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Re: [ARSCLIST] Looking for vintage open reel tape machine

From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad


I have been involved in reconstruction in the analog disc recording field, 
both electrical and acoustical (disc and cylinder), using original equipment 
and raw materials. I also wrote a paper that was given for me by a colleague 
at the September 1998 AES Convention on "Authenticity in the Reconstruction 
of Historical Disc Recording Sessions" (preprint No. 4829), and I covered the 
fundamentals of the requirements you need to fulfil.

Bringing some of these considerations to bear on the situation at hand, the 
first thing to consider is "which period do we want to reconstruct", because 
tube-powered recorders would have been available from 1945-65. Also, some 
semi-pro equipment would have been used in production, in particular in the 
field, semi-pro being more a classification than a consideration on the 
quality. For instance, the British Ferrograph could be adjusted to fabulous 
specs - and hold them. There were semi-pro Philips (Norelco) and Telefunken 
available for part of the period, and I am quite certain that there were 
similar US models. At that time, every country had their own tape recorder 
manufacture. We had FOUR in Denmark with a population of 5 million! Bang & 
Olufsen, MOVIC, ELTRA, and Lyrec, and only the last exclusively made 
professional equipment.

The power supply issue for taking on the road is not really very great. You 
can get solid state converters that will give you 60 Hz 110 V from virtually 
any source, including a 12 V battery - the only thing to consider is that it 
is not so primitive that the frequency readout is not precise. For about 10 
years the German broadcasting used a tape recorder with valve electronics and 
a wind-up motor - Maihak. But already in the early 1930s there were rotary 
converters around with centrifugal speed control to generate the necessary 
power for synchronized film and sound.

The tape issue is important: you would want to use period tape for two 
reasons: one, it would be authentic, and two: with "modern" tape you would 
need to adjust your tape recorder to much different specs than those it was 
built for. And the reproduction and editing/splicing of the tapes should be 
on vintage equipment as well.

A few years back I was in touch with a Japan-related team that wished to 
reconstruct a disc recording session of Robert Johnson for a documentary. I 
gave them a lot of advice, discussed the options, advised against shipping 
myself and the equipment across to the location, but found a living 78 rpm 
disc cutting person in the US for them. Nothing came of it, apparently, and 
the trail went dead before I was properly informed about the legal entity 
taking responsibility for the project. I googled around and found out who the 
team really was, and I promised myself that I would come after them with my 
consultancy fee if any success came out of an attempt using my knowledge and 
someone else's equipment.

There is no fee for the above discussion of tape issues!

I am against signal processing to obtain "period" sound, except in a museum 
environment. Here, it can be very important to let modern people bring 
recordings that they know well and to subject them to processing to 
demonstrate how they would have sounded (apart from different 
instrumentation) on equipment from other periods. There was an interesting 
paper in the March 2008 issue of the AES Journal, "Digital Audio 
Antiquing-Signal Processing Methods for Imitating the Sound Quality of 
Historical Recordings" (Vol. 56, No. 3, pp.115-139) by a Finnish group, but 
their knowledge of historical sound recording was such that I (on behalf of 
myself and British colleagues) was compelled to write a comment to the AES 
website, where you may still find it.

Best wishes,



> While I participated and read the other responses; to draw an analogy  
> if someone wanted to tour the country in a Model T for some reason, a  
> new sports car just wouldn't do! I for one would love to hear the  
> followup, and the results when it is done. It would be impolite to  
> ask who is this (sounds a bit Tom Waits-like!) but if we can learn  
> about it later on it would be interesting.
> Thanks,
> Lou
> Lou Judson o Intuitive Audio
> 415-883-2689
> On Mar 7, 2009, at 6:43 PM, Eric Jacobs wrote:
> > Hi Paul,
> >
> > A vintage mic with a tube mic preamp might get the artist the
> > sound they want, and then pair that up with a modern (digital)
> > field recorder for portability - the best of both worlds.
> >
> > There are tools to mimic tape sound (ie. hiss and a bass bump)
> > which could be added later to get the desired effect.  Check
> > out Manley Labs for tube hardware from preamps to mixers and EQ.
> >
> > On the other hand, maybe the artist will perform differently
> > knowing that it is being captured with vintage gear.  In which
> > case you'll need to go vintage.
> >
> > And I only say the following with tongue in cheek... You could
> > always hide a digital recorder in a tape machine chassis and
> > the artist could see the tape and reels turning to get that
> > vintage recording mood.
> >
> > Eric
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> > [mailto:ARSCLIST@xxxxxxx]On Behalf Of Mahern, Paul Cantwell
> > Sent: Saturday, March 07, 2009 2:21 PM
> > To: ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxx
> > Subject: [ARSCLIST] Looking for vintage open reel tape machine
> >
> >
> > Hello Everyone,
> >
> > I have a client that is looking for a vintage tube powered open  
> > reel tape
> > machine that is in good enough condition to take on the road and make
> > recordings for his next record. A full track 1/4 inch would be  
> > best. Does
> > anyone know of someone who sells or rents these in top condition .  
> > This is a
> > major recording artist that is looking to make a record with one  
> > microphone
> > and a tape deck.

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