sit back and prepare ourselves for lots of threads starting " I've just got this (unspecified) reel to reel and it doesn't work! What do I change and can you tell me what to ?

Compared to a valve radio, the circuit diagram of the average R2R is much more involved...
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Old 6th May 2019, 12:14 pm   #5
Ted Kendall
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

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Originally Posted by Edward Huggins View Post
Thorens have just announced a "Limited Edition" R&R using interesting technology. Very expensive.
Quite so - it's a Ballfinger in drag, about 15 grand and in an edition of 100 pieces. Doesn't sound like much of a revival to me...
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Old 6th May 2019, 12:16 pm   #6
Ted Kendall
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Is it now our responsibility to start restoring decks and offering them up on eBay or should we just sit back and prepare ourselves for lots of threads starting " I've just got this (unspecified) reel to reel and it doesn't work! What do I change and can you tell me what to ?
I get a steady trickle of the things. Judging by the state of some of them, the Phantom is alive and well.
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Old 6th May 2019, 12:21 pm   #7
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

It seems the resurgence in reel-to-reel is mainly geared toward the ultra high end of the market - the costs will be difficult to motivate otherwise. In contrast, 50 year old home machines with, from a modern perspective, dubious audio quality, which I think would constitute the majority of the machines discussed in this group, would seem to be in a whole different ballpark.

Then again the interest might spill over to lower-end machines too. And the fact that there is an interest brewing would seem to indicate that people are starting to again accept living with dropouts and tape hiss as part of the listening experience.
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Old 6th May 2019, 2:06 pm   #8
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

You'll know if there is a revival when the Crosley appears. It'll be called a ferric oxide recorder though!
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Old 6th May 2019, 9:58 pm   #9
BillDWVA
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

These got everyone excited over on Tape Heads earlier this year but it seems like it was a marketing project by a group of students that was not going to go anywhere...

https://cdmagnetics.com/
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Old 7th May 2019, 12:18 am   #10
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

'4 pole DC synchronous motors' !

It must take ages to get something synchronised to DC.

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Old 7th May 2019, 7:47 am   #11
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

I think the most we can hope for is a cassette revival , although the players themselves have never really gone away.
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Old 7th May 2019, 9:11 am   #12
Craig Sawyers
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

Well, superbly crafted reel to reel is alive and well:

http://www.ballfinger.de/tape-recorder-m-063-h5

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Old 7th May 2019, 9:43 am   #13
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

I lost interest in the Ballfinger when I saw the headblock waggling about.
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Old 7th May 2019, 9:48 am   #14
Craig Sawyers
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

Wow. When did you see one in the flesh?
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Old 7th May 2019, 12:48 pm   #15
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

I think the only hope for a r2r revival would be production of a model like the Philips N4504 era machines. This, for those not familiar, has a pretty decent spec - full logic control, 3 head, 3 motor, 3 speed - yet is so light it can be picked up with one hand. Use of DC motors and aluminium and plastic are largely responsible. The performance and build are more than sufficient for domestic use. I don't see why such a model could not be made as a mass market item today (assuming a mass market for such an item actually exists!), especially as nowadays multi function ICs can be made so cheaply compared to the discreet components of yore. Of course, there's the issue of tape availability, but that's another story.

As others have said, the chances of a new model of Revox type machine, with diecast chassis, plug in cards and Papst motors are slim to none. Even back in the day, these were prohibitively expensive for most people. Now, without the specialist, pro and broadcast markets to guarantee at least some of the target sales, I cannot see how such an item could be feasible.
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Old 7th May 2019, 1:01 pm   #16
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

With a reasonable home workshop, of the sort people build model steam locos in, it would be feasible to build a decent tape deck, with the exception of the heads.

If you're doing it for fun, purely as a hobby, costs become irrelevent. You'll do it if you want to.

Precision plain bearings can be made with adjustable reamers. Precision shafts need a lathe, and a good micrometer. Skillful polishing can be a substitute for a Jones & Shipman cylindrical grinder. It's slow, but can be done.

I don't know how heads could be done, and a rubber pinch wheel would be a problem.

Some very nice motors are available. Expensive but not out of reach. Fancy motor controllers are fairly easy.

At the moment, effort would be better spent on revamping a Revox or Studer which gives you a flying start to a decent machine.

Vinyl fans are limited by what cartridges are available. Tape aficionados are limited by heads.

I don't see the Ballfinger ever getting enough sales to be viable.

Bill's Crossley comment had me in stitches.

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Old 7th May 2019, 3:03 pm   #17
dave walsh
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

The Sunday Telegraph did have a number of interesting stories but also quite a few that I would call "old" news [a contradiction in itself I suppose] rather than fake but definitely "filler" items that I've seen before. This was one of them. I suspect that it was appropriated by someone without any real interest or knowledge!

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Old 7th May 2019, 3:23 pm   #18
barrymagrec
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

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Originally Posted by Craig Sawyers View Post
Wow. When did you see one in the flesh?
Not in the flesh, one of the publicity videos that are floating around.
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Old 7th May 2019, 6:38 pm   #19
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

Where I used to live my neighbour at one point was the son of a lens maker. And apparently in the 1950s he tried to make a tape recorder on his father's lens-making lathe. It worked, and was probably better than some of the cheap machines of the time, but he did buy a Revox when he could afford one...

As regards pinch rollers, the little FiCord uses an O-ring on a metal hub as the pinch roller. Very handy for restoring one now.

I think it is very possible to make a working tape recorder (other than the heads) in a model engineer's workshop. Whether you can get it up to, say, Revox standards is another matter.
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Old 7th May 2019, 7:41 pm   #20
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Default Re: Reel to reel revival

My Revox A77 cost 240 in 1974, which is probably about 2500 - 3000 in today's money. A week's wages was around 40.
I think a machine of equivalent quality (and longevity - it still works) would cost a lot more now.
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