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Re: [ARSCLIST] Cassette players (and in-house transfers versus outsourcing)
> The estimate to replace the playback head and capstan drive motor assembly
> on the MR-1 alone is slightly under $2000.
The Nakamichi MR-1, as a "pro" version, probably makes it more costly to
repair than the "prosumer" versions like the CR-7 series and Dragon. We
the CR-7 series for a number of reasons:
However, since it appears that your archive is focused on music, the Dragon
might be your best choice with its automatic azimuth alignment. If spoken
word recordings are important to you, I would take a close look at the
Nakamichi CR-7 series which allows you to adjust the azimuth manually. The
CR-7 series can be a better choice for spoken word than the Dragon. The two
machines are comparable in quality for music recordings.
> 2. Is the high cost of repairs on these legendary recorders partly due to
> fact that they were designed as much more complicated machines <snip>
Yes, partly. The other consideration is simply time and the declining stock
of spare parts and companies still servicing the Nakamichis. As Richard
out, the inventory of good Nakamichi decks on the open market is declining
rapidly. I've seen far fewer machines for sale on eBay in 2008 than in
> with record and playback capabilities at variable speeds, when now we need
> playback only, at a single speed?
Probably less of an issue with the Naks. It's mostly lack of parts, and in
some areas the machines are indeed complicated (particularly the Dragon).
We like the CR-7 series because: (a) its audio quality is on a par with
the Dragon (some like the CR-7 more, but that's hair splitting), (b) the
transport is simpler on the CR-7, (c) and the CR-7 shares some parts like
PB heads with other lower cost models like the BX-300 (so we keep some of
these as parts donors for the CR-7), and (d) the CR-7's unique azimuth
adjustment makes a huge difference on spoken word recordings.
With the Naks, you need to really understand the changes in the transport
associated with the machine history and serial numbers. For the CR-7
series, we don't purchase machines with serial numbers lower than 13500
to ensure that we have the "gear drive" which is more durable than the
rubber idlers that need to be replaced every 2-3 years under regular use.
> 3. Have we perhaps reached the point where it would be more cost effective
> to trust the maintenance of equipment like this to professionals and
> outsource transfers like this?
This is a math problem really. Assuming you have the skills needed in
your organization (a non-trivial assumption), the bulk of transfer cost
is not the hardware but the labor. Get out your calculator and run the
- labor costs
- overhead of the organization (management and other indirect costs)
- facilities cost
- opportunity cost (could you be using the studio real estate for
a more valuable activity?)
- capital equipment costs
- equipment maintenance
- training and continuing education
Then amortize these costs over time and over the number of tapes you
need to archive.
Other factors which are not as cut-and-dry are: (a) quality of work due
to skills (can you find and retain qualified staff) and equipment, and
(b) throughput and total volume of material to be archived. One person
and a few machines might not be able to digitize the volume of content
you have in a timely fashion, which might also make outsourcing more
attractive. If you have a large variable work load, working with several
vendors might give you the most flexibililty. You might keep some
in-house capacity to handle smaller jobs and rush jobs, and then
outsource the rest - it really depends on your needs.
In any case, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the outsource
versus in-house question. Nor do you have to choose one or the other.
Hybrid solutions of outsourcing and in-house can also work in some
situation. If you examine the issues outlined above, that's a good
first step in figuring out which direction will work best.
I recommend to my clients who are trying to answer this question
to try outsourcing as a pilot project to see if the costs and quality
meet their needs. See what you learn.
The Audio Archive, Inc.
Disc and Tape Audio Transfer Services and Preservation Consulting