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R2R confusion seeking clarity?


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I am considering purchasing a Revox A77 mk4 as I am a clueless novice, some help would be greatly appreciated;

will this play pre-recorded 1/4 track tapes?

is there such a thing as pre-recorded 1/2 track tapes?

i'm utterly confused as you maybe aware by the questions asked?

thanks in advance for any replies.

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2 hours ago, panarye said:

I am considering purchasing a Revox A77 mk4 as I am a clueless novice, some help would be greatly appreciated;

will this play pre-recorded 1/4 track tapes?

is there such a thing as pre-recorded 1/2 track tapes?

i'm utterly confused as you maybe aware by the questions asked?

thanks in advance for any replies.

My mate has a teac reel to reel..he buys used tapes on Ebay and then records from qobuz hi res onto the tapes and then plays it through his flash hifi..dont bother with pre recorded stuff..you will see..make sure the heads are clean..prepare yourself..as you will be gobsmacked by the playback of these tapes...then try this? Listen to the hi res version on your streamer..then listen to the tape version..you may think " how is it, I can hear more on the tape version? "  and you may say " why is the music more involving on the tape version, toe tapping if you will "  but I have  a suspicion that you wont be saying anything..just listening..with a grin like a cheshire cat 😻

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Hi, and welcome to the Wam.

A 1/4 track machine, will play both 1/4 and 1/2 track tapes ( not perfect with 1/2 track may need a slight adjustment of the channel balance, but they will play). A 1/2 track machine will only play back 1/2 track tapes, its not a physical thing but you will hear the 4 tracks at the same time and 2 of these will be the second side of the LP going backwards. The vast majority of older pre recorded tapes are 1/4 track at either 3&3/4 or 7&1/2 inches per second tape speed. There are some current master tape copies available at 15IPS and 2 track but they cost in excess of £300 each for between 30 and 45 minutes of music.

The A77 was made in both 1/4 and 1/2 track versions each with  2 speeds  and were available in combinations of 15/16 and 1&7/8, 1&7/8 and 3&3/4, 3&3/4 and 7&1/2 or 7&1/2 and 15 IPS make sure that the machine that you purchase has the correct track and speed combination for the tapes you intend to purchase. The Mark IV A77 was last made in 1977 and so even the newest ones are 44 years old condition is everything, a new set of heads will set you back in excess of £500, if they can be found, plus between £100 and £150 to have them fitted and aligned, additionally, a service will be between £150 to £300 depending on the condition of the machine and what needs changing/adjusting.

You can buy pre recorded tapes for as little as £2 but they will be mono easy listening or classical tapes and chances are that you would not want to listen to the vast majority of them, more popular albums will to cost you in excess of £30 and with some the sky is the limit. Virtually all pre recorded tapes issued in the UK were mono, to obtain a good selection of stereo tapes you will need to import them, usually from the USA and with carriage and import charge that is getting very expensive. I did import over 150 stereo tapes from the USA about 20 years ago and the quality was very good but I was only paying between £8 and £15, the same tapes today sell for 6 to 10 times that amount.   Production of mass produced pre recorded tapes ceased in about 1980 any you find later than that date are likely to be copies someone has made from their LP and the quality will be an unknown quality.

The advice I always give to people thinking about starting out in the world of reel to reel technology today is

DON'T,

unless you already have a quantity of legacy tapes that you want to play, which from the questions you are asking I am guessing you haven't.

This answer is given by a person who purchased  his first reel to reel machine in 1970 and currently owns 17 machines, down form 24 in 2015, and in excess of 300 tapes so has some small amount of personal experience in this field. If you live anywhere near me you are welcome to visit, when we are able, to view my collection of machines and tapes to help you decide if this is a money pit that you want to jump into.

 

 

 

 

Edited by wizmax
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As another A77 owner I fully concur with all the above.  They do sound better than the digital source recording to my ears when I've taped directly from cd. It's very weird!

I wouldn't try and put you off getting one, but everything Robin says above regarding tape is unfortunately true. Check out the cost and availability of the music or even blank tape you want before diving in or you might end up with a heavy and expensive paper weight. 

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Well it really depends on how much you paid for your machine, if it's a fair price then Ok

Buy a couple of good condition used tapes, say Maxell or TDK or similar cost maybe 10/20 each.

Have a play with it and see how you get on.

If you don't like it then you'll be able to sell it on with little loss.

The likelyhood is you'll get addicted  and be hopeless cases like the rest of us.

I only have 4 machines, A77, B77 and PR99's.

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I love my Reel to Reel but I realise I’ll never have a big collection of tapes. In the short time I’ve had mine the cost of pre-recorded tape has more than trebled. Plus now we are post brexit importing has become more expensive. 
Recordings made yourself from any format are good fun to make and sound great. If you enter into it knowing that there is limited choice and that it’s not cheap to acquire tape then you’ll have fun. As Robin and Rick have said there is something about playback on tape with is very engaging even when recorded from CD or hires streaming. I’d never say don’t do it just have a go with your eyes open. 

PS Reel to Reel machines are the coolest looking piece of hifi and always a talking point when visitors see you have one ;-)

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I have B77 Mk1 - just the one in my case!

I also use mine for making new recordings from Hi Res sources. I agree with what has been said above - if you just want to scratch an itch then it could become a very expensive one. I have absolutely zero pre-recorded  tapes - and it will likely stay that way. I bought mine initially for studio use - mixing down from a DAW - but I now use it solely for hifi record and playback.

Mine is a 2 track, 2 speed (15ips  and 7.5ips). 15ips is awesome but horrendously expensive  at approx 45mins play time for, post-Brexit, £40 a blank tape.  I mainly now use 7.5 ips.

Many people buy R2R because they fancy the challenge of rebuilding one - how handy an electronics engineer are you? At least the Revox A77 and B77 can be largely rebuilt. Why an A77?  - if nothing else the later B77s are at least a decade more recent.

If you do go looking for one be very wary of 'recently serviced' as it means very little. It probably means that the last found fault has been fixed for now. Good engineers are becoming a rarity - so  factor in that restoration is not just expensive but takes a long time. Mine is running very well at the moment, and has for the last couple of years  - but the three previous years were frustrating - eventually I had a ground up rebuild and anything remotely questionable was replaced. It had been 'serviced' prior to me buying it. It wasn't my first Revox but my last one was in the days when they were still available new!

My advice would be to decide exactly why you want one - for me, playing pre-recorded tapes that I had yet to purchase would not be sufficient  reason. If you are still keen then go across to the Tapeheads forum and read - a lot. If after doing  this you are still keen then buy from the TH forum classifieds  from a respected restorer. Not cheap - but nothing R2R is cheap. 

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