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Low cost reel to reel? DAW Software
Old 17th February 2019
Low cost reel to reel?

I was thinking about the tascam 22. Somthing to that is easy to maintain and low cost. Never used tape before. I am running analog summing through the Great river mixmaster 20. It does have a tape return. Anyway what suggestions? So I would mix to the tape and back into my converter.
Old 17th February 2019
Lives for gear
Poinzy's Avatar

Used decks might need a lot of work to bring them up to spec -- cleaning, aligning, or more -- belt replacement, head replacement. It depends on how much the decks were used before they were listed. You might have to take that into account before you go shopping for something cheap.

I've never heard of a tape deck that was "easy to maintain". I always found them to be a pain in the rear end, even when they were in good condition.
Old 17th February 2019
Lives for gear

The best reel to reel is the one you can find locally that works and has parts available. Basically all units will require service to run in spec, so I would research local techs as well. Upfront costs between a tech and a machine are not usually cheap, but should be relatively cheap to operate after the initial hit, since 1/4” 7” reels are not out of control in pricing. Unless you run it hard like a commercial studio might, but for light use anyway...

If you’re looking at eBay/etc i would keep in mind that very few know how to pack things properly and if you can’t verify the condition with your own eyes, actual functionality may be dubious at best. Keep in mind that even a working machine can have issues, as we are talking 30-40 year old components and unknown service the very least rubber parts are often worn and will want to calibrate (MRL tapes aren’t cheap), heads could be done or require relapping (in itself not cheap)...if you need a motor good luck..either need rebuilt or replaced with a scrap machine part...

Not to be overly negative, but these are things you should research heavily before you commit to anything. I’ve owned several Tascam decks over the years, currently have a couple 388s that I love.
Old 19th February 2019
Lives for gear
noah330's Avatar
I never really thought of my reel to reel or cassette machines as hard to maintain, but back when I was using them daily I didn't think it was a big deal to use a payphone or order from a catalog and wait 6-8 weeks for delivery.

I had a friend who had a 22 and I always thought it was decent. This was a long time ago. Probably 26 or 27 years ago. The key is finding a machine that's in good condition to start with or being willing to put money into something you find.

Keep your eyes open and look for something that's either a good machine that's been well cared for or something really cheap that you're willing to put some money into.

I found an Otari 5050 MKIII 8 track at the good will for about $50 last year. It has some issues and I'm going to pay someone to go through it and I'll probably use it once in a while. I have an old consumer Akai machine hooked up to my home stereo that I have used for years and it works great. I've changed the belts in it and always cleaned and demagnatized the heads.
Old 19th February 2019
Lives for gear

Those asking about buying a reel deck are truly clueless in what they are getting into. Not only have manufacturers quit making the decks 20+ years ago, nearly all the spare parts are gone so good luck trying to restore anything used you buy. I took a job back 1980 restoring reel to reel decks and doing repairs in local studios up in N Jersey and it was tough enough getting parts then. Today? Forget it. Anyone who has parts they been hoarding isn't going to be selling them. The few aftermarket companies still making stuff is hot or miss. there are a couple of companies that make stuff like Heads and belts for you most popular high end models, but how long they will remain in business is the big question mark.

2500' of 1" tape in a pancake (without the reel) cost about $75 for the cheap stuff.
ATR Magnetics on a reel cost $179. (you cant store recorded tape without a reel)
Quantegy 467 half-inch 9700' is $200

The few places that used to sell new tape are listing used tape for sale.
Good luck with that. If the tape isn't shedding badly, the noise, dropouts and bleed through will be horrible.
If you do find new tape, spend $200 for a reel, you're lucky to get a half dozen songs recorded on a single reel. That's about $33 a song or more depending on the length of the song.

On top of that you have the issue buying new tape. I believe Quantergy and maybe one other company are still making tape. Both have constant issues and you'll spend more time just trying to find tape to record on then you will actually recording.

As far as new recorder go, I came across a stereo deck about a year ago being made by some boutique builder who was doing a limited run. The cost was more expensive then buying a new car. I don't know of any companies making multitrack decks any more and anything in good running order is maintained by cannibalizing used gear because the parts simply aren't being made any more. Its not uncommon to hear about people searching for many months to find an old machine parted out or a non functional deck being bought for a source of spare parts.

