OT - The Tape Recorder

GeeBax wrote on 5/20/2014, 5:53 PM
I was musing the other day about the tape recorder, in both audio and video forms. While Germany produced some machines during WW2, it was not until the early 1950 period that earnest development began on them. In the next 40 years or so, both forms would reach great heights in terms of sophistication.

And yet 60 years after it all began, they are - Gone! At one time almost every one in the western world would have had at least one audio tape recorder and also a VHS or similar, yet by around 2010 both had almost completely died out and vanished.

The move to digital forms of audio and video meant that a specialised recorder was not required any longer, as everything had become file based and therefore moved into the realm of computers.

I can't think of any other significant device that came - and went, in such a short period.


john_dennis wrote on 5/20/2014, 6:03 PM
I transferred all my open-reel tapes to digital some years ago but my two open-reel recorders are still around.

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farss wrote on 5/20/2014, 6:04 PM
We just bought a quite expensive [I]digital cartridge[/I] tape recorder. With it we can record 6TB of data from the non tape based cameras onto a tape that's affordable, robust and fits in a pocket.

Chienworks wrote on 5/20/2014, 9:17 PM
I just bought a refurbed Pioneer RT-707 less than a month ago. It's the 4th reel-to-reel in my house now. There's just something very satisfying about watching those reels turn 'round. It was playing with my dad's old Roberts 1040 when i was 4 years old that got me interested in technology and audio. I need to replace the tubes and capacitors in that thing and get it running again.

Last spring a splurged on a nice nearly factory-new Tascam 122MkII cassette deck. I'm guessing the ebay seller had no idea what the thing was worth as he sold it to me for $35. It sits next to my Onkyo TA-2600 & TA-2700.
PeterDuke wrote on 5/20/2014, 10:02 PM
The accompanist of the choir to which I belong often makes practice audio cassettes of new works for less accomplished members. (I then transfer them to CD). I presume she uses an old piano key operated cassette recorder. Some time ago she asked me about modern audio recorders, and I suggested one of the cheaper Zoom models.

As you know, modern technology is usually menu based with few dedicated buttons. Function bloat is everywhere. It then reminded me how complex things have become for simple tasks. You have so many options, but you can't quickly scan important settings with your eyes to check that everything is OK.

She is reasonably tech. savvy, but she is still using her old cassette recorder (and old cassettes, complete with drop-outs and wow).

Can anybody suggest a better unit that would suit her needs? It is evident that she records each section at a time, sometimes with re-records where she may have changed her mind or repaired a mistake.
GeeBax wrote on 5/20/2014, 10:10 PM
My first audio tape recorder was a British Ferguson, a valve based machine. I had built a set of smallish speakers that I mounted in the rear of my car, and I placed the Ferguson in the boot (trunk). It was powered by a small invertor I built using Germanium power transistors.

I was working at the time (early 60s) for our national broadcaster, and was able to transfer vinyl discs to tape. I was then able to drive around the streets listening to my music.

Later on came car audio.....
Chienworks wrote on 5/20/2014, 10:15 PM
Peter, I bought Sony ICD-PX333 recorders for both my mom and me. They're not audiophile quality by any means, but they sure are a heck of a lot better than one of those cassette recorders. My mom uses hers for recording her dulcimer group's rehearsals and i use mine for putting on the podium to record speakers while i video from the back of the house. Operation can be as easy as turning on the power switch, pressing the red record button, and then the stop button. There's a ton more functions available, but they are also ignorable if you don't want to deal with them.

Output is pretty decent MP3 either through USB file transfer or on MicroSD card.

They cost about $55 at WalMart. I added 4GB MicroSD cards for about $5 each.

