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MCI JH16 2" 16 Track - THE ROAD TO RESURRECTION 2k17 or how I became Steve's apostle
Old 26th April 2017
  #1
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MCI JH16 2" 16 Track - THE ROAD TO RESURRECTION 2k17 or how I became Steve's apostle

Welcome to exactly what the title of this thread suggests!

And let me go straight to the disclaimer for all you millennial-, born-again, hobbyista-, Guerilla-DIY-, MCI tape machine lovers and Fort Lauderdale Tape Neophytes:

1. The first rule of MCI club is - DO NOT ASSUME
2. The second rule of MCI club is - NEVER A.S.S.U.M.E.
3. The third and most important rule of MCI club is - DO NOT MAKE ANY ASSUMPTIONS (on the basis of stuff you have read on the internet) ABOUT REPAIRING YOU MCI TAPE MACHINE BY YOURSELF W.I.T.H.O.U.T CONSULTING: The Great American MCI guru - Steve Sadler.

I know this may seem like, I am making a strong point here but let me tell you - TIFU.

After having heard and felt the sonic power of a JH16 2" machine under the wing of my mentor and repro comrade Miles, I snapped up a £600 steal on a 16 Track 2", which - I hoped - would open the flood gates to tones, midrange and gooey fatness.
After he told me about all the red socket nightmares, cold solder joints, dried up PSU caps and general 70s goo in those MCI machines and how they can be a right maintenance hog, which can not be nuked out of its hole without the help of some guy in Nashville, I decided to start my tape future "THE RIGHT WAY" by ordering new turn pin, sockets, a whole set of electrolytic capacitors for recapping and ICs to sit myself down over the Easter Holidays and go in hard on reflowing and recapping.
Do it once and do it right, I thought - Clean Slate and no bull****, I assumed and took my naive MCI spa all the way, just to find, that upon switching the power switch three fans came on and not a single inch tape would whizz across the deck.

This was the moment, when I broke the first rule of MCI club without knowing it.

(Now - if you are reading this because you just found a sweet deal on an MCI tape machine - DO NOT. BREAK. THE FIRST RULE OF MCI CLUB.
Just don't and read the last bit of this introduction.)

This was the same moment, when I realised I had ****ed up and had to heed my friend's advice about getting a Skype subscription with this - at that time - ominous tech Coryphaeus in Nashville - Steve Sadler.

And it was today - after spending three hours unravelling the train wreck of a refurbishment job just to get to square one (a fried 5V Zener Diode), that I realised no woman or man (with the passion for the tape sound and the big MCI tape dream) should walk the path without the Zen-like patience, the Sharp mind of a kungfu master and the Grand Canyon depth of tech knowledge, that Steve has and has put to use to help me out of a snake pit of impulsive and excitement drivenand half knowledge.

In a nutshell - sign up with Steve, explain to him what's up and take it from there. Don't start a minute earlier than that.

I am only at the beginning of this journey and am waiting for the replacement diode to take me out of boot camp to level 1.

What follows are pictures of HOW TO NOT DO IT unless you want to break the first three rules of MCI club... which you mustn't.
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Old 26th April 2017
  #2
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And here are some inspirational MCI snaps...
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Old 29th April 2017
  #3
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Cool, looking forward to more posts!
Old 2nd May 2017
  #4
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Hi there Team Repro!

Let's jump right in - I have had a great second session with Steve and after a long 6 hours of laborious and rigorous fault finding spiced with a light discussion of current political affairs, all the power issues my replacing of power transformers and misspluggin of Molexes have been found and resolved!
So all the transport related circuitry is getting it's 5V, +-15 and +-22V and this thing is not far away from transporting drums into a 1970s technicolour vision of the future of modern drum sounds.

Steve's intuition leaves little doubt about the potential frying of some or (even all) of the ICs on the PhaseLock board, which is the last puzzle piece in the process of cementing the smooth transport.

