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8-track tape-machine - what to get.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

8-track tape-machine - what to get.

I don't know if the high end forum is the right place for this, certainly some of the items I wonder about are.

Anyway, currently I use a tascam 38 8-track tape recorder. I don't like how it sounds with dolby DBX noise reduction, so I run it without it. But, since it's built to run with the noise-reduction units, I then get too much noise. I'm gonna change the heads, and see if this helps, since the current ones are pretty well used.

But I then started to look at alternatives. I'm looking for 8-track-recorders, since it's all that I need. Obviously 24 tracks are better, but it means tape costs more and the machines cost more. Therefor, I'm looing for an 8-track, 1/2", or 1" machine.

The alternatives I came up with, using the internet are:
Otari MX5050, 1/2" 8-track.
Otari MX7800, 1" 8-track.
Otari MX70, 1" 8-track.
Revox C278, 1/2" 8-track.
Studer a800 MarkIII, 1" 8-track.

Now, the 1/2" machines seem to go at not too high prices (the revox c278, and otar mx5050). About $500 to $700. But are they any good? Is there a big difference if you go up to 1" machines, in sound quality, ammount of noise....?

What about the revox machine, is it any good. Apparently it was 11'000 Switzer Francs new ($12'000 mayby), which is quite a lot, so it can't be that bad, or is it? How does it stand up against the otari mx5050 1/2" machine? Which ones are more reliable? Would trhe revox machine sound alot better than the tascam 38 I'm currently using?

What is a decent price for a 1" machine? I talked to guy here in Stockholm, that said he would not pay more than 25'000 SEK (approx $2'700) for one in great shape.

What would be the best alternative?
Old 22nd August 2007
  #2
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Drumsound's Avatar
A friend of mine had one of the Revox machines briefly. That thing was really well built and the little I did on it sounded pretty good.

That said if you can go for a 1" 8-track, you'd be better off, sonically.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #3
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Sounds Great's Avatar
 

Revox is actually part of Studer, it was the consumer division. There are some very fine Revox tape recorders.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #4
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Another possible option - years ago I had a Tascam 38 in my project studio and I had it recalibrated for high-level tape, which lowered the noise level substantially. It basically involves cranking up input gain level on each channel (using internal trim pots) and then lowering the VU meters by the same amount (so you don't just end up with meters constantly slammed hard right). I was using 499 tape at the time. Sounded really good.

I'd stay away from the Otaris if I were you.

DP
Old 22nd August 2007
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Peck View Post
I'd stay away from the Otaris if I were you.

DP
Why? Do they sound bad? Are they unreliable? I read somewhere that one of the nirvana albums was recorded on a otari mx5050, and that sounded good.

I knew that revox was the consumer version of studer. But how big is the difference? Is it mainly that that it's 1/2"?

How big is the difference in sound between the 1" & 1/2" machines? I mean 2" 24-tracks sound good, and the don't have that much more space per track, compared to a 1/2" 8-track.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #6
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A friend has a Revox C278 and I think it sounds excellent. Great recorder.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #7
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
A friend has a Revox C278 and I think it sounds excellent. Great recorder.
Do you think it sounds alot better than the tascam 38?
Old 22nd August 2007
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Peck View Post
I'd stay away from the Otaris if I were you.

DP
I disagree - I have a 1" 8 track MX70 and it has been a great machine. Very reliable in my experience, and parts (if needed) are pretty easy to find. As soon as I move, I'm going to buy a second one for parts (not that it needs any repairs now, but given the cheap price, might as well get a second one). Sounds decent too, and has switchable bias (I've got it set up for for 456 and GP9 right now).

Rick
Old 22nd August 2007
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ricknroll View Post
I disagree - I have a 1" 8 track MX70 and it has been a great machine. Very reliable in my experience, and parts (if needed) are pretty easy to find. As soon as I move, I'm going to buy a second one for parts (not that it needs any repairs now, but given the cheap price, might as well get a second one). Sounds decent too, and has switchable bias (I've got it set up for for 456 and GP9 right now).

