Reel to reel , is it real the hype!


I am thinking of venturing into the realm of reel to reel.
I have access to purchase an otari mtr10, with enhanced 1/2 “ head block, refurbished and recapped for 9k.
my system is in brief is ayre kxr and mxr twenties playing through magico M3 with Jl audio Gotham subs. Front end digital is souped up wolf streamer pure digital capable of playing 512 and 1024 dsd files , t+a sd 3100hv dac( capable of playing 1024 dsd native . Front end analogue is sme 30/2 with Lyra Etna lamda sl catridge playing through vandenhul grail Se+ phono stage.( please see my system page for details )
my question is will the otari give me better performance than my digital and vinyl front end . Thank you in advance .
newtoncr
Just getting a great tape deck isn't going to do anything for you unless you have some very well recorded tapes. Really good tapes are very expensive unless you have a line on getting recordings from master tapes. At that point if everything is right it should easily beat all your other formats.This is the most expensive format to do right and the media is far to expensive for most folks but if you have the money than go for it.

BillWojo
Not hype. Reality. I had open reel back in the 70's and 80's. Dumbest thing I ever did in audio was sell the RT. Back then I would dub my records to tape and do almost all my listening off tape. Playing records was a special occasion. Although honestly the dubs were so close.....   

But that was then. Now there are really superb tapes you can buy, and master tape dubs will blow you away. If your system is up to it anyway. The ones I heard at Mike Lavigne's, if I had that the turntable would be gathering dust, let me tell you!   

Rather than research the deck I would suggest research the tapes first. Because no point buying a deck if it sucks you dry for buying tapes. But if you can swing it then brother, swing for the fences! We heard some Pink Floyd that made time stand still. Then some Led Zep, and I don't even like most of it but damn, this was something else! Not hype. Not even. 
If you enjoy spending $100's per album go for it.
Otari parts are gone.   
Have at it.
Yup have a plan, because it's not a poor mans toy. Doing your own stuff is just about the only good option, prices are just NUTS and what's available really sucks for the most part.  35 years ago it was bad, it's a whole lot worse now.. There were a lot of good DIY 1/4 7.5" and 15" back then.

Unless your going to record your own.. and 1/2" tape..

Otari, some are surely better than others.. I've used them close to 40 years off more than on... Still a lot of good parts and a few techs to keep them going.. They have good maintenance manual too, if you want to learn.. All of the wear parts are still around and quite a few upgrades, just depends on what you're doing. 

1/2" tape? You better check and see if there is a source first..

Regards
@billwojo275@millercarbon@fuzztone
yes I did look at the source material.
source material is limited.
I see there are very few reliable sources for original master tape copies.
My friend says he can help me get authentic copies for a price of course.
price seems to be around 200-500$ per copy.

@oldhvymec    Thank you. I am looking for specific information on this deck the otari mtr10. Typical price etc.
1/2 “ I hear is of better quality than 1/4 “.
I have been told making a copy from 1/4 to 1/2 inch may improve the quality of sound. Something similar to upsampling.
He says he can change the head block to a 1/4 “ extended range but recommends against it .
Blank tape for 1/2” is going to be more expensive. 1/4” blank I see is around 110-150$ on a metal spool. Do you know how expensive 1/2” tape is .


There are very few if any "old copies." Back in the early 60's pre recorded tapes were the way to go if you wanted the best sound. My father had an Ampex tape machine for playing them back. Classical and jazz were well represented. All the tapes were at 71/2 ips and made on the cheapest stock. Hiss was always an issue. The vast majority have disintegrated by now. All my inherited ones have been gone since 1976. My Revox A 77 was becoming mechanically inept and I decided not to have it rebuilt as by then the market for pre recorded tapes had dried up. 
$100 for a tape? Try $400 to $500. That is 16 to 20 records or files. I would rather have the records or files than demonstrate to others what a sophisticated audiophile I am. If you are rich enough to do both than who am I to argue but, in my mind it is, in the end, all about the music. I would not mind having an old Scully as a museum piece like an old Victrola.
1/2" tape is for professional use. I wouldn't expect to find many prerecorded tapes. Maybe a master recording.

I used 1/2" in studio and it  sounds wonderful. 

