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 Post subject: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Fri 12, 2018 2:35 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 20, 2011 5:18 am
Posts: 999
Location: Oregon
Hello all, after a 24 year hiatus i am getting back into some sort of hi-fi. I have taken in my Carver 1.5t amp in for repair, and getting the B&O turn table cleaned up. But what I really want is
a good working Reel to Reel. Not some thing from the '60s more of the early '80's I should think. Something maybe like an Otari 5050bii? Auto reverse would be nice. I have a tone of my step dads old tapes from the early '60s and the 70s. I would like a 10.5 inch reel machine. There are lots of good machines out there, and opinions abound. Teac, Tascam, Akai, Tandberg, ReVox all have merit.
What would you folks recommend? For speakers I have Kef 104's.

Thanks and God bless.


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Fri 12, 2018 3:12 am 
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Location: Utica, NY 13502 (USA)
What format are your tapes recorded in? Speed? Stereo or Mono? 4 track or 2 track? For proper playback, you will need a machine that is compatible. What is your budget?

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Fri 12, 2018 5:39 am 
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Location: Oregon
Well, that may be a problem, as my stepdads old machine was a Grundig tube type, he also have a more up to date Teac that was auto reverse. Talking to a couple of different people and reading some audio forums a lot of people recommend two track 15 ips. I'll bet most of his stuff is at 7 1/2 ips.

Now I have been offered to purchase a ReVox B77 two track, but no auto reverse. yet still my be the best offering. I kinda had liked the Otari 5050bii but again I don't see auto reverse on that machine either. I may just have to live with out that option.

as for budget I would hope to have $600 in cash now I do have some other items that may be of trade value as well, a working Macintosh 6100 integrated amp.


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Fri 12, 2018 12:57 pm 
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Worked on all of them, up to Ampex ATR100. I'd look only at Otari or early-ish Teac. They adjust and operate most like 'real'.


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Fri 12, 2018 1:10 pm 
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Location: Utica, NY 13502 (USA)
Sorry to be repetitive but, before considering the purchase any tape deck to play your step dad's old tapes, you need to know the format of those tapes as recorded. Auto-reversing machines were only intended to play 4 track stereo tapes where 2 tracks are used in each direction.

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Fri 12, 2018 3:31 pm 
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A couple things come to mind. Today, most of the machines out there suffer from lubrication issues. They are in good condition, often not used very much but the mechanism will be almost "Glued" in place. I have TEAC mostly and the X-Series, wilst toward the end of the reel-to-reel era, suffer more than the A-Series. I have both and a good bit of experience with them.

Cosmetics will often be an indicator of the overall condition of the machine. If it is tattered and worn, the electronics as well as the mechanics are also worn. Sony machines range from purely mechanical such as the TC-630 to the electromechanical such as the TC-580 etc. The electromechanical ones can be a nightmare if not serviced. The mechanical ones are more simple but wear out easier.

Heads are another issue. If the deck has pressure pads, then often the heads are worn down much faster. Decks from the 50s are usually not up to the challenge despite what the specs say. They lack high frequency response at the slower speeds.

I have had experience (and own) with consumer grade Ampex machine. They are not that great. The industrial models however were the standard in studios. What a difference.

As for format, ¼" 4-track is probably the way you want to go. And yes, 15 IPS speed is much better. But for consumer use, the 7½ IPS is quite adequate for most use. As for noise reduction, decks that were sold toward the end of reel-to-reel had DBX or Dolby B, maybe C.

Tape, that is an important part of the scenario. If you stick to the good Japanese tapes, Maxell etc. you will do well. Unfortunately, Ampex tape suffered from a problem with the binder called "Sticky Shed Syndrome" wherein the tape shed a sticky substance which gets all over the heads and tape path. There has been some success with baking vintage tapes. They last for a while but go back to their old tricks.

Machines:

TEAC A-2300, S, SX, SR or SD for a 7" machine. These things were well made and there are a lot of them out there. Only minor differences in the various models.

TEAC A-3300 (et. al) is the same machine but with 10" reels. They did make a version that was 7½ IPS and 15 IPS. Most of the other machines are 7½ IPS and 3¾ IPS.

Sony TC-366 or with the better heads TC-377. Great performers but almost always need to be torn down, cleaned and lubricated. (I have a TC-377 in queue for cleaning for personal use :wink: )

TC-630 (circa 1969) an excellent performer but 100% mechanical and has pressure pads (read head wear) and needs to be cleaned and lubricated. I had one of these whilst in Germany in the army. It lasted up until about 2003 with many cleanings and repairs.

