Can you believe it? Tape Project is ten years old! Thanks to everyone who has supported us in introducing studio quality tape reproduction to the audiophile community!

Author Topic: The Joy of the Tape Project  (Read 13448 times)

Offline kipdent

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The Joy of the Tape Project
« on: January 01, 2010, 07:11:41 PM »
A very Happy New Year to everyone! 2010 stands to be a wonderful year for tape enthusiasts.

As a relatively new Forum member and recent selective subscriber to series 2, my level of excitement is almost unrestrained. The Thelonius Monk "Brilliant Corners" tape, the first one I've received, is by far the best sounding music I have ever heard on my system, and I can't thank Dan, Paul and Romo enough for enabling people to experience near-Master tape sound in their own homes. It is transformative! As a result, I wanted to share a little more about my journey into the Tape Project and the tape machine I acquired and had refurbished.

First I want to say that Steve Koto (ironbut) and Ki Choi have been amazingly patient and helpful throughout this journey--thank you both very much. There have been several other Forum members who have helped me, too, making this one of the most entertaining, educational, and helpful audio resources on the Internet. Dan--kudos to you for helping it stay civil and instructive. And thanks to all the people I met at Dan and Eileen's home this past September. It is the event that "made" the decision for me to pursue tape, and everyone there was very helpful. Now on to the story...

I know this is preaching to the choir (and I've posted this on another audio forum, too), but I have always been an unabashed fan of analog music reproduction, and have been known to get a little irascible towards those who either find digital good enough or even preferable to analog. Like many here, I suspect, the "best" analog reproduction meant vinyl phonographs. In my case, vinyl is played from a Micro Seiki RX-5000 turntable (coupled, of course, to other equipment I enjoy), and enters my listening space through a pair of personally-restored Apogee Acoustics Scintilla all-ribbon speakers. But then the event at Dan Schmalle's home happened, and my notions of what really good analog sounded like changed forever. As I said, when I left that day, I was certain I would become a subscriber to the Tape Project, and almost immediately I began my search for an appropriate tape machine.

After many weeks of detailed research, I finally chose a Studer A80 RC Mk II tape machine (though I can hear BrianC moan!). The man I purchased it from had recently acquired an Ampex ATR-102 and decided to part with the Studer, but before shipping it to me, he brought it to John French of JRF Magnetics in New Jersey. I'm sure many of you know John, and he was a joy to work with to refurbish the machine. He performed a number of restorative procedures for it, including relapping the heads, as well as replacing every capacitor in the audio chain, power supply and transport electronics with modern equivalents. Additionally, I had some esthetic items replaced with brand-new parts from Audiohouse in Switzerland. These included new transport control buttons and a cover for the LED tape counter. The results are a machine that looks quite new, as you'll see in my link below. Though the restoration process and anticipation of its arrival was fun, its playback performance is at the core of my excitement and, therefore, I can heartily endorse the A80 RC Mk II as a TP playback machine as well as John French's outstanding handiwork.

In December it all came together. "Brilliant Corners" arrived just two days before the machine did. After checking everything out, I set up the machine in my listening environment and loaded the album. I also spontaneously invited a few friends over to share in this first listening experience with the A80.

O M G?

I believe there are few things in life that truly stagger one's perceptions, especially ones closely tied to preconceptions like reproduced music. The music that flowed into the room from this tape had a "liveness" to it that was unprecedented in my experience, or to any of my friends who had joined me. As MikeL has said here and in other forums, really good 45 RPM vinyl pressings seem often hard to beat. But with TP 013 on the A80, never have I felt such a reaction to reproduced music--it was completely akin to a live concert, or sitting in a control room in a studio (which I have been able to do twice in my life). Rather than quickly exchanging adjectives about the sound with my friends (a pastime we're all familiar with), we all sat motionless and speechless. Finally, one of my friends extended his hand out to me to shake--implicitly signaling a hearty "congratulations" on what we were all hearing, without having to say a word. As the evening progressed, some attempts were made to describe this aural elation, including "amazing timbre," "transparency" and most frequently, references to a "spatial AMBIENCE" that was many times greater than anything we'd ever heard before, but words still fall short.

This complete transformation in what can be expected from a sound reproduction system is almost overwhelming to me. I had no idea that changing only the SOURCE could make such a difference--an order of magnitude difference. No amplifier, no preamplifier, no cable, not even a speaker change has EVER hit me like this change. And contrary to another intuition (or edict, depending on who you are), that a simplified signal chain must be the path to the holy grail, tape machines are not very simple devices--and few are tube-based. So something else is clearly happening. When I play a tape on the A80, I am fully transported into the musical experience before me. It's almost a foreign feeling since it is happening in a living room, but it's not entirely foreign since many of us experientially know what live, unamplified music can sound like.

I'm really quite surprised that this discovery--shared by many others around the world and especially on this Forum--has not not been yelled about from the mountaintops more frequently! It's not just an incremental improvement in sound, it is a monumental, awe-inspiring improvement!

Here is a link to a website that shows several pictures of the Studer A80 C Mk II machine I acquired. During my research, I was frustrated with the lack of images that showed how the machine was laid out, or how the tape shield worked, or how tape was loaded into the path, so I made an effort to be as revealing as possible with these images. I hope you enjoy perusing them. And I now get to include a tape machine as part of my signature line!

Happy New Year to all--

Kip Peterson

Images (clicking on thumbnails will enlarge the images):

Studer A80 RC Mk II
http://gallery.me.com/kip/100054

Apogee Acoustics Scintilla restoration
www.kippeterson.com

Micro Seiki RX-5000
http://web.me.com/kip/micro
Kip Peterson
Vintage-centric system with Apogee Acoustics Scintilla ribbon loudspeakers, Micro Seiki RX-5000 turntable and other odd bits of tube and solid state gear. Now a proud owner of a Studer A80 RC Mk II tape machine!

