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Woodhead
21-09-2016, 16:47
Having returned to vinyl this year I've been mostly on Techiepedia, so I guess you might not know me here. Hello from Nottingham.

I've been enjoying making compilation cassettes of favourite LP tracks, sequenced in DAW, output through Presonus Central Station.
I'm interested in better sound quality than my Denon720R compact cassette, so I've begun considering RTR.

Would I be better looking for a two track model, or is four track good enough for what I'm doing?
Is 7.5ips an appropriate speed, or would I gain anything from 15ips?
Which machines are proven to be reliable, with servicing and spares available in UK. Around the £400-500 kind of level?

Thanks for looking at my newbie level questions, we all have to start somewhere!

337alant
21-09-2016, 21:12
Hi and welcome to R2R
If you want better sound quality then R2Rs will generally sound better than Cassette but there are some very good cassette decke out there that will give the best of the R2Rs a run for there money, personally I prefer the 2 track machines as they have a greater dynamic range and no bleed through from narrow tracks.
There are no relaiable R2Rs these days as they are all getting very old, so dodgy old capacitors are the biggest cause of failure.
Some of the last machines made were the Tascam BR20 and i can thoughly recommend them as very good performer and as reliable as you can get nowerdays, I have 6 of these machines, the Tascam ATR professional machines are also excellent but quite rare in the UK now. Tascam was the professional version of TEAC who also made some very good machines for the domestic market the latter ones of those were the X1000 & X2000, I have a Teac 3440 and an X1000 and they are both good machines.
Revox made some wonderful machines and the latter versions were the semi pro PR99 Mk1, 2 & 3 and they are the ones I would look for if you want a revox, but if you chose revox be prepared to have to completely recap them as the frako caps in particular have a habbit of failing short circuit I have a Pr99 mk1 & 2 but both need work on recapping.
Studer were the Professional range of the Revox machines and these are superb performers if in good condition and also share the same capacitor problem, I have a Studer A810 which is my pride and joy ;):eyebrows:
Otari made some very nice R2Rs and in europe the MX55 was an excellent performer and very good build quilaity, I have 2 of these machines and have never had to replace a cap yet, in USA the MX5050 versions are very highly regarded
Akai made some fine sounding machines and the top of the range GX646 & 747 are very nice but expensive, Some Akai machines also have a problem with failing transisters which are now obselete although allternatives are available.
Sony also made some great machines but I have never owned one so cant offer an opinion on reliability?
Tandberg made some superb machines 30 years ago but good ones are quite rare now, Ali Tate has a very nice example :eyebrows:
7.5" is very good and makes the best use of the tape 90mins on a 10.5", 15" sounds tighter and cleaner but eats tape up the same tape in 45mins
Oh and then you have to find some decent tape that will not have sticky shed :D
The maxell UD & XL range are very good and still available are the Pyral LPR35, SM900 & 911 and ATR tapes but at a cost
Hope this helps

Lodgesound
22-09-2016, 07:31
The Otari MX and MTR series of machines are fantastically reliable - I have never known one to develop any kind of serious fault in all the years I have run them. That said you won't get an MTR in good condition for under £1600 - £2000 at the moment as such machines are beginning to have commercial value again. The same can be said of the high end Studer machines but again they are very expensive in fully serviceable form. £400 - £500 could buy you a good MX 55 Otari or something such as a Teac X1000 R (many of these are quarter track so get the half track one as Alan has already said due to bleed through problems and very poor signal to noise ratios with quarter track units).

Your budget could also buy you a good A77 Revox or even a B77 (these are markedly better units). These have some capacitor issues but only with the FRAKO capacitors really - in my experience the bulk of the electronics in these machines remain stable after all these years.

Woodhead
22-09-2016, 08:36
Thank you very much Alan and Stewart.
This gives me a very useful launching off point to begin my search.
I appreciate the time you've taken, and the insider knowledge you've shared with a newbie.
Excellent stuff.

