Should I buy an analog tape machine? If so, which one?

Recording Techniques, People Skills, Gear, Recording Spaces, Computers, and DIY

Moderators: drumsound, tomb

User avatar
lotusstudio
pushin' record
Posts: 221
Joined: Tue Apr 11, 2006 7:57 am
Location: Charlotte/Boone, NC
Contact:

Should I buy an analog tape machine? If so, which one?

Post by lotusstudio » Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:01 am

THis is a deep question fraught with pitfalls.

I use Pro Tools and a Digi 002 which has 8 inputs. Nice collection of outboard preamps. I love my setup, but I thought it would be great to have a nice 8 track reel-to-reel deck for recording in analog and going straight into pro tools from the outputs of the machine. I assume this takes the outputs from the repro head which would include the effect of tape on the sound.

What about latency/delay - how to record overdubs through the tape machine while monitoring from the Digi 002?

What about having 1 reel of tape and using it over and over?

What other considerations and troubles am I not seeing?

I am always looking for the intersection of price/quality. SO, what would be a good machine to purchase and which ones to avoid?

Any reputable dealers/servicers/sources for these old machines?
You just got to keep puttin' the good stuff out there

http://www.myspace.com/jimlotusstudio

http://www.myspace.com/vangoghsear500

User avatar
Dakota
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 740
Joined: Sun Sep 02, 2007 10:14 am
Location: West of Boston
Contact:

Re: Should I buy an analog tape machine? If so, which one?

Post by Dakota » Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:28 am

lotusstudio wrote:What about latency/delay - how to record overdubs through the tape machine while monitoring from the Digi 002?
With some splitting and/or a mixer. Say, mic --> pre --> splitter cable or something like a whirlwind transformer based splitter box or whatever.

From there, one of those lines --> tape, then back off the repro head --> 002 input 5, the other line --> 002 input 6.

Create 2 tracks, one getting input 5, the other input 6. Set ptle for low latency monitoring. Record activate both tracks.

Mute the monitoring for input 5. Listen/monitor from input 6. Record as per usual, but recording both tracks.

When done, drag the input 5 track earlier in time to line up w/ input 6 track. Mute the input 6 track, use the input 5 tape-ized track.

standup
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 645
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 7:04 pm
Location: Washington, DC

Post by standup » Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:50 am

Some dude I don't know here in Baltimore has a TSR 8 half-inch 8 track for sale on Craigslist, and there's an ad for a TAC 1682 console that I suspect is the same guy. $1175 for both, and that doesn't sound like a bad deal to me. I have a smaller board and don't have space for a RTR machine, but ya could have some fun with that setup.

User avatar
lefuquaire
gimme a little kick & snare
Posts: 87
Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2007 1:22 am
Location: miami
Contact:

Post by lefuquaire » Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:09 am

i have a tascam 38 1/2" 8 track and a protols le setup with an apogee converter, with my machine i dont think its possible to grab signal from the repro heads while recording.. i think the signal coming out of the deck in record mode is just hitting the electronics, but not coming off the tape. what i usually do is record the 1st 8 tracks to tape them dump it into protools for overdubs etc.. 38's are fairly cheap and when i got mine i had it calibrated and the heads relapped. i tend to use fresh tape every time.

User avatar
decocco
pushin' record
Posts: 252
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2004 12:16 pm
Location: Elizabeth, NJ

Post by decocco » Sun Mar 29, 2009 7:54 am

If you get an 8-track tape machine, I suggest you keep your sessions analog until you absolutely have to transfer to digital. Track and edit analog, then do additional editing, overdubs, and mixing in the digital world. If you monitor off of the repro head during recording you will experience a very large delay between what's being played and what's coming off of tape. Don't do it!

Have you considered getting a 2-track deck to mix down to instead of an 8-track to track to? That would be a hell of a lot easier, and would give you the "tape effect". You'd be able to send your mix to tape and back into pro tools off of the repro head at the same time. The repro latency is no longer an issue because the musicians aren't performing at that point. You'd be able to use the same reel of tape over and over without having to make any splices.

If you're pockets aren't bursting with money, maybe check out a used Otari machine. They are a great value. If you've got the cash, check out the Ampex machines modified by ATR Services. They sound amazing. 1/2" 2-track goodness.... ooohhhhhhhhh...... ahhhhhhhhhhh....[/quote]
-Chris D.

User avatar
lotusstudio
pushin' record
Posts: 221
Joined: Tue Apr 11, 2006 7:57 am
Location: Charlotte/Boone, NC
Contact:

Post by lotusstudio » Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:26 pm

After some more research, I an considering a Scully 280 which is a 1/2" 4 track machine with 4 large preamps.

DO any of you know these? Any opinions? Could I use it like I hope to as a front end to my digital rig?

With this machine could I monitor with out latency (does it have Sync mode?) and go straight to digital off the repro heads?

I know these are obscure questions.
You just got to keep puttin' the good stuff out there

http://www.myspace.com/jimlotusstudio

http://www.myspace.com/vangoghsear500

User avatar
lotusstudio
pushin' record
Posts: 221
Joined: Tue Apr 11, 2006 7:57 am
Location: Charlotte/Boone, NC
Contact:

Post by lotusstudio » Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:29 pm

Also, I was thinking I would prefer to record individual tracks to tape up front rather than just dumping the entire mix to tape.

