My 'New' reel to reel tape recorder


floppybootstomp

sugar 'n spikes
Moderator
Joined
Mar 5, 2002
Messages
20,227
Reaction score
1,728
Around November last year I started getting a hankering for a reel to reel tape recorder. I don't know why, I just did. When I worked in a hi fi shop for a while back in '76 I used to sell Sony TC377's and the Akai 4000 series so I thought I'd get me either one of those.

The Sony didn't quite fit in my little turntable stand/table but the Akai did but as the Sony was a nicer machine I thought if I get one I'll make another stand to accommodate. So off to Ebay I went and was firmly outbid on ever single Sony TC377 I started bidding on. They went for between £180 and £220 each time, a little more than I wanted to pay.

So I tried for an Akai 4000 but they were going for around £120 and most weren't in good condition. Then in December I spotted an Akai 4000DS Mk II that looked to be in good condition but the seller would only entertain collection, he didn't want to post it, he lived in Swindon and I reside in SE London.

I managed to win the auction for £60 and on a very rainswept and windy New Years Eve I drove to Swindon to collect the reel to reel. The M4 resembled a deluge with the rainfall. The machine looked to be in good nick, came with the original manual and an Akai service/parts guide.

Bought a reel of tape (the machine came with one empty spool) and made a recording. About three quarters through playback however I noticed wow and flutter which got worse the closer it got to the end of the tape.

Time for a service then. Managed to get a drive and counter belt from Ebay but I could only find one seller and he wanted to sell a repair manual with the belts, no option to buy them on their own. Cost about £20 for all three items so I bought them. I was a bit miffed though, I thought 'I don't need no manual'.

I was wrong. I did need the manual, it proved to be a very worthwhile purchase.

So today I finally got round to a service/belt change and now all is good, no more wow and flutter on playback, I've just finished listening to a fresh one hours' recording and it sounded very good indeed.

Here it is on the operating table:

akai001.jpg


Lower panel removed

akai002.jpg


Upper and lower front panels removed:

akai003.jpg


One factor which may have seriously degraded the sound was the state of the heads. When I took these pics I'd already cleaned the playback head but it was in the same condition as the erase and record heads here:

akai004.jpg


Close up:

akai004a.jpg


And cleaned:

akai007.jpg


The whole machine chassis comes out of the wooden case, to enable its' removal these two screws at the bottom have to be removed and also four screws through the feet at the rear:

akai005.jpg


Basically I just cleaned everything that moved that mated with another surface with isopropyl alcohol and cotton buds. I also used a fibreglass pcb cleaning brush to clean all the black residue that had gathered between the teeth on this cog wheel:

akai006.jpg


And here it is out of the case:

akai008.jpg


It was very dusty inside but I've seen worse

akai009.jpg


Dust:

akai010.jpg


More dust

akai011.jpg


Used a cleaning brush and vacum cleaner to remove most of the dust. I'm so glad I hung on to my demagnetiser

akai012.jpg


And here we are, making a recording

akai013.jpg

Home made interconnects, all parts from RS, the larger twin core and screen microphone cable they sell, both cores twinned up to the gold plated phono plugs. I've used this combination for around 30 years, works for me.

akai014.jpg


It was very fiddly indeed replacing the drive belt, without the manual I very much doubt I would have managed it, it involved loosening off the flywheel whilst making sure a ball bearing doesn't come adrift; wiggling the belt through the space created by loosening the flywheel; then pulling the belt out through a hole in the front of the machine. Then refitting in reverse.

I almost swore. Almost.

It can be seen from one of the pix that the rubber/plastic surround on the left hand tape spool turntable has perished and broken and come adrift. I didn't notice this and when I first reassembled the machine it wouldn't work as that surround had jammed between the turntable and the front plate.

So I had to take the front panels off again and I superglued the surround on and it is now secure.

I so love new toys and old tech :)


.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Taffycat

Crunchy Cat
Joined
Jun 1, 2006
Messages
11,851
Reaction score
943
You're one clever dude Flopps. What a great job you've done on that tape recorder. It looks like a really nice piece of kit.

It might sound a bit daft, but I've always wanted to see exactly what goes on under-the-hood. Way back, as a teen, I was given an "Elizabethan" brand reel-to-reel. It was brand new, and the best my folks could afford at the time. I loved it.

It recorded/played-back just fine, mostly, but it had an intermittent "rumble" which would suddenly come from somewhere in it's depths. Never knew what caused it, only that a sharp whack on the side of the case, (which was my youthful, high-tech way of dealing with it) would immediately stop the rumble. (It never did that when recording, only during play-back - and even then, it was intermittent.) So a bit of a mystery to me.

Can I ask you about the demagnetiser you mentioned? Is it a gizmo that would also be useful when poking about inside PCs too?

Enjoy your super, new-old-tech Flopps, hope you get tons of pleasure from it. :)
 

floppybootstomp

sugar 'n spikes
Moderator
Joined
Mar 5, 2002
Messages
20,227
Reaction score
1,728
Thanks for the kind comments TC. A demagnetiser is used for demagnetising tape heads in reel to reel tape recorders; cassette decks; data readers and any machine that reads magnetic tape.

As the magnetic tape passes over a tape head it transfers some of its' magnetism to the steel head, which lowers its' reading integrity. So periodically the tape head is demagnetised with the specialist tool. I bought mine years ago for my cassette deck.

A demagnetiser should never be used in a computer as it would make a lovely job of demagnetising any mechanical hard disks as data stored on them is in a magnetic medium. In fact it may be worth experimenting to see if my demagnetiser would make a good job of erasing a hard disk.

As for me being clever, nah, not really, I've always been mechanically inclined, always took my train sets, push bikes and motor cycles to pieces when I was younger. And in the first 18 months or so of working for the GLC/ILEA I worked in a workshop repairing audio visual equipment, I must have repaired dozens, maybe hundreds, of reel to reel tape recorders, they were widely used in schools.

I also had training in the electronic side of them before joining the GLC.

But I swear none were as fiddly as that Akai.
 

Taffycat

Crunchy Cat
Joined
Jun 1, 2006
Messages
11,851
Reaction score
943
Ah! Now I understand *light-bulb above head illuminates* Thank you for explaining about the demagnetiser. My thoughts had gone off on a totally wrong tangent. lol

I empathise with you being mechanicaly inclined. Right from the start, my interest in "what makes things tick" (literally in this instance) was encouraged by my dear, late granddad. He used to be such a whizz at repairing (or making) just about anything, and he would always let me "help." I'd be given bits of wood and the use of his bench-drill... or even a small hammer and some nails! ('Elf and safety would have had a field-day! lol) It's a wonder I didn't morph into a woodworm! To this day, I enjoy constructing things - although I don't indulge so often now.

It must be great to have your good understanding of electronics. The projects you've described in this thread, and others (thinking of your turntables, etc.,) have all been thoroughly interesting. Obviously, I wouldn't claim to have understood absolutely every aspect, but I've still enjoyed reading about your accomplishments.

Looking back, I think I'd have enjoyed being apprenticed to an electrician... instead of being encouraged to go down the clerical route. Would have been decidedly more interesting. :nod:
 

muckshifter

I'm not weird, I'm a limited edition.
Moderator
Joined
Mar 5, 2002
Messages
25,600
Reaction score
1,104
no, you did a cracking job there, no need to be modest. :D

I for one really like your servicing/builds postings. Very informative and a good read. :)
 
Joined
Jan 14, 2006
Messages
12,268
Reaction score
283
Very nice job done there FBS.
Remember my Dad had reel 2 reel years ago at this office.
You are definitely the person to know when doing anything with electrics.
And if it's not an insult Maplins must be a right mecca for you!

