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(1/4" repro) replacement Tape head comparisons?

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  • (1/4" repro) replacement Tape head comparisons?

    I own a Studer A807 1/4" deck and am going down the path of optimizing it so that I can experience what everyone has been raving about.

    My deck is currently fitted with Butterfly heads and look to be in decent shape.

    While I'm thoroughly going over the machine to improve it (rewiring the head block to an external repro amp, recapping, lubing the bearings, etc.), I'd like to explore the idea of replacing the butterfly repro head if it makes sense (i.e. is it going to be better than what I already have?).

    Has anyone done comparisons of the currently available "aftermarket" heads and, if so, which head would you choose if you had your druthers? My understanding is that there are at least 2 high-quality options to investigate:

    Nortronics
    Flux Magnetics Extended Frequency

    I look forward to hearing your opinions...

    squasher
    Speakers: Rockport Avior
    Amp: Ypsilon Aelius Mk II (Silver Edition)
    Preamp: Pass Labs XS
    Phono preamp: EMIA LR Phono Corrector, Slagle Silver SUTs
    Phono: Continuum Criterion, Kuzma 4-Point, Lyra Etna SL Lambda
    Digital: dCS Network Bridge, dCS Scarlatti DAC
    Tape: Studer A80 RC, Doshi V3.0

  • #2
    Hi and welcome squasher (first name?). As you may imagine, comparing JUST tape heads is quite difficult. I did do some playback head comparisons, and did post them on either the tape project or whatsbestforum sites. However it's at least 5 years back and I don't necessarily remember all the details.

    What I DO remember is that the Flux Mag, Pro Nortronics and Studer heads all sounded VERY GOOD. Much better than the heads in the Japanese reel decks; which I found out and John French confirmed, were All made by Panasonic (apparently Saki was a California manufacturer to which the pro Japanese deck manufacturers went to get heads after Panasonic's exit left them in a real jam) . Also remember that I liked the Studer and Nortronics slightly better than the PB head in the Nagra 4S that I auditioned (with the head wired out).

    I do NOT have the correct picture regarding this whole (Studer) Butterfly head design thaang. What I remember, and this could certainly be faulty, is that the manufacturers went to that design more for lower head wear and not (necessarily) sound. SO; I just sent John French (THE EXPERT) asking him to please weigh in and inform us about this topic. I hope he does; and does so directly here, but will in any case pass on his response.

    Myles and I discussed this yesterday at Rhapsody and he reminded me that the track width on the butterfly could have been narrower which, if so would certainly affect the sound. We'll see. And THANKS for raising the topic!

    Charles

    BTW, as you probably know Nortronics heads haven't been made in dozens of years, and John F told me that Studers' head manufacturing operation burned down in the early 2000's. SO Flux Magnetics and maybe a few someones in Europe are all those left making tape heads.
    Last edited by stellavox; 05-23-2016, 05:19 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for the info, Charlie.

      I look forward to getting everyone's opinion (John French included) on the different repro heads. Given that this is such a tiny niche, any feedback is helpful.

      squasher (Chris K.)




      Speakers: Rockport Avior
      Amp: Ypsilon Aelius Mk II (Silver Edition)
      Preamp: Pass Labs XS
      Phono preamp: EMIA LR Phono Corrector, Slagle Silver SUTs
      Phono: Continuum Criterion, Kuzma 4-Point, Lyra Etna SL Lambda
      Digital: dCS Network Bridge, dCS Scarlatti DAC
      Tape: Studer A80 RC, Doshi V3.0

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by stellavox View Post
        Hi and welcome squasher (first name?). As you may imagine, comparing JUST tape heads is quite difficult. I did do some playback head comparisons, and did post them on either the tape project or whatsbestforum sites. However it's at least 5 years back and I don't necessarily remember all the details.

        What I DO remember is that the Flux Mag, Pro Nortronics and Studer heads all sounded VERY GOOD. Much better than the heads in the Japanese reel decks; which I found out and John French confirmed, were All made by Panasonic (apparently Saki was a California manufacturer to which the pro Japanese deck manufacturers went to get heads after Panasonic's exit left them in a real jam) . Also remember that I liked the Studer and Nortronics slightly better than the PB head in the Nagra 4S that I auditioned (with the head wired out).

        I do NOT have the correct picture regarding this whole (Studer) Butterfly head design thaang. What I remember, and this could certainly be faulty, is that the manufacturers went to that design more for lower head wear and not (necessarily) sound. SO; I just sent John French (THE EXPERT) asking him to please weigh in and inform us about this topic. I hope he does; and does so directly here, but will in any case pass on his response.

