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Buying a 2 track
Old 8th November 2013
  #1
Gear Addict
Buying a 2 track

I'm looking for a 2 track, 1/4" or 1/2" recorder. I live on Vancouver Island in western Canada and there are no qualified techs around here so I'm really looking for something that is in "new" condition/reconditioned, ideally with new heads. Must be a reliable machine. Maybe a Studer 1/4" or ??? I have about $3500 USD (less would be better, but possibly a bit more for the right machine...ie ATR 102)

I want to buy one from a reputable dealer that will offer a warranty and preferably a tech report. I could make a trip to Vancouver BC (the nearest big city) if there was one for sale there, but otherwise it will need to be shipped.

I'd appreciate any advice - thanks in advance
Old 8th November 2013
  #2
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by captainj View Post
there are no qualified techs around here so I'm really looking for something that is in "new" condition/reconditioned, ideally with new heads.

--- snip happens ---

I'd appreciate any advice - thanks in advance
All due respect bro... tape machines require regular maintenance by someone who is qualified to perform that maintenance.

When you get the machine you need to make sure the "tape path" is proper... this should also be checked about every 4-6 months. This absolutely requires someone who knows what they're doing and has the proper tools. You can certainly get a tentelometer [tape tension gauge], learn how to use it and get the setup information from the machine's manual... and learning this would make you qualified to perform the maintenance... but unless you do learn this, or have someone near you that knows this -- DO NOT BUY A MACHINE!! ...it will be WAY more trouble than benefit if the tape path is not set up properly and checked regularly.

Electronic alignments are electronic alignments... they're not too tough to do. While you don't absolutely need an oscilloscope to do an Azimuth alignment, they are indeed quite helpful to the process [an Azimuth alignment isn't electronic... but they're performed at the same time you're doing electronic alignments which is why I mentioned it when mentioning electronic alignments].

I sincerely don't mean to piss on your lawn... but you should absolutely understand that these machines are seriously far from "plug and play" like a digital recorder. If you're willing to put in the work to learn the maintenance then the machine should give you years of carefree use... but if you don't have the proper maintenance -- the machine will absolutely be more of an impediment to the process than it will be a plus.

While we're here... new heads, even for a 2 track are more than $3k [the erase head will last nearly forever -- the record and repro, not so much]. If you're still thinking of buying a machine make absolutely sure you get a "head report" from JRF Magnetic Sciences. I've seen more "head report"s than I could ever count... the ONLY ones I've ever trusted came from JRF, and they needed to be done within 30 days of the purchase of the machine!! Double check that the serial numbers on the head report match the serial numbers on the heads as there are more than a few unscrupulous bastards out there.

I hope this is of some assistance... best of luck with your search.

Peace
Old 8th November 2013
  #3
Gear Addict
thanks Fletcher! All good points but nonetheless I need an analog 2 track machine!

This machine will only be used occasionally to mix to and though I know there will be some maintenance required, I'm hoping that by buying one in great shape, I can postpone and minimize the amount of maintenance
Old 8th November 2013
  #4
11413
Guest
dont let Albert deSalvo scare you....


Studer A810 is a nice machine... make sure you check out all the options, there are a lot of different setups for Studer machines. nice thing about the A810 is that it will fit in a rack, does 15/30ips, and saves 2 or 3 different setups for different tape (456/gp9/etc).

I wasn't trained by anyone on tape machines and fixed a few problems with mine... one was a bad tensioner board (bought used replacement on ebay, dropped it in, bingo)... the other was just dusty switches (had to cycle every dip switch i could find on all the various cards), i think the original problem was 1 VU meter not working.

make sure you at least get an MRL tape so you can calibrate the record levels/EQ... oh, and hopefully your machine comes with a service manual.

I never had any major problems with my A810.. and printing mixes to tape is a lot of fun. its amazing to me how much my recordings can "sounds like a record" when playing back off 1/4" tape @ 15ips. tape is magic

Good luck
Old 8th November 2013
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by captainj View Post
I'm looking for a 2 track, 1/4" or 1/2" recorder. I live on Vancouver Island in western Canada and there are no qualified techs around here so I'm really looking for something that is in "new" condition/reconditioned, ideally with new heads. Must be a reliable machine. Maybe a Studer 1/4" or ??? I have about $3500 USD (less would be better, but possibly a bit more for the right machine...ie ATR 102)

I want to buy one from a reputable dealer that will offer a warranty and preferably a tech report. I could make a trip to Vancouver BC (the nearest big city) if there was one for sale there, but otherwise it will need to be shipped.

I'd appreciate any advice - thanks in advance
Consider a Nagra IV S. As good or better sound than a Studer and not nearly the trouble. Trew Audio can align it for you and it will hold for years.
Old 8th November 2013
  #6
Gear Nut
 

Studer A810

I use a Studer A810. I was fortunate to have an authorized Studer technician within driving distance.