I have also learned about how important it is to have spare power transistors' regulators handy, because with missing isolation pads underneath them and sweeping assumptions about what way capacitors need to go in, they end up as toast.

Always double check, take iphone snaps every 5 minutes auto-save style and always call Steve before you're about to "sort the machine out"

I'll update you in whatagwan after another session with the man himself tomorrow GMT FYI ETC...
Old 2nd May 2017
  #5
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Absolutely Gutted...
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Old 2nd May 2017
  #6
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We've also found an absolute classic Frankenstein resistor contraption... you've gotta see it to believe it...
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Old 5th May 2017
  #7
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Hello JH16-istas!

Since sorting the machine's transport involves getting the remote to play ball, my last session with Steve lead me down the binary rabbit that is the locator module of the AutoLocator II.

Even though both displays and keypads where ready to do the RoboBoogie, the faff began when the main Rainbow ribbon was not getting the right voltages from the big buffet of ICs on the bottom of the locator module.
This manifested itself in the machine not quite transpoting to the position it is suppose to go, but stopping two counts before matching it and with that being stuck in forward/rewind mode.

After a third lesson in Sadlerian patience, Steve's eagle-eye knowledge of the cicrcuit diagrams and learning how counting in early 70s 4 bit technology works, the dodgy ICs on both digital and analog board where found and the singular keystone IC17 in all of this was also found - on the analogue torque board on the main motherboard...

So we have got a happy AutoLocator and the transport on the remote functioning and it's looking like we gonna be tackling the audio side of things next.
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Old 5th May 2017
  #8
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Turns out analog equipment DOES have a soul and greets you like a puppy in the morning...

I'm not sure if this thing know that my name is not Bob, but I guess it's from the 70s...

The ICs in question where also found to not do their job, but just make out and get their legs dirty. #ClassicAnalogueLyf
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Old 7th May 2017
  #9
Change those red IC sockets to machined Milli-max, that solves a lot of problems.
Old 9th May 2017
  #10
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At your peril.
Old 11th May 2017
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcijh View Post
At your peril.
Old 8th June 2017
  #12
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I just sent you a PM, I have a couple MCIs kicking (the bucket) around. Maybe I should sign up for steves services again.
Old 4th June 2018
  #13
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Bumping this. I’m in the market for a 2” deck and a JH 16 is a possibility. I assume with any deck I purchase I will be recapping the entire deck and replacing/upgrading opamps. The JH16 is appealing to me because of the transformers. The deck I buy will be mainly for drums and base and whatever else sounds great through it. I have a mix down deck and a Soundcraft 400b so an entire analog album is a possibility. Talk me into this or talk me out. I’m assuming even if I buy a running machine I will be rebuilding it for the rest of my life.
Old 4th June 2018
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian M. Boykin View Post
Bumping this. I’m in the market for a 2” deck and a JH 16 is a possibility. I assume with any deck I purchase I will be recapping the entire deck and replacing/upgrading opamps. The JH16 is appealing to me because of the transformers. The deck I buy will be mainly for drums and base and whatever else sounds great through it. I have a mix down deck and a Soundcraft 400b so an entire analog album is a possibility. Talk me into this or talk me out. I’m assuming even if I buy a running machine I will be rebuilding it for the rest of my life.
Do it, the practicalities really don't matter, but you have to enjoy finding problems and solving them.
If that sort of thing spoils your day stick with computers.... or knitting.

It's a very satisfying and pleasurable experience to record entirely on tape with the screens switched off. I've become quite addicted to it, and the fixing, it's therapeutic and rewarding when you solve a problem.
Old 2nd December 2018
  #15
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So I finally bit the bullet. Bought a MCI JH110B about a month ago. It’s up and running thanks to Steve. I’m leaving Monday for a 79 JH16 with both 16 and 24 track heads. Still has the transformers. It’s in New York. 26 hour drive one way. Full restore is the plan. Wish me luck. I’ll post pics when I have them.

