Killer vintage 70's, 80's reel to reel to add to my setup.

Hey everyone. Looking to add a Killer vintage R2R from the 70’s, 80’s to my current analogue setup that includes the Luxman PD444 and Victor TT-101 tables. I like the looks of the 70’s, 80’s but want to hear what you suggest. I’ll tell you right now, I know nothing about R2R and look forward to everyone bringing me up to speed with the basics and deck suggestions. Budget is around $4500. Thanks! Brent


The Technics RS1500 and the like, and Otari 5050 would be good choices.  A friend who reconditions machines like both of these for being rugged and maintainable (particularly the Otari).  The only potential issue with something like the Otari is that it was a professional machine, so some of the used machines on the market are very heavily used.  This friend prefers these two over Revox machines from this era because of build quality, but, in good working order the Revox is also a topnotch machine.

before you buy any deck, better decide what tape format you are planning on playing. 

the Technics 1500 and Otari MX 5050 can cover quite a few. 

The killer king is Sony TC-880 (TC8750-2 Japanese version). Scarce spare parts as its original price. If you find one within your budget check it.

Open reels are old beasts, more likely they need servicing and calibration (can do for a specific tape you choose) so a very good and knowledgeable technician is your friend. Whatever you choose finding spare parts and easy maintenance should be on top of your list. Tapes are rather expensive but current production RMG are quite good. 2 track machines have the best sound quality and 4 track ones have the best tape economy.

Apart from mentioned Technics, nice looking and good sounding decks come from, Akai, Revox, Teac, Philips, Sony, Otari ...

Take your time and check, search, read.

Note, what kills them is not using them.

Happy hunting.



Teac/Tascam made some nice semi-pro machines that go for not that much money.  Also, I think some Pioneer machines sounded pretty good, although their compact size did not allow for use of 10.5” NAB reels.

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For vintage I use Otari 5050, for new production Mataxas & Sins Tourbillon, for portability and fun a Stellavox SP-7.

Any thoughts on the Sony TC-765. Looks super. How's it compare to the Technics 1500 I wonder. 

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Sony TC-880 is impressive. Currently on the bay at $6000. Technics is pricey too but so pretty. Sony and Technics get the nod regarding matching with the look of my system. What other Brady Bunch age deck has this look and ability to do the job right. Thanks!

More info,

TC-766-2 was the better one, 2 track high speed, found its way to prosumer market.

Good looker too. Both are excellent though.

You can pick up a Teac A3300 for less than $1500.00 used and they sound great and built like a tank. 

Leaning toward Technics and Sony regarding cosmetic integration into my system and for being killers. RS1500 and TC-766-2 are the front runners.
@stereo5  Teac is nice!


Time to travel to Japan when covid allows. I don't see anything available online that tickles my fancy. My Luxman and Victor 101 are close to mint. 

@petg60 Technics and Sony decks in excellent cosmetic condition are rare and challenging to find correct? Might need to visit Japan as soon as possible to locate one. 

Also, what NEW two channel decks are available in the $5000 range. Depending on look, I might go this route. 


Akihabara, Chiyoda, Shibuya, Shinjuku, are places to visit if you decide the trip (worthwhile anyway).

Or wait till something appears for getting one in near mint condition.

Brother are you barking up the wrong tree. I owned a Revox A77 for a decade and it deconstructed itself. Tandbergs are even worse. The better Japanese units are much more reliable. BUT, an analog recording of any source is always a downgrade and prerecorded tapes are crazy expensive and finding them with music you like is difficult. It would only be a museum piece and that is not what this is about, for me at least. If you want to record music it is far better to do it digitally with a computer and hard drive or a dedicated digital recorder.  

I agree with mijostyn that reel to reel is generally NOT the way to go from a sound perspective.  Yes, there are great sounding tapes out there (I've heard a few), but, the pursuit of a reel to reel system can only be justified sonically in an extremely high end system where all other sources have been refined to a very high level of performance; otherwise tape is a waste of money.  There are very few good pre-recorded tapes available, and so the music selection is VERY limited.  The commercial tapes I heard that I thought might justify a reel machine cost over $500 per tape.  Also, decent machines cost around $20k.  Expensive machines to play a few good tapes may be justifiable, but only in the context of a system that already has top notch digital and vinyl setups.

Perhaps, the other justification is to preserve very good records by recording them to tape so that the records don't have to be subjected to repeated play.  I heard tapes made for that purpose and they sounded quite good.  But, so did digitized transcriptions of records and that is MUCH cheaper to do and digital is recording is more durable than tape and is SO MUCH MORE convenient.

Buy one and have fun with it enjoyed my time with them.

Another one is the Akai GX 400D, having the availability of a qualified teck

is a must in the equation.

I do like Akai a lot. The GX-747 seems pretty sweet too!


I see where your comin@larryi and @mijostyn A collector piece that I can play around with and looks substantial in the system. Best Akai deck?

