Mark Frauenfelder at 11:11 am Thu, Aug 12, 2010
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Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His latest book is Made by Hand: My Adventures in the World of DIY
Yé-Yé Girls of '60s French Pop
Simplifiers and Optimizers, by Dilbert creator Scott Adams
I had a 377 for many years… it could go as low as 1 7/8″/sec and on a big tape I could run music continuously for something like 6 hours.
I also had the Superscope/Sony external Dolby noise-reduction unit for this. A PITA to calibrate, but once set, it worked well.
Donald@34, wasn’t the weed back then also crap, or at least they keep telling us that? :-)
I had a housemate in college who mostly listened to classical music. His medium-priced stereo was good enough that he could really hear what was being played, and he found there was no point in upgrading it, because it made a lot more difference to get records by better orchestras with better conductors than to get rid of the last few bits of distortion.
How will my grandson play his wax cylinders on this contraption?
My dad has that exact model, and an amplifier and AM/FM receiver to go with it. This stuff is wonderful, just like Leica or a Mac.
I completely understand the “cool factor” of those twin reels of tape whirring around. And yes, Teac gear was more aggro…Ampex even more so. But, nostalgia aside…they DO NOT sound as good as modern gear at the price-point. Get over it. First, quality tape was always a problem. Sure, the first time out of the box and a few plays it was fine, but the oxide layer would wear out and flake. And dirt? Dust built up everywhere. I remember magazine ads for cleaning your tapes! The deal here is that, sure, the pro (big hole reels) open-reel stuff was (and still is) awesome…but, that stuff ran at really high tape speed and on 1/2″ or 1″ tape. Plus, the motors and guides were very well made. Home units like this Sony…well, they were ok, but not better than (dollar-wise) that what you can do today.
My parents had one of these when I was growing up. They played The Nutcracker Suite on it to get me to fall asleep. They’d also made a recording of a few Winnie the Pooh stories on one tape. The one about Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit’s hole, and hovering over the honey tree. Seminal childhood auditory memories.
When I was a bit older I’d put on their tapes of Linda Rondstat, Carly Simon, and James Taylor. I remember my dad showing me how to wind the beginning of the tape onto an empty reel and get everything ready to play. I liked the boxes the tapes were kept in too.
First thought: Little Timmy’s gonna drop that thing. Those monsters are HEAVY.
And how very quaint, the idea that things could last.
I have one of these. I saved it from ending up on a rubbish tip! Built like the proverbial tank and weighs the same. Also have a couple of Akai 4000 decks bought in the late 70′s that are also still going strong. They don’t build ‘em like that any more! Mind you, I am gradually digitising my precious reel-to-reel collection before the machines finally give up.
Good one. I have a TC-366 model (predesessor to this one). I use it everyday…well until i run out of tape to record. It sounds amazing even at lowest speed. Luckily i find blank tape on ebay from time to time that i buy. Got it from my father…im 23 yo.
Yep. I just received my grandparents’ Sony reel to reel deck this year. (Not that exact model, but similar.) Works like a charm, and sounds great. Even the storage media that’s over 40 years old sounds good!
Wish I had hopes that my grandchildren could use my iPhone, but I won’t even bother to wish…
Hi there… anybody knows a mp3 player software that looks like an reel to reel deck ?
I had an Akai 4000DS at about that time on which was recorded the original Radio 4 broadcasts of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. I later bought a 2nd hand Revox but never got round to refurbisihing that.
I covet the TEAC tube amp reel to reel player my father has. Still a great piece of tech that produces a great sound.
My uncle still has a TEAC recorder that looks a bit like this Sony.
I would have been thrilled if my grandfather left me this. He did give me his ’79 Buick Century, so I can’t really complain.
I found that exact model of reel-to-reel in a thrift store’s give-away pile about ten years ago. It worked perfectly, and sounded pretty damn good if you ask me.
They were right about the build quality, but I don’t think any grandchild today would care to inherit one.
I still use a reel-to-reel tape deck (UHER) on a daily basis. (My job involves digitising old recordings). I love them.
It’s funny because the “weird instrument” of today is beat mixing software on computers, piratically what this thing is but more.
The funny part is that I have never seen one of these that actually works, 40 years on. However, the Teacs I have are the most reliable consumer machines out there.
if you want a recorder you can give to your grandkids, go out and find an Ampex AG440B, those will outlive ME, and I am 18…
I have that exact model, and it works!
My parents bought in around 1974.