        Myles and I discussed this yesterday at Rhapsody and he reminded me that the track width on the butterfly could have been narrower which, if so would certainly affect the sound. We'll see. And THANKS for raising the topic!

        Charles

        BTW, as you probably know Nortronics heads haven't been made in dozens of years, and John F told me that Studers' head manufacturing operation burned down in the early 2000's. SO Flux Magnetics and maybe a few someones in Europe are all those left making tape heads.
        See the "red" sentence under the Horch House deck blurb!


        https://www.audionirvana.org/forum/t...r-of-pro-audio
        Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
        Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
        ________________________________________

        -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
        -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
        -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
        -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
        -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
        -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
        -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
        -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
        -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
        -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

        Comment


        • #5
          The DIN or "Butterfly Heads" were created so the BBC could play their Stereo and Mono tapes on the same machine without having to change out head stacks. As you can tell, the gap is much more narrow, hence raising the noise and lowering the channel separation. I know a couple like the extra artifact, but I don't. I've changed all the heads (Repro and Record) to Flux ER in my Studers.
          You can also read THIS....
          Last edited by Bruce B; 05-23-2016, 11:29 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            With NAB heads the available space to lay down magnetic signal on 1/4 " tape is 31% less than with the DIN Butterfly heads. That equates to 6.4 db less potential output from the same width of tape . That is huge compared to the slight loss in channel separation (remember a relatively mediocre 30 db channel separation is considered excellent in phono cartridges).

            The Germans (not BBC) found that if you play a mono tape that employed the entire 1/4 inch tape for signal on a NAB head you will loose 6.4 db of volume as only 69% of the tape surface is read. This makes for uneven broadcast volume and quality. That is why they developed a 2 channel head that could read almost the entire width of the tape. To do this the cores had to be placed in the shape of a Butterfly's open wings. Thus a Butterfly (German Schmetterling ) head. As an aside these heads allowed for far better overload margins and necessitated the newer, higher output tapes we all use today.

            However if there is nothing recorded in that 31 % of extra space it will be read as nothing or noise. So the bottom line is : Play the tape on what it was recorded with.

            Please read Studer's in house magazine, Swiss Sound ,edition 16 page 8. It is available as a download on ftp://ftp.studer.ch/Public/SwissSound/
            Last edited by JDZA; 05-24-2016, 04:35 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks for the great and interesting info related to the Butterfly heads.

              Originally posted by JDZA View Post
              So the bottom line is : Play the tape on what it was recorded with.
              Great advice, but that being said, does anyone know what kind of recording heads are used by the companies releasing new tapes?

              Speakers: Rockport Avior
              Amp: Ypsilon Aelius Mk II (Silver Edition)
              Preamp: Pass Labs XS
              Phono preamp: EMIA LR Phono Corrector, Slagle Silver SUTs
              Phono: Continuum Criterion, Kuzma 4-Point, Lyra Etna SL Lambda
              Digital: dCS Network Bridge, dCS Scarlatti DAC
              Tape: Studer A80 RC, Doshi V3.0

              Comment


              • #8
                Great advice, but that being said, does anyone know what kind of recording heads are used by the companies releasing new tapes?

                Tape Project uses NAB heads with DIN eq. I seem to remember that UltraAnalog uses DIN (Butterfly) heads with NAB eq? I do not know about the others.

                Fred Thal's ATAE once sold an instrument that showed how a tape was recorded. I would imagine it to be essential for mastering engineers/archivists. For the rest of us, asking the supplier should be good enough?
                Last edited by JDZA; 05-24-2016, 01:48 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I believe amongst Studer heads, 318-series are desirable. My understanding is the 1.318 series heads compared with 1.317 series heads offer better construction and materials.
                  Record and repro heads on my four A820/2CH headstacks are 318.

                  Pertaining to Schmetterling/Butterfly/DIN heads and NAB heads...I'm given to understand the former has better SNR spec, while the latter has better crosstalk spec.
                  Vbr,

                  Sam

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JDZA View Post
                    Fred Thal's ATAE once sold an instrument that showed how a tape was recorded. I would imagine it to be essential for mastering engineers/archivists. For the rest of us, asking the supplier should be good enough?
                    Perhaps, you are referencing this: http://www.sigma-hc.co.jp/english/magnet_viewer.html

                    Vbr,

                    Sam

                    Comment

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