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Thread In the market for a reel to reel. In need of advice.

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1 In the market for a reel to reel. In need of advice.
So I will explain myself a little.
I was about five songs into writing a full length and suddenly realized, how in holy hell am I going to record this? Then I started thinking idly about my old 4 track that I had as a kid, all the odd things I did with it, and all the fun I had. Then I decided, well I should just save a little money and purchase a Tascam 488 MKII. It seems to be a very logically constructed machine with a moderately pleasing sound to it. I began reading more into it; didn't seem any more complicated or mind boggling than the machine I once owned, just different which is the case with any new toy. So as I'm reading and reading, I have also become enthralled with the idea of a reel to reel, a Tascam 388 to be exact. I know very little about reel to reel analog recording. I have been reading a bit about ips and the differences in tape. But I am obviously very much a novice.
My basic needs are:
I need a reliable machine which has everything I will need onboard. I do not want to run this to outboard mixers (at least not at the moment for financial reasons) or noise reducers or anything of that nature.
As far as the nature of what I am recording, basically acoustic instruments (piano, guitar, cello, vocal, maybe a drum track or two though very sparsely) from a condenser mic behind a filter. I have no need for the ability to record multiple tracks at the same time though the option of two or three tracks at once would be nice. The only thing about the 388 that seems unappealing is the weight but oh well.
What my question is is, would a 388 be the right machine for me? What do I need to know about tape, where to purchase it, prices, difference in reels, things of that nature...? Should I really stick to a 488 or will the jump to reel to reel improve sound quality and provide the fatter, richer sound which I hope to achieve? Are there any online tutorials (my reading so far is limited to forums and wikipedia)? Is it really not much of a jarring change as I seem to think it is? What maintenance is necessary and how much does it cost? Any problematic issues with these things minus heads needing changed, calibration, motors going out? How often do these things generally need to be done? Are there any other machines that you would think I would be interested in, keeping in mind I'm not made of money? These are the questions in my mind and I certainly understand if you can not answer them all. Any and all input is appreciated.
Be well,
"I have this sick feeling that there is something wonderful just past the point of no return."


Using an open reel deck does have it's merits and possibly some minor drawbacks. Media is not as cheap as it once was, an most that you can find on Craiglist and eBay most likely will need some attention. Not using a unit for a while is just as bad as overusing it. Belts will tend to set upon the pulleys over time and will slip and have uneven speed variations. This is true with almost all ANALOG recording devices. But don't let that stop you, if you are mechanically inclined or have an experienced technician. One deck that I have owned and is almost bulletproof was the Revox A-77. With it's direct drive capstan motor (the one that is responsible for pulling the tape and constant speed), you will not have to worry about belt replacement. (Also some Akai units, such as the GX-625, 635, 747, etc.)

One thing that is a major plus is that you do have better fidelity than with cassette based recorders. The higher the tape speed the wider the frequency response, especially at the top end. You can experiment with the various speeds to hear the difference and a slower speed may be used for an effect purpose more so for a duller sound, if that is what you are seeking. Factor in the cost of tape with the faster speeds and it may become more expensive. That is what you yourself have to decide.

Most decent decks worthy these days can be had for around $300 and up. You will need a three head unit, and I advise to stay away from two head units, especially the older Sony's. They are prone to a good deal of mechanical problems, and I have fixed many of these. The better brands are: Pioneer (RT-701, 707, 1011 and the 1020); Teac A3340 and as mentioned the Revox A-77 and Akai GX-625, 635, 747, et al. You may also get lucky and find one at a yard sale or an electronics repair shop. I once picked up a Revox for $25 that was left abandoned at a TV repair shop due to the customer not picking it up after 3 attempts by the shop owner (as required by law in some areas).

Hope this gave you some insight and I could go on and on, but I just wanted to touch upon a few items so you may have a better understanding about open reel decks. If you have any other questions you can contact me directly at the following e-mail address:  wnmlradio@localnet.com   ATTENTION: Audiofanzine