Discontinued Reel to Reel recorders

Please note that all specifications that are quoted are from the manufacturers literature, some of these may be a bit optimistic and on the other hand with the advances in tape technology mean that some may actually be a bit on the conservative side when used with with modern tape formulations

All speed references are slowly being converted into the DIN standard, for reference for our American readers the equivalents are : 2,38cm = 15/16ips, 4,75cm = 1 7/8ips, 9,5cm = 3 3/4ips, 19cm = 7 1/2ips, 38cm = 15ips etc..

Akai Electric Co.
Stephen Bender holds out a great Akai site that lists and has pictures on most models of Akai open reel recorders that were produced.

You can visit the Ampex virtual museum, under construction nb.

Made the Mini-8 (aka Type 19), it is an 8 track on 1" tape recorder introduced in the mid 70's and manufactured into the mid 80's, although smaller than studio 8 track recorders the "Mini" part of the name is something of a misnomer not only is it bigger and much heavier than competing recorders from companies such as Otari not to mention Teac and Fostex but it also has a somewhat clunky outboard power supply as well. Good sound though, especially for the time and in the UK where it originated, inexpensive enough at the time to interest people that would otherwise have bought a Tascam 8 track.

Crown Audio
Made recorders from the late 50's into the late 70's that were at the time popular with audiophiles in the US, in particular the SX-722 2 track, but advances in recording technology were not followed through by the company and the bottom fell through their market. Interestingly the company had a modular semi pro line of recorders such as the CX844 1/4", it could be bought as a 2 or 4 track and updated from 2 to 4 tracks and to overdubbing by adding the Track-Sync module, this recorder was also one of the first logic controlled tape recorders and had a fairly impressive technical specification for ar 1/4", or 20Hz to 15KHz and 55dB S/N and 0,18WRMS @3,75ips, 20Hz to 25KHz and 60dB S/N and 0,09WRMS @7,5ips, 40Hz to 30KHz and 60dB S/N and 0,5WRMS @15ips, crosstalk was given as 50dB (Single frecuency).

The Dual Classics homepage has info on the TG-12A reel to reel but the company had other machines such as the TG-27.

The company was founded by ex-TEAC engineers in the early 80's with the intention to make more affordable versions of the recorders that Teac was supplying to the home recording market, they archived this originally by using cheaper mechanisms with only a 7" reel capacity and by cramming 8 tracks onto a 1/4" tape, and they quickly followed with a even more revolutionary 16 track 1/2" model that was a huge success with the smaller studios. While electronically these recorders were excellent designs and the mechanical engineering was fairly good the industrial design was not up to scratch on some of their models, to save on production costs some PCB's were not fastened down with screws but relied on loose plastic fasteners, extremely irritating if you wanted to move your R8 around and could make gigs "interesting".

People tend to forget that this company made some interesting recorders including the quadraphonic KW-6044, a 3 head deck that with a little bit of love and care can be quite nice, this model was a popular mod donor for broke musicians in the late 70's and early 80's since only minor changes were needed for 4 track sound on sound capability.

Mark Levinson
Info on the stunning 2" ML-5 2 track that used a modified Studer 2" multitrack mechanism for recording stereo.

A series of professional machines called JH-110 was introduced in 1975, most units are 2 track 1/4" and 38 and 76cm only, but other wariants exists i.e. 1/2" etc. The "budget" 8 track on 1" JH-110/8 recorder was introduced in late 1977 but did not ship in any numbers unthil 1978, a bit late and never sold in any great amounts, production stopped in 1984 for all models in the series, this company has some spares for this model and others in the series. Some of the last few models sold under the Sony brand.

