Otari or Technics Reel-to-Reel ?

I am thinking about getting one of those in the future. I am sure I would want Studer but they are too expensive for me. I want the deck to be able to record on 7.5 and 15 and to play on 3.75, 7.5 and 15, both half-track and quater-track tapes.
I would be recording from vinyl making compilations and listening to studio recordings whenever I could get them.
I would be prepared to pay to have it properly cleaned aligned and calibrated.
I actually never delt with RTR, but in my heart I am a tape man not vinyl man.
What would your recommendations and advice be? I would appreciate any input based on knowledge and experience.
I've never owned a Technics, but I do think the Otari is a better bet. I have the Otari (model MX5050 BII-2) that graced many a radio station and small studio. That was the target market, while the Technics was mainly for home use. The Otari is a really tough, rugged machine and will do everything you want in a deck, plus it sounds great, far better than the Teac X1000R it replaced in my system. And as a recording deck I think it's hard to beat.

By all means, whatever you decide, go for it. The world needs more tape fans :-)
The Otari can be purchased for either half - or quarter-track, but it can't do both, IIRC; Technics did make machines that played both formats. But both Otari and Technics are better machines than the TEACs, imo.

The Tandberg TD-20A and TD-20SE are good decks, too.
I had a TEAC A-3440 multi-track back in the day. Go for Otari or Tandberg - they have a very strong following and are serviceable. Note that head alignment isn't enough - you also have to bias the record circuit for the tape(s) you want to use. I suggest you bias for a tape that is still manufactured. Not sure what's out there anymore.

Good luck & happy listening!
I have two Otari decks. The MX5050 BII-2 and a Mark III. The former I use to record and playback and the latter I turned into a transport for playback only. Signal is taken from the heads and sent to a tube tape head amp. I highly recommend these decks and RMGI tape which I use to record with.
Would you recommend BII-2 or Mark III? For both recording and playback. I would be recording on 7.5 and 15. Is the difference significant in case of high quality signal?
I am not quite sure why but I too am inclined to getting Otari. And, yes, I agree with the world needing more tape fans. Back to the roots, not to mention the best sound.
Get the MX5050 BII-2. The Mark III is mounted on a cart with separate transport and preamp. The MX5050 is a pro-sumer model that is all-in-one and has a smaller footprint.
Cleeds, the Otari can indeed "do both." There's a switch atop the headstack that makes it real easy to select 2-track or 4-track playback. As far as 4-track recording is concerned, it's not quite as simple, although there's a headstack designed for that. One of the joys of the Otari is the ease of switching a headstack; just unscrew 3 screws and lift it out. Alignment is unaffected.
Great. But I would record two track only. I took a look - RMGI 10" reel tape is about $70. Recording two track 15ips, this would give me about 45 minutes and 7.5ips - 90 minutes, correct?
Do you know a reputable place where to get Otari aligned and tuned? Someone like Willy Hermann for Nakamichi.
Theoretically, I could get Otari now, but I would have to sell my Nakamichi 682ZX and all the Maxell Vertex tapes I have for that. No, I really like this Nak, I'll wait a little.
10-06-15: Dopogue
Cleeds, the Otari can indeed "do both." There's a switch atop the headstack ... "

Thanks! I stand corrected. What model Otari are you referring to?
My 5050 BII has the switch.

Inna, 15ips gets you 33 1/3 minutes on a reel with 2500 ft. of tape. I always found that interesting given most LPs play at 33 1/3. Where do you live? I know a few Otari folks around the country.
Clio09, thank you very much, appreciate it.
But I am not ready to delve into it right now and wouldn't want to bother your friends.
I'll send you a message when I am.
If your looking to decide between the two and do not intend to use an outboard tape pre with a wired out head.... the Otari will be the superior deck. It is also newer than the venerable Technics 1500. It's stock preamp electronics sound better.
No, I would just use "all in one" unit, this would not be a professional level project.
Otari it will be.
Thank you everyone.

I own an Otari MX5050, it's a 1/4 track professional machine that's extremely complex. I've never had any trouble out of it. I also own a Technics 2 track 1500, never had any trouble out of it either. Presently I listen to the 2 track because it sounds better, that would go for either machine, 2 track sounds better than 1/4 track, and 15 IPS is overkill for CD's and records.

My question to you is "where are you going to get the blank tape, and where are you going to get the pre-recorded tape"? Since I've never bought any pre recorded, I can't answer any questions in regard to machine compatibility.

