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best 2 track 1/4" tape machine? Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 29th April 2010
  #61
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Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peacock View Post
I think so but I am not sure. We are having my brothers next project mastered here in NC. We are planning to take the machine to the ME. Its portable. Weighs about 20 lbs or so.

Hope you are doing well. Your recordings and mixes are great. Analog definitely rules.
That is the beauty of the Nagra, hell, you could even ship the machine to a mastering house if needed.

I'm well, and thanks for the comment. You sent really nice music, tracked well, so I'm not the only piece of those mixes working.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tsvisser View Post
NAGRAMASTER is a proprietary EQ that as best as I understand it, in layman's terms, is a combination of NAB and CCIR filtering, moving the hiss up in the frequency spectrum and diffusing it out a bit. I believe that there is a method of using straight NAB playback EQ with an additional EQ inserted for proper playback. I have never done this myself, so can't be certain. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a digital profile out there for a plugin. However, you don't have to use NAGRAMASTER, you can simply use NAB or CCIR, with most machines I've seen set up for NAB.
Ahhh, thanks for clearing that up.
Old 29th April 2010
  #62
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Explanation of what Nagra Master EQ is

An excerpt from the paper, "Nagra Master Equalization"
by Dan Dugan



". . . Kudelski's trick with Nagra Master is to use the 7.5 ips treble boost for recording at 15 ips. Then a complementary treble rolloff is used in playback to restore flat frequency response. This makes a dramatic decrease in the tape noise level, and furthermore, shapes the noise spectrum to a velvety hush rather than an intrusive hiss. This has to be heard to be appreciated. Since the preemphasis and playback rolloff are complementary, the group delay (phase shift with frequency) stays low. Nagra Master is more like digital than any other analog system.

There are two disadvantages to using Nagra Master. First, you have to be aware of the possibility of high-frequency saturation due to the preemphasis. This is no problem if you're used to recording at 7.5 ips. The preemphasis is the same, so the same recording level habits will serve. The second problem is confusion at the transfer house. You have to make sure everybody down the line knows how to handle Nagra Master before you use it for a project. The tapes must be transferred either from a Nagra (IV-S or T-Audio), or from a standard NAB machine followed by a Nagra Master rolloff EQ."
Old 29th April 2010
  #63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cl516 View Post
Hmm... I have a pretty well maintained A810, and when I bounce certain parts to and from the DAW... I must say that it is certainly not sample-accurate. I'm not just talking latency - there are actual tiny variations in time that I can't hear, but I can see on the waveform(s).
What are you guys talking about? There IS a delay as the tape recorder makes the recording. You cannot monitor the source and expect the machine in "REPRO" to be in sync with the source.

The above has nothing to do with the machines running off speed.
Old 29th April 2010
  #64
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I know it's no Studer and will probably be frowned upon in this thread, but I have a Tascam 32 that has speed control issues. It won't play unless you start it by turning the capstan with your fingers first and then the speed when it plays is inconsistent. Is this most likely a sad capstan motor or is there another possibility? I replaced the belt so it's not that. Where can one find capstan motors for these things? I have another Tascam machine (32-2B) so I am using that, but it would be good to get the 32 up and running properly again sometime.
Old 30th April 2010
  #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
What are you guys talking about? There IS a delay as the tape recorder makes the recording. You cannot monitor the source and expect the machine in "REPRO" to be in sync with the source.

The above has nothing to do with the machines running off speed.
Print something to tape. Play it back in to your DAW a couple times. Line them up. Check the end of the track for sample accuracy.

Not really part of this discussion anyway, it was just a side thought. However if you print kick and snare to the two tracks, then in another pass print the drum bus and try to line them back up you're gonna get some phase wonkiness. At least in my experience.
Old 30th April 2010
  #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
However if you print kick and snare to the two tracks, then in another pass print the drum bus and try to line them back up you're gonna get some phase wonkiness.
Yes. Any tape machine has a small amount of speed drift. It's the "analogue" version of "jitter" to put it rudely. So you'll get more than phase wonkiness, it will be out of sync after a minute or so.
Old 30th April 2010
  #67
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peacock View Post
Nagra IVS- maintenance free. I send mine to Trew audio for calibrating and they mail it back. I only have to demag and clean.

