Steve Bender on reel to reel analog services.

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Steve Bender on reel to reel analog services.
« on: 5 Mar 2007, 07:38 am »

I repair many RTR sets, I specialize in the high end of the Akai Series 200 (GX-230D, GX-255, GX-266D, GX-267D, GX-266II, GX-270D, etc.), 400 (GX-400D, GX-400D-ss, GX-400D-PRO), and 600 (GX-600D/DB, GX-620, GX-625, GX-630D, GX-650D) as well as the PRO-1000 Studio machine and I offer DIY repair kits for: Akai Capstan Motor Servo Control Failures; GX-77 Slow REW/FF Failures; and GX-266II Syscon Board failures. I also sell copies of almost all known Akai RTR Service Manuals, and some Sony, Teac, Pioneer, and Tandberg as well.  I also repair an occasional Pioneer RT-909, or Tandberg 9000/9100/9200.

In addition, I offer proper calibration and rebias for a particular tape type. And I also perform Reel to Reel Certification Tests: using a Sound Technology ST-1500A, Hewlett-Packard HP-339A, and Rockland 7530A Audio Spectrum Analyzer in a Tektronics mainframe. These Certification tests include: Record and Playback frequency response and deviation; THD Distortion versus Level at spot frequencies; Speed accuracy and deviation; Wow and Flutter - rms weighted and unweighted; % Peak and DIN spec; and Signal to Noise Ratio within an 80 Khz. bandwidth.  Basically you can tell if your machine is working close to spec or not.

I own about twelve RTR's (plus another dozen "parts donor" machines and almost working ones).  I prefer the Akai reel to reels for their extra long lasting GX Glass and Ferrite heads, as they last nearly forever, and stay in permanent alignment for decades and decades.  But for reason unknown to me, some other Reel sets not using ferrite heads, just seem to sound more musically dynamic to me.  Since I also design advanced ULT Transistor Amplifiers, and SET Vacuum Tube Amplifiers, high quality source materials are a necessity, more than for most audiophiles or casual listeners.  My Fav RTR's include: the Akai PRO-1000 (2 Track format), GX-400D; GX-400D-ss, GX-650D, GX-600DB, GX-266II, GX-267D, GX-255; The Sansui SD-7000; Pioneer RT-909; the Tandberg 9200x; and now the Kenwood KW-8077.  I just got the Kenwood at the beginning of this past week, and delving into its innerds, I am in the process of cleaning and repairing it.  I was somewhat impressed, as this Kenwood seems to have a very quiet and superior transport - circa 1972; one with rather very few weaknesses in its design.  Considering Kenwood isn't really known for making Reel machines, and only made a few models, this must be their premier unit.  I even like it so much, I bought a second one tonight. :green:   

I've owned four or five Teac's in the past and have to say I was never really impressed with their sound, it always seemed a bit "transistory" or distorted sounding, and as well, there were significant weaknesses in some of their their mechanical designs and transports (but some were better than others - better were the older power guzzling sets with hot running motors and lots of relays).  Personally, I just couldn't live with the Teac's particular set of compromises, and I sold them all.

I have a few higher level Tandberg 9000 Series, these are nice, but again, seem always to develop mechanical troubles with the traveling crossfield head, the speed change idlers, or the belts in single motor designs; and the VU meters tend to fall apart, the pointers falling off, which is never good...  Earlier 9000 Series sets tend to blowout their power supplies after two decades or so, and the logic IC's in all 9000, 10X and 20A sets are totally proprietary, NLA, and can not be replaced with known off the shelf logic IC's, making replacement parts extremely difficult to get.

The Pioneer RT-909 is a rather nice set, but tape tension as nominally set as per the Factory, and the Service Manual, is set so high, the heads wear out in under 1000 hours of use.  Also the Pioneer pinch rollers tend to totally turn to goo, when repeatedly cleaned with normal alcohol solutions ???  It is also quite a complex machine, does it really need two separate sets of stereo preamplifier's one for Forward Play and one for Reverse Play - twice as many parts to go bad... ?  And now that heads and the parts that are known failure modes on that model can no longer be sourced, it is a true crapshoot when buying or using one.

