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Getting real: The new Ballfinger M-063 reel-to-reel tape player at Hörtest 2017

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  • Getting real: The new Ballfinger M-063 reel-to-reel tape player at Hörtest 2017

    As the market for reel-to-reel tape continues to steadily gather pace, there’s been quite a lot of talk over the past couple of years of various companies developing new reel-to-reel machines to meet the growing interest in the format.

    So far, however, none has yet made it to market and so those of us who crave the incomparable sound of tape have no choice but to seek out vintage models, whether reconditioned or in various states of disrepair.

    But all that could be about to change. In early February, I (David Denyer, UK-based hi-fi PR and self-confessed reel-to-reel devotee) hopped on a plane to Germany to visit the Hamburg Hi-Fi Show (Norddeutsche HiFi-Tage / Hörtest 2017), having heard that a brand new tape machine was about to be previewed.

    The machine in question is the Ballfinger M-063. Highlighted in an earlier Audionirvana post.

    First impressions? It’s big (definitely more ‘A820 / A80’ than ‘A807’) and it’s stunningly beautiful.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	Ballfinger's Heidi Keller and Roland Schneider.jpg Views:	1 Size:	1.22 MB ID:	42507








    Ballfinger’s Heidi Keller and Roland Schneider with the M-063

    Dusseldorf-based Roland Schneider, the man behind Ballfinger, is an industrial designer. His company was launched back in 2005 with the Ballfinger angle-poise lamp. In 2010, he moved onto include a range of wrist-watches combining Swiss movements and excellent quality design. It wasn’t until around 2012-13 that he began working on a range of hi-fi products: the PS 2 turntable, an amplifier (with integral phono stage) and the M-063 tape machine.

    The design and engineering are right up there with the best. Everything looks ‘sweet as a nut’ - the buttons fit perfectly into the precisely-machined front panel cutouts, and even the back panel is a honey. To be honest, I’m struggling to think of another audio product that looks quite this good from ALL angles. Click image for larger version  Name:	M 063 rear.jpg Views:	1 Size:	1.28 MB ID:	42508

    Ballfinger: not just a pretty face!

    I watched closely - and with barely-concealed delight as Roland showed a customer the controls, cueing either with a large shuttle wheel at the centre of the lower fascia or alternatively by hand, simply by revolving the left hand reel. Everything did what it should - tape tensioners moved as you’d expect, everything performed so smoothly and silently. Quite something to behold! Click image for larger version  Name:	tape tensioners.jpg Views:	1 Size:	805.9 KB ID:	42509

    Fit and finish are second to none.

    I deliberately didn’t quiz Roland too hard about the details of the M-063’s inner workings, tempting though it was. The current specs are available but these may yet change. With production scheduled for autumn 2017, there’s still plenty of time for certain details to be further refined and I’ve learnt from experience that any audio engineer worth their salt will do just that – keep testing and perfecting right up to the limit.

    In the meantime, by way of a sort of ‘pre-audition’, Ballfinger’s PS 2 turntable is due for release in a couple of months. It’s a direct drive design with a servo-controlled tangential tracking tonearm. Ergonomically it’s so sweet, but how it sounds I won’t know until I get the opportunity to try it. I doubt that it’ll challenge my current reference system but at a projected retail price of €8,800 (including 19% German sales tax) then I wouldn’t expect it to! I do, however, expect it to win many fans. Click image for larger version  Name:	PS 2.jpg Views:	1 Size:	1.34 MB ID:	42510

    The Ballfinger PS 2 direct drive turntable complete with Schneider-designed servo-controlled tonearm.

    The amplifier (with built-in phono stage) is similarly beautiful, sharing the same sleek modernist design with echoes of the minimalist charms of Braun’s 1956 SK 4 by Hans Gugelot, Dieter Rams, and Herbert Lindinger. Click image for larger version  Name:	Ballfinger hifi products.jpg Views:	1 Size:	1.26 MB ID:	42511

    Dripping with 1960s-esque minimalist chic.

    I couldn’t resist photographing the rear of both the ‘table and the amp since, like the M-063, the rear view reveals a great deal. They’re both totally clean, cleverly hiding all their connections underneath. Stunningly attractive and again, I look forward to hearing it.

    Back to the M-063… since returning from the Hamburg show and sharing the news and photos, a few people have commented somewhat incredulously regarding the projected price. So let’s tackle that one head on. It’s €27,900 which again includes 19% German sales tax. Am I shocked? No. I guessed, purely by looking at the M-063, that it’d be at least £20k and more likely over £25k. People’s objection (for those who voiced objections, which to be fair were a minority), seemed to be based on the fact that they could buy an old Telefunken or Studer and have it fully restored for a fraction of the cost. Well I can’t argue with that, since in the absence of any new machines on the market to date, it’s exactly what I’ve done – twice. I have a Studer and a Technics, both fully restored and also modified.

    But what if I’d bought that Studer, Technics or a Telefunken new? In today’s money, I’d have paid at least as much as the Ballfinger price, quite possibly more. Why? Because I’d be purchasing a brand new piece of kit, in which every high quality part was sourced at current prices, featuring the latest advances in design and engineering, and with years’ worth of R&D costs. Click image for larger version  Name:	Only 6 minutes old.jpg Views:	1 Size:	1.29 MB ID:	42512

    Show me a thirty year old machine with only six minutes’ use…

    In the meantime, as demand for tape machines rises, the vintage stocks will dwindle and the prices of those few remaining serviceable models will no doubt rocket. Personally, at that point, I’d be much more likely to invest in a brand new machine with a long life of excellent service ahead of it.