Brian
Old 2nd December 2018
  #16
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Congrats! I have an MCI 1/2" 4 track I'll be restoring. Any threads on these things is really helpful.
Old 10th February 2019
  #17
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I spent many months restoring a JH110B 1" 8-track. Every single circuit board from transport, power supply and all channel modules removed, every single dab of solder on male molex connectors removed/sucked and replaced with new Kester. Every single male molex pin sanded and coated with Stabilant 22. Every female molex treated liberally with several rounds of De-oxit, CRC and finally Stabilant. Every single red IC replaced with machine tooled (HUGE PITA!!!)....several caps, voltage regulators, corroded wires and burnt leads replaced. Heads re-lapped back east @ JRF. Heads aligned, tensions calibrated, bias/EQ set with MRL. Autolocator (another PITA on it's own) fixed....cleaned up and new VU lights.

When it was all done, that thing was rock solid and extremely reliable.....and sounded boring (to me). It was perfectly clean, flat and linear, no noise, no distortion, no HF rolloff....sounded too pretty and clean. Almost like "perfect digital". Not the "ooey gooey tape" sound I was going for. So I sold it and bought a Tascam 388. It's a POS, but you KNOW it's tape.

If you've already completed the job, my man, I feel your pain. If you're reading this and thinking about doing it....you're better off spending the amount of time it will take working a minimum wage job for HALF the hours, buying an MCI "brand new" from Mara Machines....and spending the leftover money for a down payment on a house.

I learned a lot fixing that old boat anchor. Would I do it again? No. Do I regret it? Yes.

Good luck!
Old 10th February 2019
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdurango View Post

When it was all done, that thing was rock solid and extremely reliable.....and sounded boring (to me). It was perfectly clean, flat and linear, no noise, no distortion, no HF rolloff....sounded too pretty and clean. Almost like "perfect digital". Not the "ooey gooey tape" sound I was going for. So I sold it and bought a Tascam 388. It's a POS, but you KNOW it's tape.
The best thing about a well set up tape machine is that it sounds so perfect.
That's one of the things I want from it, as accurate as possible but without the flattening effect of pcm conversion.

I like it when it sounds so real you keep replying to something someone has said that's been recorded every time you hear it.
That doesn't happen so much with digital recording I find, it's more of a "perfect representation" but somehow less "real"
Old 10th February 2019
  #19
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That sucks Jdurango. You can’t hear the difference. I have a JH110B 2 track and can hear the difference. It has transformers. I also have an Otari MTR10 2 track which is said to be boring and I can hear the difference from it also. I intentionally went JH16 with all the glorious transformers because after reading up on MCI’s I read countless threads of engineers saying JH24’s were so close to digital and they couldn’t really tell the difference when side by side. But that’s inline with the history of tape recorders. The goal was what digital offers. So the closer you get to digital on the timeline of tape machines the more transparent they will sound. The “gooey sound” of tape was concidered a flaw of tape, not an asset. That’s why they pulled transformers from JH16’s and electronically balanced them. I’ve never thought to use “gooey” as a word to describe any of my decks. It’s a subtle difference but it’s there and I like it.

Brian
Old 10th February 2019
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian M. Boykin View Post
That sucks Jdurango. You can’t hear the difference. I have a JH110B 2 track and can hear the difference. It has transformers. I also have an Otari MTR10 2 track which is said to be boring and I can hear the difference from it also. I intentionally went JH16 with all the glorious transformers because after reading up on MCI’s I read countless threads of engineers saying JH24’s were so close to digital and they couldn’t really tell the difference when side by side. But that’s inline with the history of tape recorders. The goal was what digital offers. So the closer you get to digital on the timeline of tape machines the more transparent they will sound. The “gooey sound” of tape was concidered a flaw of tape, not an asset. That’s why they pulled transformers from JH16’s and electronically balanced them. I’ve never thought to use “gooey” as a word to describe any of my decks. It’s a subtle difference but it’s there and I like it.

