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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 31st May 2021, 10:44 am   #1
Kirtley2013
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Default Tape recorder for home recording?

Hi All

I’m wondering if someone could help me out, I’m wanting to make a simple reel-reel tape recording setup at home, I don’t need anything top shelf like a studer, but I’m looking for something half decent that will suit a budget (ideally sub £200, but I could maybe save if something is a ‘must have’), I record mainly acoustic instruments so I’ll not be doing anything too crazy or big production with it, maybe some multi tracking but I can always bounce out and will try to mostly do things at once through a small mixing desk, so a 4 track will probably be what I’m after, but I think it may be important to have line in’s and outs for monitoring.

I have an Akai 1710L which I bought for this purpose, but the play/rewind is about to succumb to the inevitable with pot metal so I’ve rather been put off of that, it might not have been all too suitable anyway.
Stereo is probably preferred but frankly will probably be used mono almost exclusively, valve is fun, but if it sounds good, it sounds good, I’m not sure if 10 1/2” reels are necessary, but possibly, no harm in having more recording time.

Has anyone any good suggestions for a recording reel to reel?
Once I figure out I’ll probably put a wanted ad on here at buy something from someone on here.

Thanks

Alex
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Old 31st May 2021, 11:16 am   #2
paulsherwin
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

One of the 70s Japanese domestic HiFi decks will probably do the job without spending too much money. Your Akai actually wasn't a bad choice, and it's a pity it's faulty.

If you move up to the semipro world of Revoxes etc. your costs will go up a lot, and many of them have done a lot of hours by now and have led hard lives. Fully pro means big bucks and lots of specialist maintenance.

I would steer clear of valve recorders unless you are particularly interested in that technology.
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Old 31st May 2021, 11:38 am   #3
Simon Gittins
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Quote:
maybe some multi tracking but I can always bounce out and will try to mostly do things at once through a small mixing desk, so a 4 track will probably be what I’m after,
You probably know this already but many people seem to confuse a domestic 4-track machine with a studio 4-track. The domestic one can't easily be used for multi-tracking.
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Old 31st May 2021, 12:10 pm   #4
paulsherwin
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

High quality multitrack recording in the analogue domain is hugely expensive. Once you move up from the Portastudio type cassette based systems, you will need to spend an awful lot of money to come anywhere near the performance of a decent 4 channel USB soundcard and a laptop. There's no harm in playing around with R2R, but if you want decent quality without spending literally thousands then you would be advised to use the computer. You can always use a R2R or even a cassette deck to create effects.
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Old 31st May 2021, 12:11 pm   #5
Uncle Bulgaria
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Another way to approach it could be similar to how I'm playing with my tape decks. I've been doing a bit of analogue/digital crossover to make use of my mono 1/4" recorder(s). Record something on tape, transfer or monitor to Audacity, play along and re-record to 1/4" tape again, or record microphone and tape output to cassette, as I happen to have that as well as reel to reel. It's a bit Fripp/Eno/Lanois in experimentation (yes, I know I'm 50 years late to the party)!

Perhaps you're looking for something a bit more high-end, but I find the results I get are hardly low-fi despite enjoying the directness of that kind of 'commercial' music. The advantage is that it's very cheap, as Audacity is free and you probably already have a computer. If you're at all interested in repair, then there are plenty of mono machines around for far less than the semipro models Paul warned against.
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Old 31st May 2021, 12:17 pm   #6
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Sony TC377 in reasonable condition? 3 heads, 4 track stereo and mono, sound on sound, etc.

Lawrence.
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Old 31st May 2021, 12:30 pm   #7
Ted Kendall
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Seconded. The 377 sounds better than it had any right to at the price - the scrape roller and absence of those ghastly capstan sleeves will benefit the cleanliness of your guitar recording.
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Old 31st May 2021, 3:01 pm   #8
Edward Huggins
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Quite low-cost S/H options - with flexible facilities - are the Philips N7300 or N4510.
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Old 31st May 2021, 4:39 pm   #9
Kirtley2013
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

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Originally Posted by paulsherwin View Post
High quality multitrack recording in the analogue domain is hugely expensive. Once you move up from the Portasound type cassette based systems, you will need to spend an awful lot of money to come anywhere near the performance of a decent 4 channel USB soundcard and a laptop. There's no harm in playing around with R2R, but if you want decent quality without spending literally thousands then you would be advised to use the computer. You can always use a R2R or even a cassette deck to create effects.
I know what you mean but Iíve used digital means a lot in the past, I have a decent degree of DAW experience and spent a few years hanging around in a digital based studio, and I recorded an album using Logic Pro X, but with my background, I prefer analogue and tape, I understand it just a bit more, Iím not looking to get digital quality, but I can understand each step in an analogue chain a bit more, Iíll retain some digital capabilities so I can mix out into a DAW, or use it rather than tape where top sound quality if essential, But I like tape and find it fun, which I think is an important part
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Old 31st May 2021, 4:40 pm   #10
Kirtley2013
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Originally Posted by ms660 View Post
Sony TC377 in reasonable condition? 3 heads, 4 track stereo and mono, sound on sound, etc.

