Reel to Reel uses -

My wife and I love to entertain.  It never ceases to surprise me how many will walk over to my stereo and stare at my Reel to Reel tape deck.  Some under the age of 35, will ask what it is? Others want to know why I have it, and what do I use it for?  Of course I answer their questions, but now it makes we wonder how others use their machines?  I have been following a couple of high end blogs that I really enjoy and see that one gentlemen uses his machine to play master tape copies.  I do this as well, but have no where near the selection that he does.  I make copies of my favorite LP's to play when guests are over, and also make my own master tapes using a couple of neuman's microphones.  I record small jazz trios and solo artists straight to the machine.  People are amazed at how 'real' these tapes sound.  My main reel to reel is a Pioneer RT-1050 high speed half track.  I have a second just like it that I use for the above mentioned site recordings.  I also have a ReVox B-77, a Sony TC-765, and a Crown 822, all half track machines.  Anyone out there making your own masters?

I don't know anyone who records these days.

A R2R machine is a pretty rare bird these days- no doubt that's where the curiosity lies 
I have been reading and seeing more and more reel to reel decks being used.  They have been displayed at several audio shows over the last couple of years.  With the Tape Project tapes, and United Home Audio's list of master copies, it seems that they are making a slow but steady comeback.
Making your own recordings is very rewarding and great fun.  
I wish more would try. 
Zavato, love your Patti Boyd photo.  A real classic.


Hi Norman,

I'm interested in live-to-2 track analog reel recordings, as well.  I have a couple of Studer A-820/2CH decks for recording at home and am in search of a correctly-priced remote location deck.

Good luck to you!  :-)

Hi guys, I am glad that i came across your comments. I have been very interested in start with Reel to Reel but i need advice since I have zero experience with it.
I just like the idea of playing music in RtR equipment.
I would really appreciate advice about what could be my first reel to reel unit and where is safe to get it?
highly appreciate your help.
Kind regards and I wish i could add more to the topic.
thank you
Hello Sam,
There are many to choose from. I originally used a NAGRA with fine results however 10.5 " reels are a must for me and the extension arms needed to accomodate the large reels for me were a problem. That and the machine must be laid onto a table top. I was always having trouble with people getting to close to the spinning reels and the extension arms are fragile. The Pioneer RT 1050 is made for location work. It has excellent specs and is very robust. It is also an excellent sounding machine. It comes in a "road case", with a front cover. The one I use at home looks new, the one I use for live recording look very well used but it functions perfectly. Also I have several NOS head blocks which are plug and play. You might search one out. They are multi voltage and parts are still obtainable. Also it has NAB and IEC bias profiles.  Now. I wish I had an 820!  Maybe someday. 

There are many good machines available. Don't be afraid to buy a used machine as most were very well built. I would get half track machine as that will allow you to play master copies. Sony, ReVox, TEAC, Tascam, Otari, Crown, Studer, Denon, Pioneer and Tandberg all made excellent machines.  Find one that has been well maintained as servicing a worn machine can be expensive.  Deepending on your budget, there are several companies that refurbish these machines to like new condition. That or seek one out from and original owner who has maintained his machine. You will never regret owning a fine feel to feel. 
R2R has its pleasures and pains.  I now have about seven decks, in all configurations, 1/2 track, 4 track, all speeds.  I've purchased over fifteen decks and sold most of them off when they had maintenance issues.  Technics 1500's seem to be the most reliable, and also the easiest to find parts, especially head units.  I have two of these. I do not do any recording.

I have about 6,000 pre-recorded tapes, most commercially produced.   Again in all configurations, included are some studio masters done by some great engineers.  Included are Barkley and Crooker, Drake and AFRTS tapes, the latter being created by the government for broadcast use in the Armed Forces Entertainment Network. These show that the taxpayer funds can do great things. Most of the AFRTS were produced using vinyl as source material.

So my advice, if just starting, would be to buy a Technics 1500 machine.  There resale value is high so if you lose interest, little is lost.  As for source material I think it is best to only focus on commercially produced 1/2 track, 7.5 ips from majors like Columbia.  Yes, that can be expensive.  Recently, such of tape of Miles Blue went for about $400, but there are bargains to be had, and a lot depends on your music taste. Buy about ten tapes to get a sense of whether it is worth all the hassle.

Today, I think SACD's and Blu-Ray audio produce the best audio experience.  I have Miles Blue in every media ever produced, including R2R.   Blu-Ray is the clear winner.

Remember, it is all about the music, not the gear.

Honestly, in having owned Akai, Sony, Pioneer, ReVox, TEAC, Crown, Ampex, and Otari over the years, I have never had any of the them ever fail.  Even through rugged use.   I have a lot of recording studio experience (late 70's as a former studio musician) and was quite used to seeing Ampex, Scully, Studer, and Crown used as mix down decks.  In many radio stations here in Chicago, Ampex and Pioneer were used extensively.  I have never had an occasion where I remember seeing Technics in a professional setting.  I know they are good machines, but it would be hard to say that they are the 'most reliable'.  The condition of the machine is really what to look for.  
For me, a master tape played on an open reel is the ultimate music experience.  I agree 100%, it's not about the gear, its the music. Blu-Ray doesn't do it for me.  But that's me. 
Hi Norman,

I'd looked at Nagra IV-S machines, but couldn't find one in the desired configuration.  I really should have purchased an A-810 when they were attractively and reasonably-priced.  :-(

I've never considered a Pioneer RT 1050...I'll have to look into it.

A Tascam 32 or BR-20 are great machines. Even after servicing they are very inexpensive. 
Also, the Studer A807.  A bit newer than an 810 and less money as well. 
I was wondering what microphones you use?

For me playing music on RtR is a ritual I like. I'm a BIG Tandberg fan. I have a Tandberg TD20A SE 1/2 Tr High-Speed deck. I had a Revox PR99 MKII also, but when it came to sonics Tandberg was a clear winner. I'm not sure if it was the CCIR (on Tandberg) vs NAB (on Revox) or if Tandberg got the sonics correct, I just love the sound of Tandberg.

Reliability is a whole different story, Tandberg decks tend to be a tad fragile compared to other decks. That and sparse availability of spares makes it a difficult deck to maintain.

I usually record multiple Vinyl albums to one Reel (BASF SM911 is my current stock tape and I have calibrated the deck to that tape) and let it spin :-), it never fails to put a smile on my face
When I bought my ReVox B77 half track new (series one), I thought nothing could top it.  I still have it, but rarely ever use it.  My Sony TC-765, and Pioneer RT-1050 sound so much better it's laughable.  And I believe it is because the ReVox is tied to the NAB eq curve.  The Pioneer has both NAB and CCIR, and is just an amazing sounding machine.  So much headroom.
For all my years in the hobby (over 40), I have never even seen a Tandberg reel to reel.  But, if they are anything like their cassette decks, or receivers and amps, then the sound must be first class!
I too am a BASF SM911 fan.  I also enjoy Agfa 468 (very smooth), but you need a bit more bias to make it happy.  
You should get a couple of mics (even something like two Audio Technicas or Shure 57's) and do some live recording. You won't believe how wonderful it will sound!  An entire second addiction will ensue.

How does this Pioneer compare to Otari ?

  I seem to like the CCIR eq over NAB, that's probably the reason why I didn't like the Revox that much. Tandberg with it's DynEQ and Actilinear implementations have nailed the sonics, especially the headroom with DynEQ.

I have a couple of recordings that I had done @ 15IPS. The sound is simply superb. The soundstage is huge. But again 15IPS with 1/2 track eats tapes and becomes an expensive proposition :-)

I also own Tandberg 3014A cassette deck and yes the Tandberg house sound is very addictive. I had a Nakamichi Dragon and still have a ZX-7, but liked Tandberg so much I sold the Dragon but kept the ZX-7 which I like over the Dragon.

Interesting you mention live recordings I'm scared to move the Tandberg because of it's fragility. I should probably look for another deck that can be hauled around.

BTW you can see my setup on my Virtual System Page.

Great topic! I'm an open reel fan and I've also owned many great decks.
I actually owned three (yes three!) Sony TC 880-2 machines. I sold all of them to my regret. I have a lot of studio tapes I can only hope I can get to dub over to CDR before they are forever lost to oxidation. Back in the day, this was the only format to offer true high fidelity. I don't use any machines in my playback system. I only archive to CDR on the computer. Joe
CDRs will vanish too, dub to hard drive.
To hard drive - sure- but also dub to another new reel. It will last for decades if handled properly. I have 25 years old cassettes, no or almost no sound deterioration.
I was thinking about getting Otari within a few years, but perhaps I should also consider the Pioneer.
I used to own an Otari MX 5050.  Excellent machine! What was especially nice was that though it was a full half track record and play it also featured a fourth quarter track playback head, which is usefull for many commercially available tapes.  Extremely well built, and very flexible.  I wanted the IEC/CCIR eq, and the series one MX 5050 was set up for NAB.  Series two and three 5050's have both.
You wouldnt ever be disappointed with e Otari. They still build these new, and parts are plentyfull.
A Pioneer RT1050 can often be found for very little money and were built for hard use.  It would be hard to find a similar quality machine for the same investment.

