Reel to Reel Machine for 15 ips playback

Looking for recommendations on a reel to reel machine for 15 ips tape.  I'm new to reel to reel so mainly looking for reliability and ease of use.  Mainly concerned with playback no recording right now.  

Mara machine?

Refurbished Ampex or Studer?



What kind of budget would you expect to find a used ATR-102 both in good to excellent condition?  Also does AK have a website for his hot rodded units?  What kind of budget should I expect to spend on a hot rodded unit?




not exactly sure where the price a high quality 'stock' used ATR-102 starts, my guess is the $15k-$25k range. to know it’s high quality you need a reliable source.

for reference a nice Studer A-820 is likely in the $30k-$60k range for comparison purposes. i know since i just sold 3 of them.

a hot rodded ATR-102 likely is ’more’. but it is really the way to go long term. and justifies your investment in great tapes. here is a link to a post with some ’AK’ contact info. there is no website. if the link does not work it’s post #39 on that WBF thread.



I currently have an Ampex ATR-102 and two Studers in my system. I have owned many of the highly regarded Prosumer machines capable of of playing back newly released tapes such as the Technics RS-1520, Tascam BR20, Otari MX5050B2, Revox PR-99, B-77, Pioneer, Teacs, etc. before I settled on what I have now.

While it’s nice to have a master recorder, we all don’t have the space or the means to keep and maintain a large machine of this caliber. It’s okay to start with a nice Prosumer machine (Studer A810, 807) that’s fully gone over, they are excellent and enough to experience the joy of tape and easier/less costly to maintain. These machines hold their value well so if you plan to upgrade, there’s minimal loss to you. You may realize that a Studer A810 is good enough that upgrading is unnecessary. Just a thought.


@chauncy This is a great thread, thanks for starting it

@mikelavigne thanks for sharing, especially the $ range for top units- nice to know target amounts

Prior to this thread, evaluating R2R components seemed confusing. There are very few choices in new units, and buying used seemed difficult to evaluate what to look for. Top used units like Studer seem to be superior to the new offerings.  Maintenance is also a concern both at home and for servicing/repair.

once an RTR deck is sorted out, especially one of the higher level decks, home use is unlikely to stress it much. they are built for heavy use in a pro environment. assuming you find one with relatively light use, it will hold up well.

so pay the piper for high quality to begin with and enjoy the performance. tape deck mechanical drama is best avoided. it might not ever get sorted. open one up sometime and take a look. a bit more complicated than spinning a platter.