Spending $9K on an Otari is a waste of money. Get an old Revox or Teac and buy some old commercial tapes on eBay. That'll give you a taste of the tape sound. People claiming to have copies of master tapes are pulling your leg! Stick to LPs for Analog! 
before you do anything, you may want to see what is available in tapes first. There are a number of companies that sell them. As others have noted far from cheap. But once you hear true high speed tape it blows the other formats into the weeds. The other comment I will add, is once you spend an evening listening to tape, you MUST power down for the night. Reverting back to any other format is akin to powering up the AM radio for a listening session. Just be careful, once you jump in, C Note bills will fly out of your wallet faster than a bear going after the honey pot. 
I got into R2R this year (fully refurbished 2T HS Revox B77 Mk2 and 2T HS PR99 Mk2). With the right, expensive, tape nothing beats a 15ips, 2T well-recorded R2R tape for SQ. Plain and simple, why do you think high end manufacturers are now using R2R tape to demonstrate their products?

My favorite R2R tape is Lyn Stanley's London With A Twist; I guarantee, on a top quality system, you will think you are listening to live music, quite simply unbelievably real. Also from Acoustic Sounds; Nora Jones Come Away With Me, Oscar Peterson We Get Request and Muddy Waters Folk Singer. Again, all 3 tapes sound like live music being played in front of you. I have been a HiFi enthusiast for 55 years now and owned a lot of equipment in that time and heard many wonderful recordings (LP, CD, Streaming, FM Radio and now R2R); well recorded 15ips 2T tape beats every format hands down.

If you need a good source of R2R tape machines try: https://www.techtrader.ch. Urs is a great guy to deal with and his refurbished Revox/Studer machines are as good as they get IMHO. Beyond being a customer I have no affiliation with this company.

R2R system is mainly the Revox PR99 Mk2 (IEC) playing into a McIntosh MC52, MC312 power amp and Magico A5 speakers. The Revox B77, Mk2 2T, HS is setup for NAB equalized tape.
EVERY analogue copy adds a generational loss. No exceptions. You heard wrong.
95% of amazing sound is built into the recording not the playback medium.
You are quite welcome to spend $K’s chasing the 5%. If that’s your thing.
Lyn Stanley is an Audiophile. She did a seminar at Axpona ’18. That album was not made on tape. If the tape sounds good imagine the direct to disc lacquer.
fuzztone, I attended the same Lyn Stanley AXPONA 2018 seminar. Apparently the tape was made simultaneously with the DD, cut as a safety copy. From the Lyn Stanley web site:
The original session used RGMI 468 1/4 inch tape at 30ips as the lacquers were being cut
I actually own both the DD and tape. Although the DD LP is truly exceptional, the tape is even better IMHO. Clarity, resolution, frequency response, low noise, spatial presentation and dynamics are second to none to my ears. The best recording I have ever heard!
First OP congrats on your sweet system - both analog and digital, very well sorted out. I am sure w this level of thought and discernment, you are able to differentiate relative strengths and weaknesses to format. I am fortunate to dabble in all three. I have a heavily modified B77 with outboard tube head amps and EQ.

You have been given good advice. I prefer IEC and 1/4” 15 ips half track. This may limit you but provides a good jump in point. I would recommend a reference tape sampler from Opus 3 to get feet wet. Tape subscriptions can lower costs as does piracy, i don’t want to sidetrack the thread, just give that some thought.

I have heard that stock Otari, i didn’t get the liquid midrange i value so much, but again…it was stock but in a high caliber Ayre and Verity system, no slouch.

You will need to invest in calibration tapes, etc…some DIY expertise. seek out the R2R tapehead sites..no shortage of expertise, opinions…

Best to you on your journey….

Jim
I vote for a pro-sumer six head auto-reverse 1/4" wide 4 track machine and 7-1/2 IPS pre-recorded tapes.

certainly not the ultimate tape size/head/speed like you are mentioning,

however, a lot of source material exists (up to the end of their era).

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2334524.m570.l1313&_nkw=reel+to+reel+tape...

buy it, play it, EASILY enjoy it.

my factory tapes, readily available on eBay, many 60 years old, are still the best sounding source material I own. 

