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Otari mtr-12 vs Otari MX5050
Old 28th January 2010
  #1
Gear Nut
 
stephenmatthew's Avatar
 

Otari mtr-12 vs Otari MX5050

I might be picking up one of these Otari MTR-12 1/4" machines for relatively cheap- I have a couple to choose from. I also have a couple of 5050's which I picked up a while ago which I'll be employing as delays and maybe mixdown decks with a few mods. Is the MTR-12 really head and shoulders above the 5050, or will it be basically in a similar ballpark? I haven't found much info on the MTR-12 in context with other machines.
Old 25th March 2010
  #2
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I'd be curious as to the answer to this question as well. Been thinking about an MTR10/12 4 tracker...

todd
Old 27th March 2010
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

i'm curious about the mtr 12 too, can anyone shed any light on this deck?
Old 27th March 2010
  #4
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i have had an mtr-12 1/2" machine
since 2000. it sounds great. has a great transport and
is a very solid machine.

i would recommend them.



be well



- jack
Old 27th March 2010
  #5
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Sounds Great's Avatar
 

I had a 5050 for years, no complaints, great recordings.
If I did it again though, I'd go for the MTR-12 if for no reason than it just looks more substantial. heh
Old 27th March 2010
  #6
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I've had a lot of experience with MTR-10's, which to my understanding are extremely similar to the MTR-12's. I think the only real difference between 10's is 12's is the reel size they'll take. The MTR-10's will take up to a 10.5" reel, where the MTR-12's will take a 12" reel. I've also seen 1/2" MTR-12's where I don't think I've ever seen a 1/2" MTR-10. I've had relatively limited exposure to the MX5050. From that little exposure to the 5050's, I would say that the MTR's are worlds above the 5050's.

The 5050 was a "broadcast" machine. They were most commonly used in broadcast applications. The MTR's are a "studio" machine. The transports on the MTR's are a lot more robust. The electronics are much more easily accessible on the MTR's for alignment, etc.

In today's market, most of the 5050's that I've seen are much more beat up and abused than the MTR's. Also, most of the MTR's are capable of 30ips, where I don't think any of the 5050's are capable of 30ips. Not to say there's anything wrong with 1/4" at 15ips, it's a very viable format. However, to me, the fact that the alignment pots are easily accessible on the MTR's makes the deal. If you're going to be serious about using tape in the studio, you need to be militant about alignment. At minimum, you need to do a record alignment on every batch of tape, ideally every reel. That's not going to be easy on an MX5050. It's incredibly easy on an MTR.

I've been seriously considering picking up a 1/4" machine over the last year. However I haven't been able to find one relatively locally. It's seems like a couple years ago they were everywhere, now, not so much. The 5050's pop up much more frequently. But, for the price I've seen most MTR's going for, the minimal increase in cost is well worth the difference. That is why I've held off on the multitude of beat up 5050's in hope that I will find a decent MTR.

Sound quality-wise, I couldn't honestly say the MX5050 is inferior, as I haven't done any side by side comparisons. However, my gut tells me the MTR's would be better. Perhaps I'm wrong. I do know that the MTR's are indeed good sounding machines.

You say you have several MTR's to choose from. If you don't mind, I'd appreciate if you'd share where these are at, on the chance that maybe I could grab one as well. Hit me up via PM or email. If you'd like, make your decision first, and I take a look at what's left.
Old 27th March 2010
  #7
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If you come across an Otari MX-55, you may want to take that model into consideration too, especially if cost is an issue. It predates the MX5050 and from what I can tell, is sturdier and might even have better electronics. Slightly more on the "pro" side of semi-pro whereas the 5050 is a bit more semi, but I'm sure they're almost exactly on par with each other.

