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Studer A80 1/4" - newbie needs advice! Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 1st September 2006
  #1
Gear Addict
 
Dr Funk's Avatar
 

Studer A80 1/4" - newbie needs advice!

I've been offered a couple of A80 1/4" machines for next to nothing, but I know next to nothing about them!! I think they're early 70's vintage, and I've been told that they have roughly 8/9000 hours on the counter at the back. They came from a radio station and have no meter bridges.

I have 3 to choose from and the idea is that I take 2 away and make up one good machine from the best bits of both. I plan to use it for 'warming up' drums, vocals, guitars etc. by flying them out from my DAW and back in again.

Does 8000 hours mean the heads are most likely shot, or is that counter on the back for total machine hours, meaning they may have had the heads relapped/replaced? These machines should have been well maintained, as they came from the national broadcaster here (RTE).

So, any ideas or tips? What should I look for, and how could I go about picking the best two, apart from cosmetic appearance? They're in a garage at the moment. I'm not sure if I'll have much time with them - I think it might be a case of arriving with a van, picking two and leaving.

Also, does anyone know of a meter bridge available for an A80 2 track? It might then be usable as a mixdown deck.

Cheers

Frank
Old 2nd September 2006
  #2
Mastering Moderator
 
Riccardo's Avatar
Broadcast tape tends to be - generally speaking - more "abrasive" than studio tape in order to keep heads "clean"and avoid problems during broadcast.
national/major broadcasters in Europe widely adopted A80 aall along the seventies and into the early eighties. it was standard practice to replace the heads with original studers when needed.
You do need a good tech to have a look at it if possible. Also look for damp, rust and other issues originating from longish term - and less than perfect - storage.

Yes it is a pain but well worth it especially for rock and pop (in the broader sense).

Do yourself a favour and don't bounce back and forth between analog an digital for GTRS and so on.
get the machine working properly, align it with your preferred tape and mixdown to the damn thing!

Even better if through a decent desk!
Old 2nd September 2006
  #3
Lives for gear
 

The previous poster has no clue or European broadcast production people are insane and use a tape formula that I have never heard of!

I have been involved in radio/TV broadcast production since the '70s in the U.S. and I have never seen any tape that was more abrasive used! In fact, I'd say that until digital production equipment came along Ampex 456 was used in 95% of all production. The usual practice was to send out dubs on Ampex 406.

Until the late '90s radio dubs were sent from production houses on analog tape (Ampex 406) production houses usually had a dub room and a dedicated dub engineer. Our facility routinely sent out anywhere from fifty to two hundred and fifty analog dubs per day via FedEx. Add that up and that is a lot of tape rolling over the heads of the decks used for dubs. If speacial "more abrasive" tape was used those decks would not have lasted very long!

Unless you are VERY handy mechanically and electronically the restoration of the two "winner" picks outof the three A80s is going to be a big job! I'm not saying that you can't do it and maybe you'll get lucky and have two good decks in the end. You WILL need full manuals and I have to say that the Studer service manuals are less than helpfull in certian respects. Still, you absolutely will need them to restore the decks.

I just restored a Studer A810tc and I found almost no one in the U.S. that had good knowledge of these decks. In Europe you might be in better shape. I had to put on my thinking cap and pull out the meter and scope to diagnose all of the problems. I put about twenty hours into the whole thing combined and spent about $30 on parts. That doesn't seem too bad, but it was quite an ordeal diagnosing some problems.

Expect to replace almost all of the electrolytic caps. Especially any made by Frako which will be gold/yellow colored. The A810 used a lot of them (4700 uf) for power supply regulation and they caused all kinds of problems.

Seriously, I'd find a good tech to restore them if you can find and afford one.

Good luck!

Danny Brown
Old 2nd September 2006
  #4
Lives for gear
 

By the way.... restored the would make a great mixdown deck.

If you want to take the time to bounce tracks from your DAW you'd see good results.
It is a rather time consuming process.

Danny Brown
Old 2nd September 2006
  #5
Mastering Moderator
 
Riccardo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbbubba View Post
By the way.... restored the would make a great mixdown deck.

If you want to take the time to bounce tracks from your DAW you'd see good results.
It is a rather time consuming process.

Danny Brown
Well at least we agree on something! heh

What I was trying to convey is that rather that relap heads it was common practice to get a new set of heads from studer and just replace them at the end of their lives.
Most national broadcasters were/are state owned and spare expenditure was not - at least in the past - a big issue.
As a consequence heads on a machine with 9k hours might have had their heads replaced. It doesn't mean anything as you still need a close inspection, I was just talking about the subject of course.

I did write abrasive using "" for a reason. I did mention Europe and was therefore referring to BASF formulations in that context (PER 528, LGR30, LGR 50). No ampex tapes in sight.

Regarding the meterbridge issue to be honest I don't know, I'll see if I can ask around.
Old 2nd September 2006
  #6
Gear Addict
 
Dr Funk's Avatar
 

Thanks Riccardo & Danny for the advice. I've asked my brother to ask around the RTE techs to find out if there are still maintenance logs for the Studers. Maybe these would show if they had been recapped relatively recently (thanks for the pointer Danny) or had the heads replaced. He's not too hopeful - he's decommissioned and refitted the radio studios there and when he looked for the original wiring diagrams, a lot of info had been lost when they changed the mainframe computer a few years ago...

He also mentioned that he'd seen a lot of 456, but also some BASF tape in use. Worse still in terms of 'picking the good machines' out of the 3, the A80s there could have been in daily use, been lying idle for years or sitting in storage! He's going to get whatever info he can, preferably according to the serial numbers, before I go to pick them up.

I'd love to use the restored machine (how's that for optimism?) as a mixdown deck, but without a meter bridge, I think I'd be in trouble. The Studers were originally hooked up to Neve discrete consoles, the last of which was decommissioned last year, replaced by Yamaha digital consoles... Lovely...

Riccardo, if you have any info on a possible meter bridge, please let me know!

If I could get my hands on a test tape and bring along a headphone amp & multimeter, would that be a reasonable way of checking them out?

Cheers

Frank
Old 5th September 2006
  #7
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

for meter bridges and all other things studer look for a seller on ebay called corylinda. lots of inventory and knows his machines.


gregoire
del
ubk
.
Old 6th September 2006
  #8
Gear Addict
 
Dr Funk's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by u b i k View Post
for meter bridges and all other things studer look for a seller on ebay called corylinda. lots of inventory and knows his machines.


gregoire
del
ubk
.
Thanks for that - I'll check him out!

Frank
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