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Bender Comments Page


These are Reel to Reel Questions, Answers, and comments, things I've posted on several discussion groups, some when people write and ask me questions.


************ COMMENTS PAGE 15 / ABOUT REEL TO REEL TAPE RECORDERS AND TAPE DECKS ************

Comment #70

From: "Asoka"

Subject: Maxell Leader Tape on 10" Reels

Date: Sun, 11 Jul 2004 11:25:21 -0700 (PDT)

Asoka wrote:

Hello All,

I have a question about Maxell Leader Tape on 10" Reels. I have finally decided to sell my many many reels on e-bay, and I am in the preperation process. I have found that some of the reels have got mixed up along the way. I wished Maxell was like TDK and would tell you what model it was right on the leader but no, they make you play a guessing game.

A rough conclusion I have come to is.

Gold = Older UD in the golden boxes

Blue = Newer UD in the black/white boxes

Brown = XLII EE Tapes In the very golden boxes (rightfully so ;-) )

But, I have no idea about LN tapes, UD-XL tapes, or XL-I or XL1 Tapes.

Now the colors I am left over with are Black (thought to be UD-XL), and Green (No clue!) and lastly Red (Which I am told is the side two on all maxell reels but I have one reel which has both red and has not been spliced)

Some insightfulness would be much appreciated with this problem.

Thank you so much in advance.

Asoka

********** And Bender Sez: **********

There were many more variations in Maxell boxes than just "Gold" and "Blue"... I can't be sure it covers it all, but:

Earliest 10.5" tapes -

Hitachi Ultra Dynamic 35-180, Dull Gold Box with top Label; tapes have "Ultra Dynamic 150" on leader. "Hitachi" label on metal reels with 3 cutouts.

Maxell LN 35-180 - Gray Box with Gray/silver Label; tapes have unmarked red/white leaders on both ends. "Maxell" on metal reels with 3 cutouts.

Maxell UD 35-180B - Dull Gold Box; Gold/Black top label; tapes have a Red Rectangle followed by "Ultra Dynamic 150" on leader. "Maxell" on metal reels with 3 cutouts.

Maxell UD 35-180 - Bright Gold/Black Box, no top label; tapes have a Gold Rectangle on leader followed by [3] 35's to the right. Two big "M" Metal Reels with 2 cutouts.

Maxell UD 35-180 - Split White on Left / Black on Right Box, no top label; tapes have a Black Rectangle followed by [3] 35's to the right alternating with [3] -> 35's. Two big "M" Metal Reels with 2 cutouts.

Maxell UD 35-180 - Gray/Black Box, no top label; 35-180 in Purple; tapes have a Black Rectangle followed by [3] 35's to the right alternating with [3] --> 35's. Two big "M" Metal Reels with 2 cutouts.

Maxell UD XL - Gold/Black Box, no top label; UD-35-180B in Purple; tapes have a Black Rectangle followed by [3] 35's on leader. Two big "M" Metal Reels with 2 cutouts.

Late Maxell UD - Blue/Black Box, no top label; UD-35-180 in Blue; tapes have a Black Rectangle followed by [5] 35's on leader. Two big "M" Metal Reels with 2 cutouts.

Late Maxell XLI - Gray/Black Box, no top label; UD-35-180B in Purple; tapes have a Black Rectangle followed by [3] 35's on leader. Two big "M" Metal Reels with 2 cutouts.

Late Maxell XLI - Silver/Black Box, no top label; UD-35-180B in Purple; Leaders have a Gray Rectangle followed by [3] 35's. Two big "M" Metal Reels with 2 cutouts.

Final Maxell UD - Blue/Black Box, no top label; UD-35-180 in Blue; 35-180(N) on splines. Barcode Label on back of the box; tapes have a Black Rectangle followed by sequences of [5] 35's on leader. Two big "M" Metal Reels with 2 cutouts.

Final Maxell XLI - Gray/Black Box, no top label; 35-180B in Gray; tapes have sequences of [4] 35's on leader. 35-180B(N) on splines. Two big "M" Metal Reels with 2 cutouts. Barcode Label on back of box.