I suggest you forget about the reels until the tape questions are answered. Good luck on both.
There are lots of sources for blank tape. I use RMGI, bought a couple cases of it when I got my deck and have purchased more since. The better question is where to find a good deal on blank tape. It is not cheap.

As for pre-recorded, again sources exist, depends on what you are looking for and what you want to pay. 7 1/2 ips is more accessible and more titles. In the OPs case though I do not think pre-recorded tapes were what he was looking for. More so to do home recording.
You can find a lot of blank tape on ebay. Seems to me ATR is very much in production- a lot of studios are still using analog tape, enough to keep tape manufacturers alive.
Orpheus10, you may be right about 15ips for records. I will listen, if I hear no difference I'll use 7.5ips. Depends also on the source. My Nottingham Spacedeck/Spacearm is good but far from top of the line, the same with phono stage.
Yes, I would be interested in finding pre-recorded tapes but also finding the recordings that were never released. You see a lot of this on youtube. There are recordings of great performances, someone has the master tapes and copies. Difficult to find, you need to be a member of audio clubs and have connections, but I think with time and patience it can be done. As for the cost, well, certain things are worth paying for. Besides, I am very selective in what I listen to. As an example, out of probably one hundred concerts of Mahavishnu Orchestra that I found on youtube I listen to two. The same with Miles Davis.
So it would be an interesting project.
There are a total of 8,000-10,000 pre-recorded tapes offered every day on auction or buy-it-now basis on eBay. Prices are all over the map and most of the tapes are estate-sale purchases, offered by sellers who have no decks on which to play them. It's pretty wild but you can get lucky. I just won a classical album of Handel works by E. Power Biggs for a grand total of $5.04 -- $1.04 for the tape and $4.00 for shipping.
When you search for blank tape on ebay, use the key word "NOS" after "reel to reel tape." This will search for tapes in sealed boxes and "one pass," or lightly used tape.

Mind you, the selection ranges from older poor quality tape to high quality mastering tape. You should familiarize yourself with the different tape stock if going into this hobby.

Inna, remember this, before you record, make sure there are no "fluorescent lights" within 100 miles. Demagnetize the heads, buy rubber cleaner for pinch rollers, buy new pinch rollers for whatever machine if possible, head cleaner of course. Demagnetize the heads after recording each tape. Make sure you're not thinking about anything else when you record. Recording LP's is a lot of precise work, and these suggestions are a big step in getting good results.

Good luck.
"Demagnetize the heads after recording each tape." Whoa, there. If anything is gonna discourage a newbie, that's it. (I won't get into the fluorescent light thing.) I'm well aware that recording with magnetized heads is not a good thing, but good grief, let's be realistic. If it makes you more comfortable, buy the most sensitive magnetometer (like 5-0-5) you can find and learn just how many recordings it takes to move the needle.

And btw, Terry Witt (aka Terry's Rubber Rollers) has probably re-rubbered more pinch rollers than anyone else on earth and he recommends "plain old dish soap and water" (I use Dawn) for cleaning pinch rollers when they need it. I agree that it doesn't hurt to have a spare.
I don't know about RTR decks, but I demagnetize my Nakamichi head once a year maybe using Nak device. Frankly, I hear no or almost no difference, not sure.
In any case, I would experiment with that too. Things like that will not discourage me. I will also use Last head treatment and Last tape treatment. Walter from Last factory said I could use safely head treatment fluid for pinch rollers too if not too much. He has been using both for his own valuable tapes.
I am a tape head, I'll get it right, no worries.
Good thinking, Inna. Except that those Last tapeproducts are, to me, ungodly expensive. I have both and reserve them for stuff like fixing squealing tapes. Which is not to say they don't work.

Incidentally, in my Otari comments I should have noted that they apply to my own deck (Model MX-5050 BII-2) and maybe not to other models.
Dopogue, that's most likely the Otari that I will get.
Expensive, well, it depends on how much you need. But nothing good in this hobby is exactly inexpensive.
Servicing and shipping RTR deck will be quite expensive too.
Five years ago I sent my Nakamichi 682ZX to Willy Hermann for big service. It cost me about $650 including shipping both ways. Bought it used for $450 15 years ago. Is $1100 for fifteen years a lot? I don't think so. Otari will be more expensive , I guess, but it will sound much better! And will be more fun.
' Make sure you're not thinking about anything else when you record.'
This is an excellent advice, I fully agree. I do exactly that when recording. And to continue along the line - do not listen to the music while recording, just monitor, listen to later.

