Tape Machines Survey (Part 1)
A readable survey — the first part covering manufacturers from A to L.
To kick off with on the sound survey scene we decided to do a review of professional and semi-pro tape machines, primarily covering the up-to-eight-track-and-not-much-above range. Nice and simple, we thought. Just ask the manufacturers to send in details and all will be well. However, we thought we'd make surveys interesting reading as well as just being informative, so we've tried to present the information in an attractive way (your comments would be welcome, incidentally). The outcome of this decision is that there is too much to put in a single issue, so we're going to cover the field over two issues, alphabetically. So this time we have tackled manufacturers A-L, and next month's will complete the list, plus 'late arrivals'. As such, we should be able to give everyone a fair crack of the whip. If, after all this, anyone feels they have been left out, we'll run further information in July. Prices have been given where possible, but these are often too esoteric to give a fair impression. In cases like this, or for further info, get in touch with the manufacturers.
Surveys will follow from time to time on other items, for both the recording and musical sides of the business. If you have any ideas on things you'd like to see surveyed, or reviewed specially for that matter, drop us a line.
We have used Imperial units in this survey, because — apart from the fact that metric units are cosmically unrelated to Man as the Microcosm the way Imperial units are — if somebody told you that a machine took 6.35mm tape on 26.67cm spools you might not know what it meant. If they said ¼in tape on 10½in spools you would (we hope).
We've tried to be really spot-on and accurate in this survey (as with everything else), but the odd error does creep in from time to time. If you find one, let us know and we'll correct it, but unfortunately we can't be held responsible for inaccuracies. Let's just say we've done our best.
ABE Apparatebau und Elektronik, (Contact Details).
ABE produce the MTR range of multitrack recorders, available in 8-track, 1-inch format, or 16, 24, and 32-track on 2-inch(!) All machines operate at 7½ and 15 in/s. Frequency response is quoted as ± 1.5 dB, 30-18K Hz at 15 in/s. We only have the noise figure for the 24-track configuration (better than -52 dB unweighted at 15), so one imagines that in the 8 and 16-track formats it is better. Wow and flutter are given as better than ±0.05% DIN at 15 in/s.
These machines feature the Telefunken M15 transport with motion sensing and full logic control, inbuilt varispeed (-50 to +30% variation), built in noise gates on each track, IEC or NAB equalisation, and, of course, they offer full sync facilities. A Dolby system can be built into the machine if required. ABE did not supply prices, but all you need to do is ring 'em up and ask.
Accurate Sound Corporation, (Contact Details).
Accurate Sound produce a range of transports, the 2600 series. These are available for mono up to 8-track, in all the usual tape widths. The decks themselves are based on the Ampex 351 series with heavy modifications: in fact AS can supply all the bits needed to upgrade a 351, including new motion logic, to produce a complete system. The transport can be supplied in a two or three-speed version, and has constant torque spooling, remote capability, motion sensing and logic, and a tape-spill feature. AS can also supply recording electronics, by MCI, Inovonics, or ASCO. The transport can be supplied with any two of the standard speeds from 3¾ to 15 in/s., or all three; higher or lower speeds to special order. Wow and flutter figures (max) for 3¾, 7½ and 15in/s. are 0.15, 0.1 and 0.08% respectively. The standard model is 115-125V AC 60Hz, but 50Hz machines can be supplied. AS transports are good value for money: the 4-track transport, for instance is $1500 and a complete 2-track machine with Inovonics electronics is about $4000. The basic price less heads and electronics is around $1425.
Amity Shroeder, (Contact Details)
Amity market one basic system, transport only, which can be used for 8, 16, or 24 track operation on 1 or 2-inch tape (with rapid changeover) at 15 or 30 in/s. Wow and flutter is better than 0.05% DIN. The transport is assembled on an aluminium base plate with separate power supplies, and is fitted with full logic control and motion sensing. It costs about £2890 without heads. A conversion kit (1in to 2in) is available for £275.
The best-known Ampex machine must surely be the remarkable ATR-100, available in all the usual formats up to 4-track, with four speeds, 3¾ to 30 in/s. It has a frequency response that is only ±0.75dB over the usual audio range (100Hz to 15KHz) at 15 in/s. Noise is -81dB (ANSI) at 30 in/s., and wow and flutter is better than 0.03%. This machine has an ingenious drive mechanism that does away with the pinch wheel altogether, relying on a closed-loop servo system to regulate the tape speed. It can be fully remoted, with cueing and varispeed options. The varispeed is so fast settling down that you can almost play tunes on it. Selsync, digital tape counter and advanced-head assembly for disc-cutting are a few of the standard items supplied with this machine, which may be purchased in a number of mounting configurations including console, rack, table-top and portable. It costs a bit, though: prices start at $4800.
Ampex also produce the AG440C, in all formats up to 8-track, all speeds from 3¾ to 30 in/s. The range has a frequency response ± 2dB from 50Hz to 20KHz. at 30 in/s. Noise is less than -70dB at 30 in/s. The machines have all the usual things: full sync, motion sensing, logic, et al, plus remote and varispeed options and NAB/IEC switching. It can be purchased in a number of mounting configurations. Prices start at $3500.
The MM1200 is the 'big' machine from Ampex, and runs 8, 16, or 24 tracks in the usual formats. It is quite an expensive machine, particularly aimed at the top end of the market, but if you're interested, they will supply full details.