Brian
I could hear the difference, it was just so miniscule as to be practically useless. And honestly, I'm not even sure it was "better" for most sources....it was just different. Using Quantegy 456, cymbals were actually slightly harsher than going straight to digital (multed through patchbay). I checked and re-checked bias calibration. A 20-20k sine sweep measured completely flat, output recorded to a wav file and checked to within about 2dB @ 1.23v.

As for transformers, nearly every single other piece of gear I use in the studio is xformer balanced. Most mics, most all 500 series preamps have xformers, often bussed out my 500 series mixer which has xformers into my main console with UTC in and out xformers or Tascam 388 (which doesn't)....but when I mixdown, it's to an Ampex 354 with tubes AND transformers. Hell, even most of my DI's have tubes and transformers.

Point being, going through all the hassle of using a tape machine "because it has transformers" is ridiculous, especially the newer variety, which (as you point out) from a purely tape/magnetic standpoint, sound almost indistinguishable from good digital. There are much better, cheaper, more reliable and far more versatile ways to get coloration.

In fact, you could buy a Burl A2D for much less money, hassle, maintenance headaches and space requirements than a working MCI. It has transformers allows you to record audio....so there you go. (I'm joking of course. Buying an interface for the transformers is just as ridiculous as buying a tape machine for the transformers. For example, say you want to bypass or use different transformers for whatever reason. You can't!).

Now if you want REAL "ooey gooey" tape sound like most people think of when they think "real analog tape", bus an Ampex MX10 into an Ampex 35x tape machine. Between the multiple layers of tubes, transformers and oldschool tape transport/heads running @ low bias, you will get a VERY noticeable beautiful tape sound.....the Tascam 388 is a pretty quick and dirty way to accomplish a similar sound (although not as "refined" and smooth sounding as the Ampex combo) but it allows for multiple tracks. Best of both worlds is a relatively modern/clean tape formulation on the 388 mixed to an oldschool formulation on the Ampex (Scotch 101?)

This is a sound I've chased for years. I've been through the ringer with all kinds of gear. The MCI has a sound, but it's very subtle, arguably not "better" and (as myself and others will tell you) a HUGE PITA to cultivate. Some people may love them. I put my heart and soul into mine and found it to be pretty boring. IMHO if you want a "real" tape sound, you gotta go back to the 60's. It's still a PITA, but very much worth it!

Last edited by jdurango; 10th February 2019 at 09:21 PM..
Old 10th February 2019
  #21
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Brian M. Boykin's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdurango View Post
I could hear the difference, it was just so miniscule as to be practically useless. And honestly, I'm not even sure it was "better" for most sources....it was just different. Using Quantegy 456, cymbals were actually slightly harsher than going straight to digital (multed through patchbay). I checked and re-checked bias calibration. A 20-20k sine sweep measured completely flat, output recorded to a wav file and checked to within about 2dB @ 1.23v.

As for transformers, nearly every single other piece of gear I use in the studio is xformer balanced. Most mics, most all 500 series preamps have xformers, often bussed out my 500 series mixer which has xformers into my main console with UTC in and out xformers or Tascam 388 (which doesn't)....but when I mixdown, it's to an Ampex 354 with tubes AND transformers. Hell, even most of my DI's have tubes and transformers.

Point being, going through all the hassle of using a tape machine "because it has transformers" is ridiculous, especially the newer variety, which (as you point out) from a purely tape/magnetic standpoint, sound almost indistinguishable from good digital. There are much better, cheaper, more reliable and far more versatile ways to get coloration.

In fact, you could buy a Burl A2D for much less money, hassle, maintenance headaches and space requirements than a working MCI. It has transformers allows you to record audio....so there you go. (I'm joking of course. Buying an interface for the transformers is just as ridiculous as buying a tape machine for the transformers. For example, say you want to bypass or use different transformers for whatever reason. You can't!).

