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School of Studer A800 MkIII
Old 16th September 2011
Here for the gear

School of Studer A800 MkIII

I am looking to buy a Studer A800 MkIII which is lying pretty dormant in a local studio, trouble is I have limited experience with analog Tape and next to no experience with these machines but I have been generously allowed to to spend as much time as I need learning the machine before deciding to buy. (it's not going anywhere basically) I'm its only friend at this point in time.

In time I would pay to have it fully refurbished but I need to determine what does and doesn't work properly before that can happen.

There is nobody around I can ask to teach me what I need to know therefore I have to learn on my own though help from yourselves (I know there are many generous people contributing) and other information I can get online or in books etc.

I guess what I'm looking for is resources where I can learn as much as possible about the correct way to operate and maintain these beautiful machines. I know it needs some work doing to it (for example) I'm pretty sure the first 8 tracks aren't playing back anything, I did find a reel of test tones and nothing on the meters there but there is on 9-24 and they sounded fine. I'm sure there would likely be other things. I'll have the heads looked at soon.

the hours are - 0 5878 - is this Low?

I know I may come across as the sort of person that should not be allowed such a machine but I consider my self very experienced with all other aspects of the studio from digital recording to large format consoles but analog tape is an area of the industry I really want to experiment with.

so from someone passionate about music and doing things the right way please help!!
Old 16th September 2011
Lives for gear
iangomes's Avatar
Well there is a lot to learn. Here's what I did.

1) Look at the tape machine.
2) Do you have a question about something?

3a) If yes, google it. Read a lot. Find the answer. Go to #1.
3b) If no, you are an expert! Congratulations!

As for 5900 hours, the heads are probably about 1/2 way through their life. It depends on the type of heads you have, which can range from ~10k-15k hours (if I remember correctly).
Old 16th September 2011
Here for the gear

thanks for the reply,

i fully expect to be looking a lot up on google but I wonder if there is a good paperback book/pool of information online that would be and ideal place to start learning this stuff from a broader perspective first, I don't want to mistreat it so first off is there anything I should really not do from the word go,

1) is it safe to use as a 16trk if channels 1-8 aren't working?


2) should I bite the bullet, buy it and pay to have a tech service it before starting to learn.


if anyone can point me in the direction of something resembling a "beginners guide to 2" Tape" that would be ideal!
Old 16th September 2011
Lives for gear
iangomes's Avatar
I have no idea. One piece of advice I would give you is this: If you have a tech come in to work on the machine, stick around and help. You'll learn a lot which will probably allow you to fix some problems yourself in the future.
Old 16th September 2011
Lives for gear
decocco's Avatar

You should seek the help of an experienced tech who knows those machines and can teach you what you need to know. That is by far the best way to learn.

A800's are complicated machines. They really are a big investment, and you should consider the services of a qualified technician to be a part of that investment.

Once the tech has given it a clean bill of health, you'll have peace of mind knowing that your machine is operating at it's full sonic potential. And if something goes horribly wrong, a good tech will sort it out for you quickly.
Old 16th September 2011
Lives for gear
rob S's Avatar
The best sounding studer.
Technically No walk in the park to work on.
Old 16th September 2011
Gear Guru
Pretty much what the other guys said. If you "have limited experience with analog Tape and next to no experience with these machines" then maybe a big multitrack is not the best idea.
Unless you have a local tech to maintain it, or the price is so low that if it's a disaster it's not that big a problem.
Also if channels 1-8 aren't working, that could be a big red flag that there are problems.
The A-800 is a wonderful machine, but there is no such thing as a low maintenance multitrack.
Old 16th September 2011
Do you have the budget to run a heavy draw power device? Do you have tech support nearby? Do you have funds for a major restoration? Do you have funds to pay for the very expensive custom parts from Studer? Do you have funds to maintain and repair it?

The most important question of all:

Got tape?

One or more of these reasons is why that machine is sitting there unused.
Old 16th September 2011
Here for the gear

I understand I might be biting off more than I can chew but unfortunately I live on a tiny Island and I don't know of anybody here who can teach me, There is a Tech who carries out all the maintenance for the studio's equipment including the SSL so he's more than capable of fixing issues as they arise after a full service, probably from someone who has years of experience with them (who I would most likely have to fly in).

but I cant realistically think how Ican get someone here for an adequate length of time for Lessons in its operation, I feel I can only really do that in my spare time. but if thats not a good idea then maybe I'm making a mistake!

All I know is I really want to become Competent at operating these and if thats impossible to learn by yourself then I'll reconsider,

put it this way, I can probably work out a deal with the owner so the machine doesn't cost a great deal upfront and would remain where it is for me to use so no moving it around anytime soon (surely a good thing). I don't see it as just a phase to try it out I want to really discover the medium and add it to my arsenal of options therefore I see the costs a worthy investment.

as far as tape goes: Currently available is 6/7 unused rolls of Ampex 456 plus a large quantity of used ones that are no longer needed for practicing on. so covered for the time being.
Old 18th September 2011
Gear Nut

Each bank of 8 channels has its own power supply, accessed from the rear of the machine. If you are lucky, something is disconnected.

If not, try powering channels 1-8 from one of the other power supplies. That will tell you if it is the channels or the power supply that are at fault. One likely cause is a shorted smoothing cap on the motherboard of one of the first 8 channels. That will bring the power supply down until it is fixed, by recapping that motherboard. You can test this by unplugging each motherboard in turn, starting from the left (channel 1) and keep going until (if you are lucky) the remaining channels light up when you reapply power.

If all of the above makes perfect sense to you, and you are able to visit the machine and try out my ideas, then by all means get the machine if they don't want any money up front. You still have a long and probably expensive project ahead of you though.

If none of the above made sense, or you drew a blank when trying to follow the suggestions, then do not get the machine. It is probably beyond your expertise level.

Good luck!

David Ollard
Thin Brown Line
Multitrack analog to digital transfers
Multitrack Analog to Digital Transfers - Reel to Reel Tape Transfer - Audio Tape Transfer to Wave Files for Pro Tools and other DAW - Digitize Open Reel Tapes - Thin Brown Line
Old 28th September 2011
Gear Maniac
glava's Avatar


Did you buy it?
If you still have problem with 1-8 PSU´s
I can give you some good hints.
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