All others studer, mci etc require lots of tlc.

hmmm, quite intriguing. just spent a few hours learning about these machines after reading your posts. I generally track 2 tracks at a time so something like the nagra IV-stc is very appealing to integrate/sync with my DAW.

peacock, have you used it for tracking with sync to a DAW? Any thoughts on the easiest way to do that solidly?

for me, not having the space for or experience with traditional analog machines, the Nagra looks very very interesting.
Old 30th April 2010
  #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsvisser View Post
NAGRAMASTER is a proprietary EQ that as best as I understand it, in layman's terms, is a combination of NAB and CCIR filtering, moving the hiss up in the frequency spectrum and diffusing it out a bit. I believe that there is a method of using straight NAB playback EQ with an additional EQ inserted for proper playback. I have never done this myself, so can't be certain. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a digital profile out there for a plugin. However, you don't have to use NAGRAMASTER, you can simply use NAB or CCIR, with most machines I've seen set up for NAB.
The best 2-track machine of all is definitely the Nagra TA.

The expert on these in the UK is Claude Burton (or John Rudling at Nagra GB).

You say you have seen most machines set to NAB - this would be normal as you are in the USA. In Europe CCIR (or IEC) is more common.

In fact I had my Teac A73002T converted from NAB to CCIR as I was using it to prepare tapes for broadcast at the time.
Old 30th April 2010
  #69
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Hum, Ill say it again. For me, the Nagra is too picky and a piece of gear designed for film and cinema. Great for that. In the studio I found it a bit boring, soundwise, and very demanding, functionwise. Is it just mine or the thing doesnt even fast forward? And rewinds with the heads playing all the time??? So slow.
Dedicated cables, dedicated interface boxes for everything, dedicated interfaces to connect to a 2nd interface to connect the recorder!!!
Super sensitive about magnetic fields..if you forget to close the metal protection youre done...Also, not that much saturation possible...

So the tele is suppose to sound better?

Im in Europe and the prices Im getting for both Tele m15a and Studer A80R 2 track 1/4" is about the same. Around 1300 euros. Oh, the tele has new heads! So yes, cheaperheh
Old 30th April 2010
  #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
An excerpt from the paper, "Nagra Master Equalization"
by Dan Dugan



". . . Kudelski's trick with Nagra Master is to use the 7.5 ips treble boost for recording at 15 ips. Then a complementary treble rolloff is used in playback to restore flat frequency response. "
I'm not exactly sure what he means by this. AFAIK, the Nagra Master eq is only specified at 15 ips. It does have the NAB rec boost below 50 Hz, but the transition frequency on the high end is 11.8 KHz, which is very high... almost recording flat, and you should really watch out for overloading the high end.

By way of comparison, MRL's original proposal for a mastering eq had a transition frequency of 12.5 KHz, but they decided that was way too much pre-emphasis and ultimately backed down to 6300 Hz. 30 ips AES is only at 9K. 15 ips IEC1 is only 4500 Hz, and NAB (both 15 ips and 7.5 ips) is only 3150 Hz. IEC1 is my preference at 15 ips, though I have absolutely no complaints about sonics, hiss or low end distortion on my M-23 and it is NAB only right now.

Cheers,

Otto
Old 30th April 2010
  #71
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by lobit View Post
If you had to get a 1/4" in two track tape machine what would you look at, lets say between $800-$1500? floor standing would be okay. sound quality and reliability/lower maintanance would both be desirable features.
I guess in that price-range, possibly Revox.
Old 1st May 2010
  #72
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Studer.
Old 1st May 2010
  #73
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Plush's Avatar
Ofagen said: [QUOTE=ofajen;5359988]I'm not exactly sure what he means by this. AFAIK, the Nagra Master eq is only specified at 15 ips. It does have the NAB rec boost below 50 Hz, but the transition frequency on the high end is 11.8 KHz, which is very high... almost recording flat, and you should really watch out for overloading the high end."

Nagra Master really works well and has done since the 1970's. One has to remember that the Nagra is blasting level to tape at 510nWb/m. You always
have to know what you're doing and avoid recording above zero. Peaks are handled quite well.

The beauty of Nagra Master EQ is that average level program material has virtually no hiss and the hiss that it does have is of a "velvety smooth" non intrusive quality. Unlike the esoteric EQs proposed by McKnight and Ampex, Nagra Master was much more widely adopted since there were so many Nagra tape recorders in the field.

I still use this EQ with fantastic results.
Old 1st May 2010
  #74
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Hi, I will tell you which tape recorder I WOULDN'T buy, as I have all of them in a corner not working :
-Otari MX5050: two of them, 8tr 1/2" and stereo (mkII): both of them with a problem of speed control, they get slower till stopping, my tech cannot repair them.
-Fostex B16 and A20: problems of speed and azimuth: unusable.
-Revox A77: good machine, but too old, too consumer-oriented in my opinion

What I would buy if it's in great shape:
-Teac X2000R: I work with one well maintained, it has good electronics.
-Revox B77: better recorder, but only 7,5 ips typically. Mine works o.k.

