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Otari questions
Old 26th February 2007
  #1
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SeanG's Avatar
 

Otari questions

I acquired an Otari MX-5050BQII – It is a ¼” 4-track reel to reel. In what appears to be excellent condition.

I would like to start printing final mixes to tape, primarily high track count rock music.

So for a while now I have been doing research and there are still a few holes in my understanding.

-Is the fact that this is a 4-track a good or a bad thing? My thought is a bad thing.
-All I need is stereo, so am I squeezing my L/R mix onto smaller physical space?
-How much of a negative effect will this cause?
-Is there a workaround?

I already have a price quote from JRF Magnetic Sciences for a 2-track head assembly (erase, record, and playback). The converted assembly will be
optically aligned and ready to install. They use only original Otari polished heads.

-Is this a hard install to do? I sent this question to JRF and they have not replied yet.

As far as my background I have basic soldering skills. (i.e. cables and guitar electronics) & have only wasted 1/3rd of my brain cells… I hope.
I have called a few local electronic repair shops and while they all work on Otari none have any experience doing this retrofit.

Any help or advise will be appreciated.

Thx
Old 27th February 2007
  #2
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John French at JRF should be able to explain the replacement process.
If I am not mistaken, you will unmount the existing headstack with a few allen screws.
The old headstack will pull off and there will ether be a connector assembly that is part of the mounting system ot there will be conectors just for the headstack.
I think that there will be a connctor that is part of the mounting assenbly.
In other words, it should be quite easy to do yourself.
Either way, I doubt that you will have to do any soldering.

If the deck is a 1/4" four track then YES you do want to turn it into a 2 track.
Still, I wouldn't do the conversion unless the deck runs at 15 ips.

1/4" four track is pretty much the same width as 1/4" quartertrack which is the width on most home or consumer grade reel to reels.
You won't really be happy with the s/n ratio (kinda' noisy.)

Too bad that the deck isn't a Technics 1500 because I have two of those and I need a quarter track or 1/4" 4 track headstack for one of them.

Just consult John and he'll see that you do the retrofit correctly.

This will get the heads mounted mechanically, but you'll need to do a calibration on the record/play electronics. The calibration for the existing heads will be completely different from the 2-track heads.

Don't use the deck without a proper calibration because it just won't sound correct and you won't be happy with the results.

Do you have the manual and ability to do an alignment?
It isn't that hard to do, but it is part of using an analog deck.

With 2 tracks heads and a proper alignment you should have a decent recorder.
You should be able to mix to it and have quite presentable playback.

Good luck!
Old 27th February 2007
  #3
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If you have to pay serious money for a new head stack, it is not worth it as eBay is heaving with old reel-to-reels - even good half-track Studer and Otaris.
Old 27th February 2007
  #4
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SeanG's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dbbubba View Post
John French at JRF should be able to explain the replacement process.
If I am not mistaken, you will unmount the existing headstack with a few allen screws.
The old headstack will pull off and there will ether be a connector assembly that is part of the mounting system ot there will be conectors just for the headstack.
I think that there will be a connctor that is part of the mounting assenbly.
In other words, it should be quite easy to do yourself.
Either way, I doubt that you will have to do any soldering.

If the deck is a 1/4" four track then YES you do want to turn it into a 2 track.
Still, I wouldn't do the conversion unless the deck runs at 15 ips.

1/4" four track is pretty much the same width as 1/4" quartertrack which is the width on most home or consumer grade reel to reels.
You won't really be happy with the s/n ratio (kinda' noisy.)

Too bad that the deck isn't a Technics 1500 because I have two of those and I need a quarter track or 1/4" 4 track headstack for one of them.

Just consult John and he'll see that you do the retrofit correctly.

This will get the heads mounted mechanically, but you'll need to do a calibration on the record/play electronics. The calibration for the existing heads will be completely different from the 2-track heads.

Don't use the deck without a proper calibration because it just won't sound correct and you won't be happy with the results.

Do you have the manual and ability to do an alignment?
It isn't that hard to do, but it is part of using an analog deck.

With 2 tracks heads and a proper alignment you should have a decent recorder.
You should be able to mix to it and have quite presentable playback.

Good luck!
Thx for all the info. I think I am going to do the retrofit.
As far as aligning I have this for instruction http://www.analogrules.com/alignprint.pdf
Sound about right?

I do have the parts list and schematics for the BQII but I do not have the manual. I do have the manual for an 5050BII... it looks almost identical, but 2 track.

It does 15ips.

I've got head cleaner, pinch roller cleaner, cotton swabs, take-up reel, a new roll of RMGI SM900, and a box of single wrapped razor blades. There is a workaround for the oscilloscope from the link above; I am going to try it for the bias. I still need to get a test tape and demagnetizer. Am I missing anything else?