Rick
What's a good price for one of these? How do you think they compare to the studer 1" machines?

Can one search on ebay to see prices on auctions that have ended?
Old 22nd August 2007
  #10
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Sorry to be a bit direct, but judging from what you are saying, you don't seem to know a whole lot about the technical side of tape recorders in general. To get professional quality out of your machine, you really need somebody to take care of it for you. Probably not on a daily basis (as they used to do in back in the old days), but still every once in a while.

Saying this, beacuse with a machine in good shape/alignment and using modern tape, you should be able to get very good signal to noise performance even from your old 38. If heads are worn out you need new ones of course.

There are better machines out there, especially mechanically, but before you run out and buy one, please get somebody qualified to have a look at it to tell you what shape it is in. Spare parts availability is important too.

And hey, calibrating your machine for higher levels is a good idea, but it's a bit more complicated than input and meter levels...

Google "aligning tape machines" or something similar. Hope you find this helpful.

Martin
Old 22nd August 2007
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
Sorry to be a bit direct, but judging from what you are saying, you don't seem to know a whole lot about the technical side of tape recorders in general. To get professional quality out of your machine, you really need somebody to take care of it for you. Probably not on a daily basis (as they used to do in back in the old days), but still every once in a while.

Saying this, beacuse with a machine in good shape/alignment and using modern tape, you should be able to get very good signal to noise performance even from your old 38. If heads are worn out you need new ones of course.

There are better machines out there, especially mechanically, but before you run out and buy one, please get somebody qualified to have a look at it to tell you what shape it is in. Spare parts availability is important too.

And hey, calibrating your machine for higher levels is a good idea, but it's a bit more complicated than input and meter levels...

Google "aligning tape machines" or something similar. Hope you find this helpful.

Martin
Well, the technician I use, used to be the technician for Tascam Sweden. I know how to take care of a machine - cleaning heads, demagnetizing and so on.

I also know that getting new heads probably will enhance my machine. But the tascam 38s were built to run with noise-reduction (the heads are "pointier"....). Now, I have the DBX noise-reduction units made for the unit, but I don't like what it does to the sounds (compressing, and then decompressing the sound), so I run it without. This means I get a bit higher of a noise ratio.
So I'm thinking of getting a machine, like the studers, otaris, or revoxes, that were built to run without noise-reduction, and therefor have less noise, running without noise-reduction.

However, since tape-recording seems to be an art that a lot of people starting up don't even bother to get into, and there is not very much info on the net about it, I posted here.

And, yes, I use "modern" tape. But since quantegy went out of business, I'm gonna have to change the kind of tape I use now...

The machine I'm using now is aligned by the technician I use, to Quantegy 456. Maybe aligning to 499 would help, and also new heads, but why not get a machine that's not made to run with noise reduction?
Old 22nd August 2007
  #12
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The difference between 1" 8tk and 1/2"8tk is huge. No comparison. 1/2" is semi-pro and 1" is pro. Anyone who tells you otherwise just doesn't know what they are talking about. I myself have an MCI JH110C which I align myself, using an MRL calibration tape. I would advise you to look into this.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #13
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soundbarnfool's Avatar
 

Emtec 900 is great tape by the way... Overbias 1 and 1/4 dB Have fun!
Old 22nd August 2007
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by soundbarnfool View Post
The difference between 1" 8tk and 1/2"8tk is huge. No comparison. 1/2" is semi-pro and 1" is pro. Anyone who tells you otherwise just doesn't know what they are talking about. I myself have an MCI JH110C which I align myself, using an MRL calibration tape. I would advise you to look into this.
What is a good price for a 1" machine these days?
Old 22nd August 2007
  #15
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soundbarnfool's Avatar
 

You could get one here: http://www.blevinsaudio.com/
Old 22nd August 2007
  #16
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dlmorley's Avatar
This all depends on your budget.
If you want a 1" 8 track then you need to find one first. Not zillions of good ones lying around.
I could live with the Revox 1/2" 8 track but not many other 1/2".
I think the Tascam ATR80 came as a 1" 8 track as did the studers and MCI. I doubt any are cheap these days, although the MCI could be affordable.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
If you want a 1" 8 track then you need to find one first. Not zillions of good ones lying around.
I could live with the Revox 1/2" 8 track but not many other 1/2".
I noticed that. There seems to be quite a lot of 2" 16 tracks, and 24-tracks around, but not so many 1" 8-tracks.