Firebottle
22-09-2016, 09:23
Excellent posts fellas

topoxforddoc
22-09-2016, 22:07
If you want to play old pre-recorded tapes, then get a 4 track machine. Personally I wouldn't bother, as the commercial 4 track tapes were all duplicated at high speed. Also SQ on 4 track 1/4 inch isn't as good as 2 track.

If it were my choice, I would only buy a machine, which can do 15 IPS as well as 7.5 IPS. Once you get the bug, you might get tempted into the realms of 15 IPS 2 track masters (or similar). Ouch, they're expensive, but once you've heard them, you will find them irresistible. It's addictive.

If you can go to about £600, you might find a Sony APR-5000 series machine. These are proper studio workhorses and every bit as good as a serious Studer like an A80. They just aren't as valued as Studers or Otaris, even though the Sony tape transport is one of the best around. Whatever you buy, budget for a service and tape alignment to get it working perfectly. Good luck!

Woodhead
23-09-2016, 09:18
Thanks Charlie, that's very helpful and has refined my consideration.
I've got the MFSL 45rpm KOB box, which would be interesting to hear at 15ips as one continuous flow, rather than getting up to turn the disc over every few minutes.

How much roughly should I expect to pay for a service/alignment?
Obviously depends on the state of the unit, but presuming it's not a basket case and just needs a little fettling what would be realistic ballpark fees.

I have found a fully refurbished high speed 2 track B77, with test report and warranty. But he's asking £825 for it, so I think that's probably overpriced.

Form factor will keep me away from the bigger studio style units. I only have room for something upright.

topoxforddoc
23-09-2016, 11:16
Form factor will keep me away from the bigger studio style units. I only have room for something upright.

The pro studio machines are much better built with robust transport systems and electronics on removable cards (easier to service). My Sony APR5003 does have a slightly bigger footprint. But I have mine on top of an Ikea Lack trolley, so it's not that big. The Studer A80s, Otari MTRs (with integrated trolley and bridge) and ATRs are much bigger and more expensive. Have a look at this video from this year's AXPONA show in the US (OK it's about 50 mins, but well worth watching)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StL9w56lVic&feature=youtu.be

337alant
25-09-2016, 23:09
For me the ancient pre recorded tapes are very poor quality and value considering there cost on ebay:eek: so I just donít bother.

If you want to hear what your R2R can do as a source then I prefer to make up play lists from my flac files and recording them directly from my DAC to tape machine, or alternatively recording straight from my Turntable via the paradise phono stage, I get some really nice recording this way

Alan

337alant
25-09-2016, 23:15
For me the ancient pre recorded tapes are very poor quality and value considering there cost on ebay:eek: so I just donít bother.

If you want to hear what your R2R can do as a source then I prefer to make up play lists from my flac files and recording them directly from my DAC to tape machine, or alternatively recording straight from my Turntable via the paradise phono stage, I get some really nice recording this way

Alan

Audio Al
26-09-2016, 03:48
My advice would be , buy a basic 1/4" 2 track machine that has some provenance / been serviced . comes with a period of guarantee , that way you can try the R2R format and see if you like it , If not it will be a lot easier to sell on

Have fun :)

Woodhead
26-09-2016, 11:24
Thanks guys, that really helps.

So I've had time to scope out my entry level options and narrowed it down to a two track machine with 7.5 & 15ips, and 10.5" capacity.
I have no interest now in four track, or pre-recorded tapes. Thanks guys, your experience really is priceless.

Of the various models suggested it seems that in the UK there is more Revox available than any other. I've found a few repair/service/tuning technicians, and there seems to be plentiful spare parts from donor machines making it a doable proposition in terms of maintenance.

So I'm now thinking in terms of B77 or PR99. Serviced units seem to go around £650, so i've revised my budget to suit, as i want it to work straight out of the box without additional early expense other than tapestock.

These two seem to go at around similar money, so my decision to take is wether to go for XLR PR99, or RCA B77. My Unison Research amp is RCA so that would be the simplest signal path, but I'm open to suggestions about a quality way to convert XLR to RCA without a mixing desk, if anyone is doing it that way?