Now if you want REAL "ooey gooey" tape sound like most people think of when they think "real analog tape", bus an Ampex MX10 into an Ampex 35x tape machine. Between the multiple layers of tubes, transformers and oldschool tape transport/heads running @ low bias, you will get a VERY noticeable beautiful tape sound.....the Tascam 388 is a pretty quick and dirty way to accomplish a similar sound (although not as "refined" and smooth sounding as the Ampex combo) but it allows for multiple tracks. Best of both worlds is a relatively modern/clean tape formulation on the 388 mixed to an oldschool formulation on the Ampex (Scotch 101?)

This is a sound I've chased for years. I've been through the ringer with all kinds of gear. The MCI has a sound, but it's very subtle, arguably not "better" and (as myself and others will tell you) a HUGE PITA to cultivate. Some people may love them. I put my heart and soul into mine and found it to be pretty boring. IMHO if you want a "real" tape sound, you gotta go back to the 60's. It's still a PITA, but very much worth it!
Maybe I’m on the road to a 60’s tape deck. As I said, I went with a JH16 because it’s further the other direction from digital than the 24’s, Otari MTR90’s, etc... The work restoring one is a labor of love. I’m wrapping up a Soundcraft 400b but it was made to be transparent. It hasn’t been burdomson at all. I’ve also gotten the results I was hoping for too. If it meet my expectations I’d probably be frustrated. Also, I’m a drummer and always wanted to record to 2” tape. I don’t rely on recording for my income so I’m in a position to make decisions that may not be great business decisions. I’m fire/EMS professionally and very close to retiring and hope to spend the last years recording a nitch market of musicians who still want to record to tape.

I will admit I almost didn’t buy one because digital recordings of my drums are so good. I started my run to a 2” deck in the late 90’s.

Brian
Old 10th February 2019
  #22
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EvilRoy's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jdurango View Post

In fact, you could buy a Burl A2D for much less money, hassle, maintenance headaches and space requirements than a working MCI. It has transformers allows you to record audio....so there you go. (I'm joking of course. Buying an interface for the transformers is just as ridiculous as buying a tape machine for the transformers. For example, say you want to bypass or use different transformers for whatever reason. You can’t.
Oh yes you can and the transformers are exactly the reason I bought my decks. My 8 track Otari has tranformer balanced mic and line preamps, the tranformer balanced MCI 4 track is only line level. Both models have direct outputs. At $300 for each deck (both function) I have 12 pres I can send signal through, that’s $50 each. I may even use tape one day.
Old 10th February 2019
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian M. Boykin View Post
Maybe I’m on the road to a 60’s tape deck. As I said, I went with a JH16 because it’s further the other direction from digital than the 24’s, Otari MTR90’s, etc... The work restoring one is a labor of love. I’m wrapping up a Soundcraft 400b but it was made to be transparent. It hasn’t been burdomson at all. I’ve also gotten the results I was hoping for too. If it meet my expectations I’d probably be frustrated. Also, I’m a drummer and always wanted to record to 2” tape. I don’t rely on recording for my income so I’m in a position to make decisions that may not be great business decisions. I’m fire/EMS professionally and very close to retiring and hope to spend the last years recording a nitch market of musicians who still want to record to tape.

I will admit I almost didn’t buy one because digital recordings of my drums are so good. I started my run to a 2” deck in the late 90’s.

Brian
May I ask what sound/tone you're going for?

I'm personally chasing the 60's sound (specifically Motown/Stax/Muscle Shoals, but love almost all 60's recordings), and drums are a HUGE part of that. The kit itself is important of course (I'm using mostly a 60's Rogers Holiday and 70's Ludwig), the drummer is extremely important, the mic(s) is/are extremely important (a Coles 4038 will be the best $1k you'll ever spend for drums!)....the room, pres, mic placement, cymbal choice, cymbal technique, damping (or lack thereof), heads, tuning, even sticks all have a huge impact as a whole. Each individual component may only make a 1%-5% subjective "difference" in sound....when you add them all up, that's where you get a very noticeable difference. Transformers make a small difference, but they aren't a magic bullet....tape is the same. I've found that some tape machines make a much bigger impact to this end than others. Again, the 388 gives you a VERY tapey sound....warm, fuzzy, slightly distorted....all that good stuff. The Ampex decks/mixers add that "fatness", smooth, refined beautiful magic that helps smooth out highs without necessarily attenuating them (like a good mic or pre). MCI machines are cool, but IMHO, they just don't do this. Maybe one that is poorly calibrated so that the EQ is off (mine was not) or has worn heads which attenuate HF (again, mine was not) or is otherwise rough around the edges (again, mine was not). And I didn't even fully recap my machine! I have no doubt it would've sounded even "better" (cleaner, less noisy, more linear) had I done so!