Time to look for another Sony!  The 880 is a really nice machine.  The big Sony's have a wonderful sound.  I would be happy with an 880-2!  So many fine machines to choose from, and so much fun to use and listen too.

I too have cassettes and reel to reel tapes that I made in the seventies which still sound superb. Use good tape and handle properly, they will out last us.

Norman, thank you. I will still probably go with the Otari series two or three. Unless I unexpectedly can afford Studer 810.
Is it significantly better than Otari?

   Studer is the Rolls Royce of RtRs built for studios. For home use Otari won't disappoint. Otari stopped making RtRs just a month or two ago, but you can still buy a new one from leftover stock. It retails at $9K+.

Good Luck.
There are many ways to enjoy reel to reel. I have number of machines and like to play them all. I try to support all those who are releasing reel tapes today - they are all 15 ips and run from those releasing their own recent recordings as well as older recordings from the master tape. The quality can be mind blowing. 

I would suggest that you buy a high speed machine (up to 15 ips) and one that allows you to choose EQ curve.  Make sure that whatever you buy is recently evaluated and serviced.  Head wear is important.

Welcome the "lunatic fringe" of audio.

livin_262002, I meant in terms of sound. Does Studer actually sound  better than Otari? Otari is wildly used in small studios too, as I heard.
I don't believe the Studer will sound better then the Otari. What you will notice with regard to difference is how the Studer performs its functions. It's like a Swiss watch. Tape handling is smoother, the machine runs quite. Stopping and starting are more positive and assuring. The 810 is a world class machine. I wish I had one. I wish my ReVox ran like one! But that is the huge difference between ReVox and Studer. ReVox is a home machine, and not nearly as smooth as a Studer.
The Studer also boasts world class electronics. 
If tape handling is smoother and the electronics is much better, how can it not sound better? I would guess it should.

Nothing beats a great reel to reel deck…I've been a pro musician since 1967 and it's interesting that analog decks are back in a big way in pro studios, even when the recordings are put into a digital mix eventually. The Steely Dan guys loved Otaris, and a friend with a commercial studio uses his all the time. I'd buy a United Home Audio deck if I could afford it…way cool. If you didn't own a TEAC in the 70s you were a LOSER (kidding, but still). Made home demos on a borrowed Revox back in the day, all good. Splicing tape is an almost lost art…demag…clean your heads!
I suppose e differences that I notice are not so much with the Studer sounding better than the Otari ( some may disagree).  It's just the feel of using the machine.  It's silky smooth at every touch, and the engament has more finesse. That said, the Otari's while not as smooth handling have a sterling  reputation as excellent machines.

I am glad that there are still many enthusiasts of RTR decks. I hope, this is going to be my next big audiophile project. Otari would probably be more than enough, though Studer sounds very appealing. I think, I heard that Studer also has legendary quality and longevity heads.
Dream system - open reel deck, amps, speakers, cables. And that's it.
I have had my eye on reel to reel since I was a kid.  With the introduction of the tape project a few years ago, the cost of their tapes and the expense of a machine to play those tapes, I didn't think I would be able to participate. 

I probbaly looked for one of those machines on audiogon every day - and was able to pick up a modded (to play tape project tapes) Revox B77, Mk II (thanks, Scar) last week.  The machine is a pefect specimen and did not break the bank.  I ordered an Opus 3 tape and listened to 15ips 2 track IEC for the first time on my system and was totally floored.  There is nothing like it.  I never thought I would ever consider spending $300-$400 or more on one tape with just a dozen or so tracks but when you hear the live performance in your litening room, you will smile like you haven't since prom night.  My vinyl and digital sound awesome but this is just a different plane.  I cannot recommend reel to reel highly enough.  
I have a B77 series I.  How were you able to get the IEC eq profile?  ReVox is standard with NAB.  Glad to hear you're enjoying your machine.  Record your most listened to vinyl with it, so that you don't have to get up from your chair every 15-20 min!  Also, do this.. take your favorite CD and tape it with the ReVox, then play it back and tell me how far your jaw drops.  =)  

How were you able to get the IEC eq profile?  ReVox is standard with NAB

for information. - Instructions sent to me for doing this with my Studer. with some mods might work on Revox.  


The controls on the left side key pad involved in toggling
between NAB and IEC are the "adj" (which you push in gently with
the point of a ballpoint pen), "Shift", "LAP/channel", and "down" and "up".

Press the adj with the pen and then press the shift key and channel key. some number will show up in the LED. Holding the shift key down press the channel button repeatedly until "13" is displayed (the menu choice for EQ).

Let up on the channel key (still holding the shift key down) and it
should display either a "0" or "1". If I recall correctly, "0" is NAB
and "1" is IEC. You can switch between these by using the down and up

When it is displaying the EQ setting you want, let up on the
keys and then press the adj with the pen and it will keep that setting.