Ali Tait
26-09-2016, 13:56
Up to you, depends what you are going to do with it, but 4 track gives you much more playing time from your tapes. 2 track may be better, but superb results can also be had from 4 track machines.

I would echo Al's advice, find yourself a decent 4 track machine. If the bug bites seriously, then consider a 2 track.

I'm very happy with my 4 track Tandberg, it gives superb results to my ears.

Arkless Electronics
26-09-2016, 14:21
Thanks guys, that really helps.

So I've had time to scope out my entry level options and narrowed it down to a two track machine with 7.5 & 15ips, and 10.5" capacity.
I have no interest now in four track, or pre-recorded tapes. Thanks guys, your experience really is priceless.

Of the various models suggested it seems that in the UK there is more Revox available than any other. I've found a few repair/service/tuning technicians, and there seems to be plentiful spare parts from donor machines making it a doable proposition in terms of maintenance.

So I'm now thinking in terms of B77 or PR99. Serviced units seem to go around £650, so i've revised my budget to suit, as i want it to work straight out of the box without additional early expense other than tapestock.

These two seem to go at around similar money, so my decision to take is wether to go for XLR PR99, or RCA B77. My Unison Research amp is RCA so that would be the simplest signal path, but I'm open to suggestions about a quality way to convert XLR to RCA without a mixing desk, if anyone is doing it that way?

The XLR's on the PR99 are because it has balanced inputs and outputs.

Woodhead
26-09-2016, 18:26
Thanks all, have ordered a serviced PR99 mkIII (two track 15ips) with warranty. And so it begins...

Arkless Electronics
26-09-2016, 20:01
Thanks all, have ordered a serviced PR99 mkIII (two track 15ips) with warranty. And so it begins...

Ah just what I have as my main RTR. Love the digital display/tape point finder! You can set a zero on the display at the beginning of a track and then tell it to rewind to that point. When it gets nearly there it inches back and forth until it finds the zero... just like those computers with RTR tape in 60's spy films:eyebrows:

337alant
28-09-2016, 16:02
Thanks all, have ordered a serviced PR99 mkIII (two track 15ips) with warranty. And so it begins...

Congratulations thats a fabulous machine you have chosen, I have a Mk1 & Mk2 version but could never find a nice Mk3?. see pic below of my mk2
I much prefer using the XLR connectors and the output is +4db so hotter than RCA at -10db
I have one set of XLRs (unbalenced) on my pre amp so I can plug it in direct. Its easy enough to make up a XLR to RCA cable or just use RCA with a set of nuetric adapters from Maplin as well or make a set of adapters


https://c5.staticflickr.com/6/5327/17404669276_d1924639f8_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/svZtNL)revox pr99 mk2 (https://flic.kr/p/svZtNL) by Alan Towell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/69508926@N05/), on Flickr


Alan

Arkless Electronics
28-09-2016, 16:09
If I ever start to seriously use mine (years since I've switched it on!) again I will probably convert it to unbalanced by removing the transformers and then update the electronics somewhat...

Woodhead
28-09-2016, 16:23
Took the day off work and collected it today guys. Currently test recording tracks off SACD and DVD-audio, before trying some MFSL vinyl.
Using NOS Quantegy 406 which it has been calibrated to. Playback sounds exactly the same as the source to my cloth ears.
Very pleased with sound quality at 7.5ips, which was my main aim with this little project.

The chap who serviced it adjusted the electronics and made me a set of I/O leads to go from the XLRs to RCA for my amp. So it's literally been plug and play for me.

Machine is clean and appears unmolested, will post some snaps later.
Fully serviced and with a 60 day warranty, NAB adapters, 2400' tape, two 10.5" reels, and custom leads it came to £710.
Not the cheapest deal around, but I was happy to pay for peace of mind, hoping this will last me many years.