Speaking of demagnetizer... I've been looking at them and there are some on eBay for about $30 and some at $70. Does it matter? Is one better than the next?

Thx again db
Old 27th February 2007
  #5
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SeanG's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
If you have to pay serious money for a new head stack, it is not worth it as eBay is heaving with old reel-to-reels - even good half-track Studer and Otaris.
I have been watching them for a while and for the era and condition of my machine the retrofit will still be cheaper and I will not have to deal with shipping cost and risk.

I've been hoping to find a local pick-up in excellent condition for some time now and they always end up more being more money. Still on the lookout though.
Old 27th February 2007
  #6
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One benefit to the Mtari 5050 is that there are/were a lot of them around (radio stations loved them!) You should be able to get parts and service for quite a while.

Too bad that you are not down here in Texas because I am siitting on top of a bunch of MCI JH110b decks that are in pretty nice shape. They are 2 tracks.

As far as a demagnetizers goes... I have used a cheap-azz Radio Shack unit for twenty years. I have de-magged my JH-24 and two other I had before plus every tape format I can think of. The Annis was the best as I recall.

You sound like you are set, but yo do need the MRL calibration tape.

I am not sure about how the bias is calibrated on an Otari 5050.
Japanese decks like TASCAM/TEAC and the Technics I am dealing with have a different circuit than full on pro decks like Ampex, Studer, etc...
Instead of a RECORD HI FREQ CAL they have you adjust the bias to optimize the record high end. I never liked this.

I used an Otari MTR90II at a studio for a few years, but I can't recall anything about the alignment/cal. proceedure except that it was a bit different from the others.
It wasn't anything that difficult and I did it without cracking a manual, so...

You should be able to do it without an O-scope.

You might look into a new pinch roller since the rubber might be getting either hard or gummy.

There are a lot of decks on eBay, but I wouldn't buy anything off of there.
Everything is always broken on eBay (it is the great dumping ground for gear) and if it is in good shape the seller won't pack it correctly and it'll get ruined in shipping.
Old 27th February 2007
  #7
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SeanG's Avatar
 

I wish I was in Texas, I would like to check out one of your MCI’s… as I would rather not mess with the guts of my Otari, however it seems like my best option currently.

This machine is was from a community collage, which leads me to believe it didn’t get much of a work out.

I will check out my pinch roller… thx for the heads up. thumbsup

Yeah eBay does seem real risky with this type of machine, most of the descriptions say “lights come on and wheels are spinning, but I don’t know ****, and it’s as is”. Sometimes I think I see the same machines selling over and over. Seems most of the set-up and maintained machines can still go for a pretty penny.
Old 27th February 2007
  #8
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I am lucky in the sense that I do know how to service analog decks and keep them running.
I owned a few studios and just had to learn to afford keeping them going.
When I did hire a tech I paid a lot of attention.
After doing enough emergency repairs I had dug pretty deep into Ampex and Studers.

I probebly wouldn't even own a 2 track unless I scored the inoperatble Studer A810 that I have.
It came from an radio/TV production house that I worked at and I knew it's history.
It had a problem with the capstan motor's drive amp, but I did have to put o my thinking cap to repair it since there arte not many techs who know how to fix them.
Acyually, there are lot's of people who are capable, but few who I could call and get a n answer as to why it was doing what it was.

I figure getting it for free and doing maybe $35.00 worth or repair and re-capping was worth it!

I look for near surplus or abandonded stuff and pick it up cheap and repair it.
I'd say that 75% of my gear was un-used stuff.
Old 1st March 2007
  #9
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We make our own luck.

I regret not getting into the ins & outs of ATRs earlier. The early studio days for me had tape but the owner did all maintenance.
So here I am 20 years later, trying to get back in touch with my tape roots.

A friend gave me this Otari a few years ago. I feel it’s time to breathe some life into this thing.
I would prefer it was a 2-track, it would be nice to find someone locally who would be willing to trade. But if to no avail than I will do what I must and mod this one.

Thx for your help Danny
Old 10th November 2007
  #10
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anarchomojo's Avatar
 

Otari MTR 10

Hey I just got an Otari Mtr 10 1/4" 2 track. it seems to be in excellent shape but definitely needs calibration, especially at 30 ips. Im going to get a DeMag and MRL soon. I have the manual witch explains everything(from calibrating the peak lights to on board oscillator). I don't have a good oscillator or oscilloscope to check azmith and i need to find the extension cards so i adjust the pots on the side of the cards.

are there any cats out there In the NYC area who wouldn't mind helping a young guy calibrate his machine for a for a few beers and gear talk
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