What I do think it's the best option:

-Revox PR99 mkIII: the machine to pick: there are A LOT of them, so you can always find spares, it costs about 400 or 500 € and it's sonically almost like any Studer (A80, A807,..) but you should find a well maintained one. The mkIII supports 15 ips so you can also use Dolby SR for instance (the 363 modules prices are ridiculous now on eBay). Check the heads, their center should not be wasted. If possible pick a "butterfly" head. And buy a half-track one (two trax instead of four).
Anyway an analog recorder is like a baby: you should periodically align it, check the bias, clean the heads, demagnetize,...
Also bear in mind 1/4" tape is cheaper and easier to find, if you decide to go 1/2" things get more complex.
Cheers.
Old 3rd May 2010
  #75
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Dog_Chao_Chao's Avatar
 

[
-Revox B77: better recorder, but only 7,5 ips typically. .[/QUOTE]

I think all b77´s do 15 ips. its where mine sounds better
Old 3rd May 2010
  #76
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peacock View Post
Not at all. rewinds and fast forwards after de-engaging away from heads. Aligned to 468 would give you some analog character. Its faster in its transport than any machine I know of.
My bad, i guess. I couldnt do it.
Old 18th May 2010
  #77
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TC Custom Audio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great
This means the 1/4" half track actually has more tape per track than a 2" 16 track.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying_Dutchman View Post
do you mean 1/4" 2-track?

1/4" 2 track has the same same tape for a track at the tape than 2" 16 track,
but the head has small gaps between every track, so the resulting space on tape is higher at 1/4" 2 track
Half track is the preferred term. This is to differentiate among the various 1/4" formats for stereo audio.

So, Rob is quite correct. Your terminology is less specific.
Old 18th May 2010
  #78
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TC Custom Audio View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great
This means the 1/4" half track actually has more tape per track than a 2" 16 track.



Half track is the preferred term. This is to differentiate among the various 1/4" formats for stereo audio.

So, Rob is quite correct. Your terminology is less specific.
Old 18th May 2010
  #79
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TC Custom Audio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcocet View Post
Lets get back to something basic.



That's probably not going to happen for you. Even the best tape machine transports (I'd say Studers) play back at a slightly different speed every time. Things may line up but you're going to lose some of the groove, which is probably pretty damn important if you're mixing disco.

Just saying, sometimes it's not a problem to line things back up in the computer afterwords but often it is. I wouldn't want to plan on being able to use a machine for that.
You may have overlooked the most obvious solution.

Try this:
DAW to record head, monitoring from repro head and recorded back to two (or more) open tracks in the DAW, all in one pass.

Nudge the new tracks back into sync to account for the distance between the record and repro heads and tape speed (on my JH24, the delay is 86.68ms at 30ips) and you're done.

No sync issues to speak of.

Of course, you can slave the tape machine to the DAW with a Lynx or Adams Smith. I do that sometimes. But the hookup and operation of such a setup requires more expertise.
Old 19th May 2010
  #80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
This assertion would be news to all users of tape recorders if it were true.
Luckily, not a word spoken above is accurate. A quality tape recorder, meeting spec, always plays back at the same speed. It is controlled by a quartz speed control.

It is certainly true that some beat tape recorders purchased off Ebay for $300 might not run on speed, but a real tape recorder always will run on speed if it is adjusted correctly.
Plush,

I would like to point out that your above assertion really only applies to more modern transport designs. In this thread, there have been several references to Ampex 440's, for instance. For these flywheel equipped decks, the tape speed most certainly WILL be different at the beginneing and end of a reel.

We ought not assume that all readers will understand what you mean when you say "quality tape recorder".

I for one would not hesitate to call a well-maintained Ampex 440C a "quality tape recorder".
Old 19th May 2010
  #81
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Hello TC,

I cannot use or be interested in any tape recorder that runs off speed or runs at a different speed depending on where it is in the reel. That is totally against what I need the machine to do.

So antique machines such as 440s, A77s, any consumer machine and the like are not used here.

Here in this thread we have people who don't understand how tape recorders work. They are claiming that they run off speed because they have to align tracks loaded in to a daw. They only have to do this if they are using a tape recorder as an effects box. They say the thing they do because they do not understand the point you made about the gap between record and repro heads.

So there is a large gap in the knowledge base. Luckily I feel like there are many engineers and those learning to be one who are curious about learning about tape recorders and tape and alignment of their machines.


I came up in the analog tape machine time and use the Nagra T-Audio, Stellavox SM-8, Studer A-80 VU and RC and Ampex ATR series and Telefunken and AEG M series.

With proper maintenance these machines work the same every day. Indeed with proper maintenance I do agree that the 440 is a useable machine.

A typical thread on GS.
Old 19th May 2010
  #82
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Silver Sonya's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Hello TC,

I cannot use or be interested in any tape recorder that runs off speed or runs at a different speed depending on where it is in the reel. That is totally against what I need the machine to do.