Really enjoy seeing & reading about your latest projects.
 
Ad

Advertisements

floppybootstomp

sugar 'n spikes
Moderator
Joined
Mar 5, 2002
Messages
20,227
Reaction score
1,728
Thanks Mucks & Feckit :)

Electrics? I don't know a great deal though I'm comfortable with all aspects of domestic wiring. Don't know a thing about three phase or commercial electrical applications though.

However, I do know a smidge about electronics. There's a difference ;)

Maplins? Back in '84 Maplins were truly an electronics store, they had a monthly magazine with articles to build stuff and sold kits of many of them. One of the better ones was a valve audio amplifier.

But then they changed and these days are a kind of hybrid between audio-visual and electronic components and a toy shop. With electronic components they are not terribly well stocked and are super-expensive. I avoid them whenever I can but they do come in handy when I need a part in a hurry, they have quite a large branch at Charlton.

I buy my stuff from RS; Farnell/CPC; Conrad; Rapid and Cricklewood Electronics. And sometimes Ebay if I'm not in a hury.
 

nivrip

Yorkshire Cruncher
Joined
Mar 21, 2007
Messages
9,466
Reaction score
1,816
Yep, keep all these threads about "old stuff" going. It's great to see all the old machines that you have dealt with. Nothing like a bit of nostalgia.

My father was quite good with electrics, he was a telephone engineer and worked for the GPO (remember them?). He liked tinkering with old radios and, as a kid, I was always fascinated by all the glowing valves. We had several radios that he had resurrected around the house and I even had one in my bedroom - I sound like one of the kids of today, although they have TV, computer and other items to play with.

The great highlight of the week was to listen to Radio Luxemburg, I think on a Sunday night at 11PM, to the Top Twenty when I was supposed to be asleep. No headphones, just turned down very low and, of course, the radio was far too big to get under the covers.

I got an electric shock, when I was about 12, messing about with a record player which I had forgotten to disconnect. It did put me off electricity for a number of years and I am still ultra-wary

:)
 

floppybootstomp

sugar 'n spikes
Moderator
Joined
Mar 5, 2002
Messages
20,227
Reaction score
1,728
I remember the GPO, if memory serves me correctly they drove around in Commer vans painted a sickly dull khaki colour and the van's occupants always seemed to be shimming up telegraph poles. Or was it an Atlas van?

I also remember Radio Luxembourg, it was the only radio station worth listening to at one time, before the pirate radios started, all the BBC offered was the Light Program which was dull dull dull. But Radio Luxembourg was on the Medium Wave and if atmospheric conditions were bad across the English Channel it sometimes used to fade in and out.

Radios London, Caroline and I think Radio City were a breath of fresh air, I had a small transistor radio, brown leatherette case, and used to listen under the bedclothes as well, I was a very naughty boy.

The reel to reel gives about 75 minutes at full speed (it has 2 speeds) with a 7" reel of tape and the quality - now I've serviced it - is excellent, I must confess I was pleasantly surprised. But it's not convenient, all that loading and threading spools of tape. However, it looks good and has a fine novelty value, I like it.

I had a fair few electric shocks as a kid but the one I remember the most was making a 'ghost train' with my train set and powering some small mains powered light bulbs in tunnels and along the track to try and make it look spooky.

As I was plugging the plug into the overhead light socket standing on my bed I managed to stick my fingers into the live socket and I ended up sprawled on my back on the floor. This is called a learning process. I learnt that day to turn the power off first before working with it ;)
 
Joined
Jul 11, 2010
Messages
5,758
Reaction score
552
:cool:Congratulations FSB a beautiful job well done, I wish I had the skill and knowledge to be able to do the same. My technical knowledge only goes as far as changing a light bulb. It is nice to see the old equipment we used to use being restored rather like old cars.:thumb::bow::bow:
 
Ad

Advertisements

Ad

Advertisements


Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question

Top