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Wiring Ampex ATR 102 For both External Preamp and Existing Electronics

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  • Wiring Ampex ATR 102 For both External Preamp and Existing Electronics

    I just purchased a refurbished ATR 102 and will be selling my Tascam 42. I have the Tascam wired directly from the flux magnetic head with Transparent cable into a King Cello preamp. On the Ampex I would like to have the ability to use either the existing internal electronics or the King Cello. I have 2 choices: 1) Wire directly from the head with a switch or 2) ATR Services said they can keep install cards that will let me use an external preamp. My thinking is tha 2 is the better approach because I am not putting a switch into the signal path and I am keeping the existing wiring and impedence, etc. Does anyone think that 1 would be a better approach? I have heard that the refurbished (by Mike Spitz) electronics of the ATR 102 are quite good sounding

  • #2
    Do you have a stock ATR 102, with what heads and head blocks? Was it refurbished by ATR Services (before or after Mike Spitz passed in 2013) and do you have their Aria Electronics? If so, you have a quite good machine. It would be useful if you described your machine a bit more. Are you planning on doing recording or just playback.

    There are not a lot of people on this forum who have ATR-102's. If you don't get a satisfactory response you might try the Tape Project Forum, where there are a few ATR100 series experts, or Gearslutz which have a large number of tape pros (although they typically don't use audiophile tape prepros.)

    There are better external playback electronics than the stock Ampex, according to many pros, but the stock record electronics are very fine. Many people, including ATR, replace the playback and record heads with those from Greg Orton (Flux Magnetics). I have the extended range FM heads for my 1/2" head stacks. Greg only makes standard replacement heads for the 1/4" head stacks.

    I have 2 ATR102, one refurbished by Mike Spitz about a decade ago, but without their Aria electronics. The other is wired by an expert Ampex tech for me with switches on both 1/4" and 1/2" head blocks which bypass the audio cards in the 102 to feed my Doshi 3.0 tape prepro. My tech pulled the wires through the machine and installed balanced outputs to feed the Doshi. I don't think the switch adds or subtracts much. I would think the going through cards might have a bigger sonic effect. I use that machine only for playback, although I could use the record function by flipping the switch and installing the audio cards. I use the other machine for recording.

    Larry
    Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0 BottleheadPhonoPre
    Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacMicroModel2
    Dig Play-mch NADAC, Emotion, HQPlayer, Oppo95
    Electronics-Herron VTSP3APre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
    Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
    Other-ArtKelmGroundOne IsoTrans,AudioDiskeSystemVinylClea ner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects, Power Supply
    Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

    Comment


    • Cohnaudio
      Cohnaudio commented
      Editing a comment
      The ATR 102 has the flux magnetic heads (1/4"). I intend to use the machine only for listening. The unit was given the full refurbishment by Mike Spitz, and ATR services is giving it a check-up as well. I know a number of members have with this and other machines gone the switch route. I have a couple of concerns re that path. I always hate putting switches in the middle of a signal path generally - particularly with such delicate signals. Second, I remember reading here ( I think by Fred Thall that it is better to stay with the existing wiring etc, so that you are not messing with the impedence the head sees. Third, right now my King Cello is set for unbalanced. In the future, if I go with the Doshi or Dartzeel preamp, I may want to have it as balanced. I would really like to avoid taking the machine back to ATR if I can avoid it.

      It sounds as if you believe the signal does not detract materially from the sound. Have you had any issues re the impedence? The unit does not have the Aria preamp - just the existing updated electronics.

  • #3
    Hello,
    I dont think adding a switch is going to hurt the signal too much. I would recommend a DPDT switch with gold contacts like this digikey part # 360-1872-ND. Try to bring the head wiring out balanced so that even if you start with an RCA connector, you have the option of replacing it with a XLR connector if needed.

    Comment


    • #4
      So what do you see as the advantage of wiring with a switch over using the existing wiring and having the cable run out from a card? Are you not concerned re impedence? I didn't realize you could run the cable out balanced and still use it unbalanced through rca jacks

      Comment


      • Doshiaudio
        Doshiaudio commented
        Editing a comment
        i"m not sure you could run the cable from the card and be able to connect the head output into an external preamp without loading the playback head with both inputs. A tape head outputs a balanced signal and an RCA connector has two connections which can be used for a balanced signal providing the outer conductor of the connector/jack is not tied to ground. It does not provide a ground connection and if one is needed, it may be in the form of a separate ground wire run from the chassis of the transport to the preamp. A preamp with a differential input typically does not need a ground connection. Hope that helps

    • #5
      Nick may comment about the impedence issues. I wanted something that I could easily switch from internal to external playback so i would not give up the record function on my ATR.