I don't know much about Pioneer or AKAI but suspect many, many good ones out there.

Other with experience here may add to the list. I would stick to late 70s to early 80s to get the best materials, heads and electronics. But that comes with the more elaborate mechanics which will need attention. Vacuum tube decks will certainly he a constant maintenance issue as well as lacking frequency response.

Check "The Auction Site" with "Sold" listings to get a feel for what is out there. Maybe one of our members has a deck that he/she is willing to part with.

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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Fri 12, 2018 11:31 pm 
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Don Cavey wrote:
Lubrication issues. Cosmetics. Heads. Pressure pads
Just goes w the territory. As stated above - some have a lot more downtime than the others - so unless you like getting your hands dirty - stick w the stalwarts mentioned here.
Don Cavey wrote:
consumer grade machine
You might not be able to tell the difference yet (or anymore) being out of the field since the 90s - but as previously stated - it WILL come back with a vengeance. Buy a consumer deck now and end up with a semi-pro or pro deck later and you'll wonder why you bothered w the interim decks.
Don Cavey wrote:
As for format, ¼" 2-track professional or 4-track consumer
One thing you DO have to remember is in addition to track NUMBER (2-track or 4-track) in the case of 2-track there's different types.

Older 2-track tape and tape recorded on domestic recorders (Ampex et al) have either a 75-mil track or an 82-mil track where professional tape and those recorded on European decks can have tracks up to 100 mils wide. http://www.richardhess.com/tape/quarterinch_lrg.gif so again the playback deck has to match the recording.

Contrary to popular opinion, there ARE 2-track stereo decks - especially staggered - which is nothing more than two half-track-mono heads flipped upside down from each other) that use the 82-mil format.

These will sound weak and hissy on a 100-mil head because of picking up the guardband and will sound overdriven on a 75-mil head from not being able to pick up the rest of the track.

To find out - get a can of MagView and spray on the tape in question and then measure with a micrometer.
Don Cavey wrote:
Speed: 7-1/2-15 IPS
Although as previously stated 90% of consumer and semi pro recordings are 3-3/4-7-1/2 like your basic turntable is going to be 33/45.
Don Cavey wrote:
DBX or Dolby B, maybe C.
A few have it built in like the Akai semi-pro's discussed below - but generally you are going to get better performance lower maintenance and greater flexibility with the classic outboard decks.
Don Cavey wrote:
Stick to the good Japanese tapes
if you are looking to make your own recording. Most of the BASF and S O M E of the Agfa series from the 80s is good too - but again any kind of back-treated tape (record on the shiny side not the dull side in reverse of conventional wisdom) is subject to sticky shed a lot more than the conventional tapes.

Also look up some of the EE players from some of the major brands discussed herein - and the BASF LPR-35-CR and other similar tapes that sound better than the e.g. UDXL II where you don't have to pay a mint for `em in the used markets.

Chrome tape - like its' cassette cousins - allows for greater fidelity at lower speeds - so if you decided to e.g. track something at 3-3/4 instead of 7-1/2 and wanted the 7-1/2 dynamic range and fidelity - you could get it from that (or pretty close).

Or you could do like everybody else does and record in EE mode with Dolby and play back in normal mode and without the Dolby like the chrome cassette fans used to do and it gives a nice boost to the top and fullness to the bottom - and twice or 2-1/2 times the playing time of 7-1/2.

It works considerably less well trying to get 15 IPS fidelity/range at 7-1/2 but I have a lot of old church choir/school band master tapes that you almost can't tell from the later half-inch 15 IPS 4-track on regular tape that was recorded later on comparable equipment.

But there WAS a handful of e.g. North American Reel Society tapes released around the same period that were sold on LPR-35 CR at 7-1/2 that are very hard to tell from the recently released 10-1/2 inch 15 IPS 2 track from a sonic point of view.

These were trying to compete with the early CD's and Direct to Metal Mastering (DMM) and Super-45-Sonic and etc LPs of the day - and in many guys' minds - could more than hold their own in that crowd.
Don Cavey wrote:
7" TEAC A-2300, S, SX, SR or SD
+1million. And the aforementioned Akai 330-D which has 15 IPS.
Don Cavey wrote:
TEAC A-3300 (et. al) is the same machine but with 10" reels for 7½ IPS and 15 IPS.
Stalwart in school band rooms and garage recording studios for years. As stated above
Don Cavey wrote:
Most of the other machines are 7½ IPS and 3¾ IPS.
which is the standard for consumer and semi-pro (pre-recorded reel to reels) although anymore if you are getting the new batch for two or three bills a reel - all of those are 2-track 15 IPS.