I made my nephew, a musician, weep when I played him Sgt. Pepper’s on my Teac X2000R. Everyone picks LP over CD, then Tape over LP.

I bought over 500 tapes on eBay, wonderful content, then sold about 150 of them. I never returned any, and nobody returned any to me.

Don’t believe people who say they are too old, they surprise me every time I play them.

yes, my 2 track stereo tapes sound better still (on a real 2 track head) (as would the deck you mentioned)

 however I only inherited a dozen of them, the pre-recorded 2 tracks stopped being made early, and the real 2 track heads don't play 4 track. You can play 2 track on a 4 track deck, turn one track down, the other one up, as there is only partial track/head overlap. They don't sound 'awesome', but I get to remember my uncle when I play them. 

btw, I just gave my 1" wide studio master of a Louis Armstrong session at Regency Sound (Ramblin Rose ... session) to a friend who has a friend who, for a price, will transfer it from his 1" machine to digital. I offered it to the Louis Armstrong Museum, they didn’t bother to answer my email.


Great advice and information. Thank you everyone.
So reel is for real …
thanks for all the contact information regarding sources where I can buy tapes and the deck.
I contacted a couple of places and am waiting for more information from them .
I have decided to slowly step into the ocean of reel to reel and have it hooked up with my main system .
I am currently thinking of a 1/2 “ tape , 2 track deck . Probably the otari mtr 10 or 12 with flux magnetic extended performance heads .
nothing decided yet still need to gather a lot of information before the plunge .

Why 1/2" tape for home use? It will sound awesome when recording your own material, but not practical if you want to buy prerecorded. Tapes are 1/4", some are 4-track, meaning recordings are on both sides, and some are recorded at 3.75 ips.


@lowrider57 i do not plan to buy from commercial sources .
I talked to a couple of reel to reel industry pioneers who have a very good library and can make copies for me on 1/2 “ reel from their copies .
they vouch for the authenticity of the source from the master tape .
That's fantastic. What a great resource to have.

Professional recording studios used 2"  24-track tape at 15-30 ips in the day on Ampex, Studer, Tascam, or Otari as I understand it, but that may be slightly incorrect.

A fellow local shop owner recorded many live concerts using a Stellavox and played around a lot with mic placement  (https://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/peter-mcgrath-recording-engineer).

As for your home, any machine that is good working order and has the heads clean and aligned will probably do.  Back then, r-t-r decks were expensive, so there were not many "lousy" ones out there.  As I remember, and it was a while ago, REVOX had an outstanding home deck in the day, but there were many others as well--Tandberg, Sony, TEAC, and I think even Ampex had a home deck at one time.

Cheers!
If you're going to get into reel to reel and you pursue buying old tapes from EBay, do make sure to clean the entire tape path after EACH tape is played!!! Some old tapes have held up well after 50 plus years. Many others, not so much. I had a prerecorded tape I listened to around 1986. I failed to examine the tape heads after that one time. I put a studio grade second generation master tape on the machine a week later. I ruined the tape in one play! The previous cheapo tape was so oxidized, the entire tape path on the machine was loaded with it. The studio tape was trashed.
 I wouldn't even trust recording tape that was made yesterday. Back in the late eighties, one manufacturer put a back coating on the tape as it was said to increase the life of the tape (I would have to go through my tapes to remember which company this was, maybe AGFA). The coating on the tape started breaking down after ten years! What a headache. Be prepared to babysit your machine. Scotch 111 is one of my favorite tapes. In my opinion, it was the best ever made. Good luck to you OP. Joe
Every time you make an analog copy more degradation is added. 

I owned a Revox. It fell apart after 10 years.

Tape machines relative to a turntable are complex machines. They require a lot of maintenance. 

I won't do it again under any circumstance. Even if you do not think that high resolution digital files 96/24 and above do not sound quite as good they represent a far less expensive and far more reliable situation than reel to reel tape. There are many that argue digitally recorded material sounds best in high res files. Mastered correctly, without much compression, I am inclined to agree. The industry moved away from reel to reel for a reason. These people are not stupid and they listen to live musicians all day long. If anyone knows what music is supposed to sound like it is them. 
An audio buddy of mine and small group often compare DAC (good DAC) to records using different amps.  The DAC is generally the cleanest (playing DSD and high sample rates) but often misses that mood/deeper "visceral" feeling we get from records.  

