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Should I buy a Reel to Reel tape machine
Old 28th October 2010
  #1
Should I buy a Reel to Reel tape machine

Hi,

I've got the opportunity to buy a Fostex e16 for £200 with 4050 remote, looms and new pancakes.

I don't really no much about tape machines. So I was hoping someone could advise me on what to look out for when buying a tape machine. Also what questions should I be asking the buyer.

Also if anyone knows of any books or resources I could read to get some know how, that would be fantastic.
Old 28th October 2010
  #2
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glenn Taylor's Avatar
 

Thats a pretty good price for a e 16 if the heads are not worn out and if it does not have other problems. I love tape decks so just know this up front. If the heads are pretty good and the deck looks like it has been treated with care and stored right go for it. It is not as good as a 1" 16 track or any 2" decks,but if you want to get a feel for analog and it works good. Watch out for people who say they don't have the means to test the deck,but the guy they bought it from said it was good. The machines history is important GT
1. how many hours on the heads.
2. any other problems?
3. Can he record a 1k 100hz and 10k tones at -10db no noise reduction on all 16 tracks and tell you what the playback levels are. Or atleast a 1k tone? If channels 1,2 3 and 14,15,16 are low this would mean the deck needs new heads or to be relaped.
Old 28th October 2010
  #3
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Eganmedia's Avatar
Good deals on tape machines are not rare these days. I owned the successor to the machine you're looking at (a G16S) in the early 90s. It was an "okay" machine. Nothing really to write home about, but certainly usable. The biggest downside to those machines is the head configuration. They have only two. Professional machines have three heads: one for record/sync playback, one for erase, and a dedicated playback head. The playback head is an inch or two from the record/repro head, and you can hear what you have recorded almost as soon as you have recorded it. That's not important for recording music, but it makes a HUGE difference in the ease of calibrating the machine. Having only two heads makes calibrating the deck a complete nightmare. Whereas with a three head machine you can tweak bias and input level and hear the results almost immediately, with a two head deck you record and tweak a little, stop, rewind, listen to playback, stop. Record and tweak, rewind, and listen to playback over and over and over again (multiply that by 16 tracks!).

Couple the alignment issues with the fact that the E16 has Dolby B noise reduction (never considered to be the best- or even close) AND you're wedging 16 tracks onto 1/2 inch of tape, AND you can find Otari and Tascam 1" 16 tracks for at or near the same price, and it starts to make sense that a more professional machine might make sense.

Understand that I have nothing against the E16. As I mentioned above, they are "okay" machines. But a comparably priced, three head Otari MX 80 1" 16 track or a Tascam MS-16/ ATR 60-16 would have a better transport with bigger motors and more sophisticated tape handling. Those machines were also built for professional use and as such are easier to align and easier to work on when things do go wrong. Factor in the age and you can probably expect things to go wrong in the not-too-distant future.

Good luck-
Old 30th October 2010
  #4
Thanks alot for you advice guys this is really helpful.

The only 1" 16 track I can find for sale at the moment is a Tascam MS-16 on ebay with 3 days left to go at £250

Something else I'm worried about is getting tape. There seems to be a lot of 1/2" tape around on ebay but not to much 1" tape around.

I think there maybe a lot of reel to reels for sale on the US ebay, but there's not to much in the uk. There's an e16 for £899.99 on eBay, Isn't that just a massive rip off?

Anyhow that Tascam looks like a much better machine. Maybe I should hold out a couple days on the tascam and see if it goes over budget (£300 at a big stretch). Sound like a good plan?

The seller of the e16 hasn't replied yet to an email I sent asking about the condition of the recorder. And I've sent one to the Tascam seller.

Anyone in the uk know what either of these machines go for usually?
Old 30th October 2010
  #5
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sscannon's Avatar
 

I sold my Tascam 16 track years ago, as I never used it anymore. It did sound very good for a prosumer deck. BTW, wasn't the Fostex Dolby C, not Dolby B?
Old 30th October 2010
  #6
I've been reading quite a few articles on aligning heads and such. Is it a skill that takes time and practice or is it something that can been done with a set of instructions or something like that.

Isn't the Tascam a lot older. The guy selling it says that it was the centre of his studio until he went digital in the 90's and he used it everyday without any problems. Surely this would mean that it's been used a lot.

I would like to avoid any future replacement of parts as much as possible. So being owners and users of these machines, am I pretty much guaranteed something will go wrong with these machines? And what would it be.

Also is the difference between 1/2" and 1" really going to be that much?

I really want to learn how to use a reel to reel I think it's important to understand the work flow of recording on tape, plus the sound of them. But I also want to capture the tape sound into my daw. I plan on using the machine as a standalone recorder with some pres and incorporating it with my daw. I guess that means I need three heads if I'm going to use it with my daw, otherwise I'll have to play audio back into my daw after recording it.

