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Messages - steveidosound

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Reel to Reel Tape Machines / Re: Otari meter bulbs
« on: October 18, 2013, 08:26:09 PM »
If they are clipped from the side like a fuse rather than by the pointed ends, something like this might work, but probably too short. -

General Discussion / Re: 80 Year Anniversary of Magnetic Tape
« on: September 18, 2013, 08:51:47 PM »
Pretty much the day after Ray Dolby passed away, also marked the 50th anniversary of the Compact Cassette.

General Discussion / Re: Ray Dolby RIP
« on: September 18, 2013, 08:50:31 PM »

Yes, he has had at least as great an impact on sound for home and theater as anyone of his era.
I posted on facebook when I learned of his passing that I could scarcely go 10' around my house without encountering his name on some piece of media or equipment.
His Dolby A was increasing the dynamic range of studio recordings before most of the world encountered "B" for cassettes. His work to improve optical film tracks and give them greater fidelity and dynamic range, as well as stereo, led to the development of analog home and theater surround sound, which brought us to Dolby Digital 5.1 etc. and where we are today.

 At one time, I was working with one of Dolby's first employees on AES historical committee events and attended a couple of AES events @ their SF facilities. Through him, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Ray Dolby at one of these events. I was rather in shock, as he was just there mingling with the rest of the crowd at the reception.
An experience I will always treasure.

I read it. Thanks !
Being a sort of mid 20th century human myself, I think I would be more than happy with that system. I heard the Luxman tube gear a couple of shows ago and remember liking it. I imagine I would like the JBLs as well. Their nice stuff always did sound good to me. There was someone, Zu, I think, using a classic top of the line Luxman table at this year's  show. And a classic deck, tweaked out, playing Tape Project tapes is beyond anything available in the 70s unless you had actual master tape access back then.
Only thing is, that even in relative dollars, the cost of all of that is probably higher than it was for the 70s equipment in 70s dollars.
But, sure, I could live happily with all of that equipment.

Events / Re: California Audio Show
« on: August 10, 2013, 04:46:15 PM »
Went yesterday. It was fun. Tape was present.
Good chatting with you both Steve and Paul.

General Discussion / Re: AES article on Bias and early Stereo
« on: July 28, 2013, 06:03:02 PM »
Right on about Jay McKnight. I have had the privilege of a couple of moderately long conversations with him. He knows more about magnetic recording than almost anyone alive on the planet.

Interesting how small the industrial design world was then.

Dean Wooldrige

 was the eventual "W" in TRW

that eventually became the financial institution, but, before that, TRW did other things including  acquisition of Bell Sound, an early maker of HiFi, PA equipment,  tape and disc recorders, under the direction of Floyd Bell, which was acquired by Thompson Products (the "T" in "TRW") (originally the Cleveland Cap Screw Company, founded in 1901) for about one million dollars. Bell became a wholly owned subsidiary of Thompson Products, which eventually became the Bell Sound Division of Thompson Ramo and Wooldridge.

Said company continued to make tape recorders (with AC bias) through the mid 60s  when they went out of business as such.

This page says there was no affiliation between Bell Sound and Bell Labs, which, actually there sort of was through the person of Dean Wooldridge. One wonders if he had any personal input into their recorder designs after they were acquired? Also, were the first Bell Sound recorders AC bias? By the late 40s, probably so.

I have a keen interest in this because I actually own a few of their recorders.

If you are brave enough to wade through this 10 minutes of philosophical claptrap and at least skim through the 133 comments, you will better understand what is up with the music industry today. Not that they actually have a good explanation, but it will become evident. :-)

My bottom line 2 cents -
Humans love free music and distortion. :-)
...and drugs, (see YouTube comments)

I would be so bold as to suggest that if the tapes were on 7" reels and recorded on some tube-based consumer machine of the 50s era, the most  likely format for them to be in is what is called  "2 track" or "1/2 track" mono, containing 2 mono tracks, each covering half the width, where the reels were flipped at the end, and the tape was played or recorded on the other half till it was back on the reel it started from. So be sure and recover side 2 (if any) when you transfer. The 2 most common speeds were 7 1/2 and 3 3/4 inches per second. The good news is that these sorts of self contained, mono recorders were very common up through the end of the 1960s and would have been solid state on the later units.
As any of the machines are over 40 years old, as was pointed out, it is hard to find one in really reliable good working condition to transfer long hours of tape, which may be fairly fragile now, as was also pointed out. Capacitors and rubber drive belts and wheels slowly fail over time, tape heads wear,  grease gets sticky, and of course things get dirty.  But I have found machines of this era that are still working more or less as designed.
Most will have an external headphone monitor or speaker output, which typically is a mono mini jack or perhaps 1/4" jack. You might find one with an RCA "line out" jack. This would be preferable for a clean output to your computer's input. Sometimes the level can be an issue with some sound cards and USB devices. A volume control dependent external speaker out into a microphone input on the computer will probably yield a somewhat noisy and/or possibly overloaded, distorted level into the computer. A computer with stereo line in with the single mono output "Y"ed to L & R channels should work best. If it is speaker level there will be an optimum setting of the recorders volume control for level vs noise.

