A80 (RC MkII) or A810 - which one should I buy? - ANY INPUT IS WELCOME !!


Please provide some guidance, if possible:

I have quite a reasonable system and started with vinyls some two years ago
(since then I hardly listened to any CD....).
I also own a ReVox B77 - but it cannot match the rest of my system sonically,
so it is mostly for decorational purposes in my music room.

I got to learn that there are some companies that offer copies of mastertapes.
All I read about these tapes made clear to me: I MUST have them - but I need a proper
tape deck to play them. And to be host: I always admired the STUDER products,
so this is a good excuse to buy one....

I tried to read as much as possible, narrowing down the choice to either an
A80 or an A810 (ok, I would prefer the A820 - but my budget is somehow limited...).
Being located in Europe I found a couple of reasonable offers here: one A80 RC MkII
in France and two A810 in Germany and the UK, resp.

Generally speaking: which model is superior? Is this a valid question at all?
My priorities are sonical quality, reliabilty and ease of maintenance. I do not do any
mixing or production of music, no professional use, just from time to time listen to the
best music (quality) avalilable.

And specifically referring to the offers: here are the key facts about the three machines
(all three sellers offer insured shipment ad more or less the same price, and I have no
chance to see/hear the machines myself - unfortunately). So here they are:

1) A80 RC MkII (France, 4k$, private seller)
- a late system (serial 21464, said to be from 1988?)
- was privately owned by an audiophile (his son now wants to get rid of it...)
- only 1850 hours on the clock (documented)
- many pictures, looks very cared for (only the cover of the slot part below the system is missing)
- High Speed model (15 & 30)
- heads look good (no butterfly)
- 5 days to inspect after delivery and - if not satisfied - return with full money back
  (guaranteed through 3rd party service)
PRO: I LOVE the A80 looks...., low usage, good condition (optically), purchase without risk
CON: no documentation (of services or whatsoever)

2) A810 (UK, 5k$, private seller)
- was used by the seller in a studio professionally, which closed down
- obviously knows these machines, tells a lot about valious Ampex and Studers...
- he had it then completely overhould last year (many capacitors replaced, some transistors, some ICs,
  mechanically maintained, lubricated, tested, calibrated, heads re-lapped,.... invoice available)
- System has one or two studio/Pro gimmicks (which I do not need....)
- he wanted it "like new" to keep it for personal usage, sells due to space issues
- system is complete, slight signs of usage (Studio usage...)
- accepts Paypal
PRO: complete service with invoice, was regularely used
CON: the Studio obviously did not care very well - otherwise the service would not be so long...
                some signs of usage...

3) A810 (Germany, 6k$, small "hobby" dealer)
- sells a lot of expensive audio equipment via ebay, 100% satisfied buyers (40 sales last 12 months)
- complete service in 2014
- butterfly heads in very good condition
- hardly any signs of usage, looks like new, at least  9/10
- accepts Paypal
PRO: butterfly heads, looks like new
CON: Service not documented (but written confirmation from seller - legally valid); most expensive one

To me all three offers have their PROs and CONs....
(All three have a trolley, are more or less heady, need more or less the same space).

What would you do?
Any advise / information / thought?

Thanks in advance!














 











ozatschek
THE A80 is far superior as far as wow and flutter, transport stability, etc.
But you may never use 30 inches per second to record or playback anything (except live music).  Some of them do come with 7.5/15ips
capability and whether or not you can convert them from one to the other is something you would have to ask a professional recordist or 
Studer expert repair facility.  The A810 is probably good enough for a high-end stereo system, especially if it is in like-new condition.
All Studer's require periodic maintenance- a minimum usage still needs
lubrication, tape path cleaning and demagnetizing, and a lot of attention to the pinch roller and capstan.  I like the A820 too but it wouldn't make better music to my ears.  But it has super-sophisticated features (which you may never ever use of course).
I've seen A80s going for over $7000. At $4000 that one seems like a pretty good deal. Our machine does 7.5" and 15".
I might've asked exactly the same questions since I am thinking of getting a Studer or Otari later, in a few years perhaps.
I would definitely want my deck to be able to play and record at 7.5" and 15".
Without knowing anything else, if the seller sounds honest and reliable, I would go with A810 from Germany. Yes, you would want to periodically service any deck.
You could also consider 2 track Otari to begin with. No it's not Studer but it is very good.
The above replies are correct, the A80 is the better machine for sure. Having said that the A810 is no slouch either, I have an A810 and an Otari 5050. Both are heavily modded but that's something you can get to later. The Otari will be the best bang for the buck!!! The Studers are better decks period!!!
Jsman, could describe your Studer and Otari modifications and your rationale for that? Do you think there are better sounding 1/4" decks than Studers?
If you can find an Ampex 351-2 it will be a better sounding machine (if properly refurbished), but they are a lot more clunky in terms of transport operation!
Ampex. Ralph, do you have it as well?
There is Ampex ATR-700 on ebay for $6.5k. They say in like new condition. Anyone wants to give it a try? I would but money is tight these days. Would really be interesting to compare it to the Studers.
Inna,
The reason for modding of both decks is simple, better sound quality!!! Not that either of them sounded bad but, I know a better sound when I hear it. What I did on both decks was bypass all the internal electronics and take the signal directly from the playback head and send it to an external tubed tape pre and then on to my pre amp. Listening to copies of Master Tapes like this is something you just have to hear, it is very organic!!!
jsma
...this is something you just have to hear, it is very organic!!!
I've heard other listeners referring to sound as "organic," but never understood what they meant by that. After all, music itself isn't really organic, is it? Would you please explain? thanks!

Jsman, I see, that is certainly a good idea, also considering that the electronics is very old. I would guess, that your line level preamp is tube as well.
I have both A80 & A810 . Buy the A80 & at USD4k it's cheap . I paid a lot more for it . Wish mine is 15ips /30ips instead of 7.5/15ips