Reel to Reel information, user tips and tricks...

Reel to Reel.  I'm bringing my Reel to Reel rigs back into service. They have been in storage for almost 20 years.

I ordered, a new RtR pre amp. Decware ZP3 Phono/RtR valve preamp. I stopped using the medium, mainly while I was raising kids. I'm retired now getting everything in working order.  I had the misfortune of loosing a lot of the gear. Tapes, preamp, and Otari MX50/50 BII with a "direct head tap" via RCA. Any RtR people out there.
New tape? Better tape? I'm using 10.5" and down. It has been a while..
I'm looking at any mods on dampening the reels or heads for sound tweaks.

I'm going to playback, and record. Any pointers, ideas, are sure welcome.

I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, I know it's NOT digital. I like it, plane and simple. 

No name callin', be polite, ok.. HAVE FUN...

I use Maxell UD 35-90 7" with my Pioneer RT-707. You can also get UD 35-180 - 10". Both are available used and sealed on eBay.

Look under "Tape options"..


Thanks you know the bias NAB IEC? I'll look. 1/4" ay?

I’ve got a BQII-II 4 and a case of 10.5" 224 tape. Can’t see any reason for recording on it. Except for maybe a little tape flanging.
Besides, if you are serious you HAVE to pull the drive motors and rebuild them before any moderate use. They are not available anywhere and they WILL self-destruct. You will find that they are already coming apart. I’ll bet your Panasonic speed switch is bad. Pick one speed and stay there. They don’t make them anymore either. Lotso luck.
All I want to do is transfer my 4 channel stuff to Pro Tools with my Scarlett interface.
The motors are coming apart? I’ll look I have two. I’ve had to tune them up. But for the most part I’ve never had problems. Yea motors are available. Not new, but recon. I can take a peek too. Why would they come apart? Not following you. The speed switch. Not sure, I alway was a 7.x guy. 10.5 in reels. some 7.x that are pres. I’m trying to remember, we use to make some really nice playback rigs, and recordings with that rig. The BII with RCA direct playback and a modded onboard SS pre for recording.. It was a lot of fun. HiFi, pretty good quality, tinkering with the bias on the playback.

LOL was it colored? Oh heck yea.. Sure was nice though.. You can dig some sound out of tape.. it’s fun..

All my stuff is stereo, BUT I’m hearing a 3rd head added some way? Still stereo... L/R but a 3rd head. I just can’t figure. 1/2 inch tape maybe. The 3rd head is summation for playback? Trinaural by recording? 3 channel?
3rd speaker?

Yup, I’m that guy.. I like Macs 3 channel analog better than any of them.. For 3 channels..Serious sound trickery going on there. James B of Ampzilla SST Trinaural analog 3 channel, sounds pretty good.. Again I like the Mac better..

That phono stage option you're doing is The Bomb! Saw how that works. Taking the signal right off the playback head direct to the phono stage, bypassing whatever was in the tape deck in favor of a much higher quality gain stage with- the really cool part- adjustable EQ. Insane! Never heard of that before but what a great idea!
Elliott Newcomb on here is a serious tape guy. I had a chance to listen to his rig and it was awesome. He will chime in eventually.
BTW, nothing to laugh about with tape, it's what everything was mastered on till digital came along. Digital is just a lot easier, no splicing or any other stuff.

" Digital is just a lot easier, no splicing or any other stuff."
Absolutely correct, however visually, R2R is so much cooler. 

There are those that say there is no need. Mine was set up 25 years ago. I had a a Military Roberts 770 and the Otari MX50/50 BII. 4 or 5 of us had the head covers milled.  I used a Manley modified photo stage. This was before the guy passed. It had something REAL close. I'm pretty sure it was point to point to. Same deal though, PS being in the same chassis. They fixed it by design, in lue of a filter. I though it was rather nifty.. Decware is the same way. The longest wire in the signal path is only 2 inches long... Hard to receive interference with that short antenna!. :-)

Uses my favorite valves to at a reduced voltage, so a longer life too. 12AX7 and 12AU7. 5 valves total for possible rolls..

I like RtR perfect NO, fun oh heck yea. I like it all. 

Now to find a source for some humpty dumpty heads. There used to be some hand made around.. Red sock Green Sock guy... X-File type

I think it's just a switch flip or two to get back to LP use. Might need a Decware switch box.. We'll see.

It's, ANALOG..

I'm Jazzed..

Never heard of it before?
Who you crappin’?
Even the PAT-4 I built from kit had a tape head input.