I've attached two photos of an MX-55. This one is similar to mine but this one has a timecode track, which mine does not. From what I can see, there are two configurations for the two-track model. One is the one shown in the photo, where it has more of a "studio" configuration, like the MTRs, with the electronics over top of the horizontal transport section, and it's best at home on a wheely roller table at a slight angle. This is the best config because the lid on the electronics flips up and gives you easy access to all of the necessary configuration adjustments. Here's a list of what's on mine: Bias, rec. level, rec L EQ, rec H EQ, input level, output level, LF and HF EQ for both H and L speed repro, sel-rep level, repro level. All of the necessary pro adjustments, plus a few more elsewhere on the PC boards. I'm sure the MTR-10 and 12 give you this kind of flexibility, but the MX5050 doesn't as you have to remove a panel to calibrate. And the other MX-55 config is like the MX5050 configuration, all vertically stacked, and I don't think it's as easy to access the pots.

I don't think they made a 2-track 1/2" though like they did in the MTR-12, but if you use the external remote, you can run the MX-55 at 30ips, although 15ips is generally the preferred speed on that unit. But it would indeed be nice to have the option, if only for the off need for 30ips playback of an "outside" tape, but I don't have a remote and have not tried it.

I picked up my 55 in great condition for $200, and it runs SO smoothly. I really like it. No, it doesn't have the "warmth" of a Stevens or MCI or Studer, but like I said, it was $200! And, yes, it DOES have that tape magic. For me, it's like a clean compressor that is very transparent but gels things together by adding all kind of nice distortions and non-linearity to the mix, which I often find pleasing, but not too much grit, so long as I calibrate it correctly. Yes, there's a bit of noise, but since pretty much every other part of my mixing chain is so damn quiet, I don't mind a bit of hiss. In fact, I love it.

But anyway, I haven't used an MTR in direct comparison to the MX5050, which was used a lot in VO for a good long while, but I'm sure they're definitely on the clean side. I've heard some people call them sterile sounding, but I'm sure, like my 55, the 10 will still add the unmistakable "glue" of tape with it's head bump at 80Hz, increased distortion, added harmonics, high frequency degradation, added noise and probably for models on this level, slightly decreased transient response. For what I do, I find those properties beneficial. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder!
Attached Thumbnails
Otari mtr-12 vs Otari MX5050-otari_mx55_close.jpg   Otari mtr-12 vs Otari MX5050-mx55_full1.jpg  
Old 27th March 2010
  #8
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Actually, I found an MX5050 with the cart-style arrangement. It looks like some of the adjustments are right on the front, but I can't tell where the rest of them are. It doesn't look like the hinged flip-top of my MX55, it looks tightly bolted down.

These photos are from an ebay ad asking $600. Yikes! You could find an MTR-10 for that price I think.
Attached Thumbnails
Otari mtr-12 vs Otari MX5050-7524408.jpg   Otari mtr-12 vs Otari MX5050-7524406.jpg  
Old 28th March 2010
  #9
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I came across an mtr-12 - for free! it's awesome but for some reason my (NEW) tape sheds an incredible amount everytime I rewind/fast forward. I have to clean the heads every 10 minutes, and I can't re-record over stuff or I get print - through. And no high end.

Anyways, I figure I'll have it looked at. But one question - I make bass heavy dance music - if I mix down to this, will I lose out on a lot of bass? Maybe I could just high pass the stuff going to the machine and keep the low end (<150) ITB?

cheers
Old 28th March 2010
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
nbenford's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tstu102 View Post
I came across an mtr-12 - for free! it's awesome but for some reason my (NEW) tape sheds an incredible amount everytime I rewind/fast forward. I have to clean the heads every 10 minutes, and I can't re-record over stuff or I get print - through. And no high end.

Anyways, I figure I'll have it looked at. But one question - I make bass heavy dance music - if I mix down to this, will I lose out on a lot of bass? Maybe I could just high pass the stuff going to the machine and keep the low end (<150) ITB?

cheers
Sounds like you have major problems with the machine. Something could be wrong with the tape guides, heads, capstan or pinch roller. Can you see where the tape is being shredded?