Lawrence.
That sounds like it could be the business, Iíll do a little looking up on them
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Old 31st May 2021, 5:21 pm   #11
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

For open reel multitracking on domestic/ semi pro level, the 4 channel TEACs (A3340 etc) are the way to go.
Note I use the term 4 channel not 4 track, as most domestic units are 4 track stereo i.e. just 2 tracks are accessible at any given time/side) and have very limited use for music making. Those TEAC 4 channel/trackers use the full width of the tape in one pass.
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Old 31st May 2021, 6:25 pm   #12
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

For ease of use, I would only consider a recorder with push button (solenoid) operated
mechanics. Examples are Revox A77, B77, PR99, Teac X-2000, Tascam BR-20.
For double tracking I used a B77HS Sync version, that allowed you to monitor the
first recording through the record head. Revoxes also permit vari-speed.
The Fostex 8-track (8 channel) also work well.
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Old 31st May 2021, 6:32 pm   #13
paulsherwin
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Remember the more complex the recorder, the more likely it is to go wrong, and the more difficult it will be to fix. Broadcasters and recording studios had dedicated engineers to sort these problems out, and often expensive maintenance contracts too.
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Old 31st May 2021, 7:38 pm   #14
Kirtley2013
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Thanks All, I think I might turn my attention more to the mid range or lower end studio 4 channel recorders, I was initially thinking I would just get a main 4 track stereo recorder, then a second one for multi-tracking and bouncing down, but the idea of being able to record up to 4 mono parts at a time when getting ideas down (I seldom use more than 4 tracks when demo-ing) is appealing, the Teac A3340s looks great, bit much for me at the moment, I've just agreed to buy back a 1933 Dobro so that's rather had its way with my wallet, but perhaps if I could find a recorder like that thats a little scruffy then that could be do-able
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Old 31st May 2021, 11:07 pm   #15
jamesperrett
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

In my experience there is a massive difference in usability between a studio type machine (or a Revox) and a domestic reel to reel. I started off with a Brenell MkV, played around with friends Akai, Grundig and Cossor machines, then bought a Philips N4515 and later a Tandberg 6000 series machine. All of these were interesting to mess around with but frustrating if I wanted to try anything serious.

Once I'd bought a Revox everything else was pensioned off (or used just for echo effects).

In your situation I'd probably look for a used Fostex multitrack reel to reel - I now have 3 of them of different sizes and prefer them to the Teac/Tascam machines that I've used.
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Old 1st Jun 2021, 6:33 am   #16
TIMTAPE
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Quote:
Originally Posted by paulsherwin View Post
High quality multitrack recording in the analogue domain is hugely expensive. Once you move up from the Portastudio type cassette based systems, you will need to spend an awful lot of money to come anywhere near the performance of a decent 4 channel USB soundcard and a laptop. There's no harm in playing around with R2R, but if you want decent quality without spending literally thousands then you would be advised to use the computer. You can always use a R2R or even a cassette deck to create effects.
Almost by accident I got into digital audio recording in my late 40's and wish I'd done it sooner. But that's me I guess.

Over the years I've helped a lot of customers, many musicians, with service and repair of their tape machines but these days I often ask them, "Have you tried any of the digital recorders on offer these days?" Some say they cant get on with digital, and yet most use digital in their everyday lives such as mobile phones, TV's, radio, watching digital movies in cinemas and Netflix etc.

Admittedly that's using digital as consumers which is very different to recording which is more a producer and engineer role. But I suspect many people who are poor with recording digitally would also struggle recording with old analog tape gear. At least in reaching a reasonable standard. It's not just about the gear but the skills to use the gear intelligently, no matter which type of gear.

On top of that, as mentioned, the analog tape gear is now quite old , so there are the repair and maintenance issues, scarcity of parts and scarcity of skilled servicemen.

Last edited by TIMTAPE; 1st Jun 2021 at 6:41 am.
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Old 1st Jun 2021, 7:28 am   #17
arjoll
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Four track for multitracking? Tascam 34..

Or digital, and maybe mixdown onto a 32 or BR-20 if you want some analogue-ness in the recordings.

The BR-20 was in production until the mid 2000s, and about the peak of the technology in semi-pro/small studio environments (mine is from 1993 but I know it's origin story - Radio Rhema Invercargill with hardly any use, shipped to Auckland when they moved there and again not much use as they preferred their Otaris on air and 32s in production).
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Old 1st Jun 2021, 7:48 am   #18
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

One oddity regarding the simplicity versus complexity issue is that a 3-motor deck is a lot simpler than a 1-motor deck. It eliminates a lot of rubber wheels and belts which degrade and can be a pain to find replacements for. This is an area which gives the Revox a useful advantage. If you bought one nowadays, the only belt in the thing drives the tape counter. There are several capacitors best changed, and there are several trimmer pots which tend to fall apart. So, they're fixable without unobtainium, and take reels up to 10.5"

With any tape machine today, replacement heads aren't available, so their condition is important. The Sony TC377 has rather long-lasting ferrite heads which survive well, but are considered to be a bit limiting at high flux densities.

For multi-tracking, you're looking at those 4-channel TEACs, but they can have mechanical issues which can be difficult to fix.

There's also the 4-channel 'portastudio' cassette-based machine, but you lose the quality of the open reel machines.

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Old 1st Jun 2021, 8:20 am   #19
paulsherwin
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Don't forget the tape costs of 'doing it properly'. Even a NAB reel doesn't last very long whizzing round at 15ips.
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Old 1st Jun 2021, 8:32 am   #20
stevehertz
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Default Re: Tape recorder for home recording?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Gittins View Post
Quote:
maybe some multi tracking but I can always bounce out and will try to mostly do things at once through a small mixing desk, so a 4 track will probably be what Iím after,
You probably know this already but many people seem to confuse a domestic 4-track machine with a studio 4-track. The domestic one can't easily be used for multi-tracking.
I would use the terminology 4 track, and 4 channel.
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