For other ideas that haven't been mentioned before - there's another multi-purpose stalwart that's ubiquitous and RELATIVELY maint free and that's the Technics 1500 series - some of which have the built-in Dolby - but again - better to use the outboard. Those have 4-track 42-mil playback and 2-track 100-mil playback and record but you can still order 82-mil or 75-mil headstacks for it as well.

Your original A-77/B-77 you were talking about has a lot of different configurations as well as the Akai 630s discussed - from speed (all the way down to 15/32-15/16 and up to 15-30) on 10-inch reels to head configuration (2 track inline 2 track staggered same w 4-track inline (like the Teac 3400 - 4-channel version of the 3200 or 3300.
Don Cavey wrote:
Sony TC-366 or with the better heads TC-377 or TC-630 always need to be torn down, cleaned and lubricated.
+1million. Maybe for after you get real good at the occasional maintenance needed on the other decks you will want to tackle one of these - because the sound IS great regardless.
Don Cavey wrote:
I don't know much about Pioneer or AKAI but suspect many, many good ones out there.
I like the Akai 330 (auto reverse 4 speed with 1-7/8 and 15 IPS in add'n to 3-3/4 and 7-1/2) and it's 10-inch big brother the 630D or DB (built in Dolby AND Auto Reverse or SS (quad version) or Pro (2-track 7-1/2/15 version).

All those have at least the basic 7-1/2 and 3-3/4 and some have 15 or 1-7/8 in addition but not both. HOWEVER one can be easily adapted for the other i.e. if you find yourself with a 1-7/8 IPS deck and all sorts of 15 IPS tapes or vice versa. The 7-inch version is especially useful bec it has a 1-7/8 IPS speed in case somebody's mother made hours-long background music tapes and didn't mark it on the box.

I recorded all my mom's e.g. Reader's Digest LP box sets (10-12 LPs) on one 7-inch LPR-35-CR tape apiece at 1-7/8 using the chrome reel tape and they sound great for what they are even 30 years later. Yes I used the Akai 330 for it so I can have both the 1-7/8 IPS as well as the auto reverse.

These are also kinder to thin tape so if somebody has some half mil (26 micron) or God forbid quarter mil (12 micron - like a C-60 cassette or T-120 VCR) tape that you can't play on e g the Teac/Tascam/Pioneer etc because of the heavy torque - then he'll be able to play it on the 330 without damage if properly aligned/maintained.

The 630 as I said has a L O T of configurations including the 2-track inline 7-1/2-15 pro version which like all it's twin brothers and cousins is very reliable and doesn't require the maintenance that the Sony's/Pioneer's do.

BUT if you are going to GO for the Pioneer then the stalwart 707s and 909s are what you want to stick with IF you are not going for the matching deck to your Crown amps which - while older is still a good bet for a tube deck.
Don Cavey wrote:
I would stick to late 70s to early 80s.
all of which these are.
Don Cavey wrote:
Vacuum tube decks will certainly he a constant maintenance issue as well as lacking frequency response.
I disagree both on the maint as well as the response. There are a great many tube decks that blow past a great many solid state decks any day of the week - and if you do the normal weekly monthly and yearly maint you would do anyway you should be more than alright.
Don Cavey wrote:
Maybe one of our members has a deck that he/she is willing to part with.
I have plenty both huge/pro studio and regular size/semi pro.

If you want another good inbetween deck where you don't have to spend a mint but is still easy to maintain and repair, look for the 3-head 3-speed Tandbergs from the early 70s.

Unless you WANT a consumer grade which I have plenty of those as well - (rescued out of schools/consoles) but the other guys warned you and rightly so about the quality difference between consumer and SEMI-pro (industrial) nevermind between consumer and completely pro.

You're only several hours up the coast from me - you should come down and troll through my storage (most of which I got when the Bayside Pro Audio shop in Monterey closed down around 10 years ago) while I'm in the middle of moving it from San Jose to the Gold Country

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LN=kind. WR=abrasive. Engineers=same thing.