Correction: Demagnafication is after each recording session, which will be more than one reel. Here is something that can easily slip your mind; your recorded tapes must be a good distance away from the demagnetizing process, or those tapes will be damaged by the demagnetizer. It's little things like this that require planning, meaning that you might walk through your recording session the night before.

I played some tapes this evening, and rediscovered they are well worth the effort.
Of course, they are worth the effort. Speaking of nights, I can only record between about 2am and 5am because this is the only time interval when the wall current is okay.
Yes, sometimes while recording, you get a tick or something in the middle of the track, then you have to re-record this track or sometimes the entire side. And sometimes, you have to figure out how to find a few extra seconds of the tape to record a particular track in particular order. Etc.
Still, it is all worth to me.
I'll keep in mind what you said about the demagnetizer, thank you.

Inna, this is stuff dreams are made of, it's called EE tape. If a person had a reel with a EE seting , he could record at the slow speed of 3 3/4 and get 7 1/2 quality of sound. That doubled the playback time without reducing quality of sound. This was long before I got into the high end, and playback time was our concern.

As it turns out, you don't need those EE settings, this tape will work on any reel. I'm listening to it on the 2 track Technics and what I'm hearing is truly unbelievable. ( A 2 track Otari will be even better) Holographic is an understatement, the musicians are here in the listening room.

This reel was not in a gold EE box, but as soon as I heard the first tune, I knew it was EE tape. War "All Day Music" was the first LP; it's hot fun in the summertime. "Let's go to the beach, play in the park, or roll in the grass long after dark". The year was 71 when such things, even for us, were on the good idea list. On this tape, each vocal or instrument is surrounded by air, decay time on any thing that rings is forever and the musicians are in the listening room.

Everyone whose heard EE tape wishes it would come back. I'm positive, no matter how good someone else's rig is, they wont get sound this good unless they got a reel and EE tape; think about it, the high end is the starting line, then you throw in a reel; that boosts it up a notch; next you add the EE tape, that puts it over the rim; I sure hope they bring it back.

Top notch gear is only half the story, good recording results require explicit planning and execution. "Watch power cords and interconnects, arrange so as not to create hum". Enjoy when it's time, but don't rush.
Otari MX5050 B3 will be my personal choice. Very versatile and easy to use machine with incredible recording abilities. It's also easy to service and high reliability.
I saw many EE reels on ebay. I always thought that backcoated tapes were the best. But perhaps not for the 3.75ips.
In any case, the consensus is that Otari two track is the way to go. Except Studer A810..

Inna, since you're looking into all things Otari, could you tell me how easy it is, to change my 1/4 track Otari to a 2 track?

The old pro needs some help from you newbees; I had been using Quantegy 456 grand master, but I now see $270.99 a reel, tell me it ain't so.

I need advice on blank tape, what are you guys using?
Its a matter of changing out the heads a tape guides, then recalibrating the electronics to the heads.

Sony made a pro audio machine (APR 5003) that sounds quite good that had interchangeable head nests complete with guides. It takes only about 5 minutes to change from one to the other. Usually though we are swapping between 1/4" and 1/2" two-channel tape. If you think 1/4" half track is nice...
Then wait till you hear 1" half track at 30 ips, correct?
Never heard that.
Yes Atmasphere, 1/2" was great to work with, not to
mention the sonics. Wouldn't mind haVing a deck in my home.
Even though I'm only in my 50s, I grew up in the analogue
world of 1 inch 24/48 track recording. If I had my way,
studio sessions would still be recording to 1" tape.
What a wonderful sound.
There are a few engineers who have returned to analogue
recording/digital mastering.
Digital mastering is what destroys good analog recording. I have records like that, it's junk. Analog only, everywhere.
I totally agree, Inna. We would make our analogue masters, but if we wanted anybody to buy our music, the record plants require a HiRez digital file as the master. But I suppose we could sell a couple 1/4" reels/year.

I wonder if The Tape Project is making any money?
Lowrider57, the record plants take whatever media the master is on- 1/4" or 1/2" master tape or digital file, whatever. I say this as a mastering engineer; we have to be able to handle the master in whatever form it takes.
Atmasphere, thanks for responding. I know the mastering engineer can receive various audio formats, but after you sweeten the sound and sequence the tracks, etc, what format do you then give to the record cutter?
We avoid doing anything to the sound of the source (no 'sweetening'); in theory some projects might need processing if there is bass that is out of phase or the like but so far we've not had to do anything like that- with a little care you can avoid a lot of processing that is generally used just to speed things up.