If you end up with a stereo deck, it can still work, but you will use only the left channel output, as the right channel will give you the other side of your tape playing backwards! This is due to the peculiar way stereo was done vs mono on reel to reel tape. If, BTW you play the tapes on a stereo deck and both channels yield normal output, it was recorded on a stereo deck, but not so likely in the 50s, especially with one big green "eye" meter. (very typically a Webcor or VM)

Not to be too discouraging, but a quick look at Craigslist in the  SLO, Santa Barbara and Bakersfield areas did not yield anything that particularly looked suitable. Oh well...

A basic, school A/V type Wollensak, Sony TC-104 or 105 or Califone/Rheem might be a good place to start looking on eBay.
Make sure you do  _not_ get a battery powered 5" reel mono machine. These are also very very common, but obviously will not play your 7" reels.
BTW, one meter and one set of inputs and outputs are your clues that it is not a stereo unit.

Sometimes I am not too specific or clear.
If you are not really sure what I am talking about or don't feel too confident poking around on the PC board listening to various levels than perhaps you might want to enlist some aid.
I was just dreaming up something that you might have that might be able to listen to the levels and find out at which point the signal does not pass as it does in the other channel that works. You have to be able to "read the layout" well enough to somewhat follow the signal path and see that this transistor in the left channel corresponds to that one in the right channel. Then just probe the input and the output of each gain stage and see if the sound comes out a bit louder. If you uncover a difference between the channels, you have found a specific area to check thoroughly for a bad cap or transistor.
It probably is a bad transistor.  Again, if it passes signal all the way through from line in to line out in the source position, the issue is probably somewhere between the play head and the "tape side" of the tape /source switch. That is probably only 2-3 stages per channel. You might not have ideal gain with a guitar level input for those sorts of stages, so you might have to crank the gain to hear anything at all off the head before the first stage. but by the tape source switch the signal should be considerably louder. Of course you must have tape playing to hear anything off the head. You can work your way backwards from the output on the good channel to hear the relative loudness after each stage of amplification. At some point on the affected channel the signal will go from normal (if a bit weak, but the same as the other channel) to the character of what you hear when you play it back through line or headphone outputs. There is your problem stage.
It might not be that easy depending upon the specific circuits used and the board layout, but it is worth a try.
BTW the cap is used as a probe to block the DC from going into your test amp / tracer. The input ground to chassis is to ground the input to your test amp / tracer so you hear the signal level with respect to ground with relatively little hum. I have an actual signal tracer with a  gain control and built in speaker and a probe with a DC blocking cap and a ground wire with an alligator clip to attach to chassis ground of the unit I am checking. A small guitar amp should provide a relatively high input impedance and have enough gain and input level adjustment to listen in to almost everything from the line output level back to the tape head - more or less.

General Discussion / Re: All That Jazz
« on: April 14, 2013, 11:02:15 PM »
You can really get lost there. I'm glad that there is so much interesting material available, but of course sad that such a lot of it is somewhat - to - very compromised audio quality. It really adds insult to injury when very mediocre analog sound (say from an old optical film track) has low bit rate digital artifacts added to the mess.
But still, rather hear that than have it not available at all.

Glad that the Tape Project has been able to unearth some absolute gems of master tapes and make them available in all their original glory.

General Discussion / Re: Silly Friday Format Trivia
« on: April 12, 2013, 07:59:07 PM »
At the risk of hijacking my own thread, (speaking of  probably deservedly obsolete formats) I just found out -
...And in already broken news (how appropriate) Yesterday, 4/11, was apparently National 8 Track Day !...
And to think, I just missed play...CLICK! mine yesterday.

As to my previous question, lots of things were reissued on 45 album sets and Lps that date from the 78 era, then some of them were probably later released in all the tape formats in some sort of fake stereo and on into the digital era. Something like Bing Crosby White Christmas could easily fall into that category.
And  yes, there were 78s produced for other countries well into the 60s including Beatles etc. Also children's small 78s were produced into the 60s. There have even been a few oddball  releases including some stereo microgroove ones up to the present.