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Sat 13, 2018 2:53 am 
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I've had a number of big reel players and I always get rid of them. All of my commercial tapes are 7 1/2 and the big reels were a pain to deal with. I currently have a Pioneer RT-707 and it works fine except for lube issues on the transport. When the marked autoreverse tapes are used, I don't notice the reversal. If I want noise control I have an outboard TEAC Dolby unit with the calibration tape. Haven't used it yet but may set it up to record some CDs. So many projects and so little time.

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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Sat 13, 2018 3:38 am 
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Location: Oregon
There are a few recording studios here in the Eugene and Portland area, one has a Revox b77 for sale, several guys recommended the Tandberg TD 20ASE lots recommended the Technics but warn that they have a few rubber parts that turn to goo. Most recommend Teac, like the 3340 or the 7010. Several people recommended the Otari 5050Biii I have checked Craig's list and well selections are limited, or some units are just over priced.

But today I found out I have to change a ball joint and tie rod on my car, so that is the priority for now, the reel to reel may have to wait a while.


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Sat 13, 2018 1:55 pm 
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I worked with 5 or 6 Otari 5050B's for many years until the transition to digital. They were, indeed, workhorses for the day-in, day-out production needs at my fast-paced AM/FM radio stations. The DJ's tried but they just couldn't kill them. They were fairly easy to maintain. You will find most 5050B's are configured for 2-track stereo and 7.5/15 IPS although I suspect other configurations were available. They will not properly play the consumer style 4-track stereo or mono tapes that are fully recorded in both directions.

I once had a Pioneer RT-901 4-track stereo consumer deck which could take 10.5" reels and ran at 7.5/3.75 IPS. It sounded great but it was plagued with an intermittent take-up motor problem which I never could resolve so I sold it. This model did come in an auto-reverse version, model RT-909.

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Sat 13, 2018 2:01 pm 
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Dave Doughty wrote:
Otari 5050B's workhorses for the day-in, day-out production
That's the same as the 5050-8 half-inch 8-track that was another stalwart of church and school music depts for ages. Also 7-1/2 and 15 it made for great savings of tape recording non-musical portions of sermons (one tape would last you a month of Sundays) and the other tape you'd record the musical portions of choir and orchestra so you (or the local jr college recording class) could have something to mix from.

I know we used to have a blast. We'd bump the two individual 7-1/2 IPS mono tracks that contained each half of the sermon up to quarter-inch 15 IPS on the 5050-2 one after the other (because quarter-inch was free by the case from a member but half inch you had to pay for) and then mix down the 8-track on another reel for the musical selections.

Which means each quarter inch 2-track stereo master had 4 splices - one each for the two halves of the sermon and one each for the two halves of the musical selections. Lotta great sounding albums came out of those sessions that we used to press up every year to raise money for the church.

Then we went to tape exclusively because then we could eliminate the record cutting, plating and pressing expenses and run the albums off in the duplication center upstairs for free the same as hundreds of thousands of churches before us have done for 40 years - and the same for school bands and the duplication centers in the language labs.

Generations of boys (and the odd girl) cut their production teeth on these so its' no wonder the junior
Dave Doughty wrote:
2-track stereo and 7.5/15 IPS
models would become equally stalwart for surviving being pounded into the ground at a radio station like a Spotmaster or Harris cart machine.
Dave Doughty wrote:
They will not properly play the consumer style 4-track stereo or mono tapes that are fully recorded in both directions.
But you CAN get a 4-track interlaced headstack for them to play it back - esp on the models that have a preview head you can do like the Technics 1500s and have a 4-track stereo playback head in place of the preview and then have the normal 2-track ERP.
AuroraOldRadios wrote:
I've had a number of big reel players and I always get rid of them.
Next time send em out here postage free under USPS Free Matter for the Blind and Handicapped. I classify two ways - Legally Blind and Fat. https://pe.usps.com/archive/html/dmmarc ... 0/E040.htm
AuroraOldRadios wrote:
May set it up to record some CDs. So many projects and so little time.
Whatever you do - don't get tempted to end up with one of these that has the built-in CD player for just that purpose: http://www.twacomm.com/catalog/model_RCA-REELMEDIA.htm which is an 1/8 inch by six inch by 3-inch hub (normal is 2-1/2" for normal or 4" for NAB) 1-13/32 IPS reel to reel unit that was out for awhile recently.

I think I inherited mine as a gag from somebody I forgot who now because somebody else THEY knew inherited a couple that played background music off e.g. an estate sale along w a boatload of empty reels onto which I loaded leftover short-ends of chrome tape from the duplicator houses.