His idea, not executed yet is we record from DAC via some nice silver cables to RTR tape.  Might get that done in the next month.
+1 jnovak! Good advice! 
davidgwillett
... His idea, not executed yet is we record from DAC via some nice silver cables to RTR tape.
What would be the advantage of that? The tape dub can't possibly be higher fidelity than the source.
keep in mind of you get an MTR-10 or 12, both were offered in 1/4 inch tape and 1/2 inch tape formats as two track and 4 track machines. 1/2 tape is addictive though......and 30 ips half inch can be like crack....
I have 2 decks and enjoy them but be careful.  You are entering a world where tapes cost $400 and up.
I have Revox A77 NOS purchased perhaps twenty years ago. Rarely used when first purchased, been sitting in closet many years. Recently been getting the itch to reinstate. This thing still has the original display tags, wood cabinet as new, can't believe I lucked into this rare piece.

Lack of source material is reason machine never made it into regular service in my rigs.
As an option to R to R you might want to try what I just did, I put my money into the DS Audio Grand Master optical cartridge and it’s a revelation playing vinyl.
@newtoncr

The Otari MTRs sound great, even with stock electronics - excellent transport as well. I have a 1/4 inch MTR12 and it’s a great deck.

If you really decide to get into R2R and "master tapes", I would advise that you buy TWO machines, the appropriate monitoring equipment and calibration tapes.

Every studio produced tape would have had line up tones at the head. To get the very best out of each tape, you have to learn how to adjust the playback (repro) to give you the correct level and a flat freq response. Learning how to calibrate both the repro and record side is crucial to getting the best out of a fabulous medium.

I have 5 R2Rs - a half inch Studer A820 and 4 x 1/4 inch machines - Otari MTR12, 2 x Sony APR 5000 series and a Studer A807/II.

I also have about 100 x 15 IPS 1/4 inch production masters (incl Beatles, Floyd, Doors, Peter Gabriel, Miles Davis, Nina Simone etc). I would not dream of playing these regularly through my machines - they are far too valuable and irreplaceable.

Hence, upon purchase I copy each master onto a) new RTM 1/4 inch tape stock at 15 IPS with Dolby SR and b) onto 192/24 high res with a Prism Sound A2D interface. I can then play the duplicated tape as much as I like. The original gets safely stored. It takes me an evening to do a single tape.

Without a shadow of a doubt, high speed R2R from a high quality recording is stunning. You need deep pockets and the willingness to learn. It’s a lot more hassle and far more expensive than digital.

Recording studios went to digital, as it’s far cheaper to make the music in the long run. A 2 inch 762m tape for recording the multitrack session (approx 16 mins at 30 IPS) costs about £350 or USD 500. 1/2 inch tape for the 30 IPS stereo mix down is about £180 or USD 250. That’s a cost, which up and coming artists can’t afford to pay.
Got the otari 10 today , 1/2 inch 2 track with flux magnetic extended performance heads .
I hear immediately more power and presence in the presentation… played doors la woman and it was very good.
will update more incl pictures once I get to collect and listen to more music .
Already  hearing about scammers in the industry who sell reels made from digital sources and charge an arm and a leg . Finding authentic sources sounds like a challenge 
level match against the excellent system you already have, gain is always addictive!
have fun.
enjoy !
I have two Otari MTR 10's both 1/4" 2 track machines all completely stock, I had Studers in the past but; after hearing my first MTR I sold the Studer and bought a second MTR 10.. They sound fantastic in my all bit horn low powered tri amped system. I have over 60 copies of Master tapes @ 15ips IEC and nothing sounds better!!! 
I have a Redpoint Model D TT with a Triplanar arm and Soundsmith cartridge and hundreds of first press albums from the UK, and the tapes just absolutely destroy all of my vinyl. I also have the Tape Project Tapes and they are better than any vinyl I have.... You can't go wrong with getting into R2R!!!!! 
@jsman interesting observation but my experience so far is a little diff. I got master tape copies including from tape project … once I level match my digital and analogue systems the diff is very subtle … dsd copies sound pretty indistinguishable from reel … pcm don’t sound so good but still close …500$ tapes have a charm but dsd digital through my system is very very close /similar . Building an authentic master tape copy library is a great feeling for sure. 
two decks is a good way to go. And as one poster mentioned, making a play copy is not a bad way to go, since if its a fav piece of music, you can play it to death and simply make another copy if need be. 