The Studer has easily removable Reproduce, High frequency driver, and Playback cards, which are handy in terms of repairs and trouble shooting. See attached blurry cellphone picture!

Also the A810 has the ability to be biased for two different types of tape: I have mine set up for RMG SM911 and SM900.

If the heads are not destroyed they can be re-lapped. Tekx Electronics (Pickering Ontario) does re-lapping and all other service, like motor bearings, electronics etc.

I also use a Revox A77 15 ips machine to track to sometimes if I want a different vibe - less clean and pristine.

Have some tape fun
Attached Thumbnails
Buying a 2 track-imag0121.jpg  
Old 8th November 2013
  #7
Lives for gear
 
superburtm's Avatar
 

I got an otari mtr10 1/4". Sounds great. They do require attention as fletcher stated. However i got a brand new heads for $500 from a tech wiz and you can do azimuth without a scope. But if you go down this road expect about a weeks wworth of solid work bringing it to life
Old 9th November 2013
  #8
Lives for gear
 
donnylang's Avatar
 

my main deck has no azimuth adjustment! you've gotta take it as it is (not perfect)!
Old 9th November 2013
  #9
Gear Addict
thanks everyone for your helpful replies! Looks like I need to do more research and wait for that perfect machine to present itself to me
Old 9th November 2013
  #10
Lives for gear
 
MIKEHARRIS's Avatar
MTR-20 1/2" 4 track but very far away in Florida. Recently tweaked for use with a clasp.
Used to be important to be able to do 30ips w/ 14" reels...now don't know if you can even buy them.
Old 9th November 2013
  #11
Lives for gear
 
AllBread's Avatar
 

I highly recommend checking out Mara Machines - google it and you'll find his (Chris Mara's) website and they also are selling them through Vintage King. Chris takes old MCI decks and goes through them, totallly recaps them, replaces all the red molex and basically rebuilds them to be great sounding and reliable machines. I have one of his 2 track 1/2" decks and it's been rock solid for me.

I'm sure others will correct me if I'm wrong and I agree that you're going to want to learn how to calibrate and maintain it yourself but depending on how you use the machine there's room for different tolerances as far as bias and calibration go.

By that I mean that if you had a 24 track machine and were working on an ongoing project and had to be sure that it played back exactly as it was recorded 2 months later or if you were printing your mixes to tape and sending that tape to a mastering engineer then, yes, you would basically want to check bias and calibration almost every time it got used so that A always equaled A even on another machine or months down the road.

With my two track, I either print individual tracks to it and bounce it back into Pro Tools or print the mix to it and immediately recapture in Pro Tools. When I do this, I capture off the repro head at the same time that I'm printing to tape so I'm recapturing immediately after it was printed so there's not much room for error (as opposed to printing, rewinding, replaying). This way A only needs to equal A for the 1/4 second or so in between the print and playback head. This way I don't have to worry about putting tone on the tape and then months later making sure the machine is reproducing those tones spot on - whatever I print to the tape gets pulled off a fraction of a second later and then I'm done with the tape.

All that being said, buying a machine that's been rebuilt from the ground up and had new or re-lathed heads on it gave me a lot of confidence getting into tape decks and I've had zero mechanical issues with the machine in the 2 years or so that I've owned it. Well worth the extra dough vs buying from somewhere else and hoping for the best.
Old 9th November 2013
  #12
Lives for gear
 
AllBread's Avatar
 

Oh, btw, Chris does do Skype sessions to help with alignment, bias and calibration so even though he's not local if you got the right tools for the job then a few sessions with him guiding you through it and you should know what you need to know to keep it going for a long time.
Old 10th November 2013
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peacock View Post
Consider a Nagra IV S. As good or better sound than a Studer and not nearly the trouble. Trew Audio can align it for you and it will hold for years.
Seriously, you DO NOT want a 1974 Nagra IV-S CCIR or NAB or w/ PILOT or SYNC of any sort, the unit will need Nagra Alignment and it will jump out of Alignment within 30 days. The Mic Pre Cards and the Sync Cards and the T Power and Phantom 48V Power card and the internals that you can only get to by going in through the Battery case will kill your Analogue Love 100%.

I have used a Nagra for 20 plus years and while kept well & aligned they work, a decent model MK IV-S Is serious Money & Work! You want a Tape Basher not a serious ATR!

Plus all Nagra Stuff Inc:
2 Mic/T/48V Mic Pre's Cards
Strange Impedances (Make Dynamic Mic's @ 200 Ohm sound Fecken Brilliant!)
Banana Jack Line out
Tuchel Cables
You'd also Need PSU
(More Tuchel cables into 6-9 pins
10" Reel Hubs (Not NAB)
Editing Scissors (Nagra)
Plus only 15 IPS.
ETC.....
Add More
Old 10th November 2013
  #14
Lives for gear
 
MIKEHARRIS's Avatar
Nagra designed for field use...transport extremely clumsy in the studio. Gettin back to listen to mix a hit or miss...unless you slate ala film.
Old 12th November 2013
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Nagra was always rock solid for me. Trew audio can align the machine with no problem and it holds rock sokid for years.. Lot less work than my MCI. Now a days I do not bother with tape.

