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Stephens vs. Studer
Old 27th May 2008
  #1
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mbradzick's Avatar
Stephens vs. Studer

I'm tracking to 2-inch using a Stephens and the engineer said they're better and more efficient than Studers, as well as easier on tape.

Is this true? So far the machine seems solid. Apparently I'm recording on the one used for The Wall and Rumors.
Old 27th May 2008
  #2
Gear Addict
 

tape recorders

I am sure the Stephens machines are great and have heard good stuff about them but Studer were at the top of their game on every front.The stephens might suite someone better and is supposed to sound lovely etc..But take a Studer A800 in great condition,well maintained and calibrated and you have the ultimate in analog tape recording.So popular that they were the number one choice in the days when it really mattered!!and super reliable..
Saying that many really like working with mci,ampex or otari recorders and its down to what works for you.These and the Stephens are all capable of making a great noise or record if the talent,engineer and conditions are right.
I have never operated or worked with the Stephens but if i had a choice of all of them,it would be a Studer A827 or A800...perhaps re-fitted for 16 tracks on 2''he*******.They were a dream to operate,had smooth tape handling/tension etc...and tactile big clear knobs perfectly positioned...
Old 27th May 2008
  #3
bhp
Gear Nut
 

The Studers operate better than any other machine, but
a Stephens, IMO, is the best sounding tape machine I ever used.
Old 27th May 2008
  #4
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Schmeckitup's Avatar
 

I had an 821B Stephens deck for about a decade, and it did sound truly amazing. Some friends of mine were recording with Eric Valentine and they a/b'd half a dozen machines and found the Stephens to sound best. It had problems with punching out, and it's seriously difficult to get them maintained if you don't live in LA or Lompoc, but they do sound lovely. I a;most sold it to Eric, but we played phone tag right up till the week when Quantegy announced they'd stop making tape. Needless to say, he dropped out at that point. If you want a machine you can get parts for that still sounds great, go with a Studer....
Anyway - if you're in a studio with a tech who knows the machines, you are in good hands indeed.
Old 27th May 2008
  #5
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The 827 is still a RollsRoyce.The Stephen's is the Aston Martin.They have a cult following.The proprietary electronics and the custom heads printed and received a much hotter signal to and from tape than the other machines of the day.That is only part of the story for why they sounded so"silky" as there were more tricks that only John knew that went into his machine.He kept a close lid on it.I worked with an engineer named David Holman who had 2 in his home studio.The remote for the track engage was a rotary knob!I was told their was only one guy you call when it needed service.That would be John Stevens.You might have a hard time finding him..(R.I.P.).I had a few nice chats with John before his passing.I don't know who is currently servicing them.Anyone know?

B.T.W.Some of the U2'S Unforgettable fire album's basic tracks were recorded to a portable 16 track 2 inch Stephen's machine.
Old 27th May 2008
  #6
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mbradzick's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by carlheinz View Post
The remote for the track engage was a rotary knob!
I was just turning that knob last night

Sooo much easier than PT. Tell the artist to get it right and you don't have to hunt through 234235 takes to find the best one.
Old 27th May 2008
  #7
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Mike O's Avatar
 

Is this machine in a public or private facility?
Old 27th May 2008
  #8
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vernier's Avatar
Stephens Electronics . . 4, 8, 16, 32, and 40 track.

Originally, Stephens used 3M Model 23 decks (from '68 to '71) ..then designed the 103, built from '71 to '77 ..and 104, which accepted 14" reels ('73 to '77). Then 103A and 104A were introduced. Other models were, 811C, 811D, 821A, 821B.



(section of an article from Mix)
In an era when the analog recorder business was dominated by larger companies, such as Studer, MCI, Ampex and Otari and 3M, John Stephens was an individual that took them all on and in the opinion of many, created the best sounding recorders of all.
'
Old 28th May 2008
  #9
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rob S's Avatar
i have to tell you the stephens ate the 827 for lunch sonically.
we were making a record and in the middle of a bass track the stephens went down.
had to get john out to fix it.
he came down and got it working and he left and then it went out again.
we couldn't wait anymore so in the mean time the studio rented an 827 for us to continue working.
out of curiosity we wondered what it would sound like to punch in on the bass track where we had left off.
oh my god it sounded so wrong compared to the stephens.
it was kind of devastating.
it was not an intellectual excercise at all as to what was better.
night and day difference.
before that i had never had a problem with 827's.
after that, i appreciated how they worked and punched and all that but always looked at them funny.
thats my story
Old 28th May 2008
  #10
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vernier's Avatar
Stephens, Studer ..you can't go wrong. Ampex, MCI ..they're all great. I have no clue about Scully though.