In response to Sony's DASH based professional digital open reel recorders the Mitsubishi Pro Audio group came out with digital recorders that used an encoding format called Pro-Digi, it combined the advantages of digital with some of the user friendliness of the analogue format, for instance unlike the Sony machines the X series machines allow you to edit the tape by cut and splice (there was also an electronic editor available). The first 2 track in the series was the 1/4" X-80 and you can read a evaluation of it here, in late 1986 they replaced it with the improved X-86. It was available in 3 versions, the main version offered 44,1 and 48 KHz sampling , 4 subtracks including 2 for cue, 1 for timecode and one for low quality audio. SMTPE read write and generation along with a parallel and serial interfaces and sync to most video standards out of the box. The variant versions were the X-86LT that sampled at only 22 KHz but gave you a 4 hour recording time instead and the X-86HS that gave you 96KHz sampling rate but less than an hour of recording time, it should be noted that the digital output on this machine is only capable of 48 kHz so you cannot fully utilise the higher sampling rate with an external converter. At the time the sound quality of the machines was considered better than of other 2 track digital recorders on the market but by todays standard the converters on them sound a tad dated. There was also a line of multitracks, more info on them later.

Radio Shack
Here is info on the Tandy TR-3000 open reel, this may have been sold as Realistic or Radio Shack in the US and is actually a rather nice 3 head Teac in disguise.

While this company mostly made 4 track models for the consumer market they were exceptionally good, and in fact models like the 600 were so reliable that they were often chosen for data logging applications in preference to professional machines (that model is also very sexy BTW). Their later recorders such as the TG-424 and TG-664 were not as good mechanically and like so many models on the German market came with a built in amp and external speakers both of a somewhat dubious quality.

The Soundcraft company made a series of 2 track and multitrack recorders in the early 80's these were interesting designs at fairly keen prices that proved popular with English studios, in 1988 the manufacture of multitrack recorders was spun off from the company into a new one called Saturn, they made a line of recorders based on the earlier Soundcraft models that had a lot of innovative features like auto alignment and were some of the best recorders that have been made but the market was by then really keen on digital and the company went bust in 1992. There is an English company that specialises in repairing and servicing those recorders they have some info on their site including a setup and alignment manual for the 381 and 760 models.

Here is info on the TC-645, but Sony owners should note that Vintage Electronics in the US sells a booklet that teaches how to refurbish old TC series recorders. (the booklet info is near the bottom of the page).

Studer & Revox

The Willi Studer company in Switzerland began to manufacture tape recorders in the late 1940's under the Dynavox trademark, in the early 50's the line was split up and the professional models were thereafter called Studer and the consumer models were named Revox but the lines retained a certain commonitaly of parts (and sometimes models, some models were Revox if low speed and Studer if high speed, also after the split of studer/revox all open reel recorders were named Studer). The history of modern open reels from the Studer company starts with the introduction of the Revox A77 in 1967 and the Studer A80 in 1970, both machines started a small revolution in their respective fields, the A77 was available in a variety of versions and was the first consumer machine to offer sound quality and operational reliability that approached those of professional studio machines, at the least the high speed variants of it, the relative affordability of the machine along with sound on sound capability etc. meant that it was the starting point of many a small studio (remember that multichannel machines did not become standard in even pro studios until the 1970's). The Studer A80 however ushered in the era of modern modular high end recorders and was available in a variety of versions from 4 track 1/8" for cassette duplication QC purposes to 24 channel 2" machines intended for high end studio's. The machine became a studio standard overnight although the high cost of the machine meant that initially 16 and 8 track machines were more popular than full blown 24 track machines. It Was replaced by the A800 in 1978, although a development of the A80 concept it had a lot of innovations including microprocessor control etc. but still featured basically the same transport for all tape sizes, the upgraded A810 was introduced in the early 80's and the A820 in 1985.

revox.net has loads of info on old Revoxes but the site is in German nb., audioreview.com has a retro-review of the A77. There is a brilliant German site called Reeltoreel.de that has Revox info. In the UK Brian Reeves handles servicing of old Revoxes and sales of spare parts, there is also some info on his site. There are some A-77 repair tips published at Sonically pure. This Swiss site has a lot of info, all in German. Eastern electronics has the B77 specs up. Peters Studer-Revox Page has info but mostly pictures of old recorders. There does also exist a mailing list dedicated to Studer recorders, please note that the list is for Studer discussions only, no Revox even though they shared parts and sometimes models. Another mailing list is dedicated to Studer & Revox products in general.

