- Oct 26, 2019
Hi Bob,If you are looking for a professional deck, the Sony APR-5003 is the ultimate expression of analog tape electronic technology. I has the least low-end hump of any machine and has digitally driven analog circuitry, allowing you to save setups. It is basically an MCI deck on steroids, because Sony bought MCI. Despite this, it is available used for reasonable coin. The studio where I work still has these and I owned one at one point and they are amazingly trouble-free.
The Ampex ATR-102 had the ultimate transport, stable and not suffering from tape-pack speed shift. It is the best editing deck in the world. It is also the most desired and most expensive. We sold thirteen of these to ATR systems where they were rebuilt with better record electronics and sold to studios for $10k or more. You should know that they have the most complicated transport system ever. If you aren't a tech, you'll need one to keep it running.
If you are willing to go quarter track (consumer), perhaps the best of the bunch was the Tandberg Cross-Field series. They had probably the best native signal-to-noice ratio due to the Cross-Field system. That consists of a second record head that swings up from below and presents a 180' out of phase signal to the back of the tape, allowing greater signal level. Because tape noise is a constant, a greater signal increases the signal-to-noise ratio. They are also available at an entirely reasonable cost.
Will have to take a look at these suggestions. Thanks for the info. I'm not in a rush and don't definitely don't want to buy the wrong tape machine. It's not exactly easy to swap out if I'm not happy with it. So I want to read up on everything possible.
I would say I'm looking for something in between professional and consumer. It's for my small studio at home where I'm only tracking guitars, vocals, and synths. So it's not a big deal to me to be limited to 2 tracks. I would love an ATR-102 but I think that's definitely too nice (and expensive) for the job. I love the sound of vintage tube preamps, which is what has me looking at the Ampex 351. I could seriously benefit from having a couple of really good preamps in my studio. I'm using a Great River, which is pretty nice, but kind of boring? It's not something you plug into and just get excited about. I feel like if I'm going to track on tape, I want it to sound obviously like tape, if that makes sense. I would probably use a more transparent machine to master at the end. So for tracking, I definitely want something that's going to sound big, harmonic, and has a lot of character.