'
Old 28th May 2008
  #11
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Studioklocka's Avatar
 

I can get a studer b67 dirt cheap..any users?
Old 28th May 2008
  #12
Stevens used custom amp modules in small round cans. If it fails, you're SOL.
Studer 827's used 4559 opamps (yes, 4559's!) in their record/play electronics, no wonder the Stevens sounded better. The A-800 is a different beast altogether from a 827. Each Stevens was custom made and each had custom timing circuits for the transport, I recall swapping one machine's controller cards for another usually didn't work. So, as to maintanence, an EE with great audio and mechanical chops might give them a long term go, that is if tape is still available. Other's less accomplished may want to take the route with available support.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 28th May 2008
  #13
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fader8's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitch97 View Post
I'm tracking to 2-inch using a Stephens and the engineer said they're better and more efficient than Studers, as well as easier on tape.

Is this true? So far the machine seems solid. Apparently I'm recording on the one used for The Wall and Rumors.
I'll agree with the other posters here regarding the sound of the Stephens machines. Just wonderful to record with. As for being kind to the tape, this is true. While the transports resemble the 3M isoloop at first glance, they differ in that there is no actual "pinch" roller. Lovely machines.
Old 28th May 2008
  #14
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rob S's Avatar
always preferred 800's to 827's.
but of course none of this affected sales and didnt stop a hit from being a hit
or great music from being great.
on the other hand , **** in, **** out.
Old 28th May 2008
  #15
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vernier's Avatar

'
Old 28th May 2008
  #16
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Riccardo's Avatar
aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!





C12, M49, 76s, 72s, roll the tape! heh Run!
Old 29th May 2008
  #17
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Drumsound's Avatar
I'm fascinated by the Stephens machines. I know they are the worst idea for a electronic and mechanical luddite like me, but I want one really bad.

Did he ever make a 2-track? I seem to remember seeing one in Mix or EQ years back, in a room with a tan API.
Old 29th May 2008
  #18
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Wiggy Neve Slut's Avatar
 

I wish I could find a pic of my old room in my parents sun lounge...

MCI 428b
AMPEX MM1200 2" 16 tr
AMPEX MM1299 2" 24tr
Ampex ATR102 1/4"

All parked side by side... more trannies per sq inch than any low rent neighborhood on earth!

Throw in my assortment of Urei's and other tasty treats etc and it was like a slice of 70s analogue american heaven....

Wiggy
Old 29th May 2008
  #19
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yrplace's Avatar
 

4-16-24 and beyond

I owned a slew of Stephens machines over the years. Had a couple of 8 tracks , various 821 - 24 tracks and even the 2" 16 track that I bought from the Church of Scientology. It was i fact L. Ron Hubbard's personal deck (Jon Stephens was a church member) and was the only 16 track 821 with an auto-locator.

I also had a 1/2" four track for a bit. I never owned one of the 32 or 40 tracks, but I remember seeing Roy Thomas Baker's 40 track when he was working with Journey on their Infinity album (I was their FOH mixer at the time).

Loved the sound of the decks but they were near impossible to sync together, required a lot of service and in general weren't the most practical decks to have in a studio, so eventually I bought an 827. I kept the 24 track for quite awhile, but after 3 or 4 years sold it due to lack of use.

BTW the machines were capable of running on a 12 volt car battery, and were the smallest analog multi-tracks ever made. I did a lot of remotes on that 16 track and even some on the 24. Greatest tape handling ever when working properly. You could spool the tape directly from one reel to the other outside the tape path and wind the tape off in either direction. Great for older tapes that had started to shed.

Now I have a Studer 820 16/24 track plus an 820- 8 track, but they almost never see any use except for playback on a archival projects. Great decks just the same......

I've got some pictures of my earliest pseudo-control room circa 1988 that shows a couple of the decks . If I can find them I'll scan and post.

