Monday, December 31, 2007

TIP: Testing alignment

To do a good diagnostic about head alignment, and to do a good alignment job, is needed an alignment test tape and some hardware like a frequence counter.

I wanted to align a Grundig TS-1000 play head and decided to use other decks to help me in a home made method. I compare the sound of a tape, in real time, between the Grundig and other two decks, a Pioneer RT-1020H and a Pioneer RT-707.

To do this is easy and very helpful. I made a video showing the moment when I test the sound of the just aligned deck. However, the sound of the RT-707 was wrost than normal because there were hardly back tension. If the tape is played back normally, the sound is correct.

Anyway, the RT-1020H is enough for the purpose. I used the same method in the past to test the sound of the RT-707 when I did alignment and was very accurate.

VID: Pioneer RT-1020H running at 7.5 ips

Here is a Pioneer RT-1020H playing a Basf LP35 tape where is recorded Kraftwerk's "Tour de France" album. The sound quality is real good. The tape was recorded from vinyl in the first play.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

TIP: Save some Ampex tapes

Most of the people that are in this hobby know that there are some Ampex tapes that have problems in the backcoated layer.

These tapes are identified easily even without playing them. Just pass the tape at high speed and if it goes slow at the middle end of the tape or sometimes even the deck's motors can't move the reels, the it's one of this bad tapes.

In the past I threw away some of these tapes to the gargabe thinking that there weren't any manner to save them, but this last week I've been trying to test some things and maybe this works for some of you.

First, make sure you have one tape that would go to the gargabe.

Place the reel in the deck and don't thread it thru the tape normal path because this would soil all the tape path and tension arms. Thread the tape directly to the take up reel. Most of the decks won't go to FF mode if some tension arm is untensioned, so use something so that the deck work in FF mode.

Take a cosmetic cottom disc and double it so that you can hold the tape inside the cottom. Tighten your fingers as much as you can againts both sides of the cottom disc and keeping them firm, press FF.

The deck won't be able to move because your fingers are doing too much force, so make a bit less force so that the tape can travel from the supply reel to the take up reel.

Be careful doing this procedure. Sometimes the tape makes force unspected tensions and the tape can break or makes the cottom disc to fly away. It's normal to stop in the middle of the run to watch how is the cottom disc. Maybe is needed to use one new because thh actual is very dirty.

Today, with a 10" reel full of Ampex 406 tape, I've used six cottom discs and made 12 times this procedure:

The last time, I placed isopropanol in the cottom disc to test what happened and was useful. Didn't damage the tape and cleaned well.

After all tape travels, I've recorded the longest side of a LP and cut the tape. I prefer to make short tapes from a big reel in these cases, so I make one tape = one LP (or CD).

I know that this won't convert bad tape into "as new", but maybe you can convert a "gargabe tape" into usable tape.
I've tested this method with three 10" reels, two of Ampex 478 low print and one of Ampex 406. There's no an exact numbers of travels to clean a tape. Sometimes you play the tape and the tape path or heads get dirty, so make more clean travels.

Friday, December 28, 2007

VID: ReVox B77 running at 15/16 ips

The ReVox B77 is a common machine and it's wasy to find videos about it in YouTube... but not as this one.

Here is my MKII SLS (super low speed) running at 15/16 ips (2.38 cm/s) with big reels:


There was an error with the speed measured in inches per second. It said 1 7/8 ips and it's really 15/16 ips.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

TIP: Removing old stickers from reels

Most of us have reels with stickers in one or both sides and maybe one day we want to remove them and it's a impossible mission or at least, a very difficult thread to remove them without problems.

Someone told me a good tip to do this easily. The surface where is the old sticker must be heated using a hair dryer very close to the area.

I've just done this with this reel:

Pass the tape to another reel:

Once it's empty of tape, it can be used the hair dryer:

After a few minutes the sticker can be removed slowly without too many problems:

Once all stickers are removed, the tape can be wound again to its original reel:

It's an easy tip but very useful. If there's any mark of glue in the reel, clean it with isopropanol and it will look as new.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

VID: Grundig TS-1000 with new leds

The Grundig TS-1000 was the top of the line of the Grundig brand and was his last reel to reel made. Was fabricated about 1976 and has three speeds, 7.5, 3.75 and 1.875 ips plus a varispeed that goes from lower than 1.875 ips to higher than 7.5 ips.

The tension is electronic controled by optical sensors in tension arms. How lower is the position of the tension arm, higher is the voltage of that motor and vice versa.

