#1December 15th, 2006 · 12:57 AM
28 threads / 20 songs
255 posts
Reel to Reel recorders
Hey, id really appreciate a hand here please

I've been on the look out for a reel to reel recorder. Fostex E-8 is a beautiful machine that i sadly cant find for under 500 bucks. This really appeals to my band because 8 track simultaneous recording really hits the spot for us.

We currently have a Fostex X-24 and looking to upgrade.

We haven't recorded on a reel to reel before so we don't know what it sounds like, ive heard recordings of other bands on it and its really nice sound....

anyone with a reel to reel or know a fair bit because what we would like to know is stuff like... maintenance costs, reliability?, weight and how portable it is. Are the actual reels themself very expensive?

one more thing, just found an AKAI 1721W for about 200bucks. Do you think its worth paying 200 bucks if we are forced to plug everything into a mixer then output the mixer into the reel to reel recorder? hence losing the ability to master and adjust volume levels after recording?
#2December 15th, 2006 · 07:49 AM
160 threads / 88 songs
1,666 posts
United States of America
I am pretty old school... and Love the old reel to reel stuff....  but, just wondering with the digital age here.. why you don't just go with a decent digital recorder, or even a laptop with a nice USB interface...  You can get much better quality with them...  I mean reel to reel is nice, if you have the room, and patience for them...  but as for adjusting levels after, it's not as easy as you think with reels... the reels can get expensive, because they aren't available everywhere anymore... although, you can pick them up in a second hand store alot of times pretty cheap if you look around..  THe recorders, for a good one, are pretty inexpensive... WHat exactly are you wanting it for?  I mean, are you wanting to start your own mini-studio? if so, you will want a reel to reel, it's nice..  believe me.. But, if your wanting something to move around with you, and take to gigs, then reel to reel is NOT what you want..  they are HEAVY...  even the small ones...  and if your doin a gig, you want something you can just start and stop easy.. no fuss... no threading tape..

   so, As much as I love analog... I still think you could have fun with a nice older one to use in a home studio application..  I don't think it is what you are looking for, based on the statement: " weight and how portable it is."
    Hope that helps....

#3December 15th, 2006 · 08:07 AM
28 threads / 20 songs
255 posts
Hmmm interesting.....

I want one just to record our band... don't need it for live gigs at all, stays in the garage with the rest of the stuff and we record there... We record live and so the simultaneous 8-track recording is just what we need.... the digital stuff... well first off its way too expensive and second off, considering how cheap i found this recorder for... i mean it's something different nowadays, not many people still record on it and we have serious curiosity as to how good this thing will sound.

My question about weight and portability, was in search of an answer that you have just given me, now i know its too heavy and inconvenient to move around.

Well this recorder comes with a whole bunch of blank reels so i don't think finding reels is a problem.

thanks for your input, to answer your question what we are using it for... well now we just got a 4 track cassette recorder and want to go the next level up, which is reel to reel recording, nothing fancy just using it for our band. We never digitally edit or touch our recordings after we recorded it (apart from mastering the volumes) so we don't need any digital effects, drum machines and all that jazz.
#4December 15th, 2006 · 05:47 PM
160 threads / 88 songs
1,666 posts
United States of America
well, go for it... except buy this one it's cheaper..... http://cgi.ebay.com/AKAI-REEL-TO-REEL-1721W-WITH-SPEAKERS-NO-RESERVE_W0QQitemZ250061562923QQihZ015QQcategoryZ67810QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem#ebayphotohosting  THose are nice recorders...  

       Will take some getting used to...  but you should be able to get some nice recordings...

#5December 15th, 2006 · 10:02 PM
28 threads / 20 songs
255 posts
Yeah it's the same one as i found, but my one is at a local recycle/second hand store thats about 10min away and its 200 dollars with reels and stuff. Buying it on ebay is a little less secure, pay tonnes for postage (considering i have to ship it to melbourne, australia) and i don't get any reels... thanks for the link though, this brings me to another question... why is this recorder so cheap while other ones are thousands of dollars yet they use the same technology? Even some 4 track recorders similar to this one are 500 or 600 dollars.... is this one a cheap version? would those other ones have better quality ? or should i just be quiet and just buy this one?

For example this one here... http://cgi.ebay.com.au/AKAI-GX-210D-REEL-TO-REEL-TAPE-RECORDER-3-Head-Glass_W0QQitemZ190060323200QQihZ009QQcategoryZ15000QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Akai GX-210D, same brand and it's also a 4 track yet it's hundreds of dollars more
#6December 15th, 2006 · 11:36 PM
160 threads / 33 songs
1,965 posts
United States of America
there is a lot of stuff to consider
Man I love the sound of old analog tape. There is a lot of things to think about though.
 1. tape head wear out... if the tape deck is old and has been used a lot the heads may need to be replaced(not cheap)

  2. For awhile you could not get tape anywhere hardly ,this may happen again as digital keeps getting better,and more pro bands make the full switch to digital( a lot of pro band still record 2" reels and move it to digital but that's going away).

 3. For the money you have to spend I don't see you getting any better quality tape rig than a digital recorder/ computer set up.

