How often do you have to service your Studer or Otari deck ? Home not pro environment.

I guess, there are still places where you can be confident that they know what they do.
I have a Crown CX-822 reel to reel. I bought my unit from Chuck Ziska, Crown engineer that now refurbishes them. I haven't had to service it yet. BTW, I am not sure there is anything to service other than cleaning the heads. 
To answer your question, is a great resource. There is a very well respected technition in Los Angeles that works on Studers. I don't want to post all his info on a public forum, but if you PM me I can give it to you. Or you can get an account there and quickly you will see who it is. Once again I never used him, since I have a Crown, but I read his posts and others seem to be very happy with his work. 
BTW, I really like the ATR MDS-36 tape. I just bought one sample and evaluated my recorded frequency response on 7 1/2 IPS (my go to speed) and I thought for my deck it was better than the Pyral. YMMV.
Typically, as far as I understand, and reading through the Crown maintenence manual, other than cleaning the heads there is not much to do , for the amount I actually play the unit. That's if your unit is in prime shape when you acquired it.
Should have said:
"Other than cleaning the heads and setting tape bias for the different tapes"
captain_winters, thank you. I don't have open reel deck yet, this is my future project and it will take time. I am just gathering information and opinions regarding what might be involved in using those pro machines. Otari is more likely for me than Studer because of the cost.
How do you like Maxell back coated tape ?
I only use new tapes. These are the 3 tapes I use. 
RMGI/PYRAL LPR-35 (1mil tape)
ATR MDS-35 (1 mil tape)

I have one sample of the MDS-35,  but I really like it, frequencies record very well on that tape from my Crown CX-822.

For those curious, there are 1/2 track and 1/4 track. All 1/4" tape.   So 1/2 track means that 2 channel stereo is all on the tape, then entire 1/4". So approx 1/8" for left channel, approx 1/8" for right channel. This is what is used for master recordings. The majority of consumer units were 1/4 track. So each stereo channel, right is approx 1/16" and left is approx 1/16", so stereo takes up half the tape. That is why you can turn the tape over and record on the other side. Just like cassette. Since the magnetic flux density is not as high as 1/2 track, 1/2 track is always used for the highest fidelity master tapes. Sometime people also call 1/2 track, 2 track and 1/4 track 4 track. In fact the commercial tapes produced back in the day actually had a 4 on them for 4 track.

So before you buy consider the following:
1. 1/2 track or 1/4 track?
2. Tape speed options? I like 7.5 IPS and 15 IPS 1/2 track.
3. Get a deck that is actually servicable. Some Japanese decks noone will service, there are no parts available. Typically Studer, Revox, Crown are servicable, there are others as well.
4. I use my deck for recording my album's and playing them back for longer play while not critically listening. Since I get 1 hour 36 minutes from 1 mil tape.
5. I wanted the best sounding deck, I can A/B the album and tape during recording since my deck has read after record and I am hard pressed to tell which one is which. Hence 1/2 track 7.5 IPS.
6. Tape is a great resource. 
re the Studer,
Once it is setup it is pretty dependable (knock on wood); keep the heads clean. Use good tape.
I will say from all my time with my Studer the following questions need to be answered when looking for one. A Studer is really no different than buying an older Porsche.  
Serious questions need to be asked.

Do you know the person you are buying it from and its history ?
If it was not maintained by an authorized Studer tech I would not look at it further.
If buying from an unknown source you will need to pay to get it calibrated and set up properly.

**The tech needs to be within driving distance - forget about shipping it. It can get bumped and parts put out of alignment. I experienced this when mine was shipped to me initially. That is how I was introduced to Roger Ginsley - Studer Tech Rep for Canada. 40 minute drive from me. Talking with other tape guys in the past they all say the same thing - you are so lucky to have a Studer tech close by. Picture 5 in my virtual system shows a pic of Roger working on my deck.


Let me tell you a story that happened many years ago.
I went to play a tails out tape. It powered up like normal.
I wound the tape up and hit rewind to bring it to the beginning.
Nothing - just a click.
Talked to my Studer tech Roger who assumed the power supply capacitors needed changing.
This was at a point in time, when I really needed that deck for audio fixes. It was my reference. It had to be repaired.  