    Consider also the price of any piece of high-end hi-fi kit. It isn’t cheap and nor should it be. What you’re paying for – investing in, in my view, is quality. Then consider the sound quality achievable in various audio formats and compare it to that offered by reel-to-reel tape.

    All things considered, while I obviously appreciate that not all of us have €27,900 burning a hole in our pocket, even so this is an investment that’s worth every penny.
    Thanks for Jonathan Horwich for sending me the link. Thanks to Google for translation. No idea of price yet. Ballfinger (http://www.ballfinger.de/) is a
    Last edited by Dave Denyer; 02-07-2017, 07:15 AM.

  • #2
    Dave were they playing the deck?
    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


    • #3
      Yes, I believe it was (it was certainly loaded with a tape and 'playing') but it wasn't hooked up to a system. They had a pair of headphones to hand which I guess I could've listened to. I heard a report from someone else who said he'd heard it and thought it sounded like it needed running in... Anyway, I chose not to bother as frankly it wouldn't have meant much to me - I really am not that keen on headphones so have no reference. I am more than happy to wait until I can hook it up to my system, or at least a system that I'm familiar with.

      Comment


      • #4
        It's possible that the M-063 could be the flagship of a reel tape deck line. A more basic deck may be built with many of the same components but with fewer bells and whistles like UHA's decks. They must be aware of market demand and respond in the same manner of the Air Force line of turntables.

        Comment


        • MylesBAstor
          MylesBAstor commented
          Editing a comment
          I was thinking along the same lines too. This deck looks built with the intention of studio use.

      • #5
        The M-063 certainly appears to have studio DNA in it. It is perfectly normal for a company, such as Air Force turntables you mention, to start wth a 'flagship', and then develop a line down (and possibly up) from that first machine. If Ballfinger doesn't bring out a cheaper machine, someone will, although don't expect it to be as nice. I honestly do not believe the M-063 is overpriced.

        Of course I agree that €27,900 is a lot of money, it certainly is for me. However it's worth remembering what many of us tape enthusiasts are currently doing: Either of my two machines, a Studer and a Technics, if they were still manufactured, would be around or above the price of the M-063, there is no question about that. I remember lusting after a reel to reel machine as a teenager, there was no way I could've afforded to buy one then, but thankfully the best ones were so well made, in many cases for studio use, that they're still serviceable now. It would be interesting to look at the final retail prices of the usual suspects that we use today: Studer, Nagra, Telefunken, Technics, Otari... And of course the Tascam that Greg Beron uses as the core for his machines. See how the prices compare. As I said I don't think the M-063 is expensive or over-priced. Its what it is, and I applaud it!

        It kinda makes me wonder if the elusive Revox / Horch House machine's absence has anything to do with Volker's plan to sell it for €5,000; using an 'ink-jet' printer strategy: the idea being to sell the machine at a loss and make the profit on the consumables - the tapes. It's one approach, it works for inkjet printers, but it says one thing clear as a bell. You cannot manufacture a reel to reel tape recorder (worth having) that sells for €5,000, not and stay in business anyway.

        Comment


        • #6
          Any news on the Ballfinger deck? Is it going to be shown in Munich this week? Also saw a post on another forum that Teac is going to be showing a new deck. Is this true?

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by Reel2reelman View Post
            Any news on the Ballfinger deck? Is it going to be shown in Munich this week? Also saw a post on another forum that Teac is going to be showing a new deck. Is this true?
            Actually I posted about the TEAC deck here in the 2017 Axpona folder. See post #13. No news about Horch House machine.

            https://www.audionirvana.org/forum/t...l-to-reel-news
            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


            • #8
              Sorry Myles didn't see that. Actually someone on another forum posted saying "he heard it from a reliable source" I guess the source would have been you.
              Anyway anyone going to Munich? Would love to see pictures of this new deck.

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by Reel2reelman View Post
                Sorry Myles didn't see that. Actually someone on another forum posted saying "he heard it from a reliable source" I guess the source would have been you.
                Anyway anyone going to Munich? Would love to see pictures of this new deck.
                I am going on Saturday but I could not find Ballfinger on list of exhibitors.

                Comment


                • #10
                  Nette posted on FB, on our stand the brand new Ballfinger recorder the M063 , Munich hall 1 booth B07


                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Any tape deck news from Munich yet?

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Click image for larger version

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ID:	54431 Alive and well, will deliver in Autumn '17. Price in euro 27,000.
                      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


                      • #13
                        No news about the new Teac?

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          The deck is beautiful and quite compact (relative to my Studer A80 and the big Telefunken that was standing next to it). There were several tape decks (not that many) but unfortunately none of them were playing except those at the booths selling/promoting master tapes (Horch House, STS and Fonè Records) where you could listen to tapes through headphones.

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Here's a photo of Ballfinger R2R from Munich audio show. I must say it doesn't look as good live as on photos. I tried the operating buttons and was disappointed. The build quality is very mediocre - in line with old Revox decks, same goes for the tape mechanism and other controls plus the display went crazy on several occasions as is seen from the photo. I guess this was one (or perhaps the only one) of the pre production units but I was left unimpressed considering the high price.

                            Click image for larger version

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                            Source: Kuzma XL DC/4Point 14 inch/CAR60; Phono: Zanden 1200 Signature; Tuner: Magnum Dynalab MD-108T Signature; Line Stage: Zanden 3000 Mk2; Power amp: Lamm 1.2 Reference; Speakers: AlsyVox Botticelli; Grounding: Tripoint Troy Elite NG; Cable system: Cardas Clear Beyond; Stands: Finite Elemente Master Reference & Master Reference Heavy Duty; Power strip: Cardas Nautilus; Power filter: P.I Audo: BUSS Depot; Acoustics treatment: Svanå Miljöteknik AB (SMT);

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