It was sitting in an outbuilding for years, and I saw it, and asked it I could take it. I scored it, and a reverb. :)
I have fired it up, and listened to some of the tapes they made back in the day, it actually works great.
I have one from my grandfather, some how I doubt it’ll make it to my kids though. that plastic faceplate on the front is busted off. I got to listen to my five year old father pretending to have a radio show on it. pretty cool.
Considering the price of gold, the last line of the ad ‘Isn’t this better than a gold watch’ has additional resonance.
Real to reals sound REALLY good. Still worth having around.
Who is the grandson anyway? Justin Bieber?
I was recently given my great-grandfather’s reel-to-reel player – this very model. It still has “Manhattan Transfer” on the spindle.
For the vinyl purists out there: This is what they were talking about when they said that analog is better than digital. I’m happy to take this opportunity to clear up the confusion.
Also: Since when do CDs only last 10 years? Tell it to my first CD, purchased in 1985, that still sounds as amazing as the day I bought it. Now that’s some long lasting technology. If I had grandkids, I’d leave them my collection.
The length of time they’ll stay playable is in doubt. The info layer may oxidize and become unplayable if the plastic is not airtight, and who knows what the diffusion rate through that plastic is.
CDs, DVDs, blu-rays: they are not archival like acid-free paper, which can last centuries. Mostly because no one yet knows how long they’ll last.
Much more on this question:
The first time I heard that CDs wouldn’t last was about 1985. I think 25 years (and counting) is commendable for a (should be) cheap, disposable format. A lot of the vinyl that I have bought over the years skipped unbearably from the moment I put it on the turntable.
The only way to archive anything for the long haul is a ubiquity of copies. I think, in the future, we’ll be sorry how indestructible all those old Madonna CDs will turn out to be.
Bespoke plastic faceplates are pretty easy to get. A Maker-crowd type might make one for you for kicks.
I still have the TEAC I got as a teen. It’s sweet. We’ll probably never have things of that quality again.
Depends as to whether or not the Gold Watch was held up the asses of two POWs.
The bass player in my first band got a quadrophonic Akai that we used as our first four-track, back around 1992. It would have made really good recordings of us if the rest of our equipment wasn’t purest crap.
I think he traded it for a couple of ounces of weed.
Sony? Pshaw. If you want a reel-to-reel machine that lasts forever, go Ampex!
I’m sure there are a lot of these tape decks out there that are being used to record weird instruments now days.
Wouldn’t it be cool if electronics companies now days made electronics that were expected to last?
This is a great example of how our expectations around media have changed over time, and how the lifetime of media actually shortens as technology accelerates. In ’73 reel-to-reel was basically the only re-recordable game in town for the hobbyist (aside from the 8-track, of course), and so while the add strikes us as totally naive now (imagine replacing the picture with a digital recorder), at the time it probably didn’t sound crazy ata ll. Around ’78 or ’79 the cassette tape took over. It wasn’t until the mid to late 90′s that digital recording setups became even remotely affordable, along with CD-R.
An interesting correlate of this is that the actual physical media on which sound is stored gets less and less reliable. I can still listen to my 70-year old records (thank you, scratchers, for keeping the phonograph makers in business), and magnetic tape has a long life. CD’s only last about 10 years, and the recordable ones even less. Hard drives have an even shorter life span. Fortunately, we can now make lossless backups of our music, assuming we pick a format that doesn’t die.
The Pavek Museum in Minnesota has one of the two tape players that were ‘recovered’ in WWII by Mullin, and one of the enormous Ampex cabinets based off them. They’ve got the Ampex hooked up to some gigantic folded horn speakers from an old theater that they put modern 1/4 watt drivers on. They sound incredible together. If you have a warehouse with 20 foot ceilings to live in I’d recommend getting some.
All of it sits near a display of chrome McIntosh hifi gear. *drool*
Holy crap, Mine is sitting across the room from me right now. I guess I have to find some weird instrument, right?
I’ve still got my reel-to-reel. Not as nice a model, alas.
It takes 2 people to lift it!
I had one of these reel to reels back when I was in high school in the mid 70′s. It was awesome! I had a bunch of tapes one of my older brothers recorded – got exposed to all kinds of great music. Good times!
Some CDs last less than 2 years, but I’m thinking of early 80s stuff, so maybe not a valuable comparison these days.