Brenell recently introduced their new 8-track machine, the Mini-8. This machine, specially designed for the smaller studio, offers many features including full logic control with touch-sensitive switches and motion sensing, remote control unit with digital counter and return-to-zero, and several other features which would have hitherto have been found only on expensive equipment. Frequency response is given as 30-20KHz, ±2dB; noise level is better than -60 dB. Wow and flutter is quoted as ±0.05% DIN. The machine is impressively sturdy, and can be operated in either the horizontal or vertical positions. Tape width is 1in.
S. C. Cadey, (Contact Details).
This machine is unusual in the sense that it is purely a 2-head machine, utilising a combined record/replay head arrangement like the old Scully machines. This has the advantage that sync and normal replay are the same thing: very clever, because you only need think about 'record' and 'replay' and not sync. Much easier operationally. The machine has full logic but not motion sensing, and is available in 8 or 16-track one-inch, or 16/24-track two-inch. A comprehensive remote unit is available, and the electronics include — rather unusually — valve bias oscillators. Frequency response is ±2 dB between 30 and 18KHz, noise is better than -60 dB and wow and flutter is less than 0.1%. Prices range from £1500 to £3600 depending on configuration.
Ferrograph produce two types of machine. The Logic 7 is 2-track, ¼- or ½-track formats being available. The machine is three-speed, 3¾, 7½ and 15 in/s. The machine has full logic and motion sensing, remote control and Dolby-B options, and the possibility of incorporating a 10W amp and loudspeaker. As far as frequency response goes, 2 dB points are at 30Hz and 20KHz at 15 in/s. Noise is quoted as 60 dB down or better, unweighted, and wow and flutter is 0.1% at 7½ in/s., and 0.08% at 15. The basic price for the Logic 7 is £560.
The other machine is the Studio 8. This is another ¼-inch machine, offering mono or stereo operation. The machine can be supplied in 3¾/7½ or 7½/15 in/s form, and offers full logic and motion sensing, A/B monitoring with headphone output, varispeed and remote options, mic inputs if required, built-in amps, variable-speed spooling, two edit modes and LED elapsed-time display. Quite a package. The machine is available in console or transportable configurations, or it may be rack-mounted. Several other formats are available to order, and the basic price is £2550.
ITAM produce, at present, only one (eight-track) machine but there are plans to increase the range to include an eight-track (810) and sixteen-track (1610) on 1 in tape. The current model, the 805, records eight tracks across ½ in tape. It runs at 15 in/s and the transport is based on the Revox A77 with modular plug-in electronics. The machine features solenoid operated transport functions, 100% varispeed, and facilities for plug-in noise reduction units. A/B switching is provided, along with a headphone output per channel (for octophonic cans?), and the machine offers full sync facilities. It is available in console or table-top versions. This machine is designed specifically with the lower-budget studio in mind, at a price of about £1890. An eight-channel dbx unit is available for an extra £630. Noise is given as 65 dB down, 3 dB points are 40 and 22KHz in normal replay mode, with a more limited response (70-17KHz) on sync, to reduce problems on jumping adjacent tracks. Wow and flutter is quoted as 0.06%.
(Contact Details). Agents in most countries.
Leevers-Rich produce three basic machines: all of them are mono/stereo on ¼ in. tape. Top of the range is the Proline 2000TC, and this machine is shortly to be produced in 4-track half-inch format. The equipment features full TTL logic control, dual crystal-controlled capstans, constant velocity spooling with variable speed (all motors are DC operated), full varispeed, edit mode with dump facility, constant tape tension, LED tape timer, NAB/IEC eq (switched), plug-in headblock, and a host of other facilities and options. As you can imagine, a machine of this calibre is rather expensive, as is the Proline 1000/SC which offers much the same, although for somewhat less outlay. It's impossible to give any real price guidelines as the machines can be supplied in so many different forms. Best to get on to Leevers-Rich for full details of these machines and the E200, described briefly below. These machines have a good reputation, and are well worth a look.
The E200 is a two-speed machine (3¾/7½, 7½/15 or 15/30 in/s) and features logic control, fully modular construction, servo-controlled tape tension, plug in headblock, NAB/IEC eq cards, remote control option and a choice of consoles. Frequency response is given as 40-18KHz at 15 in/s ± 2dB, and the noise (half-track format at 15 in/s) is better than 60 dB down. Wow and flutter is better than 0.06% at 15 in/s.
Lyrec Manufacturing A/S, (Contact Details)
Whilst Lyrec equipment is very much at the top end of the range, we thought them worth including here as they have a very good name in the industry. Don't expect their gear to be cheap, however: in this part of the field, as in most other aspects of sound recording, you get what you pay for.
Lyrec produce one basic machine, the TR532, which can be supplied in eight-track one-inch or 16/24-track two-inch. All three versions operate at 15 and 30 in/s. The machines all feature in full logic and motion sensing, DC servo-driven capstan, digital timer, autolocate, full varispeed, servo wind and rewind with constant tension, and interchangeable head assembly. The autolocate is capable of storing up to 16 locations, and the remote-control unit is extremely comprehensive, including a solo function on each channel as well as the usual safe/ready/sync/repro functions. Frequency response is 60-18KHz, ±1 dB at 30 in/s, and noise (also at 30) is better than 62 dB for 16-track. Wow and flutter is better than 0.04%.
Next month we'll continue our look at professional and semi-pro tape machines, with manufacturers M to Z. We'd very much like to hear your comments on the usefulness (or not) of this survey, so drop us a line.
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!