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Author Topic: update on Studer A-820  (Read 16329 times)

Offline mikel

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update on Studer A-820
« on: January 24, 2008, 12:23:03 AM »
Hello All,

i had purchased a Studer A-820 back in November but could not find a proper crate to safely ship it or someone to 'get it right'. Paul Stubblebine suggested i contact Fred Thal (who runs the Studer list) and so far i have been very satisfied that Fred is the right guy for Studer help. for the last three weeks i've been reading posts on the Studer list......very entertaining and educational.

Fred constructed a purpose built crate, shipped it to the seller in Austin, Texas, and the A-820 safely and securely arrived at Fred's shop in Ukiah, California yesterday. Tonight Fred e-mailed his initial inspection report to me and it is obvious Fred is 'da man' on Studer's. He has removed and inspected 28 of the circut boards so far.

Fred says my A-820 is remarkably clean and original (not hacked up and abused.....'dead stock' is how he put it) but also is a bit dirty inside (normal for a 21 year old machine that has mostly sat idle) and in need of updating as it has been hardly used. i do not yet know what the tariff will be for the work but i am confident i will soon have a top condition A-820.

Fred's list of essential fixes and optional fixes is not yet complete......so i'm not yet out of the woods....but i'm on my way. I do enjoy Fred's very thorough way of communicating the details of his inspection and do recommend Fred as a 'go-to' guy for Studer work.

stay tuned.
Mike Lavigne

Offline ironbut

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2008, 07:00:39 PM »
Thanks Mike, it's too bad you couldn't have a web cam delivered to Fred's shop so we could all watch the progress.
steve koto
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Offline mikel

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2008, 09:30:00 AM »
Fred completed his initial inspection and sent me an estimate for the scope of work he recommended. It included a few repairs, relapping the heads (sent out to JFR) , a thorough cleaning, and an update to MK II status. It was not cheap and kinda took my breath away......so i took a week to consult with SWMBO (the wife).....but ultimately decided to proceed. The parts have been ordered from Switzerland, the heads are getting done, the machine is being cleaned.

Thru this process with Fred i have been learning a great deal about the 'Studer' view of the world of reel to reel tape players. I wonder if anyone else has been following the recent threads on the Studer List.........i've learned more there over the last month (although much of it is way over my head) than i learned in 6 months of research regarding reel to reel on the web. Great stuff and very entertaining.

My decision to proceed with this expensive process had mostly to do with Fred's explaination of the significance of the 'time-based' accuracy of the A-820 compared to other reel to reel players. My turntable has this advantage over all other turntables so i am familiar with the sonic advantages of getting the speed correct. I am anxious to hear how it sounds.

Fred said that the Studer A80 was an easier machine to maintain and the mods for it had been more researched and developed; but although it sounded great it could never quite match the accuracy of the A-820. It will be interesting to hear how it compares to my ATR-102.
Mike Lavigne

Offline Studer Fool

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2008, 12:25:56 PM »
Thanks for the update!

"I wonder if anyone else has been following the recent threads on the Studer List.."
I've been soaking it in for about a year now.  If you are interested in r2r and Studers in particular it is the place to subscribe.  They use the somewhat limited majordomo which is frustrating for many (me too). 

I have two Studer A80's and have just started the dialog with Fred for a capstan rebuild, and today got the info that the cost will be 1,150.00 CHF = 1,051.86 USD !!!  I'm so upset I almost could puke!  (However, it is a ball bearing(like the A820) instead of sintered bearing though)  Meanwhile Athan on their web site lists a rebuild at $300.  I've got a LOT of soul searching to do.

Anyway, all I can say is that to have an A-820 makes you one lucky "some-na-a-beach" (if you will pardon my french).  There is no finer machine in my estimation.

Yours truly in Studer lust,
The Studer Fool.
Christopher D. Wait
Charter Subscriber SN# 026
Studer A80-VU & Studer A80-RC (and Doc's lovingly modified Ampex 934 with Seduction Tape Head Preamp Combo!)

Offline heideana

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2008, 06:05:41 PM »
I luv the Studer list for its' information and I've learned enough to become a Studer fool -- :)  The downside of the list is that its' hard to obtain various subject threads, since it doesn't have a GUI to navigate it. 
Studer A810 and Otari MTR-15...Klipsch CWIII's, KG2's & RF7's

Truth is a kind of error, so vaporize it to find your way to heaven, or at least to a smile...

Offline ironbut

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2008, 06:26:12 PM »
So Studer list guys, what's the difference between the A80 RC and the VU?
steve koto
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Offline Studer Fool

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2008, 08:38:19 PM »
Ironbut asks: "what's the difference between the A80 RC and the VU?"