So I drove it to him. He pulled the two main coke can size Made in West Germany silver capacitors.

Guess what ? they tested like new. In impeccable condition he said.
I then asked him.

Are you going to change them out anyway due to how old they are ?

I forget the brand name of the capacitors he had sitting on the table waiting. They would have been the best of what was available then.

He said no. They don't make them like that anymore. He refused to change them out.

That repair cost me from what I recall about $300. All labor. It took him a few hours to trace the problem to a faulty resistor. The manuals he was using to find the problem were 5 inches thick.
Have you seen the way the circuits are built and laid out in the Studer ?

captain_winters and ct0517, appreciate your posts.
I have been thinking about Studer and Otari half track only, not about Crown or Ampex or top Revox. Maybe I am wrong, not sure.
Yeah, 7.5 and 15 ips speed, I don't think I will need 30 ips. I asked about Maxell tape because it is sometimes available NOS, though you have to trust the seller and you don't know in what conditions the tape had been stored. I use Maxell Vertex cassette tape with my Nakamichi 682ZX, it is back coated tape and the very best available in a cassette, by far.
Living with the driving distance of your technician may be problematic. I ship my Nak to California across the country for service every few years and it doesn't come back with the alignment off, as far as I can tell. But perhaps shipping open reel deck is different situation.
I only saw pictures of Studer's inside. Appears to be a very complicated machine.
Because of the cost Otari is more realistic for me, I think, unless I decide to save up on Studer for a few more years. Would it be worth the wait ? What do you think ?
I had my Otari MX55N serviced some 4+ years ago and biased for current tape formulations.  Still going strong and measures fine.  It is in an audio (non-pro environment).
i had a couple of revox B77 i use in a mobile recording rack, proved so reliable that i sold spare to a very high end shop in San Diego..they use it with a protection copy Jacintha tape for sounds excellent 
ATR tape high speed big reels iec EQ
good techs abound on West Coast seattle to san diego because of the studio demand...

what are you seeking to do ?

Two things - hunting for master tape dubs and making compilations off records and even maybe some cds.
Restoring Revox A77's is expensive. I sent mine to the national service center in Nashville years ago, and the restoration cost me more than the A77. It's like servicing an old BMW; there comes a time when it no longer makes economic sense.
Buying from a reputable source can also be difficult or impossible.
That's what I thought, if I use the deck for, say, thousand hours a year, I would need to have it looked over every five years or so.
But, how long do the reproduction heads last, assuming best tape and head cleaning every ten hours ? I would also treat the head with LAST tape head preservative. I do it now with Nakamichi before playing each cassette and as my tech said there was only negligible wear. The deck has thousands of hours put on it by me and I didn't buy it new, though it was used very little before.
bdp24, audiophile endeavor makes no economic sense whatsoever. People wear out $10k cartridges and $500 NOS tubes.
There is another advantage, and it is a big one , to using open reel deck instead of turntable - you don't need active preamp, you run it directly to power amp. You record directly from phono and lose almost nothing. And of course you can run phono thru deck and listen to records using deck's preamp. With phono, I believe, you always need active preamp, you don't get full sound from vinyl without it.

No @inna, I meant it is economically unwise to buy a Revox (and I'm assuming a Studer) that is in need of restoration rather than one that needs none. A good working condition example can probably be acquired for less than the price of a not-so-hot one with the cost to restore it added.