But, no, after you get it up and running, you'll have no problem with bass extension. Tape actually has what's called a head bump, and it boosts the bass frequencies. Look at this page to see how all over the place even some of the best tape machines can be! Response Curves of Analog Recorders
Old 29th March 2010
  #11
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hmm I think its shedding right around the heads. If you'd be willing to take a look at it, I can pay you...if you're interested that is. It'd be a huge help, I really wanna get this thing going
Old 29th March 2010
  #12
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nbenford's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tstu102 View Post
hmm I think its shedding right around the heads. If you'd be willing to take a look at it, I can pay you...if you're interested that is. It'd be a huge help, I really wanna get this thing going
I might be able to tell what's wrong but I doubt that I could fix it. You need some pretty specialized gear to tweak the physical aspects of the tape machine. All I know how to do is calibrate mine. When I first bought my MX-55, I had Glenn Coleman from Coleman Audio come over and set it up. He'll actually have the means to fix the tape machine, whereas all I could do is say, "yep, it's broken..." But if you think it would help, I'd be glad to come and take a look. Where in Brooklyn is the machine?
Old 29th March 2010
  #13
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Sounds Great's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tstu102 View Post
hmm I think its shedding right around the heads. If you'd be willing to take a look at it, I can pay you...if you're interested that is. It'd be a huge help, I really wanna get this thing going
Sounds like it needs a major alignment. Perhaps the tape is shredding on the guides? Might not be all that serious, bring it to a tech.
Old 2nd April 2010
  #14
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ok, i'm an idiot. Don't even wanna tell you guys why it was shedding.

Anyways, seems pretty good now, gonna have glenn coleman come out and do an aligment/teach me how to do it. Super cheap and very friendly! Quoted me about 1/3 of what I was quoted via craigslist.

Thanks a bunch for the tip!
Old 2nd April 2010
  #15
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That's great news! Glenn will take good care of you. After he sets you up, you should have no trouble keeping the unit calibrated. It seemed like a lot to remember at first, but just like anything else, as soon as you do it a few times it becomes second nature.
Old 2nd April 2010
  #16
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Raw-Tracks's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tstu102 View Post
ok, i'm an idiot. Don't even wanna tell you guys why it was shedding.
Tape on backwards (inside out)?
Old 2nd April 2010
  #17
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haha yup. I originally had it set up one way, then tried to do "tails out" or whatever, but I guess put it on backwards. I'm an idiot. When I picked this thing up, I heard of it having "tension issues", so I immediately assumed it was this.

As soon as some dude on craigslist quoted me like $450 to look at it, I said **** this, I really need to make sure I didn't do anything stupid. so yeah.
Old 2nd April 2010
  #18
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Hey, now you know. No big deal. Just make sure to clean up the mess real well and forge ahead!

Just remember from now on, the shiny side of the tape goes toward the head. At least with modern tapes. There may be exceptions in 30+ year old tape formulations, not sure.
Old 2nd April 2010
  #19
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yeah, I did a good cleaning. I know which side is which, I've owned a space echo for years! but damn, that was stupid.

anyways, i'm psyched to delve into the world of tape. cheers
Old 2nd April 2010
  #20
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ugh. its still shedding. but not nearly as much.

Anyways, I'll do whatever it takes to fix it. It sounds too good (recording drums twice as fast, then pitching down to correct speed blaow!)
Old 2nd April 2010
  #21
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If it's still shedding and the tape stock is new, it's a mechanical problem. Get a tech to take a look. Shouldn't take too much for a competent tech to mechanically align the machine. You got it for free (??!!), so if you have to spend a couple hundred dollars for a tech, you're still ahead!
Old 19th April 2010
  #22
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so Glenn came over (for an incredibly reasonable price) and aligned the machine in no time. It sounds absolutely incredible, and now I can align the tape whenever need be (very simple process).

This is by far the biggest, most noticeable step my mixing and production has ever taken, to say the least. I barely even use compression and EQ anymore.
Old 20th April 2010
  #23
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That's excellent! Glenn does a great job with setup. He didn't adjust the azimuth on mine, though, but I just RTFM and did it myself. It made a world off difference on my deck as it was quite off before I set it, so I suggest you check yours. A good 2 track deck is a great ace up one's sleeve!
Old 22nd April 2010
  #24
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hmm... can you go into detail about what to do with the azimuth? And maybe where it is located on the Otari?