The sequence is already predetermined on any project by the artist.

We play back in whatever form the source arrives; we can handle 1/4" and 1/2" 2-channel tape and just about any digital sound file.
Depending on how critical your SYSTEM is at revealing fine details (and reproducing background noise (i.e. tape hiss)), you have to pick a tape deck that is a good match. There are ALSO a number of good Teac and Tascam decks- some that offer 4 heads-
three half-track and one quarter-track (PB) head, and also some Otari machines with 4 heads as well. BUT...Make sure you aren't going to be sorry you didn't opt for a machine with auto-reverse if you hate threading tape. One-direction machines use twice as much tape for the same recording times. Tape is NOT inexpensive, but with patience you can eventually find someone who will sell a reel of used (SPLICE-FREE) tape for under $40, or even $30.
I have a few tape-project tapes and they DO sound very good, but the "super tape-nerds" like to tell me i need a $20K deck to get to the "promised land" (referring to demos that have taken place at audio shows) where these recordings will sound better than any other source material. But in defiance I have done the unthinkable- loaded them on a Teac X-2000M half-track deck (un-modified). They sound fine to my ears-go figure. Was i blown away? No, but i don't think my system has ever
sounded "better". I do wish someone out there would perhaps engineer some better circuitry to modify those machines- let's say, $1000-$3000. WHY? Because, they already are versatile enough to play most tapes, AND you can record with them also.
there are a lot of choices out there, but clearly not many that meet BOTH the prosumer and semi-professional needs of audiophiles. you either have to get a full blown professional deck (that no one wants to ship), or put up with a lot of plastic and silly features (like cheap cuing devices, rec-mute, heads that "never wear out", and a long list of questionable features listed across the head-cover). Very little or no decks fall in between these two categories.
The very lucky and well-off will make room for a console deck (Studer, Ampex, MCI, Otari, etc.) and wire outboard playback amplifiers to the PB heads. I hope they are handy calibrating and maintaining such glorious machines, or know someone that can come over once a year and do it for them. But you really need one hell of a system to match studio-grade decks' performance. I LOVE tape recorders, but this
is not something i want to deal with- even as much as i want exceptional reproduction of Beethoven and Sonny Rollins.
French_fries, I think you exaggerate certain points. Yes, it is not inexpensive, like any hi-fi. Otari that appears to be in good condition can be had for about $1k. Let's say you would need another $1k right away to align, calibrate and maybe replace a few small parts. But it will last for decades with care. Tape becomes very expensive if you need a lot of it and record half track at 15 ips.
For comparizon, yesterday I took a look at records available on ebay. Of what I might want the average price was $100 each. Now that's expensive. Only ten records for Otari? Ridiculous.

Clio09, I just received the RMGI tape that I'm going to use with the Otari MX 5050, what bias and equalizer setting did you use?
Thanks, Atmasphere, very enlightening. Superior sound, what a concept.

Changing from 1/4 track to 1/2 track will be quite expensive, but it will be a brand new head. When taking that, plus the fact tape is available one day and not the next, I think I'll leave the Otari 1/4 just as it is; although I don't believe there is any limit to improvement from widening tape heads, there is a limit to how much tape I can afford.
Orpheus10, I use IEC on the EQ and the medium setting on the Ref Flux.
I own an Otari MX-55N and it's a great machine. But the MTR-12's and 15's are even better, at least mechanically (fully professional studio machines). Also, the capstan needs to be
re-lubricated every so often by removing the "deck skin", This is accomplished after removing a great deal more than just the head cover. And it uses a special oil as well. It can be calibrated but you need test tapes. All fine and well. The thick manual goes on and on and on about special adjustments, features, options, etc.
A prosumer deck has no such requirements. You clean and demagnetize and that is IT. Of course i hate the plastic and the cheap off-the-shelf components.
And THAT was my whole point- I would want an relatively easy to use machine with an easy to understand manual, but using far-better parts made to last a much longer time under use and also sound quite a bit better as well. And i hate when people tell me that even a properly working Otari or Revox, Technics, etc. sounds like crap with the "stock electronics".
Name me one machine (not the one for over $20,000) that can fill in for a great turntable, or a similar CDP that plays SACD's. Anyway, i am working on just such a project (perhaps a modified Studer A810).
Albert's got Studer A810 with custom headblock for $25000. Must be a dream home machine.