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Author Topic: Disabling tape counters.......  (Read 4381 times)

Offline Red Grant

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Disabling tape counters.......
« on: April 13, 2011, 07:32:13 PM »
I am really confused on this issue.   How many of you have actually disabled the tape counter, and heard the improved sonics as a result.

I personally don't care that much about tape counters anyway, since I hardlly use them since I believe in using FF, RW as little as possible (for better tape handling/storage, wear/tear on the tape and the machines), and most of the reels that I actually listen to are my own mixes.

But then some supposedly very knowledgeable people told me that disabling tape counters for better sonic is simply irrational, and it doesn't do anything for better sonics.


Hyok (Tony) Kim,  yes, this is my real name.

Btw.  How do you know it's my real name?  Just because I say so?

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Offline docb

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Re: Disabling tape counters.......
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2011, 09:16:02 AM »
It depends upon the tape deck. In a machine with a more sophisticated counter setup, like a Studer or Otari with a shutter wheel attached to a roller turning in a ball bearing and a sensor that feeds an electronic display there would be no advantage to removing it. On the Technics machines the mechanical counter is driven by a belt (o-ring) around the reversing idler that runs around a nylon wheel on a fixed shaft that turns the counter. The wheel and counter are notorious for shrieking on an older machine when it is in fast wind. This would tend to indicate a friction problem that could contribute to speed instability, even if CLA'd. There is an interesting article on the Web about a machine called the Magnetosaurus. The way that the rotating parts were analyzed and treated to improve the speed stability and reduce flutter is a good read.

All that said, we're not trying to convert anyone to some religion. If someone wants the belt left on, we leave it on. I have taken the time to check flutter on a stock RS1500 vs. one we modded with all of our mods, not just removing the counter drive belt. They measured the same but one could hear a pretty clear difference. This tends to indicate that the improvements we make have to do with reducing scrape flutter, a friction induced issue.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline MylesAstor

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Re: Disabling tape counters.......
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2011, 09:34:51 PM »
It depends upon the tape deck. In a machine with a more sophisticated counter setup, like a Studer or Otari with a shutter wheel attached to a roller turning in a ball bearing and a sensor that feeds an electronic display there would be no advantage to removing it. On the Technics machines the mechanical counter is driven by a belt (o-ring) around the reversing idler that runs around a nylon wheel on a fixed shaft that turns the counter. The wheel and counter are notorious for shrieking on an older machine when it is in fast wind. This would tend to indicate a friction problem that could contribute to speed instability, even if CLA'd. There is an interesting article on the Web about a machine called the Magnetosaurus. The way that the rotating parts were analyzed and treated to improve the speed stability and reduce flutter is a good read.

All that said, we're not trying to convert anyone to some religion. If someone wants the belt left on, we leave it on. I have taken the time to check flutter on a stock RS1500 vs. one we modded with all of our mods, not just removing the counter drive belt. They measured the same but one could hear a pretty clear difference. This tends to indicate that the improvements we make have to do with reducing scrape flutter, a friction induced issue.

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~boyk/rep-int.htm
Myles B. Astor
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Offline ironbut

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Re: Disabling tape counters.......
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2011, 01:15:31 AM »
Hey Red,

I think you'll find that some folks that are in the business of rebuilding these machines back to spec aren't concerned about absolute playback performance beyond what the original manufacturers envisioned. Rather, they're efforts are focused on bringing the machines back to original specs and as reliable as is practical at a price point.
That said, I can say from my own tweaking on the RS15xx series machines that the friction caused by the elements in the tape path have an audible effect on the sound. It would seem that the elements before the playback head have a larger effect than those after. I think that the "Isoloop" system employed by Technics complicates matters and I doubt that it's quite as difficult a "balancing act" to get all the elements to work in harmony on other machines.
The reversing roller is one of these elements and that is where the counter gets it's rotational energy to operate. As Doc said, tape counters aren't created equal and unfortunately, the Technics counter looks to be about the same as one you might find on a cheap cassette machine. What's more, there are two belts between the reversing roller and the counter. All these moving parts lead to erratic mechanical loads on the roller which will either lead to slipping between the tape and the roller or even worse, variations in tape speed (not likely but possible).
These things are certainly in the realm of "finer points" and I'm sure that the difference in sound would be difficult to hear on less resolving playback systems or tapes. It certainly wouldn't have been high on my list of things to do to improve the sound, but I did get the screeching counter every once in a while so the decision was an easy one for me.
One interesting thing to note is that, while at MiCom, Dale Manquen did a great deal of work on the reversing roller on the 3M Isoloop machines in attempts to lower mass and balancing the mechanical load.
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Offline docb

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Re: Disabling tape counters.......
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2011, 09:38:10 AM »
I'll just add that Shawn spent about half an hour yesterday taking apart yet another screeching, cogging Technics tape counter for a CLA. While in there we saw another weird problem we see on occasion - a lack of a second spring pulling on each tension roller arm. We've seen a few machines with only a single spring on each arm. Doesn't seem to be a case of an early version that was later updated, more like somewhere in the middle or end of the manufacturing lifetime of these machines someone just left those springs off. In those cases the arms typically don't have enough pull on them to engage the microswitches. So along with a CLA on the counter this machine got a second pair of springs for the tension roller arms.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline Red Grant

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Re: Disabling tape counters.......
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2011, 06:57:32 PM »
Thanks for clarifying the issue.   

Btw.  I know I wasn't supposed to post about what I 'heard' from what others 'said', but refer them to post their views here directly.

I couldn't since their views on this is very dogmatic, close-minded, and not very polite.


Hyok (Tony) Kim,  yes, this is my real name.

Btw.  How do you know it's my real name?  Just because I say so?

2 Pioneer RT-2022, 4 Beocord 2000 deluxe, Beomaster 8000, 6000, 5000 (80's version), 4000,    Nikko Alpha III, Grundig RTV Receivers, Beovox  RL140 Speakers.