So antique machines such as 440s, A77s, any consumer machine and the like are not used here.

Here in this thread we have people who don't understand how tape recorders work. They are claiming that they run off speed because they have to align tracks loaded in to a daw. They only have to do this if they are using a tape recorder as an effects box. They say the thing they do because they do not understand the point you made about the gap between record and repro heads.

So there is a large gap in the knowledge base. Luckily I feel like there are many engineers and those learning to be one who are curious about learning about tape recorders and tape and alignment of their machines.


I came up in the analog tape machine time and use the Nagra T-Audio, Stellavox SM-8, Studer A-80 VU and RC and Ampex ATR series and Telefunken and AEG M series.

With proper maintenance these machines work the same every day. Indeed with proper maintenance I do agree that the 440 is a useable machine.

A typical thread on GS.
One of the people you're disparaging so superciliously and insufferably is Marc Alan Goldman. He has worked at Studio G for a number of years and now owns Strangeweather. He's a serious engineer. To put it mildly, he knows what's he's talking about and has a wide amount of experience with tape of all kinds.

You're free to disagree with him, but he deserves no derision.

- c
Old 19th May 2010
  #83
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Teddy Ray's Avatar
 

If anyone is qualified to dole out demerits/heated debate, Plush is one of them. He is a jedi engineer of the highest caliber. I think Mr. Goldman can handle his own.

It is probably best if the younger guys stay out of the Old Guard arguments. heh



thumbsup
Old 19th May 2010
  #84
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E22 half-inch...

Killer sound on a budget...
Analog Audio STEROIDS on TAPE!
A very quiet sleeper deck.
Don't let the name or image fool ya...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
Also you can find a Fostex E2, which is actually a pretty good machine. Or go for the E22 1/2" 2 track. Still in the right price range and an excellent recording deck with very smooth operation. heh
Old 19th May 2010
  #85
Gear Head
 

Ampex AG-440C

I have heard it said a few times in some high end mastering houses, that this deck comes closest to the source for 2 track masters, not sure if it were 1/4"...but whatever format against the known fields of recorders, it was "The Most True" to the source...
Old 19th May 2010
  #86
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Silver Sonya's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by donnie7 View Post
Killer sound on a budget...
Analog Audio STEROIDS on TAPE!
A very quiet sleeper deck.
Don't let the name or image fool ya...
SHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

- c
Old 20th May 2010
  #87
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The argument about sync arises from a misunderstanding...
Old 21st May 2010
  #88
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DONNX's Avatar
 

Ampex AG 440C

heh
Quote:
Originally Posted by GOSPEEDRACER View Post
I have heard it said a few times in some high end mastering houses, that this deck comes closest to the source for 2 track masters, not sure if it were 1/4"...but whatever format against the known fields of recorders, it was "The Most True" to the source...

I am with you this one... I was schooled to buy this from Stephen Haselton. One of the best techs in the business.

I am loving mine! What a cure to the digi-itice virus.thumbsup My little brother made fun of me as I brought this to my studio. He calls it the pac man machine and thinks it only worth a few hundred dollars.

My brother has no clue about pro audio gear. He makes me chuckle for what he does not know. But I could not resist to tell him most of the records he loved to listen to from the 80s to 90s were recorded on this machine.
Attached Thumbnails
best 2 track 1/4" tape machine?-ag440c1.jpg  
Old 21st May 2010
  #89
Studer uber alles!

Although I truly believe that Plush will be buried with his trusty Nagra(s) in the tomb, the question was not answered. In the 1/4" half-track format, speeds of 15ips or 30ips must be available for the desired flavor. Both the Studer B67 and the later model A810 have the tape speeds and ease of alignment to get the job done. I own the latter, and it may sit idle for months only to be fired up, calibration verified, and put to service after a brief warm-up. Stable as hell, with excellent tape speed accuracy and low wow and flutter. Those that know also value the use of ferrite style playback heads for their long life. Both of these Studer models share all of the above mentioned advantages, with the added benefit of the legendary big booty sound of Swiss electronics. I also own a Tandberg (Norwegian) 20ASE two-track, and the European idea of bass has never been eclipsed by ANY US brand, be it MCI, Scully, or even Ampex ATR series. By the way, the latter machines are quite quirky transports to maintain, but have become de-facto mastering standard units due to their insanely low wow and flutter spec. Often, custom electronics replace the original, in order to get some goddamn bass out of the things.... Get a Studer! Cheerio! Hellvis
Old 21st May 2010
  #90
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u b k's Avatar
 

Another a810 owner here. For me this machine is all about the mids, pure creamery butter.

The alignment and stability are indeed extraordinary.


Gregory Scott - ubk
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