The homepage of the Norwegian Radio Club has an almost complete list of Tandberg decks, both vintage and recent. The comany made an updated version of the grand old TD-20A right into 2000, some dealers in Norway bought up that last production run and may sill have a machine or 2 for sale as NOS, some of the refuse to sell them outside of Norway though. For original parts follow the above link for the official parts supplier and for compatible parts and USA service info visit this page at Soundsmith.

Apart from being Akai Electric Co.'s main competitor in the stereo open reel market along with Sony for the most part of the 60's and 70's this company is also responsible for almost single handily started the home studio revolution in the mid 70's. When a manager in the USA side of the company requested a simulsync version of one of their quadraphonic recorders for his personal use, the result was good enough for the company to start making them commercially and when a bigger than anticipated market appeared it was quickly followed with 8 track 1/2" recorders and in the early 80's with a 16 track 1" and a more conventional 24 track. Here is info on the 4 channel 34-B. The MSR-16 was Tascam's answer to the 16 tracks from Fostex, introduced in the early 90's it featured a DBX and varispeed but was more expensive than the competition and did not do well in the market. There is a basic tutorial on the use of the MS-16 to be found here.

They still make a 4 models of 1/4" 2 and 4 tracks, the BR 20/BR 20T, the Model 32 2T and the Model 34B 4T, however the Tascam site is constantly being changed so we cannot find the product pages but this technical specification page has info on the models and you can download info packs on the BR20 and Model 34B in PDF format. An alternative source of technical info on the web is the homepage of Sweetwater Sounds, they have info on the BR 20T, the 32, the 34B and on the 8 channel 1/2" TSR-8 multitrack recorder, but I am fairly certain it's no longer being manufactured despite what it say's on the page.

The Unofficial Thechnics homepage has more info on their older models but I have been unable to find a page that deals with decks from this company that were branded National or Panasonic.

This Czechoslovakian company made some quite good tape recorders from the 50's into the 80's. These sold very well in Germany due to a keen price and late models can often been seen there for sale and were also the most common brand to be seen in the DDR. The models that might be most interesting to a modern user are the B113 was the predecessor to the 115 and had quite similar specs, the B115 was a 1/4" 4 track recorder with a built in amp (2x 10W at 4 ohm) and supported speeds of 9,5 and 19 cm and had reasonable technical specifications or 40Hz to 16KHz at 9,5cm and 40Hz to 18KHz at 19cm, you could also get a remote control for that model, this type was made well into the 80's. B116 was the same model as the 115 except that there was no built in amp. Slightly earlier modles were the B730 and the CM 130 that shared similar specs. All these recorders can nota bene work with both 115/60Hz and 230/50Hz voltages and oddly enough have English markings despite never having been sold in a English speaking country in any numbers.

East-German manufacturer of studio recorders, all the models that I have seen were standalone models looked quite impressive but were mono and had a max speed of 19 cm. I did a bit more research and found that they were intended for use in radio stations, and most of the Eastern European ones only required mono but stereo versions exist.

Sundry Models
You should take a look at Peter O'Neill's Audio Recording Page, it's a fascinating page with information on Australian makers of recording equipment from the late 40's upto more recent studio equipment. Some of those Aussie makers such as Plessey, Byer and Rola Australia did find their way to Europe. Open Reel Forever has info on many 70's & 80's recorders. This impressive German site called TonbandWelt is very good and very thorough and has some information in English and French, especially good if you are looking for info on Uher recorders.

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The site was last compiled on Sun Nov 10 2013 at 9:15:00am