Reel to Reel decks

Is anyone out there using reel to reels anymore? I remember at one time(30 years ago), they were probably some of the best analog reproduction equipment out there. Of course, it doesn't matter much if you can't buy good prerecorded tapes. I've googled prerecorded tapes, but haven't found much out there. Anyone have a good source? Also, can anyone recommend a good deck?
If you want to lubricate any bearing set in most tape machines, an excellent lubricant for the job is Dextron-style automatic transmission fluid. Usually only a few drops are required.

A common problem in many Japanese tape machines is the pinch roller arm that activates the pinch roller. It can get gummed up by the grease that was used when the machine was built. Quite often by now such greases have turned to a pretty effective glue! Another area where this is a problem is the reel brakes which are often activated by a common lever.
Well, it works. A local record shop had a box of free reel tapes (home recorded). Turns out, many of them were actually sealed blank tapes. Nice windfall. I'm looking forward to checking this guy's Ink Spots recording against my cd. Unfortunately, the left channel is practically inaudible. I may take it into the shop for that. The right channel sounded fine. I can hear the record scratches from the home recording, but they were free, so . . .

Thanks again for the helpful responses.

I'll check that stuff out, Atma. :)

I took the Akai beast to Fred at Classic Audio Repair in San Diego. He confirmed what several have said (parts, etc.). He recommended I ditch it and get Teac, unless I wanted to make it a personal project. I may Craigslist for a low amount as "parts or repair." The take-up reel alone is pretty cool.
I'll just give my two cents here.

I have been an artist and producer for a good quality artistic label, but have been recording in the digital world since the early 90's.


I have personally been a vinyl junkie as long as I have been old enough to listen to music and still am to this day. I always tried to get a warmer thicker richer sound on my recordings than my digital peers, often to either the praise or harsh criticism from the press. A couple years ago I upgraded my entire personal system with a decent Music Hall deck, restored vintage Scott Tube amp and a set of basically modified Forte II's. It was certainly enough to get me to open my eyes and face a new reality.

The label was kind enough to now supply me with a 16 track Tascam tape machine which I have been laying demos on for the last few months.

Wow, is all I can say.
Demos already sound 10 times better than finished digital mixes of the past.

Anyone that suggests that digital recording or playback is superior simply is speaking from a platform of ignorance, and I say this with all due respect. You have to be able to hear a recording played back properly on a quality analog set up to make an educated statement. As a recording artist, you have to have had your work recorded properly AND have heard it played back PROPERLY to make an educated assessment.

If you have been presented with the two mediums properly, you will of course understand the superiority of an unadulterated analog stream.

Now, not to get off topic here.. but unless an artist has been recorded direct to vinyl, tape machines are the best vehicle to record music... period.

So I would argue that a recording that was recorded onto tape, mixed, pressed onto vinyl, them sent back out to a tape machine is not going to improve the sound. It may add a certain tape compression of the signal that may sound pleasing to some, but it is not better in a technical sense. Not possible.

One of the problems facing listeners today is that they are so used to music that is over processed in the digital world, that a proper recording might sound too raw or human.

There are so many options for digital recording artists in the way of processors, plugins, simulators, filters and so on, and young artists seem almost brainwashed to use them.

I would counter and say that if you have a properly tuned instrument, a good quality instrument, play your part well, and have it miked properly direct to a tape machine, you really don't have to do ANYTHING to it. If you are tracking, your mixing board really only has to be used to set volume levels, and a pan fader to place the sound where you want it in a stereo mix. You really shouldn't have to even use EQ.....IF you have recorded the track properly.
The only thing you might want to compress a little bit might be an electric bass guitar a kick drum and some vocalists.


If you mic things properly, and you are recording to tape, you have access to such a full dynamic range that you really don't need to compress at all if you don't want to.

It's a subjective thing.. but if there are any recording artists here reading.. you shouldn't HAVE to...

Drummers recording to click tracks in my opinion is still controversial. There is no reason to take a GOOD drummer out of his groove. Humans are not machines.. some ebb and flow is OK.

The digital world is so in love with quantitizing the drum tracks to the nearest 8th note editing them on a computer screen, and usually pulling out and replacing the drummers actual kick and snare drums with stock samples that the producer THINKS sound better. So what we get is a sterile, lifeless over processed homogenized sound that has been spoon fed to the public since the early 80's.

The temptation to FIX everything in the pre mix down production room is just too damn tempting and it ends up getting hacked up with 400 edits and we get what we get.

The great thing about a reel to reel is that it's actually it's LIMITATIONS that open the possibilities to a better record. I say this because in the old days, musicians had to PRACTICE to lay tracks because punching is not as easy on a tape machine, especially with drummers. You try to punch on the cymbal crashes, and if you miss just a bit it doesn't sound good. Sure tape loops have been used and other studio trickery but nothing like what goes on now.

Tape is expensive, and you feel a bit of pressure when those reels are spinning, much more than endless digital takes. Analog tape can only take so many runs across the recording heads before they have to be cleaned or the tape starts losing fidelity.

It asks more of you.

So the best way to both record and playback music is going to be tape machines.

You simply cannot take a dynamic tape recorded performance and dither it down to 16 or 24 bit transferring analog to digital and back through analog converters working full steam and expect a proper playback on CD.


If you love digital music, then good for you, but you won't win any "quality" arguments with someone that knows better.