Recommendations for a 4 Track R2R for a home recording studio?

Discussion in 'Tape' started by PureQuill, Dec 25, 2017.

  1. PureQuill

    PureQuill AK Member Subscriber

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    I hope this is the right place to ask if not...well nothing ventured nothing gained.
    I have a excellent digital home recording studio but I have a hankering to get back to basics and track my next solo acoustic project strictly analog & directly to tape. Using only tube microphones ,preamps & compressors in the actual recording of the song.
    And later send them to the digital domain (Pro tools) for final editing and mixing.

    In a perfect world It would be a 4 track deck useing Track1 for my vocal. Track 2 to record my acoustic guitar close miced and then use tracks 3&4 to record the room in stereo about 6 feet back or so to add a sense of space.

    Since I will be recording one song at a time I am thinking a 4 track at 15ips is the way to go.
    1/4' will work but a 1/2" 4 track would yield the best results no? Or will the difference be negligible?
    I need to be able to record for 15 or 20 minutes at a time till I get a "keeper" take.

    Maybe I am getting all caught up in "Analog" nostalgia but I am hoping for the analog warmth that I remember from the old days that tubes and tape provided ...I always remember there being a sense of sonic glue when we tracked analog directly to tape.
    I also want to remove the the digital safety net of... ."Don't worry we will fix it in the mix"
    And digital distractions like click tracks, computer monitors and challenge myself to forget the recording process and concentrate on getting the best recording & performance of each song one at a time. ..No matter if I nail it the 1st take or if it requires 50 more attempts.


    Anyway any suggestions on decks, tape etc would be great.
    My budget for the deck $2-3K

    Thanks
    PQ
     

     

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  2. turnitdown

    turnitdown Well-worn member Subscriber

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    There are some great TEACs and Otaris 1/4 inch I used to use for that. Get one in nice shape and you're golden. My favorite was a TEAC 1/2 inch 8 track. With bouncing, etc., it was TONS of fun.
     
  3. UncleBingo

    UncleBingo AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I'd go 1/2 8 track if you can find one. Tascam 38 with the Dolby or DBX modules can sound really good, esp if you have good outboard gear and Mics.
     
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  4. Jonny Ramone

    Jonny Ramone Super Member

    Messages:
    1,850
    TEAC sold a TON of 1/4 inch decks built for that purpose. This guy may have one ready to go, but at your price range, you could probably get one completely restored - new caps, possibly new heads, though finding a deck with good ones(heads) is way more practical . Otari is also a good choice, but the quad ones don't come up on Craigslist very often, in my area. No affiliation http://s609729863.onlinehome.us/tape-decks-and-other-equipment-repair
     
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  5. Decibel_116

    Decibel_116 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Chris Mara of Mara Machines in Nashville is who I would talk to about this.
     
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  6. PureQuill

    PureQuill AK Member Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Thanks for the responses and suggestions!
    Definitely want to keep it to a 4 track and 1/4 inch if for nothing else simplicity and keep tape cost down. The 1/2 inch 8 tracks are tempting but i am afraid to go down that rabbit hole.
    Thanks gain
    PQ
     
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  7. PureQuill

    PureQuill AK Member Subscriber

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    Contacted Mara...way out of my price range ...starting @ $7k for 1/2":(
    Cheers
    PQ
     
  8. Homer4beer

    Homer4beer AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Doh!

    7k? :eek2:
     
  9. LexDM3

    LexDM3 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    There are a lot of TEAC 3340 and 3440 decks around. They are generally very good but almost all of them need the old and gummed up grease cleaned out of the capstan idler mechanism and replaced with new grease. That's a bit of an undertaking and sometimes requires some heat and persuasion but isn't all that hard to do if you have pretty good mechanical skills. You might get a deck in that condition for a good price. Less than $7k for sure!

    The TEAC 2340 is the 7" version of the 7 or 10.5" 3340. Here's one in WA on CL but that's pretty far from you. No affiliation.
     
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  10. PureQuill

    PureQuill AK Member Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Thanks for all the posts!
    I contacted Mara directly today ...entry level is @ $5k 1/4" 2 track...Or $5500 4 track plus shipping across country on a 244 pound machine.
    If i pre-order and I am willing to wait inline for it to be refurbished....
    Still way beyond my pay grade!
    Whats crazy is their 2" 24 track is only $9k which seams very reasonable..Down right a bargin when compared to the 2 and 4 track decks.
    But I guess the market for machines that weigh 538 pounds and use tape that cost $345 a reel is still pretty small LOL!

    I just came across... a Otari MX5050 1/4 " 4 track just "serviced" for $600
    The tech is pretty well respected over at Tapeheads but what exactly "serviced" means I am not sure of..
    For a extra $400 he will send the heads out to JRF be re-lapped and will align the heads and calibrate the machine to my choice of tape.
    So does $1k with newly re-lapped heads seem pretty fair?