For those of you with MTR decks (10 or 12) and stock electronics, here is a very simple change you can make. If you slide out the two audio cards from their rack rails, directly behind the card faceplate, you will find 6 0.1uf red kidney colored caps. These are bypasses on the rail voltages coming into the card. Replace all six on each card with 0.1uf Nichicon XY series foil and film cap. These nichicons can be sourced from mouser or digikey. will cost you about 12 -15 bucks in parts. when installed the new caps will remove a blanket that was covering your speakers. The stock caps were metalized film, not as open sounding as film and foil. Takes about 15 min per card to do the change. If you do not feel comfortable doing it, plenty of techs that can do the change for you. 
@johnss blank tapes are very expensive. Doesn’t seem to be worthwhile having 2 copies of same .. except for critical listening I would use digital … as I mentioned earlier, my digital setup the sound is very close if not similar (dsd) .
is there a source for cheap tapes so I can make copies of my vinyl, selected few .
my mtr 10 the caps have all been replaced but I don’t know the details of the replacement. 
@newtoncr blank tape may not be cheap, but high end R2R is not a budget hobby. If you have a production master of something like the Beatles' Revolver, it is something to be cherished and cared for. Every pass you make over the tape heads will degrade the tape by a very small amount. Production masters are pretty much irreplaceable. It's the tape version of an LP lacquer (albeit more robust).
If you copy your USD 500-1000 production master once onto new tape and also onto digital, you will have absolutely the best quality source for your music. Play the copy or digital file as much as you like - its won't matter if you shred the tape copy or corrupt the digital dupe. You will still have your original master to run another copy off carefully, before storing the master again.
USD 60-80 may not be cheap for a blank tape, but blank tape is relatively easily available. Production masters aren't.
@topoxforddoc agreed , I am making digital copies of the master and using the masters only for critical listening. 
@newtoncr, check out tapetape.com. He sells new tape one pass tape from studios. He normally has quite a selection. 
And need to remember the 60-80 bucks for a new blank tape is about the same as the 25 dollars for a new blank 40 years ago, if you figure in inflation and devaluation of the buck. If you have a lot of tapes, you may find that only a few get played a lot. the rest will get infrequent play. Besides the deck maint, one of the biggest issues with tape is the storage space required to hold them all. 
@johnss , thank you for the information.
I have been buying 1/2 “ 911 bias tapes that have been costing me about 137$ a tape and I need 2 tapes per album ie 274$ per album. 
the prices in this website are much more reasonable.
I will contact them .
United Home Audio, a big champion of reel-to-reel tape, makes tape copies of vinyl albums.  This is one way to preserve records (by not playing them much) and they maintain that the sound of the tape version of an album is actually better than the source album played on the record player.  I've heard the comparison at their shop, and it was interesting.  I still preferred the record (a touch more lively), but, I can see how someone might like the very smooth and open sound of the taped copy.  They also have many of those spectacular sounding $500 copies from master tapes.

A friend of mine who reconditions tape machines is a big fan of Otari machines.  He said they are easy to service and are built like tanks so they are quite durable.  The downside is that most were used by professionals, so they have been subjected to very heavy use.  Another friend bought something like ten machines from a folded books on tape operation.  He got all of the machines, plus other gear for a few hundred dollars and has been slowly selling off machines and parts.  

Not that long ago, I got to hear a big Studer that sounded really good.  It is one of those holy grail machines, along with the Ampex ATR 100 machines (I've never heard one) that the very serious tape fans seek out.  This looks like a fun hobby for those who are not as lazy as I am--I don't play my turntable that much because of the extra effort required over using a music server.
Downloaded picture of the otari .
@larryi thank you for the contact . Will ask them if they will make copies in 1/2”
tape.
my friend who sold me the otari has 3 atr machines and has had studer in his system .
ATR sound real good as do the otari 😊