I keep on reading more and more articles about people not being able to find parts or paying a lot of money for parts, which frankly I don't have. Are there a lot of reel to reel horror stories and is it definitely worth it.
Old 30th October 2010
  #7
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Sim -

be sure to read this thread -

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/geeks...x-1-2-e16.html


It's from 2005 - nothing's changed since then except digital sound better for less and all of these prosumer machines that weren't anything more than "something to get by with" for all of us that couldn't afford a real machine are 5-6 years older and more prone to falling apart.

I don't know a single person that didn't drop these pro-sumer machine the minute the ADAT came out - never to looked back, because they sound less like a tuned up pro 2" machine than an ADAT does, they just have different deficiencies.

And that's comparing them to black faced ADATs and who uses them anymore?

I'd put my money in better mics, pres and converters any day.

David
Old 30th October 2010
  #8
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Eganmedia's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by sscannon View Post
I sold my Tascam 16 track years ago, as I never used it anymore. It did sound very good for a prosumer deck. BTW, wasn't the Fostex Dolby C, not Dolby B?
I think you are right about Dolby C. The G16s whichI had used DolbyS. That actually sounded pretty darned good. I never liked Dolby B or C at all, especially in the low end. th MS 16 was a far more "pro" machine still.

To the OP: the difference between 1/2" and 1" 16 track decks is significant. 1" 16 tracks that run at 30 IPS will have 4X the tape area of a 1/2" 15 IPS 16 track machine. You'll get better frequency response, lower noise and less crosstalk.

I'd still take a modern digital system over any narrow gauge analog deck any day.
Old 30th October 2010
  #9
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Yes I thought about it and unless you want just a cheap intro into analog don't get the Fostex. It's just too much like a toy with jamming 16 tracks into 1/2". Although I have heard some punchy recordings made from them. Here are some 1" decks I have owned. The 8 track was too big for my control room so I sold it. It was from a studio in Minneapolis that Prince recorded when he was young. Maybe on this deck. The 2nd deck is a 30 ips Tascam MS16 I am working on. Theres a guy on GS that said he has a good ic chip mod for these that makes them clearer. GT.
Attached Thumbnails
Should I buy a Reel to Reel tape machine-10-mci.jpg   Should I buy a Reel to Reel tape machine-10-ms16.jpg  
Old 30th October 2010
  #10
Thanks guys for your help.

Would any say it's a better idea to go for a machine with less tracks with a 1" tape? Then I guess it will justify buying a machine and actually make an improvement to my recordings. I can't see the point in buying anymore mics with my setup I have most of what I need. What can I really get that will take a new spin on my studio for £200. I'm drummer so I like the idea of drums on tape. One of my favourite drummers Darren king from mutemath gets a great sound specifically choosing tape to record with. Will that be achievable with a pro sumer unit? Maybe I can get a 2 track 1" and use it as an effect loop rather than a recording medium but I still need three heads won't that be really expensive for a 1" 2track.
Old 30th October 2010
  #11
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Honestly, save your money and do something else with it. The magic that is analogue will occur when you either go wholly analogue or when you are using a wider gap width on a unit that has an interesting tone as an effect (saturation, compression). Save up your money for more interesting mics and preamps. That's my two cents. Hope it helps.
Old 30th October 2010
  #12
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Quote:
Would any say it's a better idea to go for a machine with less tracks with a 1" tape?
What that will gain you is track width....which appears to be the major difference between prosumer stuff & pro level MCI/Studer...not that it's the only difference, but it's a pretty major one. Fewer tracks across the width of the tape is a bonus. 2" 24 track (ie:studer, mci, big otari) is 6 tracks in 1/2". The Otari 8 track & Tascam MS16 are 8 tracks in 1/2". An e16 is 16 tracks in 1/2"...which is approaching cassette deck land.

The only exception I've ever noticed anyone saying something completely different in multitrack land was concerning the Fostex G24S & the Tascam MSR24. Apparently DolbyS was a hurrendous help to those machines in their day. The downside to those two machines is that if the DolbyS is whacked on a channel, it's all in a Dolby SMD chip that's not made anymore...so no fixin' it without another machine to rob parts from, or just going the outboard DolbyS setup.

K..just read the drummer part of your post, so take this for what it's worth:
With that said, if you're the one or two tracks at a time & no more type of person, a 1/4" 2 track machine may serve your sonics better than a big pro level multitrack. So, Revox PR99, Studer A80/B67, Otari 5050, even the Tascam 32/42/52 etc. The problem being you can't really mix from it, or record drums. But, if you're mixing acoustic stuff in digital anyway, then you're good to go.

todd
Old 30th October 2010
  #13
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sim View Post
Thanks guys for your help.