The fastest answer is to state that which is the same about the RC and the VU.  And that is that they both have the same transport, including the transport electricals as well as mechanicals.  Which is saying alot as the A80 transport is admired and respected by everyone who knows them.

The A80-VU came first and was designed to be the top-of-the line studio machine in its day.  The VU was available as both as 2", 1" and 1/2" multi-track recorder as well as 1/2" and 1/4" 2-track mixdown recorders.  As such modularity was maximized and the audio electronics could be swapped amongst them all.  Also these audio electronics where mostly mounted above the transport deck (which makes these decks wonderful to sit at and edit tape on).  This of necessity results in a longer signal cable length.  Thus it is my surmise (and I note Richard Hess's too) that this is the reason for the low impedance heads utilized on all -VU A80's. 

The A80/RC however, uses high impedance heads, and the audio electronics are located under the deck, doable because the RC was never a multi-track, only essentially a two track (or thereabouts).  The R, and the RC which soon followed and replaced it, were in response to demands from the Radio broadcasting industry who wanted the A80 transport but at a cheaper price, and thus to fill that demand the RC came with "cheaper" electronics.  Also as mono capability is important in broadcasting there is an interesting channel separation arrangement and adjustment to the RC audio electronics.  What is also interesting is that while the -VU employed a number of IC op-amps, the RC audio-path was built with all discrete devices.  Even where a quick look at the schematics appears to show potentially an IC op-amp in the RC, it turns out upon closer inspection actually to be a discrete device op-amp!

Of note to Tape Project subscribers is that for the A80-VU it is only a simple twist of the alignment screwdriver to flick the -VU EQ from NAB to CCIR/IEC.  The A80/RC on the other hand requires pulling out the playback and record cards and swapping out small piggybacked EQ boards thereon.  I have not yet gotten these EQ boards for IEC EQ myself and thus I have not yet played The Tape Project tapes on my A80/RC.  Something I am very curious to try for myself.
Christopher D. Wait
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Studer A80-VU & Studer A80-RC (and Doc's lovingly modified Ampex 934 with Seduction Tape Head Preamp Combo!)

Offline ironbut

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2008, 01:36:55 AM »
Cool, thanks Chris. Richard Hess had relayed his preference to the RC, sound wise, and now I know why.
steve koto
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Offline mikel

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2008, 08:01:43 PM »
i have a question.

Fred Thal has been sorting out my A-820 (the subject of this thread).....and while i was waiting i noticed that he had an A80/RC--ML-5 for sale on ebay for big bucks....$17k.....that was a month ago. The ML-5 version of the A-80 is modified with John Curl designed original Mark Levinson electronics and (according to Fred) is a particularly excellent sounding playback deck. This particular unit (an original RC version based) is original and in particularly excellent condition.

We discussed a trade for my A-820 and i have been mulling over the decision for the last few weeks. Fred thinks that first of all, the A80 is likely a more 'friendly' machine for me to own.....as far as likely repairs and fickleness. He also thinks the ML-5 output electronics are going to be superior to anything i might get 'out there'.

Since Fred is the authority on A-820's and A-80's i should probably take his advice. But before i do i thought i would ask here if anyone here can offer any advice? it is very frustrating that there is no information at all to help with this decision.

thanks in advance.

Mikel
Mike Lavigne

Offline mstcraig

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2008, 08:26:52 PM »
It may sound silly, but perhaps you might try reaching Mark Levinson (The Man), or John Curl through contact with Parasound might help you. After all, they would certainly know the answers:)
Craig Sypnier
(Magnepan, VPI, Sumiko, Shure,
Belles Research, ReVox (A-77 and B-77), Scully 280-B, Teac A-2300SD, Nordost)

Offline mstcraig

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2008, 08:44:25 PM »
A further word, if I may. A guy by the name of Dean Roumanis used the Mark Levinson/Studer ML-5 machine to make a series of recordings in the early 1980's, mainly releasing these masters on 15ips, NAB, Open Reel tape copies to the public. I am very fortunate to own one such tape, that being Dean's "Roumanis Recordings Demonstration Tape #1". I brought this very tape with me to NYC last year to play on the Tape Project machine in the Magico room. I selected the last track, the Rheinberger Organ Concerto #3. I was positively astonished by what I heard, and my tape received the only STANDING OVATION of the day at the conclusion of the selection from all those present! Sadly, Dean is no longer with us, he passed away in July of 2005. His last job was as President of Krell Industries. I wrote an email to him in April of 2005 about his tape recording adventures. He wrote back to me, and said it was nice to hear from someone who still enjoyed his earlier work. I count that email as a prized possession. If I were you, Sir, I'd get the ML-5. Craig
Craig Sypnier
(Magnepan, VPI, Sumiko, Shure,
Belles Research, ReVox (A-77 and B-77), Scully 280-B, Teac A-2300SD, Nordost)

Offline mikel

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2008, 11:22:55 PM »
Craig,

thank you for taking the time to respond. your story about Dean Roumanis, the ML-5 and your tape is very helpful.

and i thank you for your recommendation that i proceed with the ML-5.....i'm leaning that way.

i will consider contacting Mr. Curl about his perspective.

i wonder if anyone has an idea how DeParavincini output electronics would compare to the ML-5? or the ML-5 to the Aria?