All transport functions are sensi-touch buttons, you don't need to press the button, just touch it with a finger. These buttons has a 5mm. led on top of them to mark which function is enabled at any moment, event the STOP mode. The original ones were all red and I've recently changed all them with new ones in different colors. Red for RECORD, bluw for FF and RWD, orange for PAUSE, green for PLAY and flashing yellow for STOP.

I made a video where is showed how does it look like now:

In the video the leds seem to light too much, but is an effect fue that the camera was just in front of the deck. Next pics shows how much light you can see if you don't watch them just in the axis of their light:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

REP: Pioneer RT-1020H VU meter lamps

The next step with the Pioneer was to substitute meter lamps. The original ones are poor bright. When changed the rec leds measured the voltage across the meter lamps and was 5V AC.

This time as spare part I used Christmas lights... yes, I thought they could be perfect for this job because they are 6V AC, then I used two in paralel by meter so that the bright were correct... in theory.

I cut a piece with 6 bulbs and made a fix so that the lights outside still working.
This was the original bulbs inside the meters in the Pioneer RT-1020H just a minutes before I began to do the job.

To start, I unscrewed the bottom front panel. There are only four screws and pull out all knobs and the bottom panel can be retired.

I shot pics from the right and left meter to reminder me where was each wire, because I prefered to unweld the wires and work in the meter stand-alone on top of the table.

To open the meter it's very easy. On the back it has two little pieces of adhesive tape. I cut it and opened the meter to access to the bulb and unweld it.

These are the original meter lamps:

And these are the Christmas lamps that I'd use, two per meter:

After doing the job, this is the final result:

They not bright too much, I think that the amount of light is the correct in each meter if I compare it with other meters.
There were been better to use original spare parts, but if you are in a hurry or don't want to spend money in used or NOS parts that are a lot of years old, this could be a solution.

REP: Pioneer RT-1020H rec leds

Today I've decided to open this unit to try to access the rec leds to replace both.

All we know that leds last lot of time, but with +30 years they aren't so bright and the red color is dark. As I had bought five 5 mm. red leds and used only one, I wanted to replace the old ones with these transparent brand new red leds.

Watching the deck I thought that easiest way yo access the leds was to open the bottom front panel. To do that, it was necesary to pull out all the knobs. My first problem was with the smalest ones, the vertical switches for REC, PLAY, METERS and MONITOR. The original owner had glued them to the switchs, so I decided to use some contact cleaner and use... the force, but carefully for not to make any mark.

After some seconds of uncertainty, I was able to remove them:

The switches were full of dry glue:

After that, the four screws of the bottom front panel can be unscrewed. I noticed that the upper screws were longer than the bottom ones. Now I can pull off the bottom front panel.

Although I even unscrewed all screws from the rectangular black panel, it was very hard to pull it out. On the other side there were lot of wires and a big capacitor with the wires too short, so I decided to open the backside of the deck to try to access the leds from the back, but before do it, I measured the voltage in the VU meters lamps for a future replacement because they light just a few. They are 5V AC.

After removing the back panel of the deck, I unscrewed the small boards where are the leds, each one in a very small board as can be watched in the next pic:

Good moment to clean the fuses with some contact cleaner. The right ones are used for the VU meters lamps.
There's no too much space to use the iron rinner. It would be easier to do it from the front panel, but as I said before, I didn't want to pull it off because the big capacitor that is shown in the pics, so... patiente and good pulse.
After several times where leds fell inside, I was able to get them in the correct place:

The new ones are transparent but they light in a bright red color. After testing them using a small battery to be sure that they were correctly placed in the board, I screwed both boards again:

This picture was taken from the front side of the deck to show if they were correctly put in their original places.

Now this is the look of the front side with the new leds. First pic in play mode and the second in rec mode:

They now look pretty and always know when I'm in recording mode. Sometime ago I thought I was recording and had the rec switches off, but the leds seemed to be lighting due to the direct light of the sun. This won't ever occur with these transparent leds.

Monday, December 17, 2007

TIP: Pioneer PP-220A adaptors

When they were new maybe they worked well, but today it's possible that they don't make a good job fixing propertly the big reels fulled of tape. You can solve it easily...

TIP: How to add leader tape

You have already readed how to do it. But, did you watched it?...

VID: Pioneer RT-909

The supply reel is a very rare 2 holes TDK 7" metal reel. The take up reel is a 3 holes AKAI 7" metal reel.


After more than one year without any update in my old web dedicated to reel to reel machines spoted in movies, I'll post all them here, one entry for each movie, and will be other entries dedicated to different things related with reel to reel audio machines.

At the beginning of each title will be different letter keys to determine which class of entry is:

MOV: Movie
TV: TV show
DES: Description
TIP: Tip
VID: Video
REP: Repair
DOC: Document
AN: anything else