I had Doug Sax master a project we mixed to Nagra. He commented on how clean and open the mix was. So I am not sure about this Nagra is the wrong way to go sentiment.?????

To each his own.
Old 10th December 2013
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllBread View Post
I highly recommend checking out Mara Machines - google it and you'll find his (Chris Mara's) website and they also are selling them through Vintage King. Chris takes old MCI decks and goes through them, totallly recaps them, replaces all the red molex and basically rebuilds them to be great sounding and reliable machines. I have one of his 2 track 1/2" decks and it's been rock solid for me.

buying a machine that's been rebuilt from the ground up and had new or re-lathed heads on it gave me a lot of confidence getting into tape decks and I've had zero mechanical issues with the machine in the 2 years or so that I've owned it. Well worth the extra dough vs buying from somewhere else and hoping for the best.
Thanks! So happy to hear you're enjoying your Mara Machine!

-Chris Mara
www.maramachines.com
Old 11th December 2013
  #17
Gear Addict
 

dont do it!

after going all in on 2track tape machines NOS tape I sold it all recently and bought a tascam DA3000 and have been printing to DSD audio. I prefer it to working with a tape machine. I really don't think its worth entering the tape machine game in 2014.
Old 11th December 2013
  #18
Lives for gear
 
herecomesyourman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by captainj View Post
I'm looking for a 2 track, 1/4" or 1/2" recorder. I live on Vancouver Island in western Canada and there are no qualified techs around here so I'm really looking for something that is in "new" condition/reconditioned, ideally with new heads. Must be a reliable machine. Maybe a Studer 1/4" or ??? I have about $3500 USD (less would be better, but possibly a bit more for the right machine...ie ATR 102)

I want to buy one from a reputable dealer that will offer a warranty and preferably a tech report. I could make a trip to Vancouver BC (the nearest big city) if there was one for sale there, but otherwise it will need to be shipped.

I'd appreciate any advice - thanks in advance
I had the opportunity to buy an old MCI that needed some work this summer. It was a great machine (2") but...ultimately I found that it wasn't the workflow I was after. Nor was it cost effective for me. I can get pretty close to the best of those old tones when I want to go there using other means these days. Is it exactly the same? No...it isn't a constant money drain like owning a boat going hybrid like I have either. I can understand the desire, but personally I'm divested from the nostalgia people have for the medium. Especially when you can own a reasonably priced RADAR system which will imitate that workflow, AND sound better nine times out of ten.


Quote:
Originally Posted by boneshowell View Post
after going all in on 2track tape machines NOS tape I sold it all recently and bought a tascam DA3000 and have been printing to DSD audio. I prefer it to working with a tape machine. I really don't think its worth entering the tape machine game in 2014.
I also print to DSD, and I am finding that there is really nothing making me feel "compromised" these days. It has it's moments, but there are so many different ways to get into the ballpark of that vibe without having to use razor blades or spend a fortune.
Old 12th December 2013
  #19
Lives for gear
I have a 2 track 1/4 inch Ampex AG440 (with 15 ips and 30 ips settings) which I restored from two mono track machines and it records beautifully. It is a solid work horse and requires little maintenance from a technician. I had the heads (which I bought separately on ebay) checked out by Mr French and had a qualified technician set the machine up for use with 910 tape. It is magnificent to see it in motion too. I always clean the heads after use and keep the machine in mint condition. The key to keeping analogue machines in proper running order is reading the manual - especially the maintenance section - and adhering to the required maintenance eg adding drops of sewing machine oil every 6 months, etc etc. They require a lot of love to keep them purring. Also analogue tape is not cheap.

A highly acclaimed and respected Ampex dealer told me he did blind shootouts between an Ampex 440 and ATR102 with world famous bands and most preferred the AG440 recording of their music over the ATR102. However, when asked which machine they wanted their recordings on (before the blind test) approximately 95% picked the ATR 102. So love is blind. I have no way of independently verifying the veracity of that blind test, but I am very happy with the sound I get from my Ampex AG440 (as are my clients) which is what matters most.
Old 13th December 2013
  #20
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donnylang's Avatar
 

Attached Thumbnails
Buying a 2 track-percy_440.jpg  
Old 13th December 2013
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Aw man , be careful kitty . Better learn to toggle FF and Rw
Old 13th December 2013
  #22
Lives for gear
The kitty already knows how to operate the Ampex AG 440. It pressed the play button just before the photo was taken. The kitty is just checking that the tape tension is OK.
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