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Converting Ampex 351 to 1" 8-track Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 17th May 2018
  #1
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Converting Ampex 351 to 1" 8-track

It's always been my dream to have a 1" 8-track 300 series Ampex. Recently been thinking about it more.

Obviously, 8 track heads, capstan/roller, dancer arm, guides, etc. and extended motor spindles.

But how? Are these parts even available? Can they be made? Perhaps retro-fitted from a later 400 series model? I understand they made previous few stock 8-track 300 series machines, but for all intents and purposes, they're unobtainium.

Perhaps it would be easier to modify 300-series preamps to use with a 1" 400 series transport? Or i know they made a few AG300 units in 1" 8-track.

Thanks fellas!
Old 17th May 2018
  #2
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

It'd be interesting to see if they could deal with 4 times the weight. Even with 1/4" tape, those things needed a boost to get going in ff and rew.
Old 17th May 2018
  #3
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Wiggy Neve Slut's Avatar
 

Better off looking for an ampex mm1200, mci Hk 110 and studer A80 as they all came in that format. Tube magic aside and all
Old 18th May 2018
  #4
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rwsand's Avatar
Talk to Joel Katz, Joel Katz music
He might have something like that laying around.
Old 24th May 2018
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggy Neve Slut View Post
Better off looking for an ampex mm1200, mci Hk 110 and studer A80 as they all came in that format. Tube magic aside and all
I just sold an MCI JH110 1" 8-track machine that I restored from the ground up. It was a GREAT machine in many respects, but just didn't have the vibe I was going for. It was a B model, so no transformers as on the A, and of course there were no tubes. Overall it just sounded too clean and pretty....I'm definitely looking for tube/transformer mojo, but love the 8-track format.

I currently have a Tascam 388, and although the overall quality isn't anything close to something like a pro Ampex or MCI deck, and it has no xformers or tubes, it gets pretty close to that sound. That said, still doesn't have the satin smooth, buttery refinement of a proper tube deck.

Honestly, I may just throw a couple Ampex MX10's in front of the 388 as a line in "buffer" to get similar results. I'm looking for the natural bass and high rolloff characterized by most 1950's recordings.

It's funny how when I started engineering/producing, the smiley curve always sounded better to me. As I've matured, I lean towards the brown frown

</end rant> Thanks fellas!
Old 24th May 2018
  #6
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Zep Dude's Avatar
 

JRF could make you the correct impedance headstack, but I suspect your biggest issue will be the transport -something that handles the 1" but plays nice with the 351 electronics -which is tricky.

Also, I'd make sure the 351's are the sound you want. They are great for mids and highs (tubey for days) but the bottom end is a bit round and less punchy than, say, a 440. If I could get the bottom end of my 440 with the mids/highs from my 351 it would be the ultimate!

Good luck!
Old 26th May 2018
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zep Dude View Post
JRF could make you the correct impedance headstack, but I suspect your biggest issue will be the transport -something that handles the 1" but plays nice with the 351 electronics -which is tricky.

Also, I'd make sure the 351's are the sound you want. They are great for mids and highs (tubey for days) but the bottom end is a bit round and less punchy than, say, a 440. If I could get the bottom end of my 440 with the mids/highs from my 351 it would be the ultimate!

Good luck!
That's a great idea! I didn't know JRF made custom headstacks!

I don't mind bad bass, that was characteristic of the era.....nothing in the 50's/60's had punchy bass. I love everything about the sound of that era.....even the kick drums sounding like cheap luggage being thwacked with a mallet

I could probably repurpose guides, capstan, dancer arm, etc from other tape machines and do some machining/mods to make it work. I think the reel motors would be the toughest part. Not sure if they utilize the same voltage and speed regulation technology as the later models.
Old 29th May 2018
  #8
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Zep Dude's Avatar
 

Definitely do your research before you dive in. The headstack will have to be custom mounted on the transport and then the challenge, as you guessed, about the electronics talking to the transport. John French at JRF is knowledgeable about this.
Old 30th May 2018
  #9
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Silvertone's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by rwsand View Post
Talk to Joel Katz, Joel Katz music
He might have something like that laying around.
Unfortunately getting anything off Joel is nearly impossible. He is a audio hoarder in a lot of ways.

He bought the only Presto inventory 2 years back and I’ve contacted him three times with no reply trying to get some spare parts.

It took me 5 years to talk him into selling the Sphere console to me for Blackdog studios. If I didn’t buy it, it would still be sitting under a tarp in his live room. Now it’s being used as it should.

I think he got upset with me that he had actually sold something to me. He dropped off after that. I have his wife Joan’s number and even thought of calling her as I was concerned something had happen.

In talking to Ken McKim last Thursday when I was dropping the Presto and Langevin tube console off to him we got to talking about Joel, so he is alive and well and Ken is going to try and talk to him to get the spare platters I need.

To the OP, these machines come up every now and again, there have been some great ones recently... a great 3M 1” 8 track ( highly recommended for sound and how it handles tape, a Studer came up recently as well... equally great for the same reasons (but different sound than the 3M)

Joel has a Ampex 440 1” 8 track but I know he’ll never get rid of it.

I’ll keep my eyes open. Also get on the Ampex mailing list, all the great old Ampex engineers are over there and they have a wealth of knowledge and parts... and know where to get parts made.
Old 30th May 2018
  #10
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rwsand's Avatar
Larry, Not sure if your aware that Joel's son is dealing with brain cancer. That may be one reason he's out of touch. I'm not sure of the status of that right now as I spoke to him in early February.
Old 30th May 2018
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwsand View Post
Larry, Not sure if your aware that Joel's son is dealing with brain cancer. That may be one reason he's out of touch. I'm not sure of the status of that right now as I spoke to him in early February.
I did not know and feel bad for him and Joan. They will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Last time he was dealing with having to put his mom in a home and her subsequent passing. Life is not easy as we age.

I will reach out to him about his son, parts are unimportant, the human condition is everything in this life.

Thank you for letting me know.
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