Keep in mind I do love tape gear. I grew up on it ever since I got my first deck back in the mid 60's, but people have to be realistic too.
I've kept my tape gear in top working order since I retired it back in 1999 when I went completely digital. Good thing too, the gear probably wouldn't have lasted with the kind of mileage I was putting on it.

Even 20 years ago I saw how difficult it was to find parts. Today? Only a clueless person living in a dream world would try to get into tape. Granted you may be able to find some gear that's still limping along. Most of the bigger studios keep their tape gear limping along as long as it remains profitable for them to do so. if they can charge someone 2~3X more to record to tape plus make the customer buy the tape, then it might make sense.

For just about anyone else, a good pro tools console is going to blow the doors off that tape gear for both cost and for high production. Tape takes far longer to record and mix because its analog. Digital things like rewind and fast forward don't exist and cuing up is darn near instant. A large hard drive can hold months to years worth of projects before another needs to be bought.

Most who are new to recording are not going to have an opportunity to get to know how tape actually sounded. nor will they get to experience the hard work involved in making it sound good. Buying the deck is only part of it. You still need the entire analog console to use it properly and few people even when that gear was being made could afford 50~100K to buy a quality multitrack setup. I used to know many who thought they could do it on a shoestring using cheaper gear but for all but the most connected engineers and artists that was nothing but a pipe dream. Add the time it takes to learn how to use the gear well, Its why people chose to rent a studio vs buy one. Musicians didn't have the time it took to learn how to be a great engineer. They would be past their prime by they develop enough skill to cut their first album.

20 years ago, I used to tell beginners, if they want to buy some old tape gear for educational purposes, go for it.
In the process expect to have most of your dreams about creating hit records destroyed when you do. Tape is very primitive gear and it require more manual labor them most beginners are willing to invest. you are forced to do things a certain way because its the only way they can be done given the technology.

Today, I don't even bother telling them to do it for an education. Its just flat out, a stupid thing to do and a total waste of money. Digital setups have come far enough to make the use of old analog gear quite pointless and when people say they are going to buy tape gear I don't even feel the compassion for them as a beginner and following in the footsteps of their elders.

If a pro using tape today cant tell you its an obsolete technology, then he isn't being honest with you and he shouldn't be trusted. I'm taking into consideration the older engineers stuck in their ways resistant to chance and either cant or wont get with the times using Digital. If they've ever had anything on the ball, they'd tell you as a beginner what's hot and what's not. They could also clue you in to the fact that the Hollywood version of studio consisting of tape decks and huge consoles form 30/50 years ago aren't being used in major studios any more.

Heck even when I was doing work at AT&T Studios back in the mid 90's was more digital then analog already. they had racks and racks of Hard drives, light pipes and all the latest digital technology. All the major TV stations from HBO to Cinemax would rent studio time from them to do all their animations and audio. There wasn't a single reel to reel in the place. The only tape they were still using was beta and that was only because digital cameras weren't affordable yet and smaller studio's were still using beta.

Nearly all Radio and TV is completely digital now. You want to broadcast in those industries and you tell them you're using tape? Man they are going to think you're totally out of touch with reality. People pass their projects back and forth on line these days. The only ones thinking Tape is still viable are musicians who are digitally illiterate and apparently there are still plenty of those around. So are beginners willing to buy old worn out analog gear apparently.

I am being cynical here but 100% truthful as both an musician, engineer and electronic technician with over 50 years experience in the business. You wont impress the experienced engineers by telling them you want to learn an obsolete technology. If anything you should be embracing the technology of your era as they did in there's. Show them how its done using digital and you're garner far more respect in the industry then screwing around with a bunch of old boat anchors going nowhere. Like I said, I wish it were different because I like tape but no one becomes successful looking backwards. Its the people looking 20 years ahead into the future who are going to be there while everyone else is playing catchup. I predict, something like 3D holographic TV and music videos which allow people to view them from a 360 degree aspect is likely be the next big leap ahead or at least something very similar to it. Why watch a movie from only one vantage point when you can change the view angle and distance from a scene digitally. you get tired or watching a music video from the front, switch to a side view or a rear view from behind the band, or maybe from above. Cameras are dirt cheap and setting up extras to capture multiple vantage points is easy. Just comes down to creating more shots in a video project playing in parallel to the original and swapping from one set of shots to another is already being done.
Old 19th February 2019
Thank you all for sharing. I just wanted a low cost machine to mix to and dump the mix in to the computer. I wanted somthing more real then a plugin.
Old 19th February 2019
Gear Nut
OHM GHOST's Avatar

Have a TEAC A2000R, Love it. I like the ubiquitous Teac range of R2R's, fairly solid and reliable prosumer decks.
Parts (or "for parts only" decks) seem to be fairly easy to get for repairs...
Old 19th February 2019
Lives for gear
loujudson's Avatar
Originally Posted by spektor View Post
Thank you all for sharing. I just wanted a low cost machine to mix to and dump the mix in to the computer. I wanted somthing more real then a plugin.
If you want to do this for kicks, knock yourself out. You have some very solid advice above.