The glue in the stators lets loose and the rotor chews ’em up and spits ’em out.
The Matsushita pushbutton switches self pit until one and/or both contacts fail.
My local tape tech said the motors are hard to come by. In any condition. He was amazed that I even got one side of the swutch to work. Then I covered it with tape so I didn’t accidentally push it.
3 channel? You’re going all Keith Johnson on me. As long as your talkin' custom rods.
fuzztone890 posts11-20-2020 7:36pmNever heard of it before?
Who you crappin’?
Even the PAT-4 I built from kit had a tape head input.


No crappin', honest Abe!

Yea tape head input (loop) in a LOT of the older units, Fisher, Mac Marantz. Pat II, III, IIII, HKs.

We don't want the tape head going through the preamp, that way for playback. We can use any AUX input other than an MC, phono input.

We use a modified valve(tube) phono preamp, with a "pot" that can vary the bias from 47k to 600ohm. we still load the TT section in a separate box, step up and cart loading, BUT now we can dig the goodies out of the tape via bias tweak, from the External Phono/Tape preamp..

This unit is a 5 valve, point to point, build.. pretty impressive..Noise is controlled by layout, first and foremost. THEN by VERY short, silver/teflon wire construct.. 2" max... great thinkin' 60 WATTs. It is a powerhouse for a preamp..

All valve rectified, It's gonna sound "TUBIE", YUP..

I jerked the preamp phono section out of a MX110, it worked pretty good too. There is all kinds of ways to do this.. I like Decware, Kinda Zen. :-)


Here is a second one that I am NOT familiar with. They currently are not in production, No idea why, cases? The only thing you can't get unless they are having boards/soldering issues overseas.. Nasty thought..

Decware is US bases...

Besides the obvious sound quality angle of Decware’s all single-ended triode tube design, infinitely adjustable bias has cool factor written all over it.
If you are looking for blank tape source, a good one to consider it

they sell single pass reels and pancakes from several manufacturers.
You can get tape of all sorts (cassette, 1/4", 1/2", 1") from ATR Magnetics, the last remaining US supplier of audio tape

When storing tape, its better in the attic than the basement! Get some packets of SilicaGel, and put a couple in the plastic bag with the reel of tape when you store it. This will help to prevent shedding.

You can use a toaster oven to bake tape that is shedding if its not too far gone. Generally set on the lowest setting (about 140 degrees F) for about 2-3 hours, and if that did the trick the tape won't need baking again for months.
You know I sure appreciate, chiming in.. It has been a LONG time. I forgot about that, the baking part. I've never had to do it.  BUT I've not used what's left of my system for over 20 years.

I left off with vinyl, cassettes, and the early part of CDs.  4X was a VERY fast CD..SCSI was where I was at. HUGE footprint hard drives. Priam, Maxtor and Seagate, certified series for Novel. 300 meg not gig, drives.  7 of them and a few CD drives... pretty fancy.. 

Old stuff like me... I kept a majority of it in the shop, the rest in a basement. The shop got nicked, the basement flooded 30 years ago AND still has 300-400 LP in it.. I take out 20 30 clean, listen re slip...
Thats been going on for the last 5 years or so.. 9/10 of the way done..

My wife was the vinyl person, I was the tape, and CD guy.. Go figure..
Now, it's all good....

Retirement... collecting STUFF.. Yup.. best job I ever had..

Again thanks for the tips. 

if you are handy with a soldering iron and can run the EQ curves, you can also use one of the tube phono stages as a tape head preamp......I have done it with an EAR 834 as well as the Marantz 7 clone phono stage.
Amazing how much better it sounds.
I think it is more attractive if the manufacture could make a tape preamp with 4 inputs like some phono stage preamp. Someone would hook up 4 R2R machines at the same time.

439 posts11-24-2020 4:55am

if you are handy with a soldering iron and can run the EQ curves, you can also use one of the tube phono stages as a tape head preamp......I have done it with an EAR 834 as well as the Marantz 7 clone phono stage.
Amazing how much better it sounds.


Look under "Tape options"..  This is all valve, PtP 5 valves, tube rectified. This is the (second) model, with a few improvement over the first.. I owned the first with Decware's M60. Nice.. had a couple of issues, seemed it took a super quiet valve, it would get noisy... I love valves, I don't like noise...

Above is the phono stage I’m having built, for my RtR and the TT. I still haven't received and ETA. 4-16 week lead time..

I’ve seen MX110z phono stages all tricked out for tape, with the ability to change the bias on the fly... Magic, come to mind..

I always wondered where he got the phono stages, something had to be gutted to do it.. Might have been 110Ms. The late 70s and early 80s

I’m a Mac guy, I’ve used their phono stage for a long time. A guy named Samra, tricks them out.. Red sock, green sock guy..

I love a GOOD valve pre. Noisy.... YUK..