"EE" Tapes - All EE Tapes seem to be in Gold and Black boxes, with "EE" denotations, with Brown designations on leaders.

A few more LN and UD variations are seen for 7" reels ( more of the Silver/Black boxes ? ) so maybe they also exist for the larger sized reels too.

--

Steven L. Bender, Designer of Vintage Audio Equipment



Comment #71

From: "Gibson Netto"

Subject: GX-365D and Tape Problems

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2004 16:31:38 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Steven, Appreciate your help very much and all the details. Am truly happy to inform you that all systems are working just great. I will put all the blame on me alone for being a cheapskate in buying those ex - US government surplus tapes on eBay. Rotten stuff that coated all the heads, guides and rollers with thick brown muck. Perhaps some of the stuff (ferric oxide?) was already there when I received the unit.

When I first played a pre-recorded tape sound came out okay on both channels (using headphones) but not the best though. Then I tried a recording with one of those horrible govt tapes and it was after that that I got sound only on one side on playback and that too more muffled than when I had earlier played the pre-recorded tape. You can guess how disappointed I felt after all the waiting.

Then I thought let me check and do what I should have done in the first place which was to have a look at the heads. Believe me, all 3 heads were thickly coated with the brown stuff. Looking at them you would think the heads were manufactured colored brown. Well, I got down to work immediately with the set laid flat down for better accessibility to the heads and other 'polluted' parts. Did not have head cleaning solution. Only substitute I could think of was my Jack Daniels.

Using some face cleansing cotton pads and generous dabs of JD I worked on the heads gently. Took quite some time to get everthing in the tape's travel path cleaned up. The stuff on the heads especially was really stubborn and cleaning them till they shone took a very long time as not much pressure was used so as to avoid any damage. Finally when I had everything nice and shiny, and a fervent prayer being offered, I tried the pre-recorded tape and oh my God! What a huge, huge, difference.

I got excellent sound on both channels, crisp, clear and loud. With that done, and feeling very happy indeed, I opened up one of the brand new (sealed in box) Scotch reels (also eBay) to try out the recording operation. Again, I was highly elated with the result of the playback. It was of excellent quality even on h/phones. All the time, since it arrived, the set has been sitting on the dinner table so I could do things with it conveniently.

Not that the family objected too much as eating in front of the TV has become quite the norm in our household. Well, today I moved it to the place I had reserved for it among the home entertainment system. Connected it to the amp; and with a generous mix of Jack Daniels and Coke, for me this time, I sat back to relax and enjoy some glorious sound produced by this 'old man'. So now I can happily announce that I have no regrets at all with the purchase.

I had done the 'stamina' tests earlier with near-continuous runs of about 5 hour durations and the unit ran okay. Used those govt tapes for that and which no doubt contributed to the muck build-up. Unit does get a bit hot on the top but I can place the palm of my hand touching the grill at the hottest sections left and right for prolonged periods with no great discomfort. As for the ventilating fan on the rear it runs okay but I don't get a strong draft coming out, just a slight whiff.

Is this normal? The grill for this fan is extremely dusty/dirty but I have not done any cleaning there yet. Am wondering if a vacuum cleaner with small nozzle attachment is advisable for the job. I think the insides must be quite dusty too but into that on another day when I have the service manual as a guide. Coming to manuals, I feel I can go ahead with getting them from you as they will be needed now that the unit is going to be for keeps.

Just one other thing Steve before I close. Would you consider it a good idea to have one of those small ventilator box fans (about the size of those in computers) for more effective heat removal? An exhaust fan as such can be plugged to the a/c outlet at the rear of the set. Thanks very much for your help and I hope to hear from you when time and convenience permit.

Best wishes from a happy Akai GX-365D owner.

Sincerely, Gibson Netto

PS 1: Haven't tried mic recording yet. For me it will be of no real use but my son appeared quite interested when I mentioned the SOS feature. He's quite into music and might want to try being a one-man band!! Anyways I am confident that the mic recording, like the other features now, will work okay.

PS 2: Govt tapes safely deposited in trash bin.

