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Author Topic: Novice seeking guidance. What machine to get  (Read 3527 times)

Offline LCatGA

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Novice seeking guidance. What machine to get
« on: July 29, 2012, 09:57:09 PM »
I recently became very intresteed in R2R machines after hearing some of the marvelos sound at NY Stereophile show.
I' very expirienced audiophile with state of the art Digital(Esoteric P-0 modified by Omachi himself and 3D Audio vesion of Audionote 7 DAC) and vinyl (Walker Black Diamond 3 as a main table, Forsell Air Ref, Acoustic Solid Royal, Verdie and Origin Live Conqueror, - tonearms are Grahm Phantom II, Triplanar, Kuzma 4Point, OL Illustrios,  with Zyx Sigma, Zyx Universe, Zyx Omega,  Ortophone MC90A, London Decca Refference, VDH top of the line Colibri, Brinkman EMT cartriges)

Rest of the reproduction chain is also  top notch.

Know nothing about tapes and machines but I'm trainable :)
I'm looking for suggestion for top-notch machines - something with great sound and some versatility

I need some versatility since I do not have a good source of tapes which means I'll be playing stuff from e-bay

I'm OK with budjets up to $15K

Thanks for any suggestions
Leon Rivkin

Offline ironbut

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Re: Novice seeking guidance. What machine to get
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2012, 12:21:31 PM »
Hi LCatGa (btw, we use our real names here,.. please read the Forum Rules at the top of the index),

There are several machines that have come to be favored by our members here. Many can be very reasonable for the basic machine. Probably the best value IMHO are the Otari 5050's. The Technics RS1500 series (1500,1506 and 1520) are also very nice machines but popularity has increased the asking prices to about twice the Otari's.
Be aware that most of us use these machines as transport only and employ outboard electronics, for playback.
Bottlehead offers a range of outboard electronics and there are currently 3 other solutions offered by other manufacturers (Doshi Audio, KingCello, deHavilland).
To use these "outboard" preamps (very similar to a phono stage), the stock machines will need simple modifications to bypass their internal electronics. Most anyone with basic soldering skills and electronic knowledge can perform these mods.
There are also a couple of "one box" solutions. The United Audio and Sonorus modified decks. These are ground up rebuilds of pro-sumer machines and while I don't have very much experience with them, I know Arian Jensen who builds the Sororus and I trust that his machines are quite nice.
Also, if you have the space and budget, the big studio machines are the way to go. Machines like the Ampex ATR 100 series or Studer master recorders (820,A80) are what all of use should be aspiring to but I don't really recommend this path for novices.

If you check out the Tape Project's home page, there is excellent info and pictures of what is currently recommended.

There is more info regarding other machines in the Tape Machine Compatibility Database which can be found at the top of the Reel to Reel Tape Machines forum.

Another good reference source is the "Beginners Guide" located in a sticky in the General Forum. It will help you to understand the different elements of magnetic tape playback and help you in your search for a good used machine.

I recommend that for pure novices to tape, you shop around in your area (maybe through Craigslist) so you can look at a couple of machines, have the sellers run it through it's paces for you but not buy the first one you see. Of course you may get lucky and look at a "minty" machine right off the bat, but without some depth of experience, you won't realize if a machine is running sluggishly or if it's behavior is erratic.
You should also try and find a local tech who has experience with working on reel to reel machines (they are getting harder to find). If you find a local machine that seems good, it would be worth it to take the machine for a quick check before buying.
If you do buy that machine (or if you buy one that isn't local) have the tech go through and do any regular maintenance and have the head adjustments checked. Much of this requires special test tapes and test gear.
Having a pro go over your machine is invaluable since it gives you a baseline for how the machine should perform.

This is a pretty deep subject and everyone's priorities are different so spend some time checking out and searching for info here before making up your mind.

Hope this helps.
steve koto
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Offline LCatGA

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Re: Novice seeking guidance. What machine to get
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2012, 09:17:04 PM »
It does give me a very good place to start. I belive I should be moving on to the studio machines right off the bat as I've been down this path before - you start out with VPI TNT 5 - decent turn table and then 16 TT later you end up with walker black diamond and you do take 20 minutes to readjust level, air pressure dampening fluid point  and belt tension before begining playback and adjust VTA for each record to get the best out of it. Looking back I understand what $$$ I loss buying and selling tables, tonearms and cartriges would have payed for most of the TTs I keep now :(

 Another time I just wanted a sport car to king of play a bit - lets start soft and do a little bit of mods - well - 3 years later I have original 996 GT2 widowmaker and heavily modified to boot - close to 800hp and fully redone suspension and tranny. But with a money Ive lost during that jorney I could have paid for it and another Ferrary or Maserati convertable for suuny days.

I hope I learned my lesson and I should move sraight to the top of the heap provided what it has enough versatility - I do not know what I do not know yet

Your recomendations about cheking machine out are very helpfull - I think I  will procure machine from couple of guys I trust

Which of big studio machines are near top of the heap

I'm leaning towards Otari MA15
Leon Rivkin