Verify with your tech. 


Thank you for the procedure.  The ReVox doesn't have this flexibility, at least not to the end user.  And this would be another reason for buying a Studer and not a ReVox. Cerrot must have had a technician do it. 

Hi Norman,

Effusive apologies for the tardy reply!  I have a matched pair of Schoeps mics with matched capsules of various polar patterns and using a Gordon mic amp. 
 I ordered an Opus 3 tape and listened to 15ips 2 track IEC for the first time on my system and was totally floored.
Cerrot -- the Opus 3 label is one of my favorites for analog reel material!  I think I know the feeling you're describing.  :-)
A Tascam 32 or BR-20 are great machines. Even after servicing they are very inexpensive.  Also, the Studer A807.
If I can get an A807 in a 'portable' format, I should give it serious consideration.  I'll have to read up on the specs.  Unfortunately, I don't know of anyone who is competent with A807 service.  :-(
What type of venues do you record live? Do you find that you are consistently using a specific mic polar patterns, or do they differ each time? I'm not familiar with the  Gordon. Is it similar to a small mixing console?  
Ok, now I have to research Opus. Tape Project tapes are the only ones I've tried. I see that United Audio has quite a good list of companies offering master copies. 

Anyone using 1/2" machine for home listening?
I get the feeling that, generally speaking, people who are tape heads sound different than vinyl heads. Of course, there are those who are both. Truer to the roots you know. Long live the tape!
The Revox was purchased here on Agon and was modded by Arian Jansen (you can google to se ewhat he does with his mods but basically changes to IEC  (for 15ips; 7 1/2 is NAB).  the preamp is redone a bit and the record circuit/mute circuit are all taken out.  The recording circuits are also removed in order to provide the best playing possible.  The Opus 3 was amazing (AMAZING) and I just tried an ABC Records 15ips (China) and it was SWEET.  I have 2 tape projects in tansit and hope to have Santa deliver them by Christmas.

Spent the morning coffee in hand looking at Arian's website.  I would love to hear one of his ATR10's.  I just did a quick check of the ReVox PR99, and it seems that they are pretty reasonable.  Even if you had to have a total service on one, it would come in less than $4500.00.  Something to consider.  When I bought my B77 back in 1979, I don't think the PR99 was available, at least I hadn't heard of it.  I would have certainly opted for that since it has additional features that I would use.  (most of which are already present in the Pioneer RT-1050).  I also wish that ReVox had plug in head assemblies like the Pioneer.  That is my most used feature of that machine.  You can swap out a head-stack in 4mins time. 
I would be interested in seeing what Arian would charge to mod my ReVox, since it sits on a shelf most of the time.
Thanks so much for the information!

  PR99 is a very versatile unit though it was marketed mainly to radio stations. It was used more as a playback unit rather than for recording. When I had mine I really liked it. The CCIR mod to PR99 is not a complex one I had planned on changing EQ on mine before I sold it. Also the PR99 had trouble calibrating for a +6 tape like the SM911 and Quantegy 456 the bias oscillators on it didn't put out enough current. That was the main reason I sold mine. That said it could be modded to bias those tapes and CCIR eq.
Since getting into R2R again, I find that I hardly play my turntable (Platine Verdier, GT Audio Battery PSU, Schroeder Model 2/Allaerts MC1B & Hadcock 228/Decca FFSS MkIV). I have 3 R2R decks, all 2 track and 15 IPS capable - Sony APR-5002, Studer A807/II and a High Speed Revox G36. They are all calibrated for BASF/Emtec/RMGi/Pyral 911SM and LPR35. Here’s a link to my system playing a distribution master of Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy.

Thanks for the PR99 update.  I currently have my Pioneer RT-1050 calibrated for +6 tapes.  That is a bit surprising for me, but maybe not if the machines were basically used for radio hot bias isn't an issue.


The Sony looks intoxicating!  I haven't that type of budget or room!  But what fun?  

Agree the Sony APR series machines are cool looking. One had come up for sale locally for $600 I almost pulled the trigger on it but again virtually non existent spares and the sheer size of the unit discouraged me. Nevertheless awesome machine.
You guys should check out for 15ips tape.  China site but all good.
Norman and Livin_262002

Thanks. The guru of Sony APR-5000 series machines is Richard Hess. There is a yahoo users group run by Richard, which has all the manuals etc uploaded. The APR-5000 series are really good and very good value compared to the equivalent Studers (it's as good as an A80). Spares are an issue, but it is built like a battleship. You can still get new heads or just relap the existing ones, if they're not too worn. they come up pretty cheap, esp in the USA.