********** And Bender Sez: **********

Hi Gibson -

Yes, what you encountered is called "sticky shed"; and such tapes abound. Most likely when record companies were pulling out their older late 1970's / early 1980's master tapes to re-record things for the newfangled Compact Discs in the mid-1980's the studio's and record companies suddenly encountered this massive "problem".

I'm not quite sure what tapes you have when you referred to "US Government Surplus Tapes", but sticky-shed syndrome affected many quality tapes so they easily give up their oxide and cause excessive friction, and muck up the heads and tape paths. If I didn't previously mention the extreme need for cleaning the tape path, well kudos to you for doing it.

Best as I can figure, the problem started when the environmentalists caused whale oil to become unavailable. This being used as a chemical in the making of tape binder, is what causes the oxide to stay stuck to the plastic or polyester "tape" part. Tape manufacturers, in substituting a new synthetic chemical as part of the tape binder didn't know it then, but the average readings they were getting for a mix of the amount of short chain to long chain hydrocarbon chemicals within the "mix" was wrong.

As a result, in many late 1970's and into the mid-1980's, tape batches that resulted from the bad "mix" over time, became hydroscopic - absorb moisture from the air, and turn to goo! Said goo is called "sticky shed" which easily sheds the oxide, causes excessive friction, and can stop most tape decks dead in their tracks... ( pun intended )!~!

Last week, I played one reel of Ampex 406 on my GX-650D, this is a monster, dual-capstan deck, which can play almost any sticky-shed tape, due to the pull of those dual-capstans, but can't rewind or fast forward them, due to the excessive friction. Anyway that one reel of tape left a lot of tape path residue, unknown to me at the time, which then got loose, and gunked up some spots on a subsequent reel that followed.

Unfortunately, those newly gunky areas caused a later non-sticky-shed reel's tape to break during fast winding when it suddenly hit a newly gunky spot, and well, its both a known problem, and its a real reel annoyance! Repeatedly rubbing the affected area on the oxide and non-oxide sides with a paper towel doused with alcohol can remove new "gunky spots", if you only have a few!

Many Ampex tapes were "sticky-shed" affected, also some from Sony, Scotch, and others. I've even got some pre-recordered reel tapes which can bring a 3 motor deck to a screeching halt... In general, the following tapes are most likely unaffected by "sticky shed" syndrome - Maxell LN or UD, TDK Audua in silver or black box, Fuji or Scotch 150, 206, 207.

Some later TDK LX or TDK GX reels tend to shed little white specs, but this might be unrelated to sticky shed, as it doesn't cause friction, or oxide shed, and the cause is unknown. Some, but not all "backcoated" tapes also have another problem related to creep of the backcoating, when the tape is tightly wound, which then forms whiskers and globs at the tape edges sticking consecutive layers of tape together, and also causing glob areas on the back of tape similar to sticky shed gunky spots.

As you can guess, these also cause friction problems, also gumming up the tape path, and then sticking onto the oxide side of the tape, causing areas of gunky tape, but in this case its not brown oxide, its black backcoating... While the Jack Daniels was a good idea, it contains many other impurities, so I'd suggest getting either 91% alcohol, or 100% alcohol to perform head cleaning.

Also the video head cleaning "chamois sticks" which are a bit expensive, usually about nearly $1. apiece, are excellent for the job, but "Q" tips are almost as good, and lots cheaper. The fan on the GX-365D is attached to the capstan motor, and its a bit smallish, and doesn't blow appreciable air. As a result, the set does heat up a bit, since its high energy pull is due to used of so many power relays to control its functions.

Using an external 3 1/4" fan or two on the top heat vent certainly wouldn't hurt things, and could cool the innerds down by a few degree's at least. Most small computer fans run on 12 Volts DC. using one on AC or at ten times the voltage would produce fire and smoke, I'm sure! So finding small box fans that run on 120 Volts AC might be quite a task, but not impossible.

While a stereo recording in real time will produce results just fine; using the SOS feature will only produce stereo tracks that are "out-of-sync", but can be fun to produce a mono recording of a single track, with multiple iterations of things. This is caused by the physical gap between the record and play heads, and the time it takes the tape to traverse between them. It can be used to produce interesting echo effects.

