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Author Topic: Anyone familiar with the Sony MCI machines?  (Read 10621 times)

Offline xcortes

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Xavier Cortes

Offline ironbut

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Re: Anyone familiar with the Sony MCI machines?
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2009, 05:30:06 PM »
Hey Xavier,

I know that Charles King had a 110 so he may be able to comment on that particular model. Richard Hess has a number of them (APR 5000 series) and Studer A80's. He prefers the Studers. I believe that one of the reasons for this is parts availability (last time I heard, Richard had over 20 machines, a number of them for parts).
If you're looking for a solid multi track machine, you might look into the big Otari or Ampex machines. There are quite a few still in service and any repairs would be a fraction of what the competing Studers would require. 
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Offline Ki Choi

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Re: Anyone familiar with the Sony MCI machines?
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2009, 09:58:10 PM »
Two of the biggest challenges for Sony APR and MCI machines are disapearing trival knowlege and difficulties in seriving these complex designs -that was not meant for serviceability...  Unless you are planning to work on these machines yourself with bloody knucles and all.., lucky enough to have a second working machine (with two hard-to-find extension boards..) for reference when the problems happen, and have room for a donor machine for parts, I would agree with Steve's suggestion to look at other recorders. 

There are two guys who used to work at the Sony factory that contributes on Yahoo Sony APR forum off and on.  Unfortunately, nobody kept all the service bulletins and their memories are fading.

For pure sonic comparison, the Studer A80RC edges out the Sony APR-5003.  On the other hand, Sony's funtionalities and flexibilities make them much more usuable for our TP purpose than the Studer, IMHO.
Ki Choi

Offline High and Outside

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Re: Anyone familiar with the Sony MCI machines?
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2009, 11:02:06 AM »
I have had quite a few of the MCI machines. When Sony bought them they continued to make the MCI models for a while, then made the APR models which were new designs. They are different animals. The one you linked to is described as a 1/4" machine, but the pictures clearly show a 1/2" four track. It's the MCI design made during the Sony years.

The quality of the audio electronics is poor, compared to the standards that most of us as audiophiles are accustomed to. And I don't think it's a good sounding transport either. It's a pleasant transport to operate, however, and still my favorite of all for editing.

I have stated before that I think that the transport is responsible for the majority of the sound of a tape machine. One of my MCI's played a part in my reaching that conclusion. Years ago I had an MCI 24 track at a studio I owned in Sausalito. Long story condensed to medium length, I had a tech replace every resistor, every capacitor, and every IC in all 24 channels of the audio electronics with audiophile grade parts. It sounded vastly different, mostly for the better, but still never had the sonic solidity and heft of the Ampex or Studer machines. That experience, and everything since, has confirmed the importance of the transport to the sonic performance.
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Offline xcortes

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Re: Anyone familiar with the Sony MCI machines?
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2009, 03:21:15 PM »
Thanks guys. I hoped I had found a sleeper. It's clearly not!
Xavier Cortes

Offline steveidosound

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Re: Anyone familiar with the Sony MCI machines?
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2009, 06:50:39 PM »
While we are here, does anyone have any insight on the relative merits of other slightly lesser known brands of studio and semi-pro machines, both on their own and as candidates for Tape Project decks?
I am thinking of the Scully, Crown, Magnecord, etc. decks of various eras. 
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Offline High and Outside

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Scully anyone?
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2009, 09:49:45 PM »
The Scully's are fine transports in the style that descends from the Ampex 350. In other words, it's a mechanical transport, not really electronically controlled. It is capable of very satisfying performance, which is a testament to how overbuilt they are (part of the Ampex design philosophy as well) and to the precision with which they were made. As owner of one of Scully's mastering lathes, I have a high appreciation for their manufacturing abilities. I fully expect that these machines will outlast all of us.

The electronics are OK, nothing special.

The Crowns and Magnecords are not, in my opinion, in the same league.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2009, 09:51:16 PM by High and Outside »
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Offline studiochap

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Re: Anyone familiar with the Sony MCI machines?
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2009, 07:45:58 PM »
The biggest problems with the MCI JH-24 and JH-110 machines come from the Molex connectors. The flux used to tin the Molex pins at manufacture reacts with the flux used in the MCI solder joints attaching them to  the PCBs. Lots of joints will go cold, and you'll see circular cracks inside the solder roundels, so the evidence is visual as well.

If you remove the transport cards from the motherboard, and then pull off all the Molex connectors at the rear of the board, you can then unscrew the securing screws and get the motherboard out. At that point you take off the old solder with a desoldering pump etc before re-soldering them.  Don't just touch up the old joints.After re-assembly the transport usually goes like a Ferrari..

The JH-24 machines are great for fast multitrack overdubbing ( unlike the Otari MTR-90 which slows to a crawl at it approaches the locate point...) and the remote and locator are great

I found  both the 2" and 1/4" MCI machines very reliable. Bulbs would need changing on the VU's, there would be occasional PSU faults, and we had to have the tach drives replaced once on the 24 track ( quite a skilled job...). Also the interaction between the alignment pots means an inexperienced person trying t align a machine may assume there is a problem when eg the bass end alignment controls have no effect after they've attempted a machine alignment. This can be rectified by centring the multiturn pots and aligning again ( usually 3 times...)

They have ceramic capstans, which in the UK we cleaned with GIF cleaner, whilst being careful not to let any get into the capstan bearing.

There is an optional Logic Annunciator card you find on a lot of those machines - makes transport logic problem diagnosis a little easier.

I used a JH-24 and a couple of stereo JH-110 ,machines for 5 years or so, partnered with a Trident Series 80 mixing console. This was a good solid sonically-reliable partnership , without producing "oh-wow" sonics.


Offline stellavox

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Re: Anyone familiar with the Sony MCI machines?
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2009, 04:35:48 PM »
Hi Xavier,

Yes I had a "full" JH110 (1/4 inch - with 1/2 inch, 2 track conversion stuff) like that in the picture and still have a 1/4 inch transport.  Did have to troubleshoot the constant tension electronics on the one I sold (to a local recording studio), and the motor on the one I kept goes intermittent from time to time - yes probably the Molex connectors.  I do like the transport, works very nicely.  Am currently using it with modified Inovonics playback electronics and plan to listen to it with the Cello electronics.

Here's a hint - MCI used heads (you figure out the brand) that I really like the sound of.

Charles