OK after all that I would say buy the tape deck use it to learn on and save your money for some better gear like good computer recording interface type stuff there are a bunch out there. I happen to use the MOTU Mark of the Unicorn 2408 interfaces these give me 16 analog inputs. 8 each plus 24 digital tracks I/O all simultaneous plus spidf, tdif, optical and word. With a 424 sound card that has a return so you don't have computer latency problems. I can use this with any PC recording or I can use it on a mac and use there great recording/midi software ( full movie soundtracks have been done on this stuff) DIGITAL PERFORMER

 Anyway good luck .
#7December 15th, 2006 · 11:45 PM
160 threads / 88 songs
1,666 posts
United States of America
I mean to get simultaneous multi-track recording is easy as pie with Digital... especially if you go with a http://cgi.ebay.com/New-E-MU-0404-Sound-Card_W0QQitemZ160008368970QQcmdZViewItem

or something like that, with Cool Edit pro, or similar software...  I mean, then you can record multi channel, get really good quality recordings, and tweakability...

    But I do sooo love the analog sound...
#8December 16th, 2006 · 06:34 PM
28 threads / 20 songs
255 posts
Yeah... You see we have something very similar to the soundcard Jimk just linked, can't give you the exact name but it has two guitar inputs a L/R line in input and and microphone input...

I got it with my computer asking for a "proffessional recording soundcard" and i haven't used it once...

Hopefully this reel to reel is in half decent state and produces half decent sound otherwise i'll probably just end up scrapping it after i buy it...

We don't have laptops and we have no computers where we play so it's really hard to record using the computer. We looked into buying a digital multitrack recorder a while back but soon found out it's way too expensive and none have like 8 simultaneous track recording for under a thousand dollars. And we really don't want to spend too much money on recording gear, we tend to spend it all on live gear because im really the only one in our band who cares one bit about recording.. lol

Oh well thanks for your help ill definitely ask this guy a couple of questions about the recorder see what state it's in and so forth

Thanks again,
#9January 10th, 2007 · 05:07 AM
2 threads / 2 songs
15 posts
United States of America
Me too...
Yea, I have lots of digital recording stuff in my studio, but I have long craved for a nice stereo reel to reel recorder.    If nothing else just as a novelty.  In addition, I have lots of old recordings on reel to reel that I would love to listen to.  Good luck in finding what you want.  I think I will get on the search also.
#10May 15th, 2012 · 08:17 PM
4 threads / 1 songs
8 posts
United States of America
I've been using a Fostex R8 reel to reel for many years.I record folk music with acoustic guitar and my son's drums.You can't beat the analog sound.The reel has Dolby C which I don't use.Sounds great without the Dolby.This machine is 8 tracks on 1/4" tape with 7" reels.It runs at 15 inches per second and you'll get about 20 total minutes of recording time on 1800 feet of tape.I use the Ampex Quantegy reel tapes that are fairly inexpensive.

good luck,
#11May 21st, 2012 · 07:58 AM
28 threads / 20 songs
255 posts
Hi Glenn,

Thanks for reviving this thread, a lot has happened since I posted this thread.

I've actually got a similar setup as you at the moment.
I've got two synced Fostex R8's (hence 14 tracks on two 1/4" tapes). I originally used Quantegy 457 tape (1mil) that gave me 1800 feet on a 7" reel and about 22min recording time. I've started using BASF SM911 (similar specs to Ampex 456) and although it is thicker (and hence less running time) I am liking the sound of this tape more. I master to a Tascam 32 which is 2 tracks on 1/4" tape at 15ips.

I've got a number of analog compressors, EQ's, summing mixers, analog spring reverb and a sweet Roland digital reverb from 1985. As of recently I am running a completely analog setup (no computers in the studio room) minus the Roland digital reverb which sounds so dirty and mean that it fits right in with the sound.

I've used this to record my old school funk band, my trad. jazz band and recently bought the second R8 to sync for the extra tracks to record originals with my indie/rock band.

I still have a Roland VS1680 and Cubase SX3 setup but I find the challenge of live recording onto tape (where editing is almost non-existent) an excellent way to force the band to be sharp, rehearse and play tight because if you don't sound good in the room, you ain't going to sound good on the tape.
If I record through Cubase though, I can do pitch and timing correction, record multiple takes and cut and paste the best parts and not to mention stack up 100s of plug-in effects.

I can get a sound I like through both mediums but it seems that with the digital setup, I have to do a lot of tweaking to get the sound I like whilst when recording to tape, you have to pay more attention during tracking but then there is very little afterwards to do and it will sound great.
#12July 14th, 2012 · 12:12 AM
160 threads / 33 songs
1,965 posts
United States of America
When I record at the studio,, we do all the tracks to tape, then dump them into  the box (computer) for clean up and some editing if needed,, but ot get that thick full sound,, tape wins every time.. except now days with  some of the newer digital bit depths and capture speeds,  I think when digital can get to 64 bit depth it'll pass up tape for sound thickness,  Warmth,, well digital guys have been around long enough now to know how to warm up digital rtrack to sound like tape.
#13October 28th, 2014 · 02:50 AM
I'll tell you that nothing sounds as good as analog tape. I started out in the 80's and reel to reel was the only option. I then went digital in the 90's and lost many years of recording, I just couldn't find the vibe. Then I decided to go out of the box and incorporate analog back into my studio. It changed everything... I wish I had been smarter back in the 90's to not so quickly jump onto the digital bandwagon. I'm not knocking it now as I still use my daw, but I mix out of the box with a real console and outboard effects. I also use a reel to reel.

For anyone without reel to reel experience who wonder's if its right for them should check out this Fiverr gig. You can get your track run thru a reel to reel and sent back to you for 5 bucks, can't beat that...


In closing I say go for it, but make sure you get a 15 ips machine and I recommend Tascam over Fostex because of parts availability. Fostex is freaking awesome sounding, I've had a model 80 and a E2, but there are no parts available anymore (to my knowledge). Otari is more expensive than Tascam but there are a few parts around. Overall Tascam is a workhorse with a good parts supply when needed.

Good luck.
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