Have you used the otari's? Do you think the revox machines are better. Is the signal to noise ratio on the revoxes better than on the otaris and the tascams. What about sound quality?
Old 22nd August 2007
  #18
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Martin Kantola's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kalle1978 View Post
Well, the technician I use, used to be the technician for Tascam Sweden.
That's great, have you asked him to align your machine to minimize noise? As you know, the "modern" tapes can take a lot more level, so if you don't need to be compatible with any other machine, you could print much more high frequencies to tape than any standard calibration. This could help a lot with your noise issue. Tried it on a 38 many years ago, and then later on my 48 (which is a more robust version from Tascam).

Quote:
I know how to take care of a machine - cleaning heads, demagnetizing and so on.
Of course you do, I was more thinking about mechanical and electronic alignment procedures...

Quote:
The machine I'm using now is aligned by the technician I use, to Quantegy 456. Maybe aligning to 499 would help, and also new heads, but why not get a machine that's not made to run with noise reduction?
499 would give you some more than 456, yes. Good idea to find a new machine with electronics and heads that proabably can handle more level than the 38. Go for a full inch if you can afford the tape costs!

Personally I have a feeling that mechanical stability is what you can get for more money (such as with a Studer). S/N figures shouldn't be too different between any pro machines.

Martin
Old 22nd August 2007
  #19
PDC
Lives for gear
 

I would get a 2" Studer A80 with an 8 track head stack.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #20
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Peck View Post
Another possible option - years ago I had a Tascam 38 in my project studio and I had it recalibrated for high-level tape, which lowered the noise level substantially. It basically involves cranking up input gain level on each channel (using internal trim pots) and then lowering the VU meters by the same amount (so you don't just end up with meters constantly slammed hard right). I was using 499 tape at the time. Sounded really good.

I'd stay away from the Otaris if I were you.

DP
Did you use the noise-reduction units?
Old 23rd August 2007
  #21
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Dave Peck's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kalle1978 View Post
Did you use the noise-reduction units?
Nope. Not needed.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #22
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midnightsun's Avatar
 

Otari 1/2 inch 8 TK

This is a good machine. I have had one for many years and it is built like a tank and has NEVER failed. I also have an Otari mastering deck and have had a couple of TASCAM machines. I think the Otari is a step above the TASCAM. Studer is a step above Otari-- but they all work like **** if not properly setup as others have pointed out. If the greatest machine isn't setup properly your goose is cooked before you start.

If a person likes tape the price of the machines is certainly rock bottom at the present time. Of course we all wonder what the future of tape is going to be.

At this point I don't think that tape per se is such a big deal. I find that when I use tape my mind is in a different place and I just approach the creative process differently. Sort of like painting on canvas vs using a digital paint program. That being said, I haven't fired up my tape recorders in over a year.

Am I just getting lazy?
Old 23rd August 2007
  #23
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max cooper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kalle1978 View Post
I read somewhere that one of the nirvana albums was recorded on a otari mx5050, and that sounded good.
Yes, you can make a record on almost anything. I think Bleach sounded good because Nirvana were good and Jack Endino made fun records.

