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Topics - steveidosound

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General Discussion / favorite take up reels
« on: October 03, 2009, 10:27:46 AM »
Continued from the other thread...
The party line is the TP reel for 10.5", but for 7" my personal favorite plastic 7" is the old Audiotape "C slot" reel with the teardrop shaped holes.

General Discussion / preamp as headphone amp
« on: September 29, 2009, 11:21:50 AM »
This is primarily directed toward one of our members who is way into headphones. (you know who you are Steve)
Anyway, I just re-discovered one of my old pieces of equipment lying around. it is an Apt / Holman Preamplifier (that is it's name and model) from the 70s.
I am using it with my Thorens / Grado  and fairly cheap AKG phones right now because my little Bellari  half tube unit broke - but they fixed it for free - but that's another story. Anyway, the Apt is a wonderful relic of what now seems to be a bygone era. A full featured actual preamp in the old sense with a phono stage. They took great care with the design of the phono preamp section and the headphone drive amp. It shows. I am going back and listening to older albums I know and love and hearing more detail than I have ever heard from some of them emerging from a very low (for vinyl) noise floor with plenty of gain and weight behind the sound. It almost begins to sound "master tape-ish" at times!
I swapped the Bellari back in to the same setup when I got it back. I have always thought it sounded good but it was pretty weak by comparison.
Just wanted to report my fun headphone experience. I briefly considered what it would take to modify the phono 2 input to an IEC or NAB switchable tape head preamp. Does not look easy to do as it is really one phono stage with some modifications for 1 vs. 2 and switching. 

Prerecorded Tapes / Johnny Mann on Liberty
« on: August 05, 2009, 01:43:40 AM »
I am wondering in general if anyone knows of the existence of any of three volumes of folk songs by the Johnny Mann singers on the Liberty label on tape.
The vinyl of these is hard enough to find on Ebay, much less the tape.  Where else does one look for 4 track prerecorded tapes?
A bit of background, they were responsible for many of the radio station id. jingles in the 60s including the rather famous KSFO "sounds of the city" one. Their bass was Thurl Ravenscroft of Disney, grinch, and Kelloggs Sugar frosted Flakes fame. His male vocal group backed Elvis a time or two in place of the Jordanaires. One of those people whose voice I had heard my entire life without realizing it.

My grandparents had a mono copy of the 1st volume of the Johnny Mann folk album, which was on their record changer year after year when I went down there to visit as a kid. (I, in fact inherited it.) I think I am the only one who ever listened to their records. I loved it despite the fact they had one of those cheap glossy fake wood Morse(?) console stereos with a plastic arm BSR changer with crystal cartridge which skipped on every loud dynamic peak.
I now own a better stereo copy which is very well recorded, so now I want them on R2R.

Prerecorded Tapes / Sound In The Round Tape
« on: July 30, 2009, 10:13:45 AM »
I guess the post by the new person got pulled because  it was too close to a for sale post. We don't do that here.
I was just about to reply with the following:

Does it list the contents on the box or tape label?
I have a much later 4 track 3 3/4 ips tape from GRT with the same title (not volume 2) that has all the standard stereo sound effects that used to be popular like ping pong games, trains, planes, parades going by, thunderstorms etc. 
I just noticed it says  "a Concertapes production".

General Discussion / archaic recording techniques make a comeback?
« on: June 04, 2009, 01:05:06 PM »
From John Mellencamp's website -

"Meanwhile, more information on John's tentatively-titled forthcoming album "No Better Than This" has been made available. Recording will take place during the summer in Savannah, Georgia at the first African-American church in the U.S., as well as at the historic Sun Studios in Memphis and possibly the Brunswick Building in Dallas where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson recorded. To achieve that vintage sound, John will record using a 1951 Ampex portable recording machine and only one microphone, requiring all the musicians to gather together around the mic. The entire recording and mixing process, then, will be in mono-and in the same manner as those classic folk blues recordings of the 1930s and '40s"

I am excited about this!
I found out through the Ampex list that it will be done on a  600 series Ampex portable "field recorder".
Some absolutely amazing stuff was recorded using techniques similar to this.
The older recordings mentioned at the end were of course actually recorded direct to disc, some on portable units from Presto and the like.

The thing is, I have lots of this sort of equipment and microphones and good rooms and friends that are acoustic artists in various styles.
And I think that for every step we have taken forward in quality with going to dead rooms, multi track and now digital, we have lost some essence of the sound they got when capturing all that sound energy from the room and the performance of the musicians all entering the recorder via limited micing with acoustic balance, simultaneously.

I think I am going to have to force my self to do the hard work necessary to restore some semblance of this sort of portable tape (and disc) recording equipment, both mono and stereo, and go out and make some of these types of recordings with it before I die.

