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Otari mx5050 III-8 restoration... Any advice?
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rolo
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5th September 2011
Old 5th September 2011
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Otari mx5050 III-8 restoration... Any advice?

sup slutz. I bought an mx5050iii 8 track 1/2 inch recorder yesterday for $150 from a local studio. It sat by their sony dmx console more for decoration... Has not been used in years.
The pinch roller is almost completely a gooey mess, and it looks like the goo has gotten on all the heads, repro, record, and erase. Its not too bad... Looks like it can be cleaned.
I have decided to spend some $$$ on the mx over then next couple of months and slowly get this baby back to good.
I tested the motors without a tape... It played, rewind, ff, and stopped just fine... The speed of all the above seemed normal but there is no way to tell without a reel.
So... I plan to buy the following this week. PLEASE let me know if i am missing anything....
1. New Pinch Roller
2. Bottle of lube specifically for otari
3. Head cleaner from JRF
4. A new reel of 900 tape from JRF
5. Head Demag-er

I am pretty sure that after i get the mechanics working proper i will have JRF relap the heads, but before spending the $$$ i want to make sure it works.

Does anyone have an MRL 1/2 tape they can sell me?

Also, i have a chance to buy a 4 track head system from an otari mx5050-4... heads look real nice, can that be simply used inplace of my 8 track heads, or will i need to do more than just plug and play?

Let me know if you all have any advice or tips on getting this baby back to good.

Rolo

Also... forgot to mention that it was kept clean for the most part and it came with the original Manuals, Schematics and Maintenance Guides as well as both hubs, and a metal take reel.
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5th September 2011
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A few comments you may find useful regarding your list:

1) I like the new urethane rollers from Athan that JRF sells. Terry's Rubber Rollers will put new rubber on an existing unit for about half the price. Either way, you are likely to need to adjust the pinch roller pressure, which requires a push-pull spring scale that can read up to 50 N (5 Kg), appropriate hand tools and considerable patience, since the adjustment has to be done from the inside with the transport card pivoted out of the way and the unit on its side.

2) You can get Otari spec lube oil here:

Shop_PrecisionMotorWorks

However, Zoomspout Oilers are adequate for most capstan motor bearings and are available far cheaper here:

Blue Lake Products- order two Zoomspout Oilers and pay by credit card.

4) Why SM 900? The MX series is really not optimal for those high bias, high output tapes. SM 468 and SM 911 are the formulations the MX series is really designed to work best with.

5) Han-D-Mag by R.B. Annis for a demagnetizer:

R.B. Annis Instruments, Inc. - Sitemap

Standard Model 115-S will work fine.

Cheers,

Otto
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rolo
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5th September 2011
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Hi... Thanks for all the links. Will do. Thanks.
Anyone else have info like this,please chime in. thanks
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6th September 2011
Old 6th September 2011
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What Ofajen said. The special head cleaner is probably not needed, if you have nearly pure alcohol. Also, be prepared to spritz out switches and pots (i.e. Deoxit and or Faderlube). Find a crappy reel of non-sticky tape, for doing all the transport work before using the MRL.
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6th September 2011
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(as ofajen mentioned) Check out Terry's Rubber Pinch Rollers & Wheels ... he repaired the nasty pinch roller on the MX5050 that I used to have... like new for less than $50 ... easy guy to deal with also... a brand new one is something like 125, so youll save some money by sending the gooey one to Terry and having him re-rubber it.

Also I still have a bottle of the Otari lube which is recommended in the Otari owners manual...its a synthetic oil based (Anderal) that I got on Ebay... .. all you do is remove the dial from around the capstain and drop a couple drops on the little felt material there... that will keep it lubed...

edit...here it is... http://www.ebay.com/itm/WHITFIELD-PE...item5d277a7cb1

also...check the I/O XLRs on the back panel to make sure that they are not "pin 3 hot"... someone may have already done the mod to US standard pin 2 hot...but the older Otaris were Pin 3 hot... otherwise you will need to switch phase or be out of phase... its an easy mod, just remove the back panel and switch the 2 connectors and resodder.
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6th September 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Thomas View Post
also...check the I/O XLRs on the back panel to make sure that they are not "pin 3 hot"... someone may have already done the mod to US standard pin 2 hot...but the older Otaris were Pin 3 hot... otherwise you will need to switch phase or be out of phase... its an easy mod, just remove the back panel and switch the 2 connectors and resodder.
Unless, of course, your cabling is already pin 3 hot as for other old machines like 3M or Ampex.

