Hello, Mr. Fritz,
An ATR-102, especially one refurbished my ATR Services in York,
PA, is held in high esteem by many. There are some who are concerned
about its use on sticky archival tapes, but it is my understanding it
can be properly set up for those tapes and sticky tapes should be
rendered temporarily non-sticky prior to playing by baking.
I got into this business slowly and began adopting a variety of tape
machines that appeared to meet my needs.
It is my goal to do an excellent job with as few different platforms
as possible. My current mainstay in reel-to-reel machines are the
Studer A80 and the Sony APR-5000.
ATR-102s are very expensive in good condition and while they are
superb, I have been able to find refurbishable A80s and excellent
condition APRs at much lower prices. My goal is to minimize expenses so
(a) I can keep more of the money to run my household
(b) keep my pricing competitive and reasonably affordable
(c) have some money to feed my location recording, photography,
and travel hobbies
The APRs are my machine of choice for most formats as they adapt to
different formats much easier than most machines. The A80s are my
machine of choice for NAB and DIN (Euro) stereo and full-track mono
formats of high-quality material as they sound slightly better than
the APRs. They are more difficult to change formats on. In fact, I
keep one dedicated as NAB playback and a second switches between
full-track mono and DIN playback, as needed. I am in the process of
transforming a third machine into a 15/30 machine to handle the few
30 in/s masters I'm currently seeing.
At the very high end, I think the choice of AVAILABLE and
MAINTAINABLE machines comes down to: Ampex ATR-100, Studer A80RC,
Studer A820/2CH in alpha-numeric order. Each machine has its
proponents. I do not lust after the other two as I'm not sure what
owning them will provide that the A80RC doesn't. The A80 is perhaps
the most maintainable longest term as it is a relatively simple
machine and all but one of its 31 bearings are stock, standard metric
There are several more esoteric machines, including the Nagra
T-Audio, Stellavox, and perhaps some other German (Telefunken?)
machines that are not commonly available in North America. The Nagra
would be probably the most common of these.
While the difference between the APR and the A80 RC is noticeable,
I'm not sure any potential further improvement that MIGHT be made by
the A820/2CH, the ATR-100, and the others is worth it or could be
justified by my client base.
I do find the Studer A810 close to the APR, but in a single blind
test that I've run by several people the end result repeatedly is
A80, APR-5000, A810 from best to good. I do have specific tasks that
I continue to use A810s for as they do certain "stupid tape recorder
tricks" better (at least as I have them accessorized) than the APRs.
The A80s are not accessorized for many "tricks". I am planning on
having varispeed available for them.
I handle half-inch tapes on both the APR-5000s and the APR-16. Some
1/4-inch tapes (specifically 8-channel ones) may be handled in the
future by a "FrankenSony" combination of an APR-5000 transport and
the APR-16 electronics. Four-channel 1/4-inch tapes are handled by
two "FrankenSony" pairs of APR-5000s. 1-inch tapes are handled on the
APR-16. I do not handle 2-inch tapes.
As I said, having a "stable" of different machines is not the
mainstay of my equipment strategy. I would rather have one of the
best models supported in depth than one each of the three best. I
have enough indecision in my life. For 0.150-inch tape, my mainstay
is the Nakamichi Dragon, of which I have six, all currently up and
running in the studio to do 6x ingest. I also have one each Tascam
234 and 238 machines to handle 4- and 8-track cassettes and other
While I have a specially configured A807 for tape prep, it's
infrequently used today, and I happily traded my A807 MK II for an
A80RC. Despite the photos on my website, the current reel-to-reel
machines in the studio are the APR-16, five APR-5000s, two A80RCs,
and a Racal Store 4DS and please read all the notes about that
machine in my blog before purchasing one.
At 09:20 PM 2008-01-19, Ken Fritz wrote:
> Mr. Hess,
> Being an audiophile, who is contributing as much as possible
> $ $$ to the music industry, I have one question I'm sure you can address.
> I've navigated your web site with particular attention to your
>stable of RTR machines. I realize that you need a variety of machines
>to accommodate the variety of material supplied to you for
>restoration. I've not seen an Ampex ATR machine. It is apparent to me
>that you need more than a "machine for all seasons" and that may
>be why the ATR isn't in your studio, if it is that. May I have your
>opinion on that machine.
> Regards, Ken Fritz --- an audiophile addict.
Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.