Anyhow, please excuse the tangent. What sound are you going for? What gear are you currently using? What kind of room(s) are you recording in?

The MCI may be a good investment for you, but I'd hate to see you repeat the mistake I made and spend tons of time and money on something that wasn't what I thought it would be. Refer to OP's first rule of MCI club
Old 10th February 2019
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilRoy View Post
Oh yes you can and the transformers are exactly the reason I bought my decks. My 8 track Otari has tranformer balanced mic and line preamps, the tranformer balanced MCI 4 track is only line level. Both models have direct outputs. At $300 for each deck (both function) I have 12 pres I can send signal through, that’s $50 each. I may even use tape one day.
Respectfully, without a specialized/modified circuit, or gear that specifically utilizes this feature (very rare), how do you bypass the transformers on something that specifically utilizes transformers to balance an incoming signal?
Old 10th February 2019
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdurango View Post
Respectfully, without a specialized/modified circuit, or gear that specifically utilizes this feature (very rare), how do you bypass the transformers on something that specifically utilizes transformers to balance an incoming signal?
Easy, I don’t send signal through it in the first place. I only use them when I want to push some iron.
Old 10th February 2019
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilRoy View Post
Easy, I don’t send signal through it in the first place. I only use them when I want to push some iron.
LOL gotcha. But my point is that if they are attached to your recording device (whether it be a tape machine or an interface), you can't bypass them without recording to a different device entirely, which is not always feasible. It's easy to swap out preamps, DI's, mics, etc, and do so on an individual channel basis to suit your needs. It's not so easy to swap out an entire recorder, especially to change the sound of one instrument. Especially when that recorder is a 40 year old, 150 lb beast full of unreliable connections.....and by that, just to be clear, I'm referring to an 1980's tape machine, not myself
Old 10th February 2019
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdurango View Post
LOL gotcha. But my point is that if they are attached to your recording device (whether it be a tape machine or an interface), you can't bypass them without recording to a different device entirely, which is not always feasible. It's easy to swap out preamps, DI's, mics, etc, and do so on an individual channel basis to suit your needs. It's not so easy to swap out an entire recorder, especially to change the sound of one instrument. Especially when that recorder is a 40 year old, 150 lb beast full of unreliable connections.....and by that, just to be clear, I'm referring to an 1980's tape machine, not myself
I gotcha. Nah, the tape transports are going to be a hobby. I bought my machines for those big boxes with VUs on ‘em. They have monitor source dials so I don’t even need the deck and intend to use them simply as signal processors. The only reason they’re still attached to the deck is it’s already wired for power etc. and I’m toying with the idea of restoring the transports. The reason I got these cheaply is because everything needs a recap. If you’re a pro and need to get work done right now, it may not be the way to go.

Anyway, my point is; these old machines with transformers are a great deal for the preamps alone. I leave the tape/digital debate to others. It’s already been done to death.
Old 11th February 2019
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdurango View Post
May I ask what sound/tone you're going for?

