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Re: [ARSCLIST] Wanted: Reel-to-reel player (was ARSC Newsletter - Call for Content)

Hello, Victoria,

There are lots of intricate details involved in playing reel-to-reel tapes--more than two or three speeds. Which three speeds? 15/16, 1-7/8, 3-3/4, 7-1/2, 15, 30 inches per second? How many tracks? Was Dolby, dbx, or Telcom noise reduction used? Were some of the tapes recorded on "rim drive" machines that need continuous speed adjustment?

Your website states that you are a visual person...while I have no doubt that you could learn how to do this well, I would like to suggest that perhaps outsourcing this to one of the "audio people" on this list might perhaps better serve your quality goals and free you up to persue your areas of interest and expertise. Tape transfer is less of a creative process than an intricate technical craft.

Most of us who undertake tape transfers have now been doing it for a decade or more and have been involved with tape for multiple decades (in my case approaching five--but I'll admit to buying my first tape recorder in grade four or five).

Just yesterday, I received a "grab bag" of formats that will require two, perhaps three different tape machines to play properly. One of the machines had sat idle for a while, and I had to open it up and find what lubricant had gone gummy and replace it. For reference, this was a Sony 3402 two-channel, reel-to-reel DIGITAL (DASH) tape recorder.

Top-of-the-line tape machines haven't really been made for fifteen years, so you're starting off with a 15-year-old (or older), very complex machine with limited to no parts availability and few people who know how to service and rebuild them.

Many of us who do this also do our own maintenance and have acquired our own parts store (often in the form of "organ donor" machines--last summer, one of my sons carefully deconstructed 12 of one model and sorted the parts so if I need part X, all the versions I have of it will be in one box).

There are three machines that are still attracting high prices because they are considered to be the best machines ever made. There are plusses and minuses to these machines, not the least of which is their complexity.
Ampex ATR-100
Nagra T-Audio
Studer A820 2CH

If you are prepared to spend $3500-$5000 for a used, as-is Nagra T-Audio, I may know of one that is available.

Since I have a frugal streak, I've settled on the following machines for most of my work:
Studer A80
Sony APR-5000 and Sony APR-16 (for multitrack)

We also have in-depth the Studer A810 which is an excellent machine as well, but I slightly prefer the sound of the above two to the A810, but the A810 runs rings around most other tape machines out there.

I do most of my album work on the A80s and most of the oral history work on the Sony APR-5000. I have multiple head assemblies for each.
See www.richardhess.com/tape/facility.htm

There are also tools that you'll need and many different things you'll need to learn. I'd like to suggest my blog as a good place to start, and here are a few specific pages.




And a resource for calibration tapes

Don't be fooled by people selling tape machines with DIN (wide track) play heads. While they work most of the time, they may be a real challenge in recovering some tapes from an archive.

Finally, tape treatment becomes a major issue. Almost all tapes are degrading, and in different ways. I wrote an article for the recent ARSC Journal which you can find on my website, here:

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help you, but I'm sorry, I don't have any tape recorders for sale (I'm sort of like the "roach motel" for tape recorders -- they check in, but they don't check out).

Good luck!



At 11:38 AM 2009-01-29, VICTORIA wrote:

I am in the market for a high end reel to reel player. ideally three speed
but two speed ok.  Need for playback and transfer of audio collection.  Your
help towards good models and or dealers is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Richard L. Hess email: richard@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.

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