Reasoning is that I will be mixing the sound already recorded to tape and I don't know what tape might do to my final mix by dumping after the fact. AND if I do want a 2-track tape master done for that kind of flavor, I could just get the mastering engineer to do that. Right?
You just got to keep puttin' the good stuff out there

http://www.myspace.com/jimlotusstudio

http://www.myspace.com/vangoghsear500

User avatar
Dakota
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 740
Joined: Sun Sep 02, 2007 10:14 am
Location: West of Boston
Contact:

Post by Dakota » Sun Mar 29, 2009 2:53 pm

lotusstudio,

Scully 280 is good stuff, yes. Does it need work, or is it functioning well?

I can't remember exactly the repro/sync routing, but I'd be surprised if there were separate outs that gave you repro and sync at the same time. I don't know though.

And yes, individual tracks through tape is quite different in result than just master mix only to tape at the end. Tape saturation and pleasant harmonic distortion can really sweeten individual sounds even when pushed pretty hard. A whole mix pushed hard just starts collapsing, and can have unpleasant intermodulation distortion.

And yes, your friendly mastering guy often has nice tape machines and good judgment and can expertly simmer your master just slightly.

User avatar
decocco
pushin' record
Posts: 252
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2004 12:16 pm
Location: Elizabeth, NJ

Post by decocco » Sun Mar 29, 2009 3:20 pm

You'll have to transfer to digital after recording. You can't monitor repro and sync at the same time.
-Chris D.

User avatar
calaverasgrandes
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3233
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2007 11:23 pm
Location: Oakland
Contact:

Post by calaverasgrandes » Sun Mar 29, 2009 3:52 pm

I used to run my old Tascam 80-8 in parallel with Cubase. It was good for some things but was often more of a pain in the ass than it was worth.
tape stretch and drift. It was cool when my DAW could only do 8 tracks or so by itself.
I suppose with a rock solid smpte setup on a crazy nice transport it would be cool.
??????? wrote: "everything sounds best right before it blows up."

User avatar
aurelialuz
dead but not forgotten
Posts: 2012
Joined: Mon May 05, 2003 10:46 am
Location: portland, or.

Post by aurelialuz » Mon Mar 30, 2009 10:13 am

when i was following this stuff 3 or 4 years ago, scully machines were hard to get parts for. there was one dude who had all the parts and he died, leaving the parts in a limbo state that was never resolved, at least while i was paying attention.
"While every effort has been made to ensure optimum sound quality, priority has been given to historic content and importance."

User avatar
calaverasgrandes
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3233
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2007 11:23 pm
Location: Oakland
Contact:

Post by calaverasgrandes » Mon Mar 30, 2009 10:17 am

now was it Scully or Stephens that had the weird controversy? When I first go into audio I seem to remember something about someone going to jail or something.
??????? wrote: "everything sounds best right before it blows up."

djimbe
tinnitus
Posts: 1179
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 4:55 am
Location: chicago
Contact:

Post by djimbe » Mon Mar 30, 2009 11:01 am

lotusstudio wrote:After some more research, I an considering a Scully 280 which is a 1/2" 4 track machine with 4 large preamps.

DO any of you know these? Any opinions? Could I use it like I hope to as a front end to my digital rig?

With this machine could I monitor with out latency (does it have Sync mode?) and go straight to digital off the repro heads?

I know these are obscure questions.
I know this machine. You're NOT going to be able to monitor sync and also send repro to your digital device.

The preamps are good sounding. Many threads here about them. The transport is...primitive. There's no counter on this machine. Also remotes are about as common as hen's teeth. Punching is a crapshoot and that's being charitable. You'll learn to shuttle the thing to stop from rewind. Sometimes it's fun to get the thing going in full rewind mode then hit the stop button, but it's only fun if you're NOT the guy who has to clean up the mess of spilled tape. The EQ and bias calibrations are also primitive.

Parts for the Scully 280's are not that hard to find, especially now that there is a good Yahoo! group devoted to the brand. I like the preamps on the 280, but I don't record regularly on mine. I have real tape machiens for that stuff...
I thought this club was for musicians. Who let the drummer in here??

User avatar
decocco
pushin' record
Posts: 252
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2004 12:16 pm
Location: Elizabeth, NJ

Post by decocco » Mon Mar 30, 2009 3:03 pm

I'm gonna bring up Otari again, because they are a company that still makes tape machines, so you'll be able to get parts. :) Those Scully machines usually sound good, but they are old (maintenance time). I used to work for a studio that used a 280 as a slap-back machine. It sounded great, but it was very primitive compared to the Ampex and Otari machines that I've used.
-Chris D.

skywavebe
ass engineer
Posts: 48
Joined: Tue May 12, 2009 1:55 pm
Location: Chicago

Post by skywavebe » Tue May 12, 2009 8:18 pm

You may choose what machine you see fit but the Tascam 38 or better yet the 48 are nice machines when used correctly. They also have the added advantage of dBx units that can really make a difference. I know people are saying this is not pro equipment. They are right but then you don't pay those prices either. I have heard a lot of Tascam machines working and two of them are capable of SMPTE code, that were playing wonderfully at earlier CES shows in Chicago synced to video. I was there as a representative of Teac back in those day- I am a Technician not sales.
I have serviced many studios with 38's and that is the best place to start.
Tapes can be used a lot of times depending on the way they are physically treated. Smash the sides in and the edge track will suffer. The problems that people have the most is either from using old SSS tape or not having their machines calibrated for years and then wonder why they don't sound right.
The TSR-8 is a working machine but only two heads. They work but I prefer the 38 and on UP. the Tascam 58 with Omega drive is the best one top get.
It uses 1/2" tape. Last I bought one they were $65/ roll.
Best regards,

Sam Palermo,
Skywave Tape Deck Repair
(708) 334-2260 cell
skywavebe@sbcglobal.net
Past Lead Tech. Teac Chicago Factory Service

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 29 guests