To your new point directly above, if the sound of your tape recorders electronics (used as a pre-amp) is better than your active pre-amp, it is time for a better active pre-amp! There is also the matter of the recorders output impedance (at all frequencies) and voltage, etc., very important in regard to driving the power amp.

bdp24, I see, I misunderstood you. No, no intention to buy junk and make it perfect.
Those decks’ preamp section is quite good but of course this step can be improved considerably. However, I would very rarely if ever play vinyl except when making a recording, so this is non-issue.
Potential problem might arise when recording. I remember a thread where Ralph of Atma-Sphere said that there might not be enough gain from the phono to record directly and that one might need an active preamp between phono and deck. Pro decks were not quite meant for recording off vinyl unlike consumer decks. Impedance mismatch can also be an issue making it even worse. Well then, if needed I would have to get an active preamp. Tape projects are expensive and that’s the only reason why I postponed it.
He himself plays Studer directly to his power amps, here he did not anticipate any complications with either Studer or Otari.
Often I don’t listen to entire record or even one side and compilations make perfect sense to me. Downside is that when you upgrade your analog front end or even a cable you have to record again to have the best sound. No problem, I can do it every five years or so.
A few days ago I was offered a perfect example of Studer A810 by an esteemed audiophile. I didn’t even ask about the price, can’t do it now. 

I just gave away a 4 channel Otari deck because it wasn't half track, and it was too complicated, but the way it handled tape was fantastic.

Today, I received RMG/EMTEC Studio Mastering Tape 900 Series for my Technics 1500, and I'm wondering how that tape compares to Maxell EE that is no longer available.

Although I have owned reels since the early 70's, at no time have I ever considered running one into my power amp directly; has anyone else done this?

I have 5 studio machines at home, all 2 track - Studer A820 1/2 inch - rest 1/4 inch Studer A807/II, Otari MTR12, & 2 x Sony APR 5000 series machines.

The A820 is just coming back from a repair - blown caps on the AC suppression and motor supply boards - repaired by Simon Griffett at Audio Related in Chesham, Bucks, UK. Simon looks after R2R machines and mixing desks at AIR and EMI studios in London.

One of my Sony APR 5000 machines was refurbed 5 years ago by a good friend, Stewart Emmings, who sadly passed away 2 years ago from bowel cancer at 49. This APR 5002 was a bit knackered and needed heads relapping, motor lube and various other bits to get it back to full working order.

Otherwise, I haven’t had to do any maintenance, other than regular cleaning of the tape path and the occasional demag.

BUT, what I do perform with EVERY tape replay or record is line up the machine properly, to check azimuth, levels (and bias if recording). All my music tapes have line up tones, so the azimuth and level checks are easily done with a set of PPM meters and a scope (if needed).


I have a Revox B-77 in a travel case that's looking for a home. It needs transport service (motors cleaned and lubricated) and worked last I plugged it in a few years ago. If you can find someone to service it out for you, its free for the shipping. Revox (Studer) service is expensive but at least you wouldn't have the upfront cost. Heads are 1/2 track and appear in good condition.
Ralph, thank you, but I think I'll go with Studer A810 or A807 or Otari when the time is right. 
Do Studers actually record and sound better than Otari 5050 ? Otari also usually have quarter track reproduction head, this may or may not be helpful in my case but wouldn't hurt.
Topoxforddoc, five open reel machines ?  Studer A820 1/2" must be absolutely incredible.
well like anything audiophile, easy to go off the deep end...start w B77 bone stock but running well, aligned and setup for the tape you plan to run..

after a bit you can bypass the decks alectronics with preamps but again that is the depper end...

get an Opus 3 master copy duplicate and go from there.....

have fun !!!!!
get an Opus 3 master copy duplicate and go from there....

are you serious man ....... $500, $600, $700 for an album ?

Sheesh !

Everyone I know (not in any Music/Audio Business) - Non Pro - that got into 15 IPS tape, also acquired the necessary hunting skills for those underground individuals who somehow acquired tapes from studios. The going rate $200 - 250. Includes two tapes ($100) And this not for obscure music that you will probably listen to 3 - 4 times, before bored.

People want to hear the music of their youth. Music is about staying young. Its available for those that search.


The first time I heard a master tape dub in my room of popular music it was a "damn" moment. You know what I mean?

When the music is over you proclaim...Damn !!

You’re hooked. The bar is set. You don’t know until you do this in your own room.

This is IMO, when the goals and objectives for each of us, who are not in the audio business, get set.

1) Some look for more tapes.
2) Some just want to use the machine to tape their records.
3)But then for some, like myself, my goal was to get my main vinyl rig sounding as close to, even, or better in my room, with the Barber, Davis, Basie, Beatles, etc... master tape dubs I have bought, and use as a reference.