    Don't know too much about Otari decks other than they were widely used by radio stations in the 80's.
    Are the direct drive? Are parts easily obtained etc?
    I basically would have to drive almost to Canada to pick up the unit or pay $$$ to have it shipped to Oregon.
    But that is not out of the question for the right deck that would be as reasonably trouble free as one can expect a 35+ year old deck to be.
    Or if I am going to go that route... Should I just have it fully refirbished with new rubber, caps, relays, etc.?

    This is a scary road to go down since it is almost impossible to know the history of these old decks and who has monkeyed around with them over the decades.
    Vintage guitars and amps I know and I often find some crazy sh*t done to what would have been very desirable gear if some bonehead hadn't "modded or "upgraded" it......
    But R2R I am clueless...I came on the scene just as digital was making it's way into local studios and was all the rage and tape and analog was declared all but dead!
    We tracked to tape because we couldn't afford to go to a fancy digital studio at that time..who knew? LOL!

    Thoughts and advise is greatly appreciated....
    Thanks again!
    PQ
     
  11. Those Otari's are great decks, with unmatched flexibility and features for their price and size. They were made for a long time and there are many models (BII, BIII, BQII, etc) and head configurations (-F, -2, -2E, etc) that could be ordered, so you have to be careful to get what is useful to you. They were one of the last commercially produced decks, you could pick up a new one in 2012 for $7900*. I would get the date of manufacture of the deck you are interested in and a list of repairs/modifications done prior to purchasing. $400 is not a bad deal for head re-lapping, alignment, and calibration. JRF charged me $350 just for re-lapping and optical alignment. As a robust studio machine, many have been heavily used so head re-lapping is recommended. Also make sure seller includes the NAB hub adapters (at least $100 value). Manuals are available on Hifiengine. Overall a very useful pro-type deck with many parts available and many users to help you out. If you are using unbalanced cabling, you will need special XLR to RCA adapters or cables (the pin arrangement is not conventional on these). Maybe the seller can throw some in or has already wired internally (a common modification). These decks can also be easily modified for direct head output (if you choose to use an external preamp).

    *museumofmagneticsoundrecording.org posted a note from the US distributor hinting that they are redesigning the model with the goal of a mid-2018 release. If they do, I will be the first in line to buy one!
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
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  12. twiiii

    twiiii Addicted Member

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    You should consider a Tascam machine with either built in Dolby or if the tape stays in house there were a few models with DBX noise reduction. 1/4 inch will be more than adequate at 15 ips with noise reduction. With out you'll need a 1/2 inch machine which is very costly. Studer would be my first choice unless I could find a ATR 104 Ampex. Both the Studer and the Ampex will have flatter bass response, where the tacams might require a Parametric EQ to get the right balance on playback. Sounds like you want to stay with analog, good luck!
     
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  13. Jonny Ramone

    Jonny Ramone Super Member

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    Pretty sure I saw the deck you are talking about, as he has a facebook page( I thought of you when i saw it). . I wouldn't be in a hurry to relap the heads; he has it calibrated to spec. Servicing is a tune-up, mostly physical, but he has a scope to tune the frequency response. You could have him re-cap the power supply, if you wish, but these were made for radio station, and small studio work. They're workhorses. If it's older than 20 years, have him re-cap the power supplies. GRAB IT. NOW.
     
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  14. Agree, but where does one get a working Studer or Ampex ATR for OP's budget of $2-3K?
     
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  15. KentTeffeteller

    KentTeffeteller Gimpus Stereophilus!

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    Duplicate post, disregard!
     
  16. KentTeffeteller

    KentTeffeteller Gimpus Stereophilus!

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    And also, bear in mind an ATR 104 or a Studer are not easy machines to repair or get repaired outside of music industry towns. And expensive to repair. Go simpler and get an Ampex 440 series or a MCI in 1/2" 4 track, easier and simpler maintained. They're reliable and good sounding, and fully professional.
     

     

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  17. PureQuill

    PureQuill AK Member Subscriber

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    Thanks for the helpful post think I will pull the trigger on the Otari MX5050 if it's not too late!
    Fingers crossed!.
    Cheers
    PQ
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
  18. KentTeffeteller

    KentTeffeteller Gimpus Stereophilus!

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    The Otari machines are excellent, reliable, and great sounding. Very durable also.
     
  19. PureQuill

    PureQuill AK Member Subscriber

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    Update I placed a deposit on the Otari MX5050 and he is sending the heads out for re-lapping. Now just waiting for JRF to do their thing. while he is waiting on them he is replacing all the bulbs in the VU's and anything he deems prudent...
    Down the rabbit hole I go!
    PQ
     
  20. Jonny Ramone

    Jonny Ramone Super Member

    Messages:
    1,850
    You may find this deck isn't a 100% PERFECT fit, but it's a good start. I enjoy the machines very much, and am always educating myslf more on the different models, and their strengths and weaknesses.
     
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