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So What Have You Done to Improve the Sound of Your Tape Deck

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  • So What Have You Done to Improve the Sound of Your Tape Deck

    As I have decided to go with the internal amplification of the Ampex ATR-102, rather than using an external preamp, I started wondering what I could do to improve the sound of the deck. I am probably going to replace the stock power cord with Furutech DPS-4 cable and NCF plug wired directly into the deck. Beyond that and improving upon the Mogami Gold XLR interconnects, I am not sure what else I could reasonably do. Has anyone tried upgrading any caps or connectors?

  • #2
    I bought an oscilloscope, a set of PPM meters and some MRL calibration tapes. My friend gave me a digital file with calibrated test tones at -18 dBFS/0 dBU. I line up every tape I play properly (checking the repro azimuth and levels with the tones at the head of the tape) and that makes it sound as good as I can get it. I haven't bothered with special cables - I'd rather buy more tapes.

    Comment


    • Tapetech
      Tapetech commented
      Editing a comment
      Where did you get the PPMs from? New or used?

    • c1ferrari
      c1ferrari commented
      Editing a comment
      You've got tones?! ;-)

  • #3
    Not related to the ATR-102, but I’ve had both my Studers completely recapped - every single cap. And it definitely improved the sound, in addition of course to the reliability.
    TAPE: Studer A807, A810; Revox B77 MkII; Tascam BR-20; Technics RS-1700; Pioneer RT-707, RT-909
    VINYL: VPI ScoutMaster/Benz LP-S MR/ModWright PH 9.0; Denon DP59-L/Dynavector 20xH
    DIGITAL: Oppo BDP-95, MacMini > Oppo Sonica/Pioneer N-50
    SPEAKERS: B&W Nautilus 800, Pioneer DSS-9
    AMPS: Cary SLP-05/Sunfire Signature 600, Pioneer SX-1980

    Comment


    • #4
      Originally posted by topoxforddoc View Post
      I bought an oscilloscope, a set of PPM meters and some MRL calibration tapes. My friend gave me a digital file with calibrated test tones at -18 dBFS/0 dBU. I line up every tape I play properly (checking the repro azimuth and levels with the tones at the head of the tape) and that makes it sound as good as I can get it. I haven't bothered with special cables - I'd rather buy more tapes.
      Tapetech,

      I'm on the other side of the Pond in the UK. There are plenty of PPM units available second hand from businesses selling ex broadcast gear. I have a couple of PPM units - an Alice MSU-10 unit (GBP100) and a TSL AMUT-2MA unit with mono-sum function (GBP240). You can still get new units, but they are well over GBP1k and many are GBP2k.

      Charlie

      Comment


      • #5
        If the machine is good "as is" I leave it "as is". The Studers favored totally recap. Others, like the Otaris, seems to be more reliable, but a full service will cost you over $2,000 as well. At the end, the Crowns still the best bang for the buck, the most durable and reliable of all. Studer in open reel deck, as well as Nakamichi in cassette, has become a cult. Superb machines, no doubt about it, but part of the fuzz is "status". Like Nagra and Ampex. At this level, differences are subtle and more subjective on behalf of the listener. This is MHO.

        Regards.
        Sketsoteric Audio: "Analog Sound, Digital Flexibility"
        http://mortechpr.wixsite.com/cassetteadventures
        http://mortechpr.wixsite.com/cgmasteringservices

        Comment


        • #6
          i would say that to improve the sound you should first completely reccap with "good" caps including the motors caps, upgrade the audio op amps and some critical transistors, and if its the case change for new heads and for a new pinch roller. Then you should set right the azimuth and the volume level with reference tapes. Finally you should calibrate the deck for the formula of the tape you are going to use more. Of course you will need a good technician to do all that.
          After all this works you surelly will enjoy more your tape deck if you buy a remote control for your RTR...
          SEAS EXCEL DIY Speakers; CJ Premier 12; CJ Premier 14; CJ Premier EV1; Accuphase DP 85; MAC Airbook + Audionirvana plus+ Qobuz + Tidal; Micro Seiki RX 1500; Ikeda IT 407 12" + Ortofon MC A95; Thomas Schick 12" + Ortofon SPU 90th Anniversary; Fidelity Research FR64 FX 10" + Ortofon SPU Royal GM MKII; SME M2 12-R + Ortofon MC XPRESSION; Kenwood KD 7010 + Ortofon Jubilee; Revox B710; Revox A77; Revox PR99; Pure Silver DIY Cables; Sennheiser HD800; Sennheiser HDVD 800; Akai AT S-08 Tuner.