Well it took a few years years but I got there. In those deep years. I ran both at the same time, with one at a 10 second delay, and switched between them to hear the differences. Oh yeah, you do need a preamp that has "on the fly" Gain. For someone that plays high and low level music sources in the same room, I would not own a preamp without this feature.

I do put on the tapes still, to exercise the machine and tapes, and to check the reference. Also some tapes I have no records for.


I don’t know if the Studer sounds better than other machines, because I have not heard other machines in my room. I do know from my tech that the Studer "caresses" - the Tape.
The recorded tape is the most valuable part; especially if someone is putting out $500 + for two tapes


You confirm what I thought, about Studer., but no-one says that Otari is no good and not worth considering.
This is one audiophile piece that I would want to keep for a very long time, maybe even never upgrade. And it would be my main source, so a little of financial flexibility would be in order. Still, might be unable to afford Studer, depends on how long to wait.
Hunting for master tape dubs. Yeah, you need reliable sources, besides funds.
Yes, the 1/2 inch Studer A820 sounds fantastic. The "sleeper" is the Sony APR5003.

Without a doubt, the high end Studers (A820, A812, A810 and A80) had the very best transports with servo controlled precision guidance. Also up with the Studers are the Telefunken M15, M20 and M21.Remember that the tape transport is THE most important bit to get right. No amount of fiddling with special tube pre-amps or electronics can rectify a signal, which has poor time stability.

Other machines use forced guidance for the tape path, which is not as good for providing the highest quality constant tape velocity over the head.

But out of the forced guidance machines, the Sony does an excellent job. Lovely transports, fabulous library wind (very kind to tape with a nice even pack), great sound quality and software driven calibration.
Yes, I know that regarding the paramount importance of the transport. Damn, I guess I don't want anything but those Studers . Telefunken would be hard to service, I think, unless I am ready to ship it to Germany. You didn't mention Studer A807, last model, I think. It is not as good as A810, I understand, but more affordable. Not sure about parts availability and servicing it, though.
 @ct0517  I think I gave pretty good advice IF he wants a legal tape that the artist will benefit from. Expensive yes, but getting a reference grade tape to improve his system does not have to be anywhere near the $700 you mention.

not saying I am a saint but I would also pass on a nice vintage Les Paul, IF I was pretty certain it was hot...

there is of course wild and extensive networks that trade in such tapes...etc.

also, tape while good should just be part of improving your system, digital done right, really good microphones into just the best preamps, no mixer, will help you in some areas exceed just using tape as a reference... also thise sources can be judged against and in combination with direct to disc...

my next step, IF I take it may be the path Ralph went a lathe....

have fun inna....there is a bit ( or more ) Pirate in all of us...


I guess I should disclose a patronage relationship with recording artists / producers / studios.....oh and I guess even an “ entertainment lawyer filmaker, storyteller / raconteur......

but I am also a consumer.....
Most musicians whose performances I would be interested in to have on tape are dead, beginning with Miles Davis. I am almost certain that he wouldn't mind me getting the tapes from wherever they might be, free or not - no difference.
Many concerts were recorded and never released and perhaps never will. Tapes sit in storage and do nothing instead of playing on my Studer. Senseless and unfair. We'll correct that, at least we'll give it a try.
ya Miles was famous for working for free....

please ignore anything I might post in the future....

a good night to you
I will pay him personally if he asks me to, in time, but until then I got other things to do.
I have two Otari decks, one a transport only (signal direct from the heads) and the other I use to record. The 5050's are work horses and I use mine a lot. I have no problem finding tapes at reasonable costs and I trade a lot which is also an economical way to get music. I have two good techs, one recommended to me by Paul Stubbelbine and the other by Ralph Karsten (Soren Witt in Chicago). Both have serviced my decks, but just once in the time I have owned them. Otherwise just cleaning the heads and rollers. I would also recommend Athan Corporation for aftermarket parts and JFR Magnetic Services for tape heads.
Is 10k hours a  realistic figure for a reproduction head ? Are Studer and Otari any different in that ? If I am not mistaken, Studers had an option of two different types of heads, and I have no idea of those differences. I would say that I would play tapes maybe 500 hours a year, no more, perhaps less.
Open reel decks is a complicated subject, and an interesting one.
To do barter with tapes I would need two decks to keep a copy.