Reel to Reel Tape Machines / Interesting machines from the past
« on: May 31, 2009, 06:19:48 PM »
I would love pictures and descriptions here of interesting machines we now own or have owned. Also the characteristics that you find endearing, quirky etc.
I have collected many machines and many more have come and gone from tiny early Japanese portable mono battery models to big studio type tube units.
My tastes tend to run toward the obscure and bizarre as opposed to really good quality, but I want to hear what all of you like.
I will have to work on some pictures, but for now I will say that the most obscure machines I currently own are the Bell RT-360 and one called the Freeman model 800, both of which are American made 1/4 track 7" reel 7 1/2 - 3 3/4, tube recorders with speakers and amps, from the early to mid 60s,  but otherwise are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Bell features provisions for outboard 10.5" reels and tape to tape dubbing (internally!) 3 heads, 5 motors counting the bolt on ones for the bigger reels, lots and lots of tubes, and circuitry and switching to do almost anything.
The Freeman however, manages to boil it's essential functions down to two tubes per channel for all the audio in a compact self contained unit.

General Discussion / Lucky Man - E.L.P.
« on: May 04, 2009, 11:40:30 PM »
I'd love to hear that ELP album again. I haven't heard that one in years. It was a real fuse buster in it's day (I believe that it came out right at the height of the Phase Linear 400 era).

I think it's great when members step off the main path and experiment. We are after all, way out here as far as most folks are concerned so why the heck not.

Ah yes, Lucky Man from Emerson Lake and Palmer. That one was a torture test when new. Could your speakers reproduce the  fundamental of that synth note  with the drums at the end? Could your cartridge track it cleanly, being the last cut? Or would your speakers flap and your amp clip. Most of my friends and I were dealing with medium efficiency acoustic suspension speakers driven by 10W per channel solid state stereo receivers and some Garrard or BSR changer with a cheap cartridge. They mostly could not deal with it. :)
And the "Flame Linear" 400 ! I remember making jokes about exactly that right after high school. Phase 400s blowing up trying to reproduce Lucky Man at high levels through AR speakers. Memories...

I am continuing this side discussion  as a new topic under general discussion...

Reel to Reel Tape Machines / R2R duplication system
« on: May 03, 2009, 12:16:19 AM »
Has anybody else noticed the Telex / Viking reel to reel duplication system that has been on Ebay for a long time now?
Looks like 1 master and 10 slaves with electronics, for 7" reels (?) at 15 or 7.5 ips. The guy can't seem to give it away....
Ebay # 250284199908

Prerecorded Tapes / Mono prerecorded tapes
« on: January 10, 2009, 10:55:57 PM »
I was surprised to learn that there were tapes released in the 2 track / 2 sided mono format at 7 1/2 ips.
Until I ran across some in a lot of tapes I bought on Ebay I would have not thought they existed.
Stereo tape was the first application of consumer stereo sound, predating stereo records by at least 3 years and stereo FM by 9 or so.
So, since stereo was sort of the point of prerecorded tapes, I was surprised to see mono ones.
The ones I have are on the HiFi label with George Wright at the Organ.
They have a "7 1/2 HT" (half track) designation on the box and inside it states that they are available on records and in monaural and stereophonic for "stacked heads" (2 track) tape. I also happen to have some of the same titles in vinyl, some mono and some stereo as well as one later 4 track stereo tape. The only sad thing is that someone switched reels, so I don't have the original reels for any of the 3.
The sound is OK but not as good as some of my other 2 track tapes.
Have other people here run across any mono prerecorded tapes?

Tape Tech / Listening To Mono Tapes
« on: January 10, 2009, 08:52:51 AM »
Here is my post from Tape Project Albums - 2nd Series Titles:

I was wondering about that too.
The configuration for mono that is.
It could be set up as 1/2 track mono with a side one and side two, and duplicated just as easily.
One half the tape used as well.  One reel instead of two. The only downside is a bit of cross talk might be possible from the opposite side.
And people don't have the easy switching provision on equipment any more to route the left channel only to both speakers.
So, it is being released as 2 identical mono tracks in the same direction.
It could be argued that it is better to listen to only one track for phasing and alignment issues and one speaker for mono.
Someone will have to do those experiments.
Another possibility would be a full track mono release but that is incompatible with all the equipment setups for stereo duplication so we won't be going there I would assume !

The mono reissues from The Tape Project represent something that has not been encountered in the world of prerecorded tapes before.
That is (if I understand the release format properly) 2 identical mono tracks one direction at 15 ips.
For the experimentally inclined audiophiles among us this represents an opportunity for several playback experiments as I briefly outlined above.
The intention is probably for them to be played as normal - letting the 2 mono channels come from your left and right speakers and mix in the air of your listening room. This is probably the best playback option for most people as it involves doing nothing to the playback set up and on a properly set up system should provide a solid center image much like playing a good mono record on a stereo system. But it is not exactly the same as the vinyl scenario.
I don't know what the custom is in high end audio for mono playback of discs, but obviously there are new mono high end cartridges out there, which some are using, again I presume to drive both channels and both speakers of a stereo and letting their speaker's phantom center image reproduce the sound.
2 other variations present themselves with disc or the new TP mono releases which can themselves be used together or separately.
The first is to either combine the 2 tracks electrically (mono switch) before they hit the amps and speakers OR listen to only one mono track.
The second is to play the combined tracks or just the one through only one speaker.
Some older preamps from the beginning days of stereo gave you all of these options with switches like L+R to L, R or Both, and/or L to both channels or R to both channels. Now it is hard to even find a "mono" switch that combines both channels to both outputs.