Pretty sure the originals ran 1-7/8 and had the same track configuration as a music-cassette (vs a portastudio) but I'm guessing they modded these up (or had em built like that) so they could get even hours per side of music on a tape instead of 45 or 90 or etc.

Even recording at the same normal 120μS EQ as on a normal cassette (instead of 70 for Chrome) I was surprised how good the sound was. But the original modifiers/designers must have left the original design in place because on the back of the deck there's a little button that says NORMAL and SPECIAL - so when you switch to NORMAL the background music tapes that came with it play fast.

So it's an interesting novelty but certainly nothing more than that.

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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Sat 13, 2018 3:09 pm 
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Location: The High Plains, but not drifting (79007).
One thing to consider is that TASCAM / TEAC still carry OEM belts and rollers for many of their machines.


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Mon 15, 2018 2:04 am 
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Alot of mechanical and electrical factors involved with any of the old machines. But if I had a choice, I might go with a machine with the glass or ferrite heads that don't wear out easily. New RTR tape heads are probably a rare commodity by now. I bought a set for a Teac many years ago and they are waiting for me to ever get around to the resto. on that machine. But I have some Sony alignment tapes. You can relap heads made of steel, though, up to a point. 15 ips certainly would be nice if you are making commercial recordings, but half that speed is gonna be perfectly fine for any kind of normal home hi fi if the machine is a good one. IF not making live recordiings you will be hard pressed to find much use for that speed except for using up more tape.


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Mon 15, 2018 4:17 pm 
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wazz wrote:
Alot of mechanical and electrical factors involved with any of the old machines...
...IF not making live recordiings you will be hard pressed to find much use for that speed except for using up more tape.


Very good points, spot on with advice. With patience, most of the machines will clean up easily and perform as new. And, unlike a lot of vintage equipment, I have never had to replace electronic components except... the motor run capacitor in Sony machines. The symptom is slow running and a very warm motor. The capacitor must be replaced with exactly the same value.

Looking at the tape path will immediately tell you how much use the machine has had. Many have had almost no use...

I wish I had taken a picture of one that exploded inside of a Sony TC-630. It sprayed a waxy substance all over the interior of the machine.

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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Tue 16, 2018 6:08 am 
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Don Cavey wrote:
It sprayed a waxy substance all over the interior of the machine.
Now you know why - as mentioned above - nobody waxes enthustiastic about a Sony.

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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Tue 16, 2018 8:29 am 
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Thanks a lot for the reply's, I will keep a look out, tomorrow I have to take the car in for a better diagnoses of the front end....what fun....


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Tue 16, 2018 3:45 pm 
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ndiamone wrote:
Don Cavey wrote:
It sprayed a waxy substance all over the interior of the machine.
Now you know why - as mentioned above - nobody waxes enthustiastic about a Sony.


The "unfortunate" thing is that Most Sony decks have remarkable record/playback characteristics. I know that the TC-630 that I had for a few years and my cousin had for decades was as crisp and clear without hum as you could want. I also have a TC-580 that a friend snagged for me at a yard sale for $10. It sounds great but the mechanics are not good.

I have a TC-377 on the bench with the usual mechanical grease issue. I would like to get to it but have many projects in queue. About the same as the TC-366 but with the ferrite heads. They look like glass.

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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Tue 16, 2018 6:49 pm 
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Gents, a fella posted on Craig's list a few Reel to Reels for sale price "negotiable" a Teac A3300SX, A4300SX and a A3340 for parts or repair, and a A6300. Any of these worth looking into?


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Tue 16, 2018 9:15 pm 
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mjohansson2 wrote:
Gents, a fella posted on Craig's list a few Reel to Reels for sale price "negotiable" a Teac A3300SX, A4300SX and a A3340 for parts or repair, and a A6300. Any of these worth looking into?
If he has pictures, can you please provide a link?

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Reel to Reel recomendations please.
PostPosted: Jan Tue 16, 2018 11:09 pm 
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mjohansson2 wrote:
Gents, a fella posted on Craig's list a few Reel to Reels for sale price "negotiable" a Teac A3300SX, A4300SX and a A3340 for parts or repair, and a A6300. Any of these worth looking into?


They are all good machines. However, if they have been sitting and the grease has congealed, they too will be in need of mechanical restoration. Cosmetics would mean a lot if the price was right.

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