The EQ curves your speaking of, I’m not following. For mixing,

Appreciate the information.. A little Reel to Reel action..:-)

I love a GOOD valve pre. Noisy.... YUK
FWIW just about any competent tube tape head preamp will be quieter than the tape itself, unless you are using low inductance heads.
unless you are using low inductance heads.


Is there an option? I thought there were a few different type heads.
I never got that far into it.. I did have one much like the Decware, just not tube rectified.. Bias pot was used the same way, vary the bias..

I know vinyl is fun, I know, it’s ALL fun.. I would really like to see a GOOD resurgence, and a resurrection of Reel to Reel WITHOUT a floor stomping price tag, along with it..

What is FWIW?

Thanks..and Regards
would agree with atmosphere on the noise.

Yes, have heard the decware head unit several times. Its pretty nice.

regarding noise, would also suggest using vishay bulk foil VSR types as your load resistor for terminating the signal from the heads.
I've used Vishay a long time.  They have a cap that I use in XO builds when I do one. They are rated at 160 or 200 v. Low but one of the best sounding for mids and highs I've used for the money..

The resistors, are a given, they are the best, the inside of Mcintosh, and my Nord buffer boards are full of them. Cool lookin' little guys too. Hard to solder for me.. I have to be careful.. Little soft tails...your talking about..

I read an article with "WHY" the load resistor, in parallel, makes no difference. in series yes, make sense? I mean its NOT in the signal path, it's shunting to ground, YES, NO? if it were in series, Yes I could see, it would be passing a signal through the resistor.. Am I wrong?

You've heard the ZP3 with RtR and direct head tap? I haven't heard it, I'm taking a chance. BUT I looked over the schemo... VERY basic, short path, HIGH CAP, very good transformer, and high horsepower, for a pre 60 watt. Tube rectified. US built, and pure Point to Point, easy front to rear layout. A lot of time went into the second/third series of this Phono stage.

Which RtR did you hear them with? You remember?

I haven't even gotten an ETA from them, my ZP3 

I've done a couple. HH Scott, MX110. Both were potted, for on the fly BIAS tweak from 47K to 600 ohm, or anywhere in between.. Different tape type, ay? NAB to IEC. I'm just getting back into it.. READ READ READ.. Story of my life..mechanic...

I wouldn't be doing any of this if the gear hadn't got nicked.. UH...
All the gear stored in my shop.. Gettin' there though. :-)

Thanks everyone, Happy Turkey Day. Mine is cooking as I type, 21 pounder....STUFFED...5-6 hour cook..

@oldhvymec glad to hear that you're bringing your RtR back into service and adding a really sweet Decware tapehead's a beauty! I hope it brings you excitement and renewed enthusiasm for the hobby.

The idea of wiring the playback head straight onto a modern tapehead preamp and bypassing the RtR 40+ years old solid state internal electronics is a popular one amongst tapeheads. Here's a few highly regarded tapehead preamp to lust over:

I know Atmosphere and King-Cello also makes some really nice tapehead preamps, I know I'm missing a few nice ones.

For blank tapes, there's ATR magnetics and Recording the Masters if you're into recording. Really high quality stuff!

For newly released music on RtR tape, check out my post on this thread, it's the last post on page 5. Some of these recording will knock your socks off.
Drop me a PM anytime you want to discuss tape.
Oh WOW! Thanks for the goodies.. I'll check them out. I know there are some MEGA buck rigs there.. I recognize a few of the names.. :-)

Yes I'll be recording, I like RtR format, always did. It doesn't have to cost a fortune just like vinyl, it CAN but it doesn't have to. I can get a high enough quality tape to make me happy. Thanks ay

Yes I'll be recording, I like RtR format, always did.
What do you plan to record?
What type of music, or the source? The type, just about anything that strikes my fancy. The source, LP, RtR, CD, SDAC, and any other source I can figure out. This will be a work in progress, I have no doubt.. :-) 

I had some good pre recorded 2 track. Chet Atkins, Elvis (of all things), Doors, My Grandmother playing the organ in an old Baptist church, 1952.
Dean Martin, and Lena Horne.

I won't be paying the crazy prices, for stuff I'D never listen too. I think I paid, 100.00 for a few.. Chet, Dean and Lena were 100 for all 3. Not a lot to choose from back then, either. I did see a current "Abbey Road" for 650, or some some crazy price..

Most of the classical I listened to is like Strunz and Farah, flamingo. Latin Jazz, Carol music (Island), Tropical, Rock and Roll, Country Western, Soul, R&B, Funk, Pop, Kid stuff, it's good... Bali, YUP! Bali, I know nothing about it , I just like it...I'll turn it up. All day long Smooth Jazz is playing, UNLESS we do some vinyl, CD or just change the station/channel.