But I was was wondering specifically if RCA or some other label that was recording in stereo for the 2 track tapes also released a mono mix of same in 45, 78 and 33 Lp versions in the era from about 1955-1958.
RCA's Sound Cartridge dates from about 1958, Stereo records from 57-58 and the last 78s for US domestic consumption (RCA, Elvis) around 1958 so it's all really close. I had previously asked when 4 track pre-recorded reel to reel took over from 2 track, and I believe the consensus was by about 1960, so they all theoretically could have been in release simultaneously. But there was not much pop stuff in early tape. Perhaps a big band artist or an Arthur Fiedler  / Boston Pops might be a candidate.

I have a few things in several formats (more than 2) but nothing in every format.

General Discussion / Silly Friday Format Trivia
« on: April 12, 2013, 12:43:01 PM »
I don't have a definitive answer to this, but I started wondering if there was ever a song or album in simultaneous release, somewhere in the late 50s on pre-recorded R2R tape and in all 3 speeds of records. Most likely something from the RCA catalog.
78s didn't stop being released till about the same year as stereo Lps began to be released, and of course 2 track pre-recorded tapes had been out for a few years prior to that. Not sure if there was any overlap between the very last 78 releases and RCA's failed early "sound cartridge" giant cassettes.

Another, easier semi-related question might be what albums have been released in the most formats, from an actual album of 78 records, 45s, Lps, through all the analog tape formats, Minidisc and on and on?

Well, if both meters indicate normally on input signal, and presumably it passes signal to the line and or headphone output when in "source", sounds as if you have a problem in the play side with the head preamp stages or some connection in and around those. Somewhere between the head and the tape / source switch in the affected channel. It could still in fact be something to do with the head to tape contact as ironbut Steve suggested. One little hard chunk of oxide holding the tape away from the gap or causing it to wrinkle as it passes can  cause that sound, except I do recall you saying you heard the sound when the transport was engaged before tape moved past the head. So, back to the first few stages past the head.
Something like a small guitar practice amp might have enough gain to function as a signal tracer. Tape obviously needs to be playing, then just go stage by stage comparing the channels. Take a 1/4" cable to nothing on the other end. Connect a .1mfd cap to the center conductor and a ground wire with a clip to the shield. Ground to the chassis of the Sony and go probe around using the capacitor lead. Adjust gain on amp accordingly. Of course it won't be perfect, but you should be able to hear an increase in loudness stage by stage on the good channel. At some point it might be too loud and overload your input and cause some distortion. At the other extreme it might be fairly noisy trying to hear anything right off of the head. This is not necessarily anything wrong with the circuit, just the crude signal tracer. Let the working channel be your reference. If you look for it there is typically some symmetry between the left and right channel board layout to know where you are. You are probably only talking about 2 transistors per channel in this area.

Going out on a limb here, but without a schematic and more advanced troubleshooting aids, if you have some way of implementing a circuit tracer (test probe with  something like a .1 mfd.  capacitor in series to block DC, and ground wire hooked to the input of another known good amplifier/speaker) and some knowledge of typical board layout and circuit construction, you can put the machine in record pause so it will pass signal, feed a program signal into the line in jacks and "listen through" from input to line output, stage by stage following the signal path, comparing the left and right channels, and determining at what stage you loose the signal to a bad transistor, cap, cold solder connection, or what have you.
 It could even still be one connection / pole of the record / play switch or an internal connector, though there are probably not many of those in that model. You can do the same in play, starting at the head output, but you need a tracer with enough gain to be able to hear something till it goes through the first couple of head preamp stages.
Did you say if you got signal indication on both meters or it passed signal in record, source monitor (being 3 head) input to output on both channels?
 All of the above should get it down to at least one small area, unless there are multiple circuit problems.
Admittedly, this is harder in some machines than others, due to layout and accessibility to the pcb. And, as the machine is under power, please take all precautions to not shock yourself or short something and make the problem worse.

BTW, used ones have sold on eBay recently for anywhere between $15-$125 + shipping.

Sony and many others including Roberts / Akai made many, many other equivalent  2 and 3 head decks. They may have the same sorts of problems, or others, but probably all will have or develop some sort of issues. I guess it is  just a matter of how much time, money and effort you want to put in to restore one of these machines.

BTW, I have a  Panasonic and a Lafayette, both small 2 head self contained  stereo recorders that exhibit almost exactly the same problem as yours - mostly noise and a bit of signal on one channel in record and play. I was able to get it down to 1 transistor and/or an associated capacitor on the Lafayette, using the above technique and comparing the 2 channels. Just have to get a couple of parts now and throw in there to see if that cures it.

Last BTW, this should be moved to the regular reel to reel machines area as the Sony TC-355 is most definitely NOT a Tape Project machine ! :-)

General Discussion / Re: Alan Lomax speaks
« on: March 22, 2013, 08:33:38 PM »
Thanks for the last two "history lesson" posts Steve.
Always fun. Both members of the Lomax family, father and son, and also Cook with his early binaural /  stereo.

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