Otari was the way to go back in the day when you wanted to move up from Tascam but couldn't afford Studer. But now there's DAWs, plus tape machines are cheap, so I'd say get a really good tape machine or go digital.
Old 24th August 2007
  #24
MsM
Gear Nut
 

Another point that might be considered is noise from the machine itself. I don't like fan noise in my control room. I'll keep my MX-70 (16 trk) and A810 (2trk) in the room, no fans, but the JH-24 I'm fixing up needs to go in another room, has 3 fans. Doing a lot of soldering and cabling now...
Old 24th August 2007
  #25
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analogtodd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MsM View Post
Another point that might be considered is noise from the machine itself. I don't like fan noise in my control room. I'll keep my MX-70 (16 trk) and A810 (2trk) in the room, no fans, but the JH-24 I'm fixing up needs to go in another room, has 3 fans. Doing a lot of soldering and cabling now...
I realized awhile ago that my Studer A80 was several times quieter sitting in the room than the Mackie HDR that we were using!
Now when I have to turn on the HDR, its like a jet engine in the room by comparison.
Old 24th August 2007
  #26
Gear Maniac
 

What is a good price for say, a studer 1" 8-track?
Old 25th August 2007
  #27
Gear Nut
 

Studer A-80 MK.IV

I have a Studer A-80 MK. IV 1" 8-track. I paid $2000 for it and another $1000+ to ATR Services to restore it. It's a great machine with very little wear (only 115 hours total). So, for 3K you can get a machine that will last a lifetime and one that you won't ever need to upgrade.
Old 25th August 2007
  #28
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tombak's Avatar
 

Ampex 440-8 1"!
Old 25th August 2007
  #29
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soupking's Avatar
 

Hi Kalle1978,

I'm currently using a TASCAM 48 1/2" 8-track. It's a little hissy but I'm working out gain-staging issues from recording using a live mixer. Long story, not required in post. I'm currently returning from tape at -20db so I need to re-route personal studio stuff and that's largely part of it. Basically, I need to hit the tape harder in earlier stages. I'm used to 1.4" unbalanced.

The TASCAM 48 and 58 are XLR balanced which makes them +4 db instead of -10 like their 38 counterpart. I have one of those that I'm unloading cuz I don't need it now. Plus, the 48 has RTZ and STC controls. Also is rewinds really intelligently so it's not hard on itself.

The 38 and 48 are somewhat the same, but for me, now it's night and day. I'd never get a 38 now I know that 48's exist.

And by the way, the 48 I'm currently working with I bought for $300 and it's pretty damn sturdy.

2 cents,
-soupking
Old 22nd November 2009
  #30
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PlayRadioPlay's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kalle1978 View Post
I don't know if the high end forum is the right place for this, certainly some of the items I wonder about are.

Anyway, currently I use a tascam 38 8-track tape recorder. I don't like how it sounds with dolby DBX noise reduction, so I run it without it. But, since it's built to run with the noise-reduction units, I then get too much noise. I'm gonna change the heads, and see if this helps, since the current ones are pretty well used.

But I then started to look at alternatives. I'm looking for 8-track-recorders, since it's all that I need. Obviously 24 tracks are better, but it means tape costs more and the machines cost more. Therefor, I'm looing for an 8-track, 1/2", or 1" machine.

The alternatives I came up with, using the internet are:
Otari MX5050, 1/2" 8-track.
Otari MX7800, 1" 8-track.
Otari MX70, 1" 8-track.
Revox C278, 1/2" 8-track.
Studer a800 MarkIII, 1" 8-track.

Now, the 1/2" machines seem to go at not too high prices (the revox c278, and otar mx5050). About $500 to $700. But are they any good? Is there a big difference if you go up to 1" machines, in sound quality, ammount of noise....?

What about the revox machine, is it any good. Apparently it was 11'000 Switzer Francs new ($12'000 mayby), which is quite a lot, so it can't be that bad, or is it? How does it stand up against the otari mx5050 1/2" machine? Which ones are more reliable? Would trhe revox machine sound alot better than the tascam 38 I'm currently using?

What is a decent price for a 1" machine? I talked to guy here in Stockholm, that said he would not pay more than 25'000 SEK (approx $2'700) for one in great shape.

What would be the best alternative?
Sorry to bump and old thread, but how do you disable noise reduction on the TASCAM 38 8? I'm about to get one.
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