I tried to research it a little and it seems like it will be an easy process, but a little help would be great!

Cheers
Old 22nd April 2010
  #25
Gear Maniac
 
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Sure thing. Remove the cover over the heads and put your test tape on. Connect channels 1 and 2 (assuming this is a 2 tk) to a phase scope. I use a plug-in in Pro Tools. Make sure that the unit is otherwise in complete calibration. Run a 1kHz tone off the tape. Take a look at your phase meter. The image below is from Inspector XL. If the phase is all over the place, it may look like the left or center image. This is bad. If it looks like the right image, you're on the right track. Adjust the azimuth screw for the playback head. Should be just to the left of the head. Turn it one way or another and look at how the scope reacts. Give it a second to react between tweaks. Is it getting more focused toward a straight line or is the scope becoming more scattered? The goal is to have a completely straight line, either vertical like in the scope below, or sometimes horizontal from bottom left to upper right; it depends on the scope. Once you have the line as straight as possible, test with a 10kHz tone. The azimuth becomes touchier. You can fine tune it with the 10kHz tone. The final image should look significantly tighter that the image on the right below.

After playback azimuth is good, put a recordable tape on, record tones through it, and adjust the record head azimuth.

Old 22nd April 2010
  #26
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thanks dude! awesome songs by the way...
Old 23rd April 2010
  #27
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My pleasure!

I have no idea what those songs are, do you? I just found that graphic randomly on Google.

Oh, and the erase head has azimuth too, I believe. Haven't messed with that one yet. I try not to back myself into corners that I don't know how to get out of! But, yes, azimuth is important and I think it often gets overlooked. It made my Otari's stereo image immaculate. Things were a bit... well... hazy before I adjusted it. I attributed it to a semi-pro deck, but now the unit is fine-tuned it sounds brilliant. Well worth the 200 clams.
Old 23rd April 2010
  #28
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got it, very easy! Thanks again, this whole thing has opened a new world for me. Tape is not as intimidating as people make it seem.
Old 23rd April 2010
  #29
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Yea, it's really quite forgiving. Just show it a little bit of love, that's all.

On another note, when you're setting your low frequency rep playback trim, make note of the head bump and low end distortion on your particular unit. Remember, you adjust the low frequency repro trim by recording a low frequency tone to tape and monitoring off of the repro head. Many choose 100 Hz as the reference tone, then calibrate to 0 VU or -3, etc. (depending on fluxivity of the tape and machine operating level). But you may find that calibrating to 80 Hz or 70Hz or 110Hz or something like that will give you the most pleasing curve. Measure your machine's head bump curve by plotting the VU levels of different frequencies of tone. You'll probably find a steep drop off after about 30Hz, and there will be peaks (above reference level) and valleys (below reference level) all along the way from 30Hz to about 120Hz or so. Then things even out for a more flat frequency response. Not that flat though!

For example, I sometimes like to calibrate the low end for about 70Hz-80Hz on my MX-55 for some songs. Calibrating to 100Hz sounds a bit thin on my machine. Perhaps that's why some people attribute such words to Otari decks as "too clean" and "sterile." Perhaps they just needed to calibrate the low end repro gain to a different reference level.

-Noel
Old 23rd April 2010
  #30
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Interesting, thanks. My low end is calibrated at 100 Hz.

So when I plot the frequency response in VU, am I looking for something specifically? Or should I just try calibrating at 80, 60, etc and see what is most pleasing to my ear...? I make mostly dance music, so low end is important.

The built in oscillator only has 100 regarding low end so I may have to buy something? I do have many synthesizers laying around...

One more question, kind of a non-sequitur - should I compress (ITB) before I mix down to tape, to get less tape hiss per signal?

Thanks!
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