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Re: [ARSCLIST] Ampex ATR-102 opinion (was MD5 Hash Generators
I thank you for the time you took to answer my posting on the List.
While there are always many opinions on any given subject, those
that come from someone with firsthand knowledge are the credible
ones. The reasons you cited for your views eliminate the
possibilities of a poorly founded opinion being taken seriously by
someone just looking for the facts.
Over the last 12 months or so I've purchased a number of very fine
pro machines that were very close to being new or in excellent
condition. The relatively low cost of the machines seemed to
indicate that tape is dead. However, after reading the many sites
that pertain to tape, I think I've found out otherwise. Your comment
regarding having "one of the best machines supported in depth," is
the reason I asked about the ATR-102.
Being an audiophile this is just a serious hobby for me. Since I
don't need to make a living from my hobby, not making the best
decision doesn't have dire consequences, it just makes you feel like
an uninformed fool.
A few months back I spent a day at ATR Services learning about the
care and feeding of their machines. Mike Spitz and his staff were
very impressive, as were their machines. For the money I've spent on
the used machines I purchased I could've almost had an ATR. Maybe its
still the best decision to make.
I thank you again, Ken Fritz
On Jan 19, 2008, at 10:00 PM, Richard L. Hess wrote:
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
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
(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 ball bearings.
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:
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: richard@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.