      Larry
      Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0 BottleheadPhonoPre
      Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacMicroModel2
      Dig Play-mch NADAC, Emotion, HQPlayer, Oppo95
      Electronics-Herron VTSP3APre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
      Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
      Other-ArtKelmGroundOne IsoTrans,AudioDiskeSystemVinylClea ner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects, Power Supply
      Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

      Comment


      • #6
        My understanding is that with the card route, I can switch from internal to external as easily as with a switch. So it seems to me the question is whether staying with the internal wiring all the way to the cards would likely result in better sound than wiring out from the head using a switch. I believe I had read that ATAE offered the card route because Fred believed that it was a superior approach (I may have assumed that was because of impedance matching). It sounds like people don't think the switch itself detracts from the sound (I have to admit that when it comes to signal paths, I tend to be a purist, preferring for example to not have any breaks in tonearm cables). If one assumes the switch causes no damage, then I think it comes down to the impedance issue. I am certainly no expert in this area and welcome any thoughts on that matter.

        In any case, I am totally psyched to be getting the new machine. While the Tascam 42 is an excellent sounding machine with the flux magnetic head, I am hoping that the ATR 102 will be a significant improvement, I only got into tapes about a year ago, but I have been truly amazed with many of the tapes I have purchased. I live in Westchester, NY and would be happy to have others over for a listen. My system is Dartzeel preamp and amp and Evolution Acoustics MM3s. With room treatment, I think things are sounding pretty good now.

        Comment


        • #7
          Originally posted by astrotoy View Post
          Nick may comment about the impedence issues. I wanted something that I could easily switch from internal to external playback so i would not give up the record function on my ATR.

          Larry
          If you wire out the reproduce head doesn't the record function still work?
          Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7s, 4 M&K ST-150Ts, 1 VCC-5; Amplification: 2 Vandersteen M7-HPAs, CI Audio D200 MKII, Ayre V-6xe; Preamp: Doshi Audio Line Stage v3.0; Phono Pre: Audio Research Phono 2SE; Analog: Basis 2200 Signature with Calibration Base, Vector 4 Tonearm, Benz Micro LPS; Reel to Reel: Technics RS-1500; Doshi Tape Pre-Amp; Multi-channel: Bryston SP-3; Digital: Custom PC> Lampizator Big 7 DAC, Oppo BDP-105;

          Comment


          • #8
            Originally posted by dminches View Post

            If you wire out the reproduce head doesn't the record function still work?
            Yes, it will if you wire out with a switch on the headblock. If you install direct-out cards, they will remove the stock audio cards which contain both the record and repro circuitry on each card (one for each channel). When ready to record, the stock cards can be swapped back within 15 seconds by turning 2 thumb screws a quarter-turn on the front panel, flipping the panel down, and pulling the cards from the exposed card cage. It's as simple as that.

            With that said, I would still opt for the headblock switch as it's even simpler and doesn't require card removal. You just need to remember to power down the machine before throwing the switch. Thankfully, ATR Services will put a label on the headblock by the switch to remind you.

            Comment


            • #9
              Thanks, and welcome! Glad to have another R2R buff on board, especially one with an ATR-102. I have a sign on both my machines to seat the cards fully and turn off the power when changing headblocks, cards, switches! Larry
              Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0 BottleheadPhonoPre
              Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacMicroModel2
              Dig Play-mch NADAC, Emotion, HQPlayer, Oppo95
              Electronics-Herron VTSP3APre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
              Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
              Other-ArtKelmGroundOne IsoTrans,AudioDiskeSystemVinylClea ner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects, Power Supply
              Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

              Comment


              • #10
                Originally posted by srs148 View Post

                Yes, it will if you wire out with a switch on the headblock. .
                What if you just direct wire out the reproduce head without a switch. Could you still record? I don't see why you couldn't but I am not sure.

                Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7s, 4 M&K ST-150Ts, 1 VCC-5; Amplification: 2 Vandersteen M7-HPAs, CI Audio D200 MKII, Ayre V-6xe; Preamp: Doshi Audio Line Stage v3.0; Phono Pre: Audio Research Phono 2SE; Analog: Basis 2200 Signature with Calibration Base, Vector 4 Tonearm, Benz Micro LPS; Reel to Reel: Technics RS-1500; Doshi Tape Pre-Amp; Multi-channel: Bryston SP-3; Digital: Custom PC> Lampizator Big 7 DAC, Oppo BDP-105;

                Comment


                • #11
                  Originally posted by dminches View Post

                  What if you just direct wire out the reproduce head without a switch. Could you still record? I don't see why you couldn't but I am not sure.
                  You could do that, but then you wouldn't ever be able to use the stock electronics. The switch gives you the quickest and easiest option to switch between direct out and stock electronics. And, the stock ATR repro electronics are arguably one of the of any master recorder, so as an owner of an ATR, you would want the option to run through them.

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    Here is an idea I'm thinking of doing with a Studer A812.

                    I have a second headlock for the deck with a 318 butterfly repro head and pre preamplifier mods by Master Tape Sound Lab. My plan is to remove the record head on this block, install the Flux head in the position and wire the head direct to a tube tape preamp. This gives me the ability to do A B comparisons while the tape is passing both heads. I will need to run two sets of interconnects to the main preamplifier, one pair each for the tube preamp and the modified discrete electronics from the Studer A812.

                    The ATR is also plug and play with the headlock, I see ATR 102 1/4" blocks up for sale quite frequently, reasonable also. The 1/2" heads not so much.

                    Just another thought.

                    Ed

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      Originally posted by MC-3500 View Post
                      Here is an idea I'm thinking of doing with a Studer A812.

                      I have a second headlock for the deck with a 318 butterfly repro head and pre preamplifier mods by Master Tape Sound Lab. My plan is to remove the record head on this block, install the Flux head in the position and wire the head direct to a tube tape preamp. This gives me the ability to do A B comparisons while the tape is passing both heads. I will need to run two sets of interconnects to the main preamplifier, one pair each for the tube preamp and the modified discrete electronics from the Studer A812.

                      The ATR is also plug and play with the headlock, I see ATR 102 1/4" blocks up for sale quite frequently, reasonable also. The 1/2" heads not so much.

                      Just another thought.

                      Ed
                      Ed, interesting idea. The head blocks for the ATR-102 hold four heads, although they normally come with three. I had Greg Orton install another playback head in one of my 1/4" head blocks for the 102. It was a 4 track stereo playback head so I could play my old 4 track stereo 7.5ips tapes on the machine. He put in a small switch in the headblock so I could go back and forth between the 2 track and 4 track playback heads. There is second switch in the block which the tech who checked out the deck when I bought it put in so I can switch between internal and external playback - so I can do both now.

                      Larry
                      Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0 BottleheadPhonoPre
                      Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacMicroModel2
                      Dig Play-mch NADAC, Emotion, HQPlayer, Oppo95
                      Electronics-Herron VTSP3APre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
                      Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
                      Other-ArtKelmGroundOne IsoTrans,AudioDiskeSystemVinylClea ner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects, Power Supply
                      Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        Originally posted by astrotoy View Post

                        Ed, interesting idea. The head blocks for the ATR-102 hold four heads, although they normally come with three. I had Greg Orton install another playback head in one of my 1/4" head blocks for the 102. It was a 4 track stereo playback head so I could play my old 4 track stereo 7.5ips tapes on the machine. He put in a small switch in the headblock so I could go back and forth between the 2 track and 4 track playback heads. There is second switch in the block which the tech who checked out the deck when I bought it put in so I can switch between internal and external playback - so I can do both now.

                        Larry
                        Larry / Ed, great points that I didn't consider initially. You could drop an additional repro head onto the existing ATR head block if you want a playback-only head block and wire that one direct out, no switch. You could then use the repro electronics of your choice depending on genre of music, etc (as I said, ATR stock electronics are great). Performing real-time A/B comparisons between stock and outboard pres would be simple and would make for some fun blind-listening comparo sessions among friends.

                        Comment


                        • #15
                          Originally posted by srs148 View Post

                          Larry / Ed, great points that I didn't consider initially. You could drop an additional repro head onto the existing ATR head block if you want a playback-only head block and wire that one direct out, no switch. You could then use the repro electronics of your choice depending on genre of music, etc (as I said, ATR stock electronics are great). Performing real-time A/B comparisons between stock and outboard pres would be simple and would make for some fun blind-listening comparo sessions among friends.
                          Exactly, Im not a big fan of the switch either. I think it would make the experience more interesting to do A B comparisons, you might find out some tapes will sound better with the stock electronics. I would think the Cello electronics should sound more interesting compared to the stock ATR playback electronics.

                          Flux head I want to install:

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