Help choosing the right Reel to Reel

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Member Since: Aug 25, 2010

I've been looking for a R2R to record mixdowns/masters to, as well as record some individual tracks like guitar, bass, keyboard, and a rackmount sampler.

I've narrowed my search down to 3 -

1) Teac A-3300SX - $250

2) Akai 4000DS MKII - $200

3) Sony TC 353 w/ orig Speakers and orig Mic - $150

After listening to some demos, I think they are accurately listed in terms of sound quality/features compared to price. I like the sound of the Teac the best, and so on down. Though they each seem to have their own distinct color of sound that I like, and I'm wondering if the extra money is worth it to get the better one? I figure I'd still be happy with just the Sony because I get the extras, and then I can use the left over $100 on something else I've wanted.

Plus, I'm a little hesitant to invest $200 or more into one of these old machines that could break any day. But the Teac sounds so sweet, and so does the Akai.

So, I guess my question is, can anybody share their experience with any or all of these 3 models, and maybe I can learn something more to help make my decision.

Thanks in advance!

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Since: Nov 11, 2007

Aug 25, 2010 03:03 pm

I think there may be a few guys on this forum who have used reel to reel recorders, but the chances of anyone using these particular models are pretty slim. I've just committed to buying a Tascam 38, but I haven't even had a chance to mess with it, or even see it. So take my words with a grain of salt.

The teac uses a 1/2" tape at 7.5 ips max. For a 4 track, 1/2" should be plenty. I've heard that 7.5 ips is the consumer standard and 15 ips is a professional standard. The slower tape speed (7.5 ips) should be noisier, but depending on the quality of the device the slower speed might sound just fine.

The Akai uses 1/4" tape at 7.5 ips max. This is definitely spec'd as consumer grade gear. Whether it's of great quality and sounds better than it's specs are I don't know. From what I've read on internet forums, 4 tracks on 1/4" tape is likely to sound thin and squished. That said, my TASCAM 38 is 8 track and uses 1/2" tape. That may sound just as squished as this 4 track with 1/4" tape.

I believe the Sony is in the entry level category as well, 1/4" tape, 7.5 ips.

Of the three choices, I would think the TEAC would be the better buy. But I think the condition of the devices are pretty critical. If the TEAC has been beat to hell and back you might consider the other two options.

Since: Aug 25, 2010

Aug 25, 2010 03:37 pm

Thanks for all the tips. I can safely rule out the Sony because the demo I had heard on youtube was run through a high end tube amp, I just found out, which is what gave it its sound. So its not as good as I thought it was.

All three I was looking at are in excellent condition and had been serviced and tested, w/ new parts replaced where necessary. I've even read that getting great sound can be about the maintenance of it, and if its serviced it can sound great.

I liked the sound of the teac the best, i thought it was the most balanced in terms of highs and lows and the warmest. The Akai has less highs and more lows for a more bassy sound. The bass it has sounds really good though, but the lack of highs can make it kind of muddy overall. It could be great for just recording drums and basslines. Mind I'm just basing this off others youtube videos, not the actual units I'm looking at.

I think you hit the nail on the head saying that the 1/4" 4 track sounds thin and squished. They still have a warmth thats supieror to digital in my ears, but there is a flatness and tiny sound to it as well like you say.

Thats kind of my dilemma, is that while the Teac may sound better than the Akai, neither is really that full analog sound, so is it worth spending extra money for something thats still not to that level.

I also just found a regular Akai 4000DS, not MKII, in excellent condition for about $160. So that might be the best option for getting at least a good sound and not investing too much.

Anyways, I've been rambling too long now, lol, thanks for you advice, and enjoy the 38. I heard a few of those demoed and they sound great.
Since: Nov 11, 2007

Aug 25, 2010 06:10 pm

Awesome! You have more experience with the 38 than I do, hah! For the amount of money we're talking about here, I'd do the same thing. In the end you'll learn how to manipulate the medium which will enable you to pick your next tape device most carefully. That's what I'm trying to do with the 38 anyway.

I may not have the listening ability to make this call, but I feel like the 'tape/analog is warmth' thing is kind of a farce up to a point. "Warmth" has to mean something other than the definition of the word...unless some of us can hear temperature.

My limited, theoretical, and possibly baseless research seems to indicate that in general...the "warmth" people refer to in tape is basically hard compression in the mids and highs, and distorting/overtones in the lows. I think I hear that in the tape recordings I've heard, and I think that is what makes tape sound like tape. I guess it happens naturally when the heads scramble the electrons on the tape. I'm not saying that you should be able to recreate the tape flavor with a few plugins, but I do mean to say that "warmth" is a term I wish audio guys could get away from. It's not a very intuitive description. Being a DIY type of guy myself, misnomers piss me off! Makes learning more complicated.

Since I'm not a fan of getting a compressed sounding signal at any point in the tracking process, I plan to use my tape/digital setup in a "best of both worlds" kinda way. You can ignore this...I'm just geeking out a little here...

Kick- Record to tape
Toms- Record to tape
Overheads- Record digitally
Top Snare (crack)- Record digitally
Bottom Snare (noise)- Record to tape
Stereo bus for compressed drums (parallel compression of individually mic'd drums)- Record to tape
Bass guitar- Record to tape
Electric guitars- Record digitally
Keyboard- If it's a low synth part, tape...if predominantly 1khz or higher probably would record digital.
Vocals- Depends on the style of music I'd think

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