PeterDuke wrote on 5/20/2014, 10:18 PM
My first tape recorder was also valve based. I built the electronics myself. The deck was symmetrical, so that you could record or play in either direction without turning over the tape. Since the case was made of wood (non-conductive) the chassis had to be earthed via the power cord to prevent an audible hum. (If aluminium cooking foil had been available then, I might have lined the case with it.)
ushere wrote on 5/20/2014, 10:19 PM
grundig tk41. had it for years and years....
PeterDuke wrote on 5/20/2014, 10:25 PM
Thanks Kelly, I will have a look at it.
brianw wrote on 5/21/2014, 9:10 AM

This article describes those pre 1930's efforts at recording
larry-peter wrote on 5/21/2014, 9:11 AM
Anybody need a working Nagra IV? ;-)
riredale wrote on 5/21/2014, 9:35 AM
Okay, since we're strolling down another Memory Lane, I remember when I was a kid in the early '60s our family had a Wollensak recorder. If you saw "Saving Mr. Banks" recently, that's the recorder that figures prominently in the film. Must have weighed 30 pounds and it got pretty warm because of all the tubes (valves) inside. But built like a tank and finished nicely with brushed metal and all. Because the reel controls were purely mechanical you had to be careful when forwarding or rewinding or you could have a mess on your hands. My first exposure to audio and splicing, which must have led eventually to my current obsession with Vegas and audio/video editing.
rraud wrote on 5/21/2014, 9:39 AM
Tape is still used by many music recording engineers and producers, especially for tracking drums and guitars to get that 'tape saturation' (pleasant sounding distortion). Many plug-ins are available as well these days, striving to emulate the 'sound'. Same goes for vacuum tubes, while tubes remained popular for guitar amps, they never totally disappeared and are quite popular in preamps, mics, and other outboard gear. What's old is new again.
John_Cline wrote on 5/21/2014, 4:49 PM
The Wollensak you describe featured prominently in my youth. I still have the very first tape recorder that I personally owned, a Mayfair TR-1963a that I hounded my dad for weeks to buy for me, it was around $12 in 1963 which is $92 in 2014 dollars. This is a photo I just took of that very machine.

Tom Pauncz wrote on 5/21/2014, 5:18 PM
Hmmm ..

I still have my Uher fullcoat recorder somewhere from my Super 8 Sound days. I doubt though, that batteries for it are still available.

Gary James wrote on 5/21/2014, 5:45 PM
John, one look at that tape recorder and the following thought comes to mind.

"Good Luck Jim ... This tape will self destruct in 5 seconds ...."
larry-peter wrote on 5/21/2014, 5:59 PM
When I saw that Mayfair, I had to try to find a picture of my first R/R - Mayfair TR-65. Yours is way cooler than mine, but I did dig that walkie-talkie microphone.
John_Cline wrote on 5/21/2014, 6:08 PM
Wow, atom12, that's pretty cool.
John_Cline wrote on 5/21/2014, 6:12 PM
And while we're on the subject, here are photos of the very last reel-to-reel tape recorder that I bought:

GeeBax wrote on 5/21/2014, 6:27 PM
Ah, the BVH-2800, we used to have one in the telecine area because of its extended recording time.

Sadly, I was offered an Ampex AVR2 that was surplus to requirements many years ago but had nowhere to keep it. I do however have a Sony VO-1850 U'Matic machine still.

I also had the head off an Ampex VR-1000A, but sold it recently.

ushere wrote on 5/21/2014, 6:32 PM
jc - i remember editing with two of those using the front panel when our bve900 went awol.

there was something very satisfying about punching buttons rather than tapping keys...
SWS wrote on 5/21/2014, 6:42 PM
Still got my Nagra and a Nagra SN can't get rid of 'em... It's still such a joy to behold them rolling in my way of thinkin'

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mountainman wrote on 5/21/2014, 10:18 PM
The Nagra IV was a great machine. Felt like total quality. FF and RR were a challenge but man these things were state of the art. If you worked sound in the movies, you used a Nagra. "SPEED" JM
riredale wrote on 5/21/2014, 11:56 PM
John Cline, I love the two sockets on the Mayfair front panel: "micro phone" and ear phone."

It's all in the aesthetics, I guess.