Tape Deck


Despite some very good advice from a highly-regarded member of this and other recording forums to go digital all the way (right now I have a single ADAT with analog console and mixture of analog and digital outborad units), I feel a visceral need to have an analog tape deck. Actually, I am thinking about an analog 8-track reel-to-reel, so that I can begin to learn how to make music using one of these things, how to operate it, maintain it, etc. (like, for example, I have no idea what it means to speak about "relapping" heads). PLus, it might even sound good. Can you folks recommend a decent unit that might generally be available, either new or used, for not too much money? I have no idea how these things price out, so I don't know how to set my expectations. I have seen a few units on eBay, but I have no basis for evaluating them. However, I imagine that anything north of $2k would be too expensive an investment at this time, or is that completely unrealistic?

Bear's Gone Fission

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2001
The only 1/2" 8 track that seems worth recomending is the Otari MX-5050, Mk. III or better generally being preferred. Solid machines, about the best sound for the format, lots of them out there and some parts still being produced by Otari. There always seem to be more sellers than buyers for them, so ebay prices look inflated.

Otherwise, in your budget, you're probably looking at 1" 8 track or 1" 16 track. The eight track will likely be better sounding, all other things being equal, but if you want to use it commercially (or even convince friends to demo at your pad), it's a hard sell these days that anyone can live with less than 16 tracks, even though 8 is often plenty. Don't know of 16 tracks with a good reputation for sound. For eight tracks within your budget, the Otari MX-70 can be nice, I hear it punches better than most of what else is on the market. Look for MCI or Ampex MM-1200 machines that are fitted for a 1" eight track head stack, as these might go cheaper than their 16/24 track brethren and might be upgradeable to those standards if they have the extra electonics or you can find them and install them at a later time. The Studer A-80 (MkIV is reputedly best) is probably out of your price range.

To be honest, the reason I went analog is budget, since I got my geriatric MX-5050 8HSD for next to nothing, so with set up it cost a lot less than an ADAT. With your budget you might be able to get 8 channels of great converters and avoid some maintance nightmares that are possible with old machines.