          Comment


          • #7
            I would do the simple stuff first. Like make sure everything in the head block is clean, clean, clean. Also the tape guides. I use 99.9% lab grade isopropyl - cheap from Amazon. A good demagnetizer (I use the Han-D-mag) is essential. It may be worthwhile to have a pro check the wear on your heads, if you don't have new heads. If they are worn, then John French (JRFMagnetics in New Jersey) can relap them and optically allign the head block. You will need to adjust the azimuth of the playback head. There are some small adjustments that are helpful. I had my tech adjust the tension on my two machines so the tape will not drift when in the stop position. Also he made small adjustments in the height of the tape turntables so there was no rubbing of tape on either metal or plastic NAB hubs, or my metal 1/2" hubs.

            If you are going to put in any external connectors, my tech really hates it when they are connected to the lower back panel. Makes servicing the machine a PIA. One of machines has an external power cord and the connector is on the lower panel. It also has two XLR plug to connect to an external prepro. Made fixing something on the inside a lot more difficult (and costly - for me!).

            Larry
            Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0 BottleheadPhonoPre,Herron VTPH-2A
            Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,Mykerinos,PacMicroModel2
            Dig Play-mchNADAC, LampiGG, Roon, HQP, Oppo105
            Electronics-Herron 360Pre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
            Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
            Other-512Engineer/Marutani Symmetrical Power, ArtKelmGround1, AudioDiskVinylCleaner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects,
            Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

            Comment


            • #8
              A full refurbishment of my Studer A80 RC by a qualified technician: new capacitors, resistors, new heads, replacing all bearings, etc.

              Some additional improvements mainly focusing on the audio path (still underway):
              - the modification of the repro cards with transistors and resistors being replaced by higher specs components
              - a newly designed stabilizer card for the audio section
              - the upgrade of the VU meter bridge switches
              - the upgrade of the tension amplifier for improving the tape path stability and reducing W&F

              The replacement of the stock power cord by an audiophile one (Ansuz Ceramique) and the use an Entreq grounding box also brought some substantial improvement.

              And... a wireless remote control just for increasing the pleasure of playing tapes.
              Last edited by dcc; 03-03-2018, 12:38 AM.

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by dcc View Post

                And... a wireless remote control just for the increasing the pleasure of playing tapes.
                Yes, a remote is a really nice convenience. I don't know if anyone made a wireless remote for the ATR-102. I have a wired remote which duplicates the control panel on the ATR102. So I can do anything at my listening chair that I can do at the machine. I bought it used on ebay and my tech installed it. Only have one, the machine I use to record doesn't have a remote.

                Larry


                Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0 BottleheadPhonoPre,Herron VTPH-2A
                Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,Mykerinos,PacMicroModel2
                Dig Play-mchNADAC, LampiGG, Roon, HQP, Oppo105
                Electronics-Herron 360Pre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
                Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
                Other-512Engineer/Marutani Symmetrical Power, ArtKelmGround1, AudioDiskVinylCleaner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects,
                Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

                Comment


                • #10
                  Originally posted by astrotoy View Post

                  Yes, a remote is a really nice convenience. I don't know if anyone made a wireless remote for the ATR-102. I have a wired remote which duplicates the control panel on the ATR102. So I can do anything at my listening chair that I can do at the machine. I bought it used on ebay and my tech installed it. Only have one, the machine I use to record doesn't have a remote.

                  Larry

                  I skipped the Studer wired remote which is quite large as I did not want to deal with a very long wire across the room. Instead, I purchased a simple aftermarket wireless remote. This is composed of a small box to connect to the remote port on the back of the deck and an universal remote control. Basically what I needed were the Play/Stop and Fast Forward/Rewind functions as the deck is more than 5 meters away from the listening chair.

                  Comment


                  • astrotoy
                    astrotoy commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Looks nice and simple. The ATR-102's remote is hard wired, so no easy remote port at the back. One advantage to the remote is that you can do all the functions, record, sync, switch from tape to source, etc.. Mostly you only need to do play, fast forward, rewind, and stop. Nice to have the tape time counter on the remote. On my prior Bottlehead modified Technics 1506, Dan Schmalle had a wireless remote box built that exactly matched the width of the machine and color of the metal, so it looked built in. It had a very basic function remote. Ideally the remote would be able to change tapes and thread them. :-)

                    Larry

                • #11
                  I hired Charlie Bolois.
                  Vbr,

                  Sam

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    Originally posted by c1ferrari View Post
                    I hired Charlie Bolois.
                    Excellent plan!
                    Paul Stubblebine
                    Mastering Engineer
                    Label Honcho, The Tape Project

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      Paul.
                      Vbr,

                      Sam

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        I just received the same remote control for the B 77 and PR 99 (works for both models) and the best of all, besides it works flawlessly, is the fact that you also get the benefit of pause without the need of holding the pause button down. This alone will cost $50.00 and with this RC you get both for under $90.00 I'm very pleased with it an ordering more for my other machines as well!
                        Sketsoteric Audio: "Analog Sound, Digital Flexibility"
                        http://mortechpr.wixsite.com/cassetteadventures
                        http://mortechpr.wixsite.com/cgmasteringservices

                        Comment

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