Indeed, it is kinda sad, when just about any Stereo Reel to Reel set found on eBay or anyplace else can no longer surpass, or even come close to its original factory specifications for: Frequency Response, Signal to Noise Ratio, Wow and Flutter, or Distortion - without a complete overhaul, or rebuild, but that is just a simple fact of life.  These consumer sets were designed for 3 to 5 years of light use, which translates to about 1,500 to 3,000 hours of tape recording and playing use, that lower number being just about what one can expect from a diamond needle moving magnet cartridge before wear and distortion becomes drastic...

So now 27 to 46 years after our Akai, Sansui, Pioneer, Tandberg and Kenwoods were made, just about all of them are having or developing hum, hissy fits, total channel failures, Servo control failures, belt and wheel drive idler failures and problems, poor speed regulation, excessive tape tension, relay contact failures, worn Record and Playback heads (except most GX Akai's), Ferrite Head surface problems due to surface chipping failures -in Ferrite Heads having no glass surface, excessive wow and flutter, motor failures, and/or motor-run caps failures, and other catastrophic power supply and logic failures, as well as simple mechanical failures and breakages.

And now to sadly admit - to add insult to injury, about 95% of repair shops will no longer accept these wonderful Reel to Reel sets for repair for the following reasons: 1) We can't get repair parts.  2) We can't find Service Manuals and Technical Info.  3) Its older than our technicians.  4) It would cost more to service than it is worth.  5) Once you fix one thing, four or five more things break in short succession and it gets to be a Pain In The Ass (411 translation: because our techs have no idea what they are doing to repair a set like this, it breaks again and again).

Steven L. Bender, Designer of vintage audio equipment, Audio Construction Writer, Reviewer, and Reel to Reel Tape Repair Guy.

Just curious what you guys might think of Reel to Reel tape.
I have heard rumors that it is making a comeback and I have
a few of them myself.  Nothing exotic, just a few TEAC's.

Our good friend and columnist, Steve Hoffman just got me
a mint 4300SX for Christmas and I have been enjoying the
heck out of it.  We also have a great tape head preamp in
for review that is also quite good..

Let us know what you think!

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Re: Steve Bender on reel to reel analog services.
« Reply #1 on: 23 Dec 2008, 06:49 pm »
I have a Revox 4 track Reel to Reel that needs some work. Thing is its only worth about $300 bucks. Do you have any Reel to Reel machines you are selling? I have been in the biz for a long time I was fortunate to get a Nagra 24 bit reel to reel machine to use for over a year. An incredible machine. But I am looking for analog. Sony was selling it for $10 grand I tried to sell it but no takers too bad. I have contacts there and at numerous other manufacturers. I am sure its sitting in storage somewhere. At any rate let me know what you have. Tandberg is great, Revox, What did the Beatles and the Doors Use? I forget....Can look it up though. ok send me some links. Also I am looking for a pre-amp kit MM/MC I have all BAT equipment and Many speakers. Magnepans, Cabasse Bltic Stromboli (What a great speaker), Cabasse Bricks which are incredible and the Farella which has to be dollar for dollar one of the best speakers I have ever come across. I have all the original models with the earliest serial numbers of Bat. VK 5i preamp...unreal, the VK 60 awesome and the VK 5 tube output CD player. Sterophile says its better than super audio CD and they say its only competition is that  Accuphase stuff. Transistor stuff from Japan, high price, overbuilt, overpriced and not all that good sounding. But the build quality is unbelievable. AN engineers dream but not musical. I heard a complete Accuphase set-up with ATM  speakers. What a let down. The Bryston 38 and Bryston monoblocks blew that stuff away. I had the Bat single end mosfet amps but I was not  impressed. The VK 60;s smoked them. I feel the same about pass labs. Though I must admit that those amps work great with Quads and electrostatics and hard to drive speakers..Dynaudio's, and ATC's. Bryston is incredibly underrated. It is world class stuff as far as transistors go. Krell I don't know I have never heard a set-up I like. Mark Levinson is pretty darn good. But I love tubes and I love Cabasse, Quads, Dynaudio, Rogers...Ls35A beats a pair of B@W 801's hands down with the a good sub or the rogers matching sub. A friend of mine has both with Conrad Johnson (Nice Dynaudio knockoff) but a decent product. Not BAT or Carey. Well I have rambled on hoe to hear form you. Oh and do you have any 8 track or multitrack reel to reels? I know Tascam used to make a 24 track reel to reel that was around 3 grand...It may have been a teac I don't know. A tube reel to real would certainly be interesting........I would like something that sounds as good as my Nakamichi BX 400 or better yet A Nakamichi Dragon. Well your the man. Let me know what you think.