I'm personally chasing the 60's sound (specifically Motown/Stax/Muscle Shoals, but love almost all 60's recordings), and drums are a HUGE part of that. The kit itself is important of course (I'm using mostly a 60's Rogers Holiday and 70's Ludwig), the drummer is extremely important, the mic(s) is/are extremely important (a Coles 4038 will be the best $1k you'll ever spend for drums!)....the room, pres, mic placement, cymbal choice, cymbal technique, damping (or lack thereof), heads, tuning, even sticks all have a huge impact as a whole. Each individual component may only make a 1%-5% subjective "difference" in sound....when you add them all up, that's where you get a very noticeable difference. Transformers make a small difference, but they aren't a magic bullet....tape is the same. I've found that some tape machines make a much bigger impact to this end than others. Again, the 388 gives you a VERY tapey sound....warm, fuzzy, slightly distorted....all that good stuff. The Ampex decks/mixers add that "fatness", smooth, refined beautiful magic that helps smooth out highs without necessarily attenuating them (like a good mic or pre). MCI machines are cool, but IMHO, they just don't do this. Maybe one that is poorly calibrated so that the EQ is off (mine was not) or has worn heads which attenuate HF (again, mine was not) or is otherwise rough around the edges (again, mine was not). And I didn't even fully recap my machine! I have no doubt it would've sounded even "better" (cleaner, less noisy, more linear) had I done so!

Anyhow, please excuse the tangent. What sound are you going for? What gear are you currently using? What kind of room(s) are you recording in?

The MCI may be a good investment for you, but I'd hate to see you repeat the mistake I made and spend tons of time and money on something that wasn't what I thought it would be. Refer to OP's first rule of MCI club
I’m not chasing a sound. Not another musicians sound, not a decades sound, not a never sound or any other way we like to catagorize what we hear. My evolution to where I’m at now has taken over 20 years. I started recording in the late 90’s with a Peavey head submixed to stereo in an untreated 8x8x8 room. You can imagine how that went. I’ve evolved to 24 I/O of MOTU converters with Jim Williams modded Symetrix preamps as my front end. I use either SDC’s or active ribbons as OH’s and ten close mic snare and tom’s. I have very good success with 6 mic’s on the kit. My room now is 16x24 with 10ft vaulted ceilings. I have 4” bass traps in the corners and a cloud over the kit and other bass traps on the walls for reflections. I’m actually very happy with what I get back. I mix through a Soundcraft 400b OTB and use lots of modded compressors and EQ’s. Some modded by me and others by Jim Williams and Revive Audio. This was all done for me and those I play with. However, I looked around one day and thought what the heck, I should try to make some money at this, even if it’s just to support my gear addiction. As for tape. Always wanted one. 16 on 2”. I went MCI because you can still get parts and still get support. I think I’d probably be happy with any 2” deck because it’s not so much about the sound of the deck but the sound of analog. Everything I have is just a tool in the tool box. I’ll be getting with Steve in the next months and just get the deck up and running. Then start experimenting and see where it leads. For what I paid for the deck I could part it out and double my money so I’m not concerned. Doubtful I would. I just like the workflow and sexiness of tape.

Brian
Old 11th February 2019
  #29
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian M. Boykin View Post
I’m not chasing a sound. Not another musicians sound, not a decades sound, not a never sound or any other way we like to catagorize what we hear. My evolution to where I’m at now has taken over 20 years. I started recording in the late 90’s with a Peavey head submixed to stereo in an untreated 8x8x8 room. You can imagine how that went. I’ve evolved to 24 I/O of MOTU converters with Jim Williams modded Symetrix preamps as my front end. I use either SDC’s or active ribbons as OH’s and ten close mic snare and tom’s. I have very good success with 6 mic’s on the kit. My room now is 16x24 with 10ft vaulted ceilings. I have 4” bass traps in the corners and a cloud over the kit and other bass traps on the walls for reflections. I’m actually very happy with what I get back. I mix through a Soundcraft 400b OTB and use lots of modded compressors and EQ’s. Some modded by me and others by Jim Williams and Revive Audio. This was all done for me and those I play with. However, I looked around one day and thought what the heck, I should try to make some money at this, even if it’s just to support my gear addiction. As for tape. Always wanted one. 16 on 2”. I went MCI because you can still get parts and still get support. I think I’d probably be happy with any 2” deck because it’s not so much about the sound of the deck but the sound of analog. Everything I have is just a tool in the tool box. I’ll be getting with Steve in the next months and just get the deck up and running. Then start experimenting and see where it leads. For what I paid for the deck I could part it out and double my money so I’m not concerned. Doubtful I would. I just like the workflow and sexiness of tape.