Cheers,

Otto
rolo
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6th September 2011
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Hi. Thanks for all this great info. I cant wait to get it 100%.
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cool...rolo one other thing, if you run in to any thing that you are not sure of or cant fix... you could call a guy named Adrian from Adrians electronics in Canoga Park, CA...he used to the the auth service guy for Otari when they were in the US and knows the machines inside and out
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+one on Terry's rubber. He built a pinch roller for several machines I have for a very modest price. JRF is the considered the best,but I found a guy close here in Florida that relaps heads. He is lower priced. Tom at AMP Services in West Palm Beach. Good luck. I love Analog. I bought a Fostex E16 and the remote in near mint condition for $50 last month. GT
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6th September 2011
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man, these are awesome posts. great info!
I own and use the crap out of my digital system ( PT HD 3 Accel + 2 UAD Quads totally loaded... Genex, Benchmark, Apogee converters) but I remember all the fun and spontaneity of analog. I am sooo looking forward to this. I even bought a TL Audio Fat Track to run the otari's playback.
I figure mics and instruments into all my lovely pres, eqs, comps, then to the otari, then to fat track, then to two tracks of my Genex DSD. Maybe overkill, or maybe not enough, but Im sure going to have fun trying it.
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7th September 2011
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MRL Tape and Otari 8 track

I have a 15 ips 1/2 inch STL alingnment tape.

I just powered up my MX 5050 8 track after 15 years in storage. I had to replace the pinch roller, which I got from JRF. The problem that I have now is that it works well in playback, but does not rewind or fast forward when I have tape on. (It seems to work fine without tape) Hope that doesn't happen for you. I adjusted brake tension, but that didn't help. I don't know enough about the mechanical stuff to try anything else. I'm open for suggestions.

If I can't fix the deck without pouring money into it, I also have the remote control, auto locator, and cables available for sale.

Guy
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7th September 2011
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yikes! my machine's motors work fine without a tape loaded, but when i load a tape, rewind and FF work for a bit, but after a while slow down to a crawl as well... I was thinking the problem was the gooey, worn out pinch roller, but now ya got me thinking it's something else.
has anyone else have and remedied this issue with their mx?
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rolo...could be gooey bad tape leaving sticky residue which builds up and after a while the motors cant push through it.. check the heads, lifters etc to see if there is too much sticky shed from bad tape...

could also be the pinch roller, are you using the gooey one? dont ...

could also be that the reel holders need adjusting and are out of whack which causes the tape to not spin freely and slows it down, particularly in the middle of a reel of tape...this is something that can be done by yourself or someone who knows the machines... pm me if you want me to email you the user and service manuals...i think i have that one somewhere
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7th September 2011
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thanks for the link to the manuals. the new JRF pinch roller will be here on Friday, as well as the head cleaner, lube and a good test tape. Head de-mager is already here. MRL tape coming in next week too. I'll be posting my results and what i needed to do to get it up to speed within the next few weeks.
I hope others who want to restore their tape machines can use this post as a guide of sorts. thanks!
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7th September 2011
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We like pics! I have an Otari MX5050, too. Just curious to watch your progress as well as read about it.
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7th September 2011
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MX5050

I thought it might be the tape. It was leaving heavy deposits on the guides (and heads). But I cleaned it up and tried another tape and got the same results. Although the second tape was also old, it isn't leaving any deposits like the first tape did.

I haven't tried anything with the reel holders or platters yet.

Let me know if anything works for you.

Thanks,

Guy
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11th September 2011
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UPDATE!!!

ok... so, i cleaned the heads and rollers, installed a new JRF pinch roller, de-mag'd the heads and bought a used test tape. everything is working mechanically and i have signal recorded BUT.... the signal is very low and the noise floor is way up. Here's my chain...

Synthesizer going in to a stereo Radial DI... Radial into my UA 2108 stereo pre.... pre amp going out into the Otari ch 1&2... Otari 1&2 going into my PTHDrig... just so that I can see good LED and Waveform values... once those have been established, the otari will go direct into my TL audio Fat track mixer/monitors.

Any idea why signal is so low? UA reads pretty hot.
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13th September 2011
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Anyone?
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15th September 2011
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First, it's hard to know what to say, because you don't say whether you've calibrated the playback section with the calibration tape. You also didn't mention if you then went on to calibrate the record section. Improper record bias, for example, could lead to poor record sensitivity, and if both playback and record are randomly set, the levels set on input monitor may not give back the same level on playback.

To simplify things start with monitoring right off the machine. The Otari has a handy headphone monitor output that can select any combination of track outputs, all at the same gain. Just plug phones in, press the buttons for the tracks you're interested in and turn up the volume.

The machine also has a built-in oscillator, so you can test record and playback a bit, just by recording those tones. Set all the channels to record status, switch to the oscillator setting at, say 1K, depress all the "SRL" buttons, so they show green, and start recording and compare the "input" signal to the repro "output, while it's recording. That should tell you whether the machine is somewhere in the ballpark of proper setting and verify whether playback and record are working on all tracks.

When you try to input a signal, make sure you have proper connection to the Otari. The I/O is on XLR type jacks, but the signal I/O is unbalanced and normally pin 3 is the signal and pin 2 is tied to ground inside the machine.

The input impedance of the Otari is 30Kohms, IIRC, so with a proper connector, you should be able to plug a line level source right into the Otari input. If the synth output is low, you can switch the input level to "Low" on the channels you are going to record on (look on the back of the machine for a slide switch for each channel.)

When recording external signals, if the SRL button for the channels shows green, then the input level knob is defeated, so a nominal input should show 0 VU on the meter. If your levels need to be adjusted, either adjust the synth or depress the SRL buttons and then you can use the input level knobs.

Once the input level shows something substantial, but not with meters pegging, start recording. Switch the channels to repro to listen to what's coming off the tape and check to see what the levels are.

That's about the best guidance I can give at this point. You really will need to make sure to calibrate playback and record sections sooner, rather than later, if you haven't already... or pay to have someone else do it.

Cheers,

Otto
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16th September 2011
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Thanks Otto for that useful info. I should have clarified that i have yet to get al calibration tape... It is on order and on the way. That may have a lot to do with the signal being so low.

I did plug in phones and got the same input level without going to tape as i did when i monitoredthe synth off the tape. So it seems the low signal is occuring before it is recorded. I did set the LO input indicator for the synth... It was much lower in volume when i had it set to HI.

I also just used regular XLR unmodded cables to go from the pre amp into the otari, so i am sure that may have something to do with it as well.
I will await the MRL tape, break out the soldering iron to mod some xlr snakes for the machine and i will have someone come out and calibrate the machine with the test tape. Next week... I will post an update then. Thanks again.
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20th September 2011
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I have just ordered to custom snakes...
XLR female with regular pin outs to go from my pre amps
In to...
XLR Male with pin 3 hot and the other two as ground. To go IN to the otari.

The other snake is...
XLR Female with pin 3 hot and the other two as grounds to go into XLR male to be connected into my pro tools HD system balanced interface.

I believe this is correct, but will i need an 8 channel Line Level Shifter to go inbetween the pre amps and the otari, or is the custom snake i bought enough to get the job done. Thanks.
#23
26th September 2011
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Rolo,

I've given up on my 5050 drive, it's just not worth the effort for me. Would you be interested in either the remote control or the autolocator and cables? Or Both? They are in like new condition.
rolo
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11th October 2011
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update!
i FINALLY have everything set up and working proper.
The pinch roller from JRF Magnetics worked great.
I decided to open up the unit to see it it needed any cleaning andmuch to my surprise the guts were spotless... no dust, dirt, rust anywhere! I guess the previous owner really kept it in a good spot. I bought a new Reel of tape from JRF and quickly tracked some synths and mics into the Otari. The low signal i posted about before was resolved simply by wiring up snakes to accomdate the pin 3 hot issue. now signal is loud and clear.
Speaking of signal.I was pretty amazed at what tracking to this MX5050 did to my audio. I am used to Studers and MCI's but this little Otari is punchy and lovely. I can see this R2R is really going to come in useful to my projects.
Now... next week I am sending the head stack to JRF to have it totally re-done. I can't wait to hear what that sounds like!

THANKS TO ALL the posters on this thread. You all made this happen for me.

rolo
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14th November 2011
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Shams is offline
Great thread, just bought my first reel to reel machine, Otari MKIII 8 for $120 locally, the guy said it worked and I figured for that price I could afford to put a little $ into if necessary to fix it up. I eventually want to learn to service it and maintain it myself but to start I had it looked over by a local tech to start to make sure I wasn't jumping into a money pit unknowingly on the thing. Some of the parts on these things are expensive!

First off pinch roller was gooey mess so I sent the existing one to Terrys Rubber rollers and he fixed it up. Then the Tech repaired tension arm guide post, input circuit, speed select circuit, pinch roller engage mechanism, cue control linkages and pitch control connections. After all that he gave it a thumbs up, records on all 8 tracks, now I'm reading the manual to understand it a bit, eager to jump in.

Question is regarding xlr and hot pin 3. I opened up the xlr section in the back and it looks like mine is still the hot pin 3 wiring configuration (see photos). The orange wire is the hot wire right?

To use normal xlr cables on this I would need to switch pin 2 and 3 on the otaris xlr inputs and outputs? I'm thinking I might just resolder the inputs and outputs rather than pay $100+ dollars for a pair or custom wired snakes...

Let me know if this is what I would need to do to use my existing normal xlr cables.

Thanks!
Attached Thumbnails
Otari mx5050 III-8 restoration... Any advice?-otari-xlr-pinout.jpg   Otari mx5050 III-8 restoration... Any advice?-otari-xlr-pinout2.jpg  
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14th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shams View Post
To use normal xlr cables on this I would need to switch pin 2 and 3 on the otaris xlr inputs and outputs? I'm thinking I might just resolder the inputs and outputs rather than pay $100+ dollars for a pair or custom wired snakes...

Let me know if this is what I would need to do to use my existing normal xlr cables.

Thanks!
Just be aware that the Otari has unbalanced inputs and outputs, and that stock wiring ties pin 2 to pin 1 (ground) internally on both input and output, while also asking that the same be done in the XLR connector coming into the unit.

All should be well on the unbalanced recorder outputs connecting to balanced mixer inputs, but be thoughtful regarding balanced output signals coming into the unbalanced recorder inputs and whether you want the minus leg of the output tied to ground or not. Depending on the type of output, that may or may not be best.

I handle all that in a balanced TRS patch bay. Transformered outs that can be unbalanced by tying one leg to ground are unbalanced with TS cables, while electronically balanced outs that shouldn't have the minus leg tied to ground have it left floating with special cables made for that purpose.

Cheers,

Otto
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14th November 2011
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Quote:
All should be well on the unbalanced recorder outputs connecting to balanced mixer inputs, but be thoughtful regarding balanced output signals coming into the unbalanced recorder inputs and whether you want the minus leg of the output tied to ground or not. Depending on the type of output, that may or may not be best.
My immediate signal chain will be a pair of Lawson mics into my D.A.V BG1U preamp into the Otari, and then after recording I want to go from the Otari into my Motu 896 to convert to digital for editing/mastering.

Only other thing I may do if I need more than the two preamp outs from the D.A.V pre I will use a Yamaha MG12/4 mixer and go from there into the Otari.

Are the D.A.V and the Yamaha MG12/4 balanced out?

I'll look into the balanced TRS patch bay you mentioned as well. Thanks for being patient with my questions, still learning about the important nuances and details necessary for getting the best out of a nice machine.
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15th November 2011
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Looked into the TRS patch bay and it seems like I'm not quite there yet as this is still a pretty simple home studio, not a lot of cord spaghetti yet that would require the benefits of a tool like the patch bay, maybe in the future though.

I'll look into having some custom XLR cords built then to the Otari specs. Any suggestions on good places to have that done? I'm in the Detroit area.
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15th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gjbart View Post
Rolo,

I've given up on my 5050 drive, it's just not worth the effort for me. Would you be interested in either the remote control or the autolocator and cables? Or Both? They are in like new condition.

I'm looking for a CB-110 Remote with cable.
#30
15th November 2011
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Shams is offline
Quote:
All should be well on the unbalanced recorder outputs connecting to balanced mixer inputs, but be thoughtful regarding balanced output signals coming into the unbalanced recorder inputs and whether you want the minus leg of the output tied to ground or not. Depending on the type of output, that may or may not be best.
On the back of my D.A.V pre there are options for both balanced and unbalanced outs, if I went the first route and switched pins 2 and 3 inside the Otari's ins/outs then using the unbalanced outs on the D.A.V going into the Otari shouldn't present any issues then?

Also, regarding balanced output into the Otari, you mention "depending on the type of output" and tying the minus leg to ground or not, if I were to run mics through the D.A.V and wanted to use the balanced output would those need the minus leg tied to ground? Just wondering which types of balanced output would need this treatment and which wouldn't.

Thanks!
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