Something to play around with, that would be the proper role of a R2R machine if you did not already have a substantial collection of tapes.  A bit more of a hassle than a cassette machine, nut certainly nicer to look at in operation.

No true audiophile system is complete without a good reel to reel deck. Even if only to make recordings off your vinyl for background listening. There is nothing like tape.

I would get Studer A807 or 810, find a qualified technician to make it sound as it should and be happy. Yeah, that would be at least double the stated budget.

Well, Otari would be my second choice.

You can find a lot of these recommended machines, including Studer A807, 810 and 80 machines on the Reverb site.  They do not sell things for cheap prices, but, they are generally fair.  It is worth window shopping there.

I don't know if I would say that a system is not complete without a good R2R deck.  If one is satisfied playing a relatively small selection of music, and insist on really topnotch performance when playing those few selections, then maybe, a high end machine is justified.  How high?  Why not insist that only an ATR 100 series machine will do?  

Just looked at the ATR 100. Amazing piece of history. But for the look and ability I'm going for, I believe Sony, Technics and Akai are the front runners. I like the looks of the Pioneer but don't see a deck that stacks up to the above mentioned. 

How about a new deck? Budget is $7500. This might be the route to go. If the look is right. Holla back!

Going to be hard to find a new deck for $7.500. J-Corder refurbished decks could be had in your price range and United Home Audio decks have gone up quite a bit in price over the years. Metaxas is well above your budget. Otherwise, I'm not sure who else out there is doing top quality refurbished or new decks.

You also need to think about the playback electronics. I was never really satisfied with my Otari internal electronics so I had mine modified to take the signal direct from the tape head and run through external tube tape head preamps. This made a significant difference.

I buy my tapes from a number of sources. Prices range from $150 to $400. The higher cost tapes usually net me two reels of music at 15 ips. It's fun to compare the same title in LP and tape format. Tape almost always wins out.

Any model Studer that has been properly reconditioned will probably cost more than your budget.  But, the same company made Revox machines that were intended to be non-studio machines that are nice and much cheaper.  Look for an A 700 or A77 or B77 machine.

Wow, prices for new modern decks are crazy expensive and not that great looking until you get to Mataxas & Sins Tourbillon. Now that’s a cool looking deck! And I thought my budget of $7500 would get me top of the line in the new deck area. Not even close! Vintage it is!

THE “new” machines that I like come from United Home Audio.  The top machine utilizes a reconditioned Tascam transport and electronics that are designed and built by them to be the very best; it better be good because it costs in excess of $90k.  You can hear their stuff at audio shows and at their DC-area showroom (very nice and friendly people).  

The Metaxas & Sins decks are based on the Stellavox SM8, arguably one of the best decks ever produced based on comments I have heard from a few recording engineers. I have the capability with that deck to use the internal electronics for playback, or take the signal direct from the tape head. In my comparison this is the only deck I have heard where the internal electronics stack up well with my tube tape head preamps.

If you're going vintage another consideration is to ensure it's serviceable and to have a good resource available to service it. With all due respect to @larryi the Revox A77 is one to stay away from. Revox makes fine decks but the B77 and PR99 are the ones to seek out. With any vintage deck, just make sure it has 15 ips tape speed, not all do.

Studer 810 is growing on me. I don't like the looks of it as much as the Akai, Sony, Technics. 

Thinking more along the line of $10,000 for my vintage budget. Where does that put me?

If you want to throw $20,000 at it:

This deck is based on the Revox PR99 chassis. It uses a combination of original parts and new parts. As an alternative, you could just get the cleanest PR99 you can find and send it to Sonorus or to Soren Wittrup for refurbishing. You'd very likely come in under $10,000 in that case.

Regarding your choice of machines, you must first decide what you need.  If you are going to collect high end audiophile tapes, you will need 15 ips speed, 10.5" reel size capability, and 2-track playback.  If you have, or will be collecting 4-track tapes, you need 4-track playback capability.  If you are going to record your own tapes, you need to decide whether you want 4 track recording capability or just 2 track capability.  If you are going for 4 track playback, you should decide if the ease of reverse playing is something desirable.

I like the Technics line of machines.  The 1500 is a 2 track machine that also has a 4-track playback only head; just flip a switch and it will play back 4-track tapes.  It operates at three speeds, including 15 ips.  The 1506 is a 4-track machine (meaning it can do 2 track record and playback and 4-track record and playback).  The 1700 is an auto-reverse 4 track machine.   These can be had well within your budget, although mint and never used machines cost considerably more.  At your new budget, you should be able to get a fully reconditioned machine that has been lightly used.  Plenty of machines were made, and there are plenty of parts available.

The Revox PR99 mentioned above is also a nice machine that has a lot of parts availability.  

Thank you @larryi for the wealth of knowledge and excellent suggestions. I've learned a lot from this thread and all that have contributed!