Of these options, I would suggest against electrically combining both channels and playing them through one or both speakers.
This would show up any phase abnormalities or alignment issues between your tape machine and the TP tape.
I would not expect there to be much of an issue with this but probably there is inevitably a little.
Back in the bad old days I installed many stereo cassette decks in mono background music systems. With the channels combined even with the mono content in stereo tapes there were almost always horrible phasing flanging combing effects from tape skew and head misalignment.
Let me hasten to add that I realize that we are talking now about state of the art reel to reel playback here and not prerecorded cassettes but the conceptual problem is still there if you combine the channels. It might just manifest as a tiny bit of very high frequency phase shift and comb filtering and be very "stable" but for the audiophile that is unacceptable. If the playback remains "stereo" (2 channel) to the listening room speakers the effect will only show up, possibly if at all as slight very HF image wander.
But some may want to try playing back just one channel of the tape through only one or perhaps both speakers just to see what that sounds like for comparison purposes. 

Tape Tech / good old book
« on: December 06, 2008, 01:31:40 PM »
Packed with a tape machine I got recently was a book. The title is "Tape Recorder Service Manual And Trouble-Shooting Workbook" by Robert Marshall published by Chilton  (#980) in 1962. Though old and focusing primarily on tube electronics and mechanical transports with idlers and belts etc., it gives a great and pretty detailed look into how tape recording works in general as well as a lot of basic electronic theory for the beginner. The main idea was to equip the tape recorder user of the day with knowledge to understand how their machine worked, logical repair and troubleshooting procedures. I guess the best thing about it is that it gives a lot of information about electronics, particularly old electronics as it existed 1962 all in one place. If you are a beginner restoring a machine of that era this book and Phil Van Praag's "Evolution of the Audio Recorder" are both helpful.

Some sample chapter headings:

The Electronic Components in an Audio Device

The Anatomy of Your Tape Recorder

Electrical Circuits in a Tape Recorder

Trouble Symptoms

Well worth looking for as a resource even if it knows nothing of microprocessor controlled logic and barely acknowledges these new transistor thingies.

Suggestion Box / Folk anybody ?
« on: December 03, 2008, 01:45:25 PM »
I know there is some great newer acoustic music already represented, but some of the stuff of the Weavers Vanguard era. Ian and Sylvia or even Peter Paul and Mary from Warner etc. have some of the same excellent recording qualities of the Jazz of that same era and are often overlooked. One of my favorites are the Seekers but they were not so well recorded.

Prerecorded Tapes / sticky shed on prerecorded tapes ?
« on: October 04, 2008, 02:39:40 PM »
 I listened to a Moody Blues prerecorded Quad (4 channel) tape I had gotten a while back on ebay.
It shed a LOT of brown oxide. Is this sticky shed or something else. I think it is new enough to be on polyester tape. I had understood this only affected back coated tapes which this is not. It does say duplicated on Ampex tape.
When did they typically switch from acetate stock for prerecorded tapes anyway?

General Discussion / late 50s HiFi through Ampex speaker
« on: September 15, 2008, 01:29:16 PM »
Yes this is only slightly tape related.
I have been having fun listening to vintage HiFi (and not so HiFi) mono records (don't have any mono pre-recorded tapes) through one of a pair of Ampex (that's the tape related part) powered tube speakers. These really sound great for what they are. An 8" JBL driver in a portable case run full range with compensating EQ driven by a built in 10W. amp using 6V6 output tubes. These were built as monitor speakers for Ampex portable tape machines. I am using one (they have a standard RCA line in) to supply amplification for a portable Rek-O-Kut turntable in a case, made for I don't know what. It has their 3 speed Rondine table and a GE arm where only the headshell pivots vertically with a GE variable reluctance magnetic cartridge with Lp and 78 styli and the matching 1 tube preamp with switchable record compensation curves all built in the case with a cover. It was all reasonably good stuff when new. I would say that it still provides pretty good sounding mono audio from vintage mono 78, 45 and Lp records. Not really the same as listening to the same records on modern equipment and in some ways better.

Prerecorded Tapes / Tails Out ?
« on: July 18, 2008, 09:59:39 AM »
I was thinking, I have just a handfull of 2 track prerecorded tapes (old ones). What, if any benefit would there be to storing these tails out like other studio masters? I know the practice has to do with print-through and whether the predominant echo is before or after the main program. Of course it is meaningless for any tape recorded in 2 directions. Is it less of an issue with old tape formulations that were lower output to begin with ? How do the 2 track collectors here store theirs ? They were not sold that way AFAIK. Most of the ones you might get today have probably not been stored that way for the majority of their life. So my question is also I guess about print-through. I know that altering the tape pack will theoretically change the contact points layer to layer so as to not reinforce the problem. But many old 2 tracks have sat in the same unplayed position for years and years.

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