Offline ironbut

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Re: The Joy of the Tape Project
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2010, 08:01:31 PM »
Wow, that's just plain gorgeous Kip!
Those are some fantastic pictures too. I'm always happy to help folks out with their tape rigs and hearing how happy you are with yours is "icing on the cake".
 I've always thought that the A80 was perhaps the most beautiful machines out there. When you first see one you just have to touch it! It looks like you got yourself a perfect example.
Good for you!

Considering the technical difficulties, choosing and assembling a system for listening to these tapes is never an easy thing and it requires a certain leap of faith from time to time. I hope that there will come a time when there will be enough well set up systems like yours and first hand knowledge here in this forum so the days "making the best guess" will be a thing of the past.
Thanks for sharing your personal journey.

On a more personal note;
That flight case looks first class! How much padding surrounds the machine? I've got a "road case" for my machine but it only has an inch of padding around it so it wouldn't survive a serious fall (or throw ). That looks like something that the gorillas at the airport would have a tough time destroying.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2010, 10:20:09 PM by ironbut »
steve koto
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Offline kipdent

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Re: The Joy of the Tape Project
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2010, 08:15:47 PM »
Wow, that's just plain gorgeous Kip! Those are some fantastic pictures too.

On a more personal note;
That flight case looks first class! How much padding surrounds the machine? That looks like something that the gorillas at the airport would have a tough time destroying.

Thanks, Steve! Coming from you, your comments mean a lot.

The flight case was pretty impressive. The gentleman I purchased the A80 from has a contact for the guy that makes them and I'l try to get that info for everyone. I'd say there was probably 2 inches of high density foam around the periphery and top of the machine, and probably a foot of foam underneath the machine! This was because originally the cart and meter bridge were planned to be included, but they would not fit and had to be shipped separately, so there was plenty of room for the tape machine.

Take care--
Kip Peterson
Vintage-centric system with Apogee Acoustics Scintilla ribbon loudspeakers, Micro Seiki RX-5000 turntable and other odd bits of tube and solid state gear. Now a proud owner of a Studer A80 RC Mk II tape machine!

Offline Studer Fool

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Re: The Joy of the Tape Project
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2010, 08:47:07 PM »
Wow!  that's one purdy tape machine ya got ther!  No goin back now your ruined for life!  ;-)

So Kip did you ever get your desired hybrid eq worked out?  -> NAB @ 7 1/2 ips and CCIR/IEC @ 15 ips

-cdw
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Studer A80-VU & Studer A80-RC (and Doc's lovingly modified Ampex 934 with Seduction Tape Head Preamp Combo!)

Offline kipdent

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Re: The Joy of the Tape Project
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2010, 10:29:06 PM »
Wow!  that's one purdy tape machine ya got ther!  No goin back now your ruined for life!  ;-)

So Kip did you ever get your desired hybrid eq worked out?  -> NAB @ 7 1/2 ips and CCIR/IEC @ 15 ips

CDW--yes! John French at JRF Magnetics modified the EQ daughter cards on the record and repro cards in the A80 so that when it is set to 7 1/2 ips, the EQ is NAB; when set to 15 ips, the EQ is CCIR/IEC! This is a dream come true as this allows me to seamlessly go between Tape Project playback and prerecorded tape playback with no switches or thinking--just what I need!
Kip Peterson
Vintage-centric system with Apogee Acoustics Scintilla ribbon loudspeakers, Micro Seiki RX-5000 turntable and other odd bits of tube and solid state gear. Now a proud owner of a Studer A80 RC Mk II tape machine!

Offline radeng

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Re: The Joy of the Tape Project
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2010, 12:05:19 AM »
Hello fellow tape enthusiasts.  I just came across this site and will be keeping an eye on it. 

What a great idea!  If business improves for my little company, I will be a TP subscriber for sure. 

My current collection of decks is small compared to many of those here.  For playback of consumer tapes (some of which were my dad's in the fifties and sixties) I have a working Pioneer RT-707 and a Tandberg 64 that needs some love.  For 2 track a very low mileage Ampex 440 (with a mono block, a stereo block, and a 1/2" 4 track block), a 440C that needs to be rebuilt, a Scully 280 in pieces, a radio station beater Otari 5050B and a pretty nice daily driver Tascam 38. 

Kind of funny, my studio control room has a Studer audio console, CD player, and cassette deck, but no reel decks.  The only Studer deck I have a lot of hours on was an A67 at a radio station early on in my career as a broadcast engineer.  It was kind of a dog, but they probably fixed a lot of the issues with the replacement B67.   My dream machine would be a A820 or a refurbed A80.   

Looking forward to hanging out here in the new year.

j
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Offline Brian C.

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Re: The Joy of the Tape Project
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2010, 05:32:10 AM »
After many weeks of detailed research, I finally chose a Studer A80 RC Mk II tape machine (though I can hear BrianC moan!).

No moans here mate :o) It's my buddy at the studio (who hears things I don't) who calls it "The Fog Machine". The master dubs I receive off it sound fine to my frazzled old ears. Only a C37 is going to satisfy his itch LOL

'Brilliant Corners' (along with 'Creek Bank') is set to be my New Year indulgence.
Brian Clark, One Inch Studio, London, UK.

Offline c1ferrari

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Re: The Joy of the Tape Project
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2010, 05:56:05 PM »
Hi Kip,

I just wanted to confirm your experiences regarding analogue reel-to-reel media and Tape Project efforts in particular...magnificent, spectacular, and utterly engaging - no hyperbole!  I'm interested in becoming a selective subscriber at this time and must finalize my selections before the end of the month.

Vbr,
Sam
Sam Lucero
SPQCV
:-)