Thanks again for guidance from many, it definitely helped focus my attention on what's important.
If we ever move into a bigger house I might look again at Sony 5000 series, would have loved that but my space is too small.

337alant
28-09-2016, 16:59
£710 is a very good price for a fully serviced machine with a waranty, with Nab adapters and tape.
Bargain for a Mk3 IMO
Enjoy

Alan

topoxforddoc
29-09-2016, 13:15
David,

Very nice indeed. This could be all consuming :)

Woodhead
29-09-2016, 13:52
Thanks Charlie, it's only the high cost of tapestock that will hold me back!

Test recorded tracks from each of my sources last night into a rough compilation: CD, SACD, DVD-A, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, VINYL.
Wanted to judge how it will sound if different formats are compiled together, and I am really pleased with the initial result.
Obviously MP3 was worst, but still no worse than the original. CD actually sounded better when reproduced on the tape if that's even possible.
All higher res stuff SACD, DVD-A, FLAC sounds the same as source, very accurately copied, I can't hear any loss.

Vinyl was interestingly variable depending on the record.
I was thrilled with Analogue Productions pressing of Sade, spot on.
But MFSL Bob Dylan comes across with a slightly pronounced noise floor. I'd guess it's down to MFSL pressing being a bit quiet perhaps, so the signal to noise ratio is different.
Old 7" Pogues single sounded just fine.

Playback from DAW through Beresford DAC to tape was also really good.
That's how I plan to sequence my compilations as it allows me to do some simple layering, with one track fading out as the other is starting, to make a gapless flow.

Arkless Electronics
29-09-2016, 14:26
The problem with RTR, IMHO, is the lack of software!! One is limited to making copies of material already owned on other formats which, to me anyway, rather defeats the object of having what is probably the best sounding format of all....

On the very rare occasions I use my RTR's it's usually to record live performances. Then all the fun of choosing and using microphones, mic pre amps etc can be "enjoyed":eyebrows:

Most commonly available and cheap mixing desks etc are not really up to the job IMHO.... although this doesn't stop them being used pretty universally and even on some recordings released to the public commercially! They are usually built with the cheapest nastiest components known to man and typically there would be 10 or more cheap op-amps in the signal path....

The mics situation is better as there are now many Chinese made (and Australian in the case of Rode) condenser mics of good quality available relatively cheaply (£120-300 ish) which when only available from the old time traditional makers such as Neumann, AKG, Sennheiser would have been around £2000-4000 each... Ok they are not as good but probably give 85%+ of the performance for 10 x less money! Many can also be modded for better performance.

Audio Al
29-09-2016, 14:38
Look forward to the photos :)

Arkless Electronics
29-09-2016, 14:43
If that's aimed at me well there are no photos... I'm not a person that generally takes photos of things/events/ people... anything really... and I will have been far too busy doing the recording anyway!... and guarding the gear from curious drunks when recording stuff at a pub gig...

Audio Al
29-09-2016, 14:46
If that's aimed at me well there are no photos... I'm not a person that generally takes photos of things/events/ people... anything really... and I will have been far too busy doing the recording anyway!... and guarding the gear from curious drunks when recording stuff at a pub gig...

Its " NOT AIMED AT YOU " its a comment for the OP

Arkless Electronics
29-09-2016, 15:17
Its " NOT AIMED AT YOU " its a comment for the OP

Ok. Thought it unusual for you to talk to me...:ner:

Audio Al
29-09-2016, 15:52
Ok. Thought it unusual for you to talk to me...:ner:

I think its best we don't go there

Arkless Electronics
29-09-2016, 16:01
If you're one who bears a grudge forever then suits me. Back to mutual ignore mode;)

Audio Al
29-09-2016, 16:06
If you're one who bears a grudge forever then suits me. Back to mutual ignore mode;)

Great :)

Ali Tait
29-09-2016, 16:29
Nice machine. Might be better long term to have it calibrated to tape stock currently made, which is usually a fair bit chaper than the NOS stuff.