Only the upper-end later 4 channel decks have what is called Simult-Sync ( Akai actually called it Quadra-Sync ) to line up subsequent tracks with prior recorded material.

Hope that helps,

Steven L. Bender, Designer of Vintage Audio Equipment



Comment #72

From: "Dorathy"

Subject: RT-909 Take-up motor "gets hot during play and torque measurement adjustment"

Date: Sun, 25 Jul 2004 16:12:40 -0700

Hi, Steven. I have a Pioneer RT-909. During tape play, the right (as you're facing the deck) reel motor gets very, very hot (almost can't touch it) after about 15 -20 minutes of play. Deck does not shut down and seems to work fine otherwise.

I have had two responses from the "reel_to_reel" user group that suggested that there may be a defective cap in the phase advance circuit that makes the motor run, a stuck relay is causing excessive (fast-wind) torque on the motor, or the "take-up" torque and back tension torque adjustments are off.

This last suggestion would be the easiest to eliminate as causing the problem. I have a service manual for the RT-909 and the adjustment is straight-forward. The measurement is a little vague, though. The manual shows a diagram of two tension guages attached to the reel/platter but not how they are attached. Have you ever made this type of adjustment/measurement (how do you do it) and can anything else beside two tension guages be used to make this check?

Have you any other suggestions as to what can be making this motor run hot? The supply motor just gets warm, which I assume is normal. Thanks in advance for any comments.

********** And Bender Sez: **********

Lets face it, big motors get hot. This might not be a problem, but I have to admit I've not done a termperature / versus time measure on the motors of my RT-909, but that is why those vent holes in the case are there.

While precision tension gauges cost in the many hundreds of dollar range, some small inexpensive Ohaus spring scales, also known as fish scales, with 0 - 200g / 0 - 500g / 0 - 2000g ( 0-2Kg ) scales and they are fast, quite inexpensive, and accurate and these can be used for all tape tension measurements.

Wind some garbage tape on a 5" or 7" reel, out to about a nominal 60 mm overall diameter; then loop the open end back over itself and tape it with some scotch tape, magic mending tape, or double sided tape so it sticks to itself and is terminated in about a 1/2" to 3/4" loop that the test end of the fish scale can grab onto... It should be possible to do all Reel to Reel tension measurements with those three scales, mine cost me around $25. for the three of them several years ago.

It should be noted that in the RT-909 Service Manual under section 7.3 Take-Up Torque and BackTension Torque adjustments... Pioneer suggests 240-260g for the 10.5" reel setting, and 140-160g for 7" reels on Torque and 95-105g for backtension numbers which are considerably higher than those used in many other brands. My own thinking is that these numbers facilitated both good tape to head contact, and also contributed to very significant head wear.

That may have been OK back in the 1980's when RT-909 tape heads were cheap and available... But, now pioneer no longer stocks them and the resulting 1500 hour head life at rated tension means your machine can too become a doorstop! So I'd ease back on those heavy numbers to under 200g for 10.5 inch reels; under 100g for 7 inch reels in Take-Up Torque, and 75g for BackTension and if no problems ensue, maybe you can get back to the 2000 hours head life you should have had on this set.

Of course, an Akai GX-650D or GX-400D does also have a dual capstan tape moving system, and three speeds, and the glass covered heads have much longer head life, maybe ten to fifty times longer, but not those beautiful blue flourescent VU meters and tape counter. Well you can't have everything...

All those are possible, and one can feel by hand if the tape tension on the right reel is normal or excessive, or if the tape is being stretched...

As for suggestions on the problem, well, it may just be normal. Make sure those vent holes above the reel motors are not blocked by dust or obstructions, don't dump a load of magazines on there.

The stuck relay scenario is certainly possible, and so is mal-adjustment if some numb-nut-techie-wanna-be has previously re-adjusted those internal pots during the prior twenty years. And the set could ruin and stretch tapes if that is happening, so I'd take the time to check it out.

Steven L. Bender, Designer of Vintage Audio Equipment



Comment #73

From: Tom Roff

Subject: What's a good reel-to-reel to buy?

Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 20:56:52 -0700 (PDT)

Tom Roff wrote: I have an old Sony TC-730 that I purchased while in the Navy back in 1972