Tascam 22s were not very great when they were new. Fiddley mechanics for holdback tension, with nylon strings that can break and be frustrating to replace and adjust. I know, I did that a lot back in the day!

Best luck whatever you want to do. Plugins can sound great, tape decks not so much any more. Unless you have the big bucks and tech on call!
Old 19th February 2019
Lives for gear
EvilRoy's Avatar
I recently picked up an Otari 8 track on 1", transformers on line AND mic pres, early 70s AC motors, no remote, everything works except one VU bulb is out, $300. I was just looking for a nice 2 track so I kept looking. Came across and bought an early 70s MCI 4 track on 1/2", everything works except 2 broken switches, 4xJH-5 transformer balanced line pres but one doesn't power on, $300. The reason I got them was because they were closer to actually functioning than my old Tascam 80-8, 1/2' 8 track with dbx which hasn't been serviced since the 90s. I already bought a Dolby 363 with A and SR cards and then found an XP rack with SR for 1 cent on the dollar from new, hadta. So, what I have now is a whole lot of recapping to do. I've been quoted $84/card on the JH-5s but I want to do this myself. With so many cards to recap, it wouldn't be cost efficient to send them out. When I finish recapping the pres, I'll have 12 transformer balance line pres and 8 mic preamps. Much of that "analogue sound" is achieved with gain staging and that can't be done digitally. My D&R Cinemix is in the clean/transparent camp and I wanted some outboard color. Forget the transport, that's not a bad deal on these old pres. I thought since I'm recapping audio cards and power supplies, I may finish the job and restore the entire machine, although the recaping XP rack is a huge job. That would also mean sending the motors and heads out for service and a whole lotta calibration, scope, test tape etc. I'm guessing by the time I get around to it, nobody will even remember tape recorders existed but it seems like a worthwhile hobby. I remember how my old Tascam sounded on drums and bass and guitar and synths and and and ...... all pretty great. If/when I get the machines up and running, I would probably just use them as a processor, tracking to tape and immediately pulling a feed off the PB head straight to DAW. Rewinding tape is a slooooooow way to work, but with timecode, I could mix the DAW tracks then run the duplicate mix off tape tracks to stay all analogue. Gotta have a hobby.
Old 19th February 2019
I got my Otari MX505bii in 2014 for $500CAD and put another $250 into it. It's a very good quality workhorse. 1/4" tape is cheap too.
The Otaris were the last R2Rs in production I believe, so they remain in pretty good shape.
Old 4 weeks ago
Gear Maniac
Originally Posted by loujudson View Post
If you want to do this for kicks, knock yourself out. You have some very solid advice above.

Tascam 22s were not very great when they were new. Fiddley mechanics for holdback tension, with nylon strings that can break and be frustrating to replace and adjust. I know, I did that a lot back in the day!

Best luck whatever you want to do. Plugins can sound great, tape decks not so much any more. Unless you have the big bucks and tech on call!
+1 tape decks aren't getting any younger. Plugin might end up sounding more reelistic (sorry couldn't resist) than knackered tape decks. I've got all the UAD tape emulations, but actually use softubes "tape" more than all the others - which cost about £40 in a sale! I do have a 1950s Ferrograph series 5 which I used to bounce male rock vocals down to for saturation - but to be honest, it's such a faf and modern plugins are so good, I rarely fire the old girl up these days.
Old 4 weeks ago
I just got a Tascam 22-2 that is a cream puff. Everything works and sounds perfectly. But...I had to buy 4 machines to get a good one. That's right...the one I now have was the 4th machine I bought on line. The first three either had issues or were packed very poorly with the third machine I bought arriving smashed to bits after it was just thrown into a box and shipped cross country. There is still one tech in MN that will work on a 22-2 so I've given him a heads up. I kept one of the defective machines for spare parts.
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