Mikel

Mike Lavigne

Offline ironbut

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2008, 12:19:06 AM »
Talk about tough decisions! The studio at 1430 Mission is chock full of TdP electronics so I'd email Paul about the sound. John Curl hangs out quite a bit on the propellerhead forum on AA. I think that if you ping him there, you should get a response pretty fast. If you want to get hold of Mark Levinson, you can reach him through the Burwin Bobcat website.
BTW, when you corner Curl, ask him about the mods on  the Technics decks he did too. Or better yet, tell him to post his thoughts right here. There was a thread a while back regarding the ML-5 under the title of audiophile tape machines (or something like that). Just do a search for ML-5 and you should find it. There were a couple of guys that had used one and although I don't think they spend much time here anymore, their contact info is probably still in the members listings.
Here's that thread;
http://www.tapeproject.com/smf/index.php/topic,56.0.html
« Last Edit: March 24, 2008, 12:21:20 AM by ironbut »
steve koto
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Offline Studer Fool

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2008, 07:27:03 AM »
Mike,

If I had unlimited where-with-all I would probably buy the ML.  I dreamed about it.  But I would still want/lust for an A820!  Fred himself states on the Studerlist that the A820 has no peer in getting the tape moving past the heads in proper "time base" relationship.  Either machine, the ML-5 or the A820, after coming from Fred, is going to be easy for an audiophile to live with for a very long time.

So one important consideration for you to answer is "Will I be making recordings?"  By which I mean of live musicians, (as transferring CD's and LP's etc. is really not a meaningful use of such a machine IMHO).  If you answer yes, you will soon be seeking at least two good microphones and Mic preamps or even a mixer at minimum.

If your interest lies elsewhere, say for playback of prerecorded tapes such as the Tape Project, you might stick with the A820 as your transport for now and enjoy quite acceptable sound and then get upgraded outboard playback electronics from Doc (or from Tim) as funds allow and thereby achieve the pinnacle (my opinion) in playback in the here and now.

While I have not heard them, I would expect the ML electronics to sound better "right-out-of-the-box" than the stock 820.  But please remember the audio arts have advanced considerably since Levinson did the ML-5 and while I have not heard any of them, I honestly would expect Doc or Tim's current designs to ultimately trounce the ML.  Tim's TdP stuff will also record of course, but I assume will set you back even more money (though no doubt worth it).

So the questions to wrestle with are:
a.) Will I  be recording?
b.) Can I wait to achieve the best, and have the time, desire, and energy to pursue that, or do I want, really, really great right away, so I can just get down to listening to some really great music playback?
c.) and as always, what funds do I have to apply?

So-> I want it great right away -> ML-5
So-> I want to start great recording right away -> ML-5
So-> I want to achieve the very best playback -> A820 & start talking to Doc right away
So-> I want to eventually achieve the best record & playback -> A820 & TdP

At this level there are no wrong answers.  Just personal decisions.

Yours Truly in Studer Lust,
Chris Wait


P.S.  The above are my personal thoughts, please feel VERY free to ignore them, indeed I hope you will, lest I further conflict you.
Christopher D. Wait
Charter Subscriber SN# 026
Studer A80-VU & Studer A80-RC (and Doc's lovingly modified Ampex 934 with Seduction Tape Head Preamp Combo!)

Offline mikel

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Re: update on Studer A-820
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2008, 08:00:35 AM »
Steve,

thanks for the thoughts and especially for the link.

Chris,

i do not ever anticipate doing recording. i suppose there is a remote possibility of making copies of other tapes at some point; but even that is very unlikely. i'm a listener.

your point regarding how other repro electronics are likely better then the Levinson and that the A-820 is maybe a little better transport than the A-80 is exactly what has held me back from making the trade. so far my plan was to get the A-820, compare it 'stock' to my ATR-102 and then install custom electronics to whichever i prefer. i'm balancing that perspective with the fact that the ML-5 is an already well sorted out unit that would be installed and tweaked by Fred.

anyway; i really appreciate the feedback.....any other thoughts are very welcome.

Mikel
Mike Lavigne