I’ve done multitrack recording on TEAC, Tascam and Ampex machines, and the sound does have warmth, but then it was dubbed on to a Sony Walkman, ad it was all gone. Media conversion has its limits. It all reminds me of the digital black hole that will remain from our passing; outdated formats (anyone own a Sony ATRAC devices, 5 1/2 floppies, any floppies for that matter? 8 tracks, betamax, 78s, old PC file formats. When they’re all gone, I suppose the vinyl will survive. Reassuring in a geeky (I told you so) way. Live performances always sounded better to me on vinyl; richer, rawer. I listen to music on mp3s now, not much difference, but when I hear a human voice on a recording I can tell if it was originally analogue recorded or digital.
Love reel to reel machines.
I bet Xeni has one in her lock-up, probably a b-max videocam too ;)
My last audio reel-to-reel tape was from 1973 or maybe 1974. Our local community used a big reel-to-reel player for folk-dance tunes, as well as a record player for tunes that came on records, and I made a copy of some of them on tape before heading off to college. The next audio tape I made was on 8-track. Now I’ve got a bunch of cassettes I haven’t listened to in years (though I still have a good player, and might still have a working portable, and there’s one in my wife’s car.)
I’ve got some vague memories of a Radio Shack 3″ reel-to-reel tape recorder, but I forget if it was mine or my sister’s. I haven’t dragged out the LP records in a few years, though I’ve got a bunch of 33.3s and a few 78s. I bought a couple of 45s in high school or college – one of which was MacArthur Park (Terry Gross was interviewing Jimmy Webb the other day on NPR…) My first record player was a kid’s 45rpm player, with a needle and speaker cone, no electronics, hand-cranked. It chewed up records pretty fast, but that was probably a relief to parents who otherwise had to listen to the same tunes over and over.
I don’t know if I still have my last 9-track data tape, or the Sun cartridge tape, and I definitely don’t have the drive to read the backups I made on that early-90s PC cartridge tape drive. I saved the 5.25″ floppy drive when one of my previous computers blew up, and it would be possible to plug it into my current computer, but probably won’t be possible on the next desktop I get, and I probably won’t install a 3.5″ floppy on that one either, though I should probably buy a USB one before they all vanish.
I also have plenty of CDs that sound just as good today as they did in the late ’80s when I bought them. Sure, they made degrade over time, but the time scale you’re looking for is a lot more than 10 years.
And yeah, nearly every vinyl record I own has some crackle and pop to it. Heck, the sound began to get degraded after just a few plays. If being an audiophile means blindly declaring that analog is superior to digital, count me out.
Good God man, look at that typography. Do you know how much effort went into specifying that and rendering that back in the day? Creative Director should be shot.
I have the predecessor to this: the TC-300 I believe. It’s a portable model with detachable speakers. I bought it in the Berlin Brigade PX in 1963 for around $200. It’s never needed anything except routine maintenance (lubrication and head cleaning) and has all the original vacuum tubes. The sound from my 47 year old 7.5″ tapes is still hi-fidelity stereo as only these analogue devices can produce. It may outlive me so I’ll will it to my offspring along with a still functioning – and taking beautiful pictures – 35 mm Asahi-Pentax
SLR camera and array of lenses.
They don’t build stuff that lasts or is useful for a lifetime anymore.
I found a similar model in the trash years ago. The thing is built like a tank, it’s beautifully sturdy. The recording is, as they say, extremely warm. I used it for making absurdly complicated and disjointed tape loops with tiny tape splices. It was the best thing I ever found in the trash but unfortunately the take-up motor died.
Wow, takes me back!
I DID lots of multi-track dubbing in the 70s with my TEAC 2340.
Even though it had only 4 tracks, with a little clever bouncing (and flipping the tape over to re-sync tracks!) you could get 7 different tracks with only ONE level of degeneration.
Still got it. Still works.
I have an AKAI. There’s still nothing quite like a reel to reel mix tape.
Can we still get tape? Best Buy sure don’t stock it/
There’s a lot of NOS out there, but it’s expensive. Quick googling finds a few places selling new stuff. 1/4″ 7″ reels for $5.99 as-is. Don’t think you’ll get more of a quality guarantee at those prices, it’s pretty limited market stuff.
Even cheap tape sounds good in one of the older machines that ran the tape at 33 inches per second or whatever the rate was.
I’ve still got a Sony reel-to-reel deck. Sound quality to die for. And right up ’til the advent of large disk drives, it was the only realistic choice for a whole day of uninterrupted music.
Hehe. I actually *do* have my grandfather’s reel to reel. And I actually like it too. But I don’t know if you can get new tape for it anymore.
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