Mark
Old 29th May 2008
  #20
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Wiggy Neve Slut's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by yrplace View Post
I owned a slew of Stephens machines over the years. Had a couple of 8 tracks , various 821 - 24 tracks and even the 2" 16 track that I bought from the Church of Scientology. It was i fact L. Ron Hubbard's personal deck (Jon Stephens was a church member) and was the only 16 track 821 with an auto-locator.
not to go off on toooo much of a tangent here.... but did anyone ever see the custom GML console that L.Ron's crew had in their studio??? I saw pics of it years ago somewhere but cant think where and cant find them on my pc.. that said.. "Fark me senseless" it looked damn interesting and impressive.. Perhaps worthy of a thread in it's on right?? Church politics aside Perhaps L.Ron was a slut in disguise??

Wiggy
Old 29th May 2008
  #21
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound View Post
I'm fascinated by the Stephens machines. I know they are the worst idea for a electronic and mechanical luddite like me, but I want one really bad.
+1, and they don't take much space. but keeping one up in mexico i don't think would be too practical a proposition... :( nonetheless i've tried to locate one but no luck.
Old 29th May 2008
  #22
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
I'm fascinated by the Stephens machines. I know they are the worst idea for a electronic and mechanical luddite like me, but I want one really bad.

Did he ever make a 2-track? I seem to remember seeing one in Mix or EQ years back, in a room with a tan API.
Heard there were 2-tracks but never saw one.

'
Old 12th July 2009
  #23
Gear Nut
 

Did he ever make a 2-track? I seem to remember seeing one in Mix or EQ years back, in a room with a tan API.[/QUOTE]


i asked myself this question for awhile and I found out that John Stephens made custom 2 tracks for a little bit then later he put them on the market a year or two before he closed stephens.
Old 13th July 2009
  #24
Gear Head
 

My first engineering gig was in a studio in Orange County, CA that had a Stephens 24 tk machine. We were fortunate that the studio manager could also service the machine. We did have Mr. Stephens out on a few occasions. He would lay his pistol on the console before he started any service on the machine. What a character. It was a great machine though.
Old 13th July 2009
  #25
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mbradzick's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by never174 View Post
My first engineering gig was in a studio in Orange County, CA that had a Stephens 24 tk machine. We were fortunate that the studio manager could also service the machine. We did have Mr. Stephens out on a few occasions. He would lay his pistol on the console before he started any service on the machine. What a character. It was a great machine though.
What??
Old 4th January 2010
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
LouD.'s Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound View Post
I'm fascinated by the Stephens machines. I know they are the worst idea for a electronic and mechanical luddite like me, but I want one really bad.

Did he ever make a 2-track? I seem to remember seeing one in Mix or EQ years back, in a room with a tan API.
Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post
Heard there were 2-tracks but never saw one.'
-----------> Audities <------click here thumbsup


Quote:
Originally Posted by never174 View Post
We did have Mr. Stephens out on a few occasions. He would lay his pistol on the console before he started any service on the machine. What a character. It was a great machine though.
huh?
Old 4th January 2010
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggy Neve Slut View Post
not to go off on toooo much of a tangent here.... but did anyone ever see the custom GML console that L.Ron's crew had in their studio??? I saw pics of it years ago somewhere but cant think where and cant find them on my pc.. that said.. "Fark me senseless" it looked damn interesting and impressive.. Perhaps worthy of a thread in it's on right?? Church politics aside Perhaps L.Ron was a slut in disguise??

Wiggy
Most definately. I've done quite a bit of work for them, they have the old Chick Corea Studio over in Los Feliz. It's a very nice room. I've built custom converters for them and they have bought several High Speed Mic Preamps. They even use those for their conventions, they use those preamps for dialog into the PA!

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 4th January 2010
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Zick View Post
I was just turning that knob last night

Sooo much easier than PT. Tell the artist to get it right and you don't have to hunt through 234235 takes to find the best one.
take some of what you're learning with 2" recording and use it with the daw. Personally I'll take the sound of 2" analog over any daw , enjoy
Old 4th January 2010
  #29
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Mike O's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Most definately. I've done quite a bit of work for them, they have the old Chick Corea Studio over in Los Feliz. It's a very nice room. I've built custom converters for them and they have bought several High Speed Mic Preamps. They even use those for their conventions, they use those preamps for dialog into the PA!

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Chick and Stanley's connection w/Scientology goes back at least 35 years. Take a look at the early RTF and Stanley Clarke records - L. Ron and Scientology prominently credited.
Old 4th January 2010
  #30
Lives for gear
Chick came to a studio in CT i worked at for years for a radio concert...early 1970. He pretty much converted the owner to the LRon Choir.

Not that means anything.
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