Would any say it's a better idea to go for a machine with less tracks with a 1" tape? Then I guess it will justify buying a machine and actually make an improvement to my recordings. I can't see the point in buying anymore mics with my setup I have most of what I need. What can I really get that will take a new spin on my studio for £200. I'm drummer so I like the idea of drums on tape. One of my favourite drummers Darren king from mutemath gets a great sound specifically choosing tape to record with. Will that be achievable with a pro sumer unit? Maybe I can get a 2 track 1" and use it as an effect loop rather than a recording medium but I still need three heads won't that be really expensive for a 1" 2track.
Yep, less tracks is better. In the multi-track tape world, 1" four-track is king, followed by 1" eight, and so on. As for Teac and Fostex, drums is the most demanding instrument for tape, and it will be obvious on those recorders. That said, I like those machines and have gotten neat results with them.
Old 30th October 2010
  #14
Looks like a two or four track is the way forward.

What I need to look for is:

2 or 4 track 1" recorder
3 heads
Reliability
availability of parts
In good condition.

Any suggestions?

Secondly I'll need to make sure the outs on the tape machine will match my alesis io26/focusrite octopre le. I think some are three pin hot xlr's right?
Old 31st October 2010
  #15
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2N1305's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sim View Post
Looks like a two or four track is the way forward.

What I need to look for is:

2 or 4 track 1" recorder
3 heads
Reliability
availability of parts
In good condition.

Any suggestions?

Secondly I'll need to make sure the outs on the tape machine will match my alesis io26/focusrite octopre le. I think some are three pin hot xlr's right?
Yes, for your use, it appears it is. I would like to suggest a few other machines, and some people are going to laugh, but I am giving you my informed opinion.
Fostex A4
Teac A-3340 and A-6010

Yes, these machines ARE quarter-inch, BUT they have no more than 4 tracks per quarter inch, that's almost twice Cassette (two more guard bands, big deal), and four times faster than cassette (15 ips on the Fostex). quarter inch tape is MUCH LESS expensive than half, inch or one inch tape. I believe the Teacs have three heads. ebay is always a good place to find them, sometimes even Pawn shops. By the way I just searched on ebay.co.uk and saw a Fostex R8 for sale starting at over 50 pounds.

Good hunting!
2N1305
Old 31st October 2010
  #16
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Ok if you can get by on 4 tracks try this. I gave one of these away a while back for $400. 4 tracks on 1/2" which is the same as 16 track 2". Also it runs at 7.5,15 or 30 ips. If you look you will find one usually for $800 or under. Used to use only 4 tracks for drums back in the 80's on my 2" 16 track machine. Now a days I use 8 to 12 tracks on pro tools hd. Seems like a 8 track would work if you needed more. GT
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Should I buy a Reel to Reel tape machine-100_3726.jpg  
Old 31st October 2010
  #17
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dcrigger's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sim View Post
Thanks guys for your help.

Would any say it's a better idea to go for a machine with less tracks with a 1" tape? Then I guess it will justify buying a machine and actually make an improvement to my recordings. I can't see the point in buying anymore mics with my setup I have most of what I need. What can I really get that will take a new spin on my studio for £200. I'm drummer so I like the idea of drums on tape. One of my favourite drummers Darren king from mutemath gets a great sound specifically choosing tape to record with. Will that be achievable with a pro sumer unit? Maybe I can get a 2 track 1" and use it as an effect loop rather than a recording medium but I still need three heads won't that be really expensive for a 1" 2track.
Didn't realize yours was primarily a drum focus - and don't know that this advice will help that much considering the budget you mention - but for me the biggest jump from a prosumer/home studio type drum sound and a real drum sound came with upgrading my mic pres. The usual suspect drum mics aren't particularly expensive and work great - I've had 57's placed on top of my snare from garage studios to Ocean Way to Sound City.

But send any those mics through a small pipe and you're going to get a small sound. So while it maybe interesting how Darren with mutemath fine tunes the timbre of his drums with tape - I'd be surprised if he didn't have quality pres in the chain allowing the drums to enter that process sounding full and punchy (with good strong, healthy transients intact).

Anyway - maybe you're already there with pres. And if not, I realize that upgrade pres for drums is expensive - as it takes at least four to have much effect overall, just wanted to share what a HUGE difference it can make.

David
Old 31st October 2010
  #18
Cool thanks again guys, I'll keep an eye on eBay. The pre's I'm using at the moment are octopre le mk1 and alesis io26 built in pre's. Any one picked up a decent pre second hand for around £200 I know there's a massive selection but I like to hear people's personal favourites rather than what they read.

Tbh there's alot of things I need:

A poweramp to replace my cheap hifi amp being one of them.

Besides would there be any point to getting a better pre when my a/d d/a might not be on the same level of quality.
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