The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Dual Studer A800 Synchronization
Old 3rd March 2018
Gear Nut
Radiotech96's Avatar
Dual Studer A800 Synchronization

Hi Guys,

I have a high track count analog tape session to do this summer, So I need to synchronize my two Studer A800 24-track tape machines for a 46 track recording and mixing session on the SSL 4000 desk using SSL mix automation.

Can anyone give me step by step instructions on exactly how to accomplish the SMPTE synchronization process between the 2 Studer Machines and the SSL computer?

I have a dual Lynx Timeline system in the rack with various cables, but I have never used it. not even sure it works. I have no black burst generator at the moment either. What should I buy that would make this a simple and reliable setup to do? and what are the steps?

Has anyone done this recently?

I have a client that wants to record and mix entirely in the analog domain using the 2 Studer machines in a master slave configuration connected to the SSL desk, then mix the album using SSL mix automation, and master it down to an ATR 102 1" Master Monster machine. I am quite familiar with the SSL mix automation, and I use it regularly with a single Studer A800 or with protools using a Whizzer. But I have never synchronized the 2 Studer tape machines together. This will be a first. I have several weeks to figure this out, test it and get familiar with it before the session.

Can anyone help?
Old 4th March 2018
Now, I'm not totally familiar with the A800 to know if they have a sync system on board (they might since so many people synced up a pair back in the day)
but, you would need something like a Adams-Smith Zeta 3 that can sync the 2 machines and spit out clean timecode that the desk would need. The Lynx may do it, but not sure.
You would need a transport & capstan control cable for the slave Studer, the other would be the master and only needs to supply timecode reference to the Zeta (and maybe split it to the desk, but be careful of splitting timecode, it's best to re-gen it and not split it.
I have a Zeta 3 that I'd be happy to loan you (it certainly doesn't get much use these days) Sorry I don't have a Studio cable, but you should be able to get the pin-out info easily enough - might even be in the manual, don't know.
This certainly takes me back a few years...
Old 4th March 2018
Lives for gear

TimeLine Lynx 2 or Adams Smith Zeta 2.0 both these units will Sync to SMPTE and frame rates, you'll need certain cables to go into a Lync controller and Keyboard though any Adams Smith Zeta unit will follow the Lynx!

Good luck!

Remember Pre-Roll 59 or 1:00 Minute!
Old 5th March 2018
Lives for gear
gyraf's Avatar

You stripe track24 on both machines (in fix speed mode) with timecode generated from one of your lynx'es

Then set up the two lynxes to interface to your A800's - including software settings, locator cables to the machines, and smpte return from track24's to relevant lynx. Don't forget to interface between the two lynxes - this is a RS422 interface.

Set both tape machines to external vari-speed control. Put both lynx units online and select a master. Now the other machine will follow when you play/wind etc.

Note that it'll be a bit rough to begin with, until the slave has learned how control is best applied.


Synchronizing analogue tape is a topic that makes grown-up men weep.

Don't think it will be easy.

Make sure to have the setup running and tested MANY times before relying on it for an important session. Read and understand the Lynx manual.

Jakob E.
Old 5th March 2018
Gear Nut
Radiotech96's Avatar
Thanks Jacob,

That is the kind of tutorial I was looking for. I guess I need a Black burst Generator to feed into the Lynx units right? I will see if I have all the cables.
Old 5th March 2018
Lives for gear
gyraf's Avatar

You dont need a black burst, the smpte resolves fine as-is.

At least we never needed better precision than that.

Jakob E.
Old 6th March 2018
You would only need burst for syncing to video.
I don't know the Lynxes - you need two units?
I had great luck with my Zeta 3. It would learn the ballistics of the slave transport after a few gotos and would easily sync in a couple seconds.
I spent many days and nights syncing machines- don't remember any "weeping".
Just make sure to keep timecode clean - regen if necessary. Never 'copy' timecode from tape. Stripe your 24tk directly from a generator, keep the record level between -5VU and -10 and it can be quite reliable. Timecode is a very ragged square wave-ish analog signal and can leak into everything. Use good cabling and connectors.
Old 7th March 2018
Lives for gear

Just wondering, what would be the required sync precision?
Old 7th March 2018
Lives for gear

While I've synchronized a bazillion tape machines since 1974 or so, haven't done a800s. Is it really the case that you put the slave machine into varispeed mode after synchronizer connection?

On most machines I've synchronized, external sync only happens when you tap into the physical ext sync connector on the back of the slave machine with the external tach/position/clock signals coming from the synchronizer (and of course printed smpte to resolve from each machine's chnl 24). With incoming tach etc, any fixed or varispeed settings are then effectively ignored as far as the machine is concerned.

As a totally un-necessary aside, I owned six or seven different Tascam Ats500s and Mts1000's and those worked beautifully for smpte framelock sync and chasing on a number of machines I set up over the years. Very simple to set up and to wire cables for various machines. The manuals even showed the tach settings to use for various Studer, MCI, AMpex etc machines in addition to settings for Tascam half/one/two inch machines.
Old 8th March 2018
Originally Posted by Schoeller View Post
Just wondering, what would be the required sync precision?
You would have at least 1 video frame of precision, most likely more as syncronizers lock to the frame edge once offset is less than one frame.
It's best to do all your basic tracks on the master machine, and only overdubs on the slave. You also may want to keep all percussion on one machine. Don't split stereo tracks across the two machines, you don't that tight of a lock.
Old 9th March 2018
Lives for gear

Thanks for your reply.

Compared to achievable sync precision of modern servodrives I don't expect that synchronizing tape recorders is challenging as long as the servodrive and drive electronics are well designed (details depend on how master/slave interfacing is done, there are various means, from analogi tacho or encoder pulses to high-speed optical fiber data communication which is common for industrial drives).
While analogic tachymetric feedback or coarse encoder signals are not optimal it doesn't require arc minute angular precision at 1500 RPM so from a servordrive design POV tape recorders are not demanding at all, especially also as torque changes are slow (not a highly dynamic application).

I'd have to check the Studer manuals to see exactly how external speed control is handled (I was not referring to timecode here, only to angular speed control).
Old 10th March 2018
Lives for gear
gyraf's Avatar

The lynx system locks to within one smpte subframe - something like 1ms iirc...

Jakob E.

What is "Subframe - inSync"? | Sweetwater

Last edited by gyraf; 10th March 2018 at 08:01 AM.. Reason: Link
Old 10th March 2018
Lives for gear

Thanks for the information.

Which are the most widespread Studer tape recorders models currently still in use? Out of curiosity I'll have a closer look at the manuals but I can't check many totally different models as each service manual has hundreds of pages.
Old 10th March 2018
Gear Maniac

Rick Austin's site has plenty of useful info. Obviously you'll need a pair of interface cables. These can be a little exotic requiring a bit more than just one connector to another (diodes, commoning of pins, dropping of screens) but the Zeta 3 is aware of the A800 MkII and III so it shouldn't be too much grief.
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.

Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump