Reel to Reel

So I have this tug to get a reel to reel but I'm a little perplexed by pricing and how the decks and the pretty high prices don't move.  I've been keeping an eye on certain ones for a while now.  People really have patience.  lol  But is it even worth it to mess with?  I remember having a quadrophonic RTR in the 80's and wow did it sound and thick and chocolatey!  It seems like it could be fun to experience/experiment with this and hear again how it sounds esp through modern gear.  Would/Have any of you had much experience lately with RTR?  Is my memory better than the thing is actually?  lol


Yeah, I think, all of us should have RTR deck. Cost is a problem for me at the moment, can't get Otari let alone Studer. But if you like tape, as I do, and have some funds then, sure, you got to give it a try. But fine tape machines appreciate good care, they are not disk spinners.

@ltmandella Yeah I agree totally.  It does happen that I have somewhat of an electronics background and have worked on lots of equipment along these lines so feel like I could fix it up myself if needed.  There's the maintenance, too.  I love the Pioneer decks...I still have the matching top of the line integrated amp.  Would make a nice pairing with the 909.  That's super cool about the sound quality of the 909.  I've always had the impression that they were excellent.  Never heard one in person.  Isn't it interesting just how good they can sound?



"But vintage prerecorded tapes often have the shedding problem due to age deterioration."

I suspect you are referring to home-made pre-recorded, on tape formulations that sadly shed. Definitely a problem to be aware of and avoid. Buying old stock, be aware:

sticky shed syndrome


I refer to pre-recorded commercial releases from the majors: CBS, RCA, London, Capital, Decca, Reprise ......

Not a single one of my 7" pre-recorded reels (around 500 of them) from these various makers has ever shed. Surprisingly, bleed thru is extremely rare.

I inherited some opera tapes from my uncle that he had home-recorded, on ..... blank tape. Those sadly had some bleed-thru. They also had become more brittle than the commercially produced ones.

r2r tape bleed through

I/you should never use Fast Forward or Fast Rewind prior to putting a tape back in the box, the tape will be packed too tightly. Wind them at normal speed.

some store them tails-out, I store them tail’s in, as they finish after auto-reverse play.

tails out; tails in

If you buy a fully rebuilt deck, calibrated  and specs documented from an expert tech, you should be plug and play, just need tapes.  But vintage prerecorded tapes often have the shedding problem due to age deterioration.

Buying used decks from amatuers or resellers is a low probability of satisfaction in sound quality and reliability.  I cannot recommend that route unless you are a tech and will be restoring the deck, or you just want to mess around with one for curiousity and won't be disappointed if they sound not so great.

My best experience buying used was a Pioneer 909.  But that was decades ago.  Just recently before I sold it I made a test dub from hi res TIDAL source and when monitoring during recording between source and recorded signal I could not hear a difference.

None of my three currently owned consumer level vinate Sony's are anywhere near that good sounding.




@inna Cool!  One of the studios I recorded in used an ADAT system.  It uses VHS tapes and is/was very much pro quality.  Masters kept on them.

Not RTR but I use Panasonic AG-7350 SVHS for background music every day. Sounds quite good, problem is low speed. At least the tape is wide.

Thanks everyone for all of the great info!  All aspects really got well explored here and I really appreciate the engagement.  I could respond to each one from an interest level.  There's so much to talk about and consider.  You all make great points!  I think I'll keep looking at them...see how the budget goes and maybe get inspired to go for it.  Maybe something will "fall in my lap" and make it convenient as possible to get into it again.  I did the Beta VCR thing too.  It was interesting.  Thanks again everybody!

Knittersspouse advice is spot on about care and dedication. It’s a high calorie burning media.

Another strong endorsement for open RTR. My audio system is considered by many as exotic and end game in a dedicated 2 channel listening room. Because I was at a point of only modest SQ with new hardware and vinyl re-releases, I thought to explore RTR. Four years ago, I started with an Otari MX5050 and upgraded to a fully restored Studer A810. The enhanced SQ was startling. RTR is relatively expensive media. I record and playback at 15 ips. The selections are limited — mostly jazz and classical. Their album equivalent in tape is $250-$500. Blank tapes for self recording are less costly, but not inexpensive. But in comparison to the source album, a well recorded tape at home sounds much better. There’re now several small domestic and international firms doing quality restorations.

bbarten  -  Do you want to tinker, or just enjoy?  Many Audiophiles seem more focused on the process of how the music is reproduced than the actual music.  As an engineer, I suffer from that too. In the case of R-R, it is first and foremost a mechanical medium, and just like turntables (or sports cars, or a person's social life) it takes constant maintenance and attention to detail to keep working properly. 

From your comments on cost, you may be a bit like me, and not about to drop 10 grand on a whim.  I happen to have and love middle of the road R-R decks.  I've had probably a dozen over the years, and still have a stable of 4 Teacs that will be re-woken in the months to come. My Sony, Panasonic and even the Wollensak will get refurbished as time allows.  Unless you are like me or probably     
elliottbnewcombjr, R-R may be more trouble than it is worth, but like having a classic car, it is a matter of time, money and love. In fact, you might do best with a love triangle - a deck that really appeals to you, a good LOCAL tech to take care of your new love when it gets sick, and YOU.   Think of any tape medium as more like a pet - you have to understand its needs, exercise it, and get to know its idiosyncrasies well or you will both suffer.  

There are lots of forums that can offer help.  This one tends toward the high end, but not exclusively so, as demonstrated by the responses to this thread.  I won't recommend any particular brand because R-R decks are imposing pieces of equipment that demand attention, just like floor-standing speakers. They have to LOOK right to fit into your space.  There have been some good brands mentioned already, and just like buying a car, going cheap may easily result in your getting eaten alive with unexpected maintenance costs.  Again, that's where a knowledgeable friend or a good local tech can be your best guide (after this and similar forums, of course...)

My personal experience has benefited from watching what is popular on fleabay, checking the actual "Sold" prices of things that catch your eye, and then come back and make a few more "whadda ya think about..." posts here and elsewhere.  You can help others help you if you share what you think is "reasonable", what features you are looking for (quad prerecorded R-R tapes of any kind are essentially unobtanium for anyone who cares about costs), and for equipment this old, repairability and availability of parts is a major consideration.  R-R requires care and dedication, so if you are really only looking for a brief hookup with your high school crush, you may be better off just savoring the memories.  Either way, good luck!

Sony at one point brought out a Beta VCR that could lay down a near-CD level response if used to lay down 2 chan audio only....

Worked well enough for me to let go of an A77 Revox; the blank 10" were a splurge to get and filled up too fast at 15.5...

The Sony did do that, tho'.....and shortly after, the VHS format 'won'....

The only 'revenge' (of sorts) was that VHS got DVD'd... and the story continues with D2D.....and streaming, and file types, and....

...not even mentioning the cassette era, although we've got 2, a 'single' Nak and a 'double' Yamaha deck....and 'bout 130 cass's....

You can chase the 'bleeding edge' of the tech d'jour...
But all you're going to get is splattered... ;)


Mr. Fixit. If you have some tools (nothing special), some fixit experience, you can do most or all of it yourself.

I haven’t needed to work on one of mine or my sons (4 total) in years (except normal head/capstan rollers clean/oil). I can do anything physical to them, but nothing electronic. These Teacs are built like tanks, the old grease and old belts turn to glue. 6 screws the case is off. Remove all the junk, new lithium grease, new belt, the brakes need to be adjusted, the height of the reel decks need to be raised/lowered to align the tape with the heads and avoid the tape rubbing on the reel edges.

Not always needed, but when apart I take the motors out, apart, clean moving parts and electrical contact points, lube, back together. Mark their screw positions and pay attention before removal and disassembly, just careful common sense.

resistor adjustors for ff and rewind speeds, tape tension for fwd and rev play speeds, ..... like an old carburetor idle speed and fuel mixture: one effects the other, take your time, wait, tiny adjust, wait ..... you will get it. also, like a carb, you make the adjustments while it is running.

I find heads stay aligned, and I have even replaced the entire plate with pre-mounted heads with success. Alignment perfection needs a professional. Worn heads can be found or re-conditioned.

Tempted by R2R?

I'f you are loaded, go the Otari (other pro deck), 15 IPS 2 Track, with a professional lined up to maintain it. The sound is far far better than any cable tweak, or batch of tweaks you could make. 

For me and my 'well off' but not loaded crowd: Modest ProSumer deck to play 7-1/2" IPS, primarily pre-recorded tapes.

I went thru each era of Teacs:

1st. the early Stainless Steel face-plates with real wood end panels. Variations: Two 4 channel forward decks I restored and gave to musician friends. 2 Track to play my historic 2 Track Stereo Pre-Recorded Tapes from 1956-1958. After a while gave the deck to a musician and just gave the 2 track tapes to my friend with the pair of 2 Track Otari's.

btw, he can play the 'in-line' stereo tapes on his Otari, but not the 'staggared' stereo tapes (take a mono deck, add an adjacent head to make it 2 channel, now the left and right signals are physically separated by something like 1.25" distance between the heads/tracks. My Inherited Viking 2 track stereo deck (came in the Fisher President II I inherited from my uncle Johnny, along with the 2 track tapes) has an extra head, to select in-line or staggered. I have it downstairs with hard to find new belts waiting. Needs a new case, it was mounted in a drawer.

2nd. Next the beige plastic front panels, with plastic cases.

3rd. Finally the aluminum face plates, silver or mine anodized black. Plastic cases with optional 'wood look' surrounds (chip-board, wrapped with paper printed to look like wood). That is the end of the line X1000r and my X2000r's.


I went thru: Single play, then reverse play, then 6 heads auto-reverse, start with that!

Many years back, I bought over 500 pre-recorded R2R tapes, 7"/7-1/2 IPS. Let's say the shipping cost more than the tape often, they were not expensive like today.

Mine have been stored in conditioned space, slightly slanted shelves: boxes edge to edge, and they still sound amazing, no bleed thru, strong signal strength, not stretching, bad edges. Except the 1st few feet each end, the tape is often brittle, a snap will break there, perhaps beat up edges. I add new polyester leaders to both ends, using a simple manual tape splicer. I add metal reverse strips, (the auto-reverse decks have sensors).

I sold about 150 of them, eBay, unconditional return/refund. Only 1 refund, seemed like USPS had a destructo challenge that day.

Many are over 60 years old, mine still sound better than my Vinyl, everyone here agrees.



R to R gets better every year. Look at the S/N ratio or A waited S/N either way they are really poor compared to digital. There is a whole host of problems bias, closed heads, dirty arms, magnetized heads, can't get tape, dirty tape, the wrong tape formula, they are mechanically noisy, take up reel noise, on and on. 

When we changed from R to R to digital we couldn't tell the playback form the recording when we used R to R there was never a question about what was playback or not. They do have great sounding saturation distortion that is emulated better than the original on digital plug ins today. 

I use my Pioneer RT-707 to make mix tapes for the garage system. I buy used Maxell UD 35-90 or 35-90 XL, 7" reels from eBay and record over.

Here are some ideas:


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I still have my Tandberg TD20A 4-track and Crown 822 2-track. They're not too difficult to keep serviced because they don't get a lot of use - they're only used for historic recordings that I then usually digitize while playing.

I think the best tools for new recordings - whether as a "mix tape" or for live recordings - are digital.

I have two reel to reel players.  Purchased an upgrade RtR from J Corder

they do RtR.  I enjoy my machines and use it often.  I wish the major players would bring them back.  They brought back TTS so why not RtRs.

I find them fun to work on and record albums, they sound great

I always come back to opportunity cost for expensive formats like R2R. There's zero point of getting into it unless you get a quality machine which is fully serviced and aligned. Then there is the cost of the software. Even a small collection of tapes and a quality machine equals a significant upgrade to any other playback component in the system.

Looks like I found a soul brother in @elliottbnewcombjr . I have a Teac X1000RBL that I've owned since new and even though I seldom play it I have no intention of selling it. The most important feature of this deck is that it can utllize high bias tapes (Maxell XLI and XLII for example) which gives it a much better dynamic range and better performance in the high frequencies. It also has DBX noise reduction. Using a high bias tape and DBX at 7.5 ips this deck will create a tape that is virtually indistinguishable from the source. The downside is that the high bais tapes for these machines are very rare (they don't make them anymore).

It's hard for the youngsters to visualize but there was a day before CDs and streaming. I bought my R2R so that I could record classical box sets and be able to play a few hours of music without constantly having to get up and turn the record over. I still play these tapes once in a while and they sound great.

My experience with vintage prerecorded tapes is that they don't sound very good compared to modern source material. I collected a fair number of vintage rock recordings and they have not aged well. The 7.5 ips tapes are clearly superior to the 3.75 tapes but still not as good as a modern vinyl or CD.

I agree with everything @larryincmh said. R2R is an interactive experience and it's fun to operate and listen to. It's a little like owning a vintage motorcycle where you have to use the kickstarter and tighten the chain every time you ride it.

If you have an appreciation for beautiful vintage machinery that records and plays music then a RTR deck is a fun addition to your setup. But unless you spring for something like an Otari deck that plays at 15 ips and you buy modern prerecorded tapes at $400+ each then it's sort of a novelty.

If you're willing to pay silly prices (and I mean up to $600 or maybe more for tapes) for an inferior playback medium, go for it. Otherwise, don't succumb to the nostalgia and realize why they went away to begin with.  

I have 4 of them who sit there and look pretty. I don't play them often and rarely. I think you may end up doing the same thing.

I've had R2R's in my system since I was a teenager.  I currently own a Revox B77 (vintage).  It was refurbished by Curt Palmer (Reel to Reel Tech).  Great guy and one of the best at R2R refurbishing.  Buy one of his decks and you won't be sorry.

In terms of SQ,Not quite there with my DCS Bartok or my almost fully upgraded LP 12, but I have 50 or so reels of tape of out of print or live recorded music that I can't replace.  Listening to those tapes through my Revox is a pleasant experience for sure.   



I had this Sony reel to reel that I bought through a friend in the Army PX, and I loved it for years until it broke and was badly repaired. I had used it to make mix tapes from LP's. My friends had lesser decks and did the same. 

Those days are over for sure. I can do everything with digital, and all of the reel to reel gear and tapes have become unaffordable It's still a wonderful memory. That was a beautiful and elegant auto reverse deck!

About 15 years ago my brother in laws mother died.  She had been a hoarder and amongst the Aladdin’s cave of treasures in the home was an R2R from her deceased husband that was at least 40 years old and had been in the attic for decades.  I forgot the manufacturer but it might have been Sony.  The family badgered me to take it.  I bought a couple of very expensive tapes and then couldn’t get it to run.  I took it to an audio repair shop that I’ve had other wise vey good experiences with, and they couldn’t promise me anything but said they would give it a shot.  $200 and two months later they basically admitted defeat-to many difficult to replace parts.  I tried with what they had done and it was muffled and had speed variability issues.  I haven’t been interested in R2R since

I got into R2R about 6 or 7 years ago and as others have pointed out it is a very good sounding source. I have a Teac X300 (bought refurbished for $400) which does 3.75 and 7.5 IPS only, but since I am only interested in purchasing factory made tapes from the 60s and 70s I’m perfectly fine with that. To my ear the sound is quite immersive and it’s a little mesmerizing watching the reels spin!

It is an interactive medium! You can’t just sit back and push buttons on an app and serve up music. You have to be sure the rollers and the heads are clean, and have to get up and string the tape after each side (unless you get an auto-reverse model). There is also the occasional snapped tape which requires some splicing skill. Not often but it does happen. especially if you do buy old factory tapes after all they are now 50 years old.

I also have fun scouring local auction sites for old tapes. If you purchase factory tapes there has to be some patience involved as well. Many sellers in my mind way over price these. It takes a while to look for someone who has them at what I consider a reasonable price. I’m OK in the $25-$30 range depending on which album/artist I’m trying to get. I did score an estate sale group of 80 tapes last year at 16 bucks apiece that kept me busy for awhile.

You can try reels by purchasing cheaper unit first. I got my Akai GX-77 for like $300 on eBay. If you like the experience, you can always upgrade. But then, it depends what you want to do with the unit. Record LPs? You probably don't need 15 IPS unit for that. Purchase master-level 15 IPS tapes? They are $$$, I could never justify the expense for myself. YMMV.

I've had a reel to reel in one of my systems since 1970. I currently have a Pioneer RT-707 in my garage system now and use it all the time.

@elliottbnewcombjr Thanks for the input!  Yeah that's my feeling.  Never really heard anything that good...except for when I was in the studio.  I'm a bass player and have done a lot of studio recording.  For how long was tape THE master.   Then there's the whole "ability to hear/prove the backmasking" thing.  lol  I recorded Stairway to Heaven" and played it backwards.  The message is really there.  I'm 60  I've had music bring tears to my eyes not because of the lyrics but the sound itself.

Quality wise, I am surprised so few friends/members here have R2R.

My Reel to Reel is the best sounding source I have. Same content/different formats: Everyone here picks tubes over solid state; lps over cd's; r2r tape over lp.

In my case, I have two of Teac's last Prosumer 4 track 6 head auto-reverse model x2000r. same as x1000r except 2000 has colbalt heads, Big and small reels, but 7-1/2" speed. It isn't as good as 15 ips, or 2 track, but it still beats anything else I have. Tape hiss, yes, and yet it's better! I've made two nephews involved with music industry cry while listening to Sgt. Pepper's.

My friend has two Otari's, 2 track, 15 ips. Incredible, he played Led Zeppelin's 1st album among others. Holy smokes, now you know what they were hearing in the studio, so much more listenable than 7-1/2" 4 track. He pays a lot of money from certain sources for tapes, primarily Jazz (some sources are not great). Most sound amazing, a few, not outstanding

I had early 2 track stereo tapes, 7-1/2 ips, definitely sounded better than my 4 track.

A problem is that pre-recorded content is age related, and simply stopped being made/released. The early 2 tracks are mostly classical. The 4 tracks have all the wonderful 50's, 60's; 70's, I think into earlt 80's.

If you are younger, none of your favorite artists exist pre-recorded R2R.