A good source of stuff to record is Sky Arts. There are a lot of great sounding gigs that are well worth recording.

topoxforddoc
29-09-2016, 22:20
The problem with RTR, IMHO, is the lack of software!!



Jez,

15 IPS 2 track software is available, but it's not cheap. There are now about 30 companies making new 2 track 15 IPS real time tapes available, albeit at a cost. Also, if you're brave, you can trawl the shark infested *bay. I have over 40 tapes - original distribution master tapes as well as a number of "safety masters" - ranging from Miles Davis Kind of Blue to the Doors, the Beatles, CCR, Steely Dan, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Nina Simone Led Zep, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd, Jesus and Mary Chain and Michael Jackson.

You have to be selective - some sellers are excellent, and some less so. Caveat emptor.

Charlie

Woodhead
04-10-2016, 17:30
And here's the machine:

http://www.screenstarmedia.com/private/AOS/Revox1b.jpg

http://www.screenstarmedia.com/private/AOS/Revox2b.jpg

http://www.screenstarmedia.com/private/AOS/Revox3b.jpg

Ali Tait
04-10-2016, 18:11
Nice machine.

topoxforddoc
04-10-2016, 20:31
OOh, that looks very nice indeed :)

Lodgesound
04-10-2016, 20:49
A PR 99 Mk 2.......a very lovely beast...

Woodhead
04-10-2016, 21:04
Thanks all, sounds as nice as it looks.

Serial sticker says mk3 Stewart, I dunno what the difference was from mk2.

Arkless Electronics
04-10-2016, 23:52
Identical to my Mk III.... as it would be... them both being the same....:doh:

I'll get my coat:D

Woodhead
05-10-2016, 08:24
I have 5x 2400' NOS Quantegy406 to get me going, which it is calibrated for.
Does anyone know if other tapestocks would work without the need for recalibration please?
Or are these machines only fine-tuned for one type of tape?
Best price I've currently got for NOS Quantegy406 in UK, 2400' spooled onto 10.5" pre-used reels, is £28.

Audio Al
05-10-2016, 09:02
As with these older machines , they were built to a standard and not a price , Should give you years of audio enjoyment , They are more reliable the more you use them , Leaving them sitting for long periods can cause issues , Have fun ,
PS are you getting a rack for it ?

Woodhead
05-10-2016, 09:45
Thanks for that Al. It's currently sat vertically on top of an old flight case that just happens to be the almost the same width and depth.
Not too much of a footprint, and near enough to my hifi stand not to need long cables. I'll take a snap later on to show it 'installed'.
The trolley style racks I've seen pictures of might take up too much floor space I think.

Here's another photo from yesterday, taken on Fuji Instant Pack Film on a 5x4 Sinar:

http://www.screenstarmedia.com/private/AOS/Revox4b.jpg

Barry
06-10-2016, 08:31
Anyone who goes to the trouble of photographing their gear using a 5x4 camera deserves my admiration.

Nice R2R by the way - looks like you got yourself a bit of a bargain. :)

topoxforddoc
07-10-2016, 17:39
I haven't seen a new 5x4 "Polaroid" image for a long time - lovely camera and nice R2R as well to boot :)

Woodhead
08-10-2016, 12:31
Interesting email this morning from Revox.
Out of curiosity I'd asked if they kept a record of manufacturing dates associated to serial numbers:

"We have no list with the date of manufacture for this old devices, but you can look inside your device.
You have to put away the housing. On the bell form the winding motors you see a date (month/year), around 6 months later your device was build."

Four screws later I've found that sticker, and it has "17 MAI 1988".

337alant
08-10-2016, 17:58
Lovely machine that :eyebrows:;)
Still 28 years old though and thats a Mk3 :eek:, its remarkable how these machines still perform as an excellent source after near 30 years.
I have an A77, PR99Mk1 & Pr99mk2 so Ill have a look how old they are, thanks for the tip on the date.
I have virtually recapped the A77 but still have to start on the PR99s.

Alan