Inna - If I am not mistaken, Studers had an option of two different types of heads, and I have no idea of those differences.

My tech explained the differences to me well, when I asked him about an "Ultra Analogue Recording"s tape that I bought as a past customer.

UAR link - they have a samples button to preview the music

I was introduced to UAR through Roger when I was looking for tapes. He did the set up of their recording machines. IMO very musical and involving. Some of the reasons behind this are explained here in an email to me.

Roger Ginsely

"Initially we debated over using butterfly heads (0.75mm gap) versus the more standard 2mm stereo heads. We opted for butterfly as there is more recorded area used. This does have the slight drawback of more crosstalk between channels (they are closer together) but for classical recording this works out extremely well. There is far more `blending’ between channels producing a wider and fatter result. Of course butterfly used for say rock recording would not be advise able as instruments panned hard left and hard right would tend to be dragged more towards the centre which would result in some clutter and lack of definition."

Butterfly and Stereo Heads

ct0517, thank you.
I don't listen to classical music much, mostly small scale acoustic music, paricularly guitar, and vocal, and good jazzrock. 
Standard head for me, I guess.
The weak point of vintage tape gear is the OEM caps. One moment I was enjoying Heart Like a Wheel, the next there was a sharp crack and a cloud of acrid smoke. The dead cap will be split open like the Alien making it easy to spot. You have to be somewhat careful with replacing. Can't just use any cap with the same rating. 

A80 VU II about 500 hours. It ain't the hours,  it's the years. Eventually electolytic caps fail but it takes years so not often.

The A80 is an amazing machine. Flat frequency response 20 to 20 khz. Once set up it doesn't drift. Just don't move it. A joy to use. You will love the solid ker chunk when you press the play button.

I like Agfa 468 tape. You can still get it from Recording the Masters.  Ampex 456 sounds bright to my ears.  No experience with 3M. 1/4 inch 15ips use CCIR equalization. Get calibration tape from Magnetic Reference Labs.

It ain't the servicing. It's the cleaning. You clean everything that contacts the tape before every play. 

American Recorder sells tape head cleaner to clean all metal parts.Use 409 for the pinch wheel. Yeah that 409 from the market.

@inna , no offense but your question is too generic. akin to what sounds better; tubes or solid state;  which solid state amp vs. which tube units.

If you take the plunge into mastering decks, it quite a deep dive. These are not the portable MX5050 series or Technics 1500  series, or Tascam series.

these are near washing machine sized machines built into a cabinet. but are very serviceable since that was a requirement by the end user.

you can buy a studer 812 or an A80 or otari MTR machine and use as is, they will sound very good.

but you will quickly find many who are deep into open reel get the audio cards modified with better parts, and if you go further you can get into custom built tube playback electronics, which are usually a huge step up from the playback electronics in the decks.

These decks were designed and built to run 24/7 in a studio environment. so for home use, once cleaned lubed and in some cases, recapped. they will out last you.

also don't forget the Sony APR 5000 series; excellent working and sounding decks
I will admit, I am addicted to analogue sound. Have an 812, two MTR-10s, an MTR-12 and an MTR-15. All are really nice machines are gentle tape handlers and sound good.

If you are going to record, the 15 is really nice since it has auto-alignment, where the deck will auto bias to any tape at any speed within a few minutes,  then gives the user the option of storing those settings or using them temporarily.

And as some of the other posters have noted, unless you were able to pick up 15 and 30 ips dubs that were being dumped in the early days when studios were switching over the digital, buying true analogue copies of tapes adds up really fast.

But once you hear a 15 or 30 ips master, its really tough to go back to LP let alone 16 bit or 24 bit digital.

hope this helps.


Nice to see a thread on reel to reel, I've posted a few times in support of the R2R format.
Isn't this thread over a year old, wonder if the OP is still looking.