Brian
Wow, sounds like we are in a simiar spot! I started in the 90's, and back then, the only source of reverb I had was an 80's Peavey PA head w/ spring reverb built in. One of my favorite recordings of my own stuff ended up getting bounced through that head. I had no idea what I was doing, but now I can look back and see all the noise and HF rolloff and grit was due to crappy unbalanced signal, impedance mismatch, the crappy (relatively speaking) Peavey circuitry and of course the fact that a minidisc recorder served as my "mastering deck" lol

Anyway, how far we've come!!! This is truly an artform and a labor of love.

To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat, if you don't have a specific sound you're going for, then it doesn't much matter what gear you use....or something like that.

The MCI is definitely an impressive showpiece for clients....and the workflow of tape can definitely serve as an "advantage" in it's own right....even just getting rid of the computer monitor will help your brain focus more on the sound coming through your monitors. And who knows, maybe the sound difference (albeit a small one) will be to your liking and work for what you want to do.....it wasn't for me, in spite of how much I wanted it to be. Trust you me, after spending months and months and countless hours of my life bringing that beast back to life, I really REALLY wanted it to sound great. I tried to convince myself it was the sound I'd been looking for....but it wasn't. And even if it was a step in the right direction (which it wasn't), again, it was such a tiny step as to be not worth the hassle.

But you're right, clients will love it and the workflow is cool. The MCI's have great transports, very quick, very mechanically robust. They are great machines if you want very clean tape....maybe like a poor man's Studer A8xx series. If that's what you're shooting for, I'm sure you'll be happy with yours.

BTW, I still have a 1/2" 4-track and a 1/4" 2-track JH-110. I'll probably sell them both at some point. My dream is to create an 8-track Ampex 351 (351-8) at some point. They were EXTREMELY rare, only a few made.....but one day I'll find one, or piece together some Frankentape version of one

Aloha and best of luck to you!
Old 1st September 2019
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Brian M. Boykin's Avatar
Thought I’d throw in a quick update. Did a session with Steve and we found an issue with the microswitch that drops the shield. Replaced that and there were still problems with the transport. I put her off for a couple months while I finished recapping and modding other gear in daily use. Then got tired of passing my investment so I wheeled it in the house and scheduled another session with Steve. The day before the session I took all the transport PCB’s out including the motherboard and cleaned them. I also replaced the last of all the red sockets in the transport. I put her back together and nothing seemed different. Session begins. Steve Mr Miaggi’s me and has me set reel tension and the idler arm. He won’t tell me where we’re headed and just tells me to follow directions. I have the multimeter on test points and I keep trying to guess what we’re up to and he’s yelling at me to stop assuming and just do what I’m told. Everything gets set to his standard and he lets me spoil tape. And guess what, she pulls tape. The shield drops and rises. It plays, records, fast forward and rewind work. The MVC works in all three speeds. The reels don’t creep. The auto locator is working as well. (He has me replace some switches and buttons). I have some lights burned out but they’re ordered. The next task is to get her upstairs to the studio. I’ve pulled all the channel cards and the power supplies and I believe it will still take 3 grown ass men to move her. I’ve considered pulling the transport because Steve says it’s easily done but I’m not so sure about the wiring. Looks simple enough but it’s a 40 y/o deck at this point and the less I pull things apart the better unless it’s part of the restore.

Anyway, she’s getting close and Steve is once again the man when it comes to these decks.

They are not hard to maintain and so simple it’s stupid. I don’t know what the fuss is all about. Maybe I’ll eat my words but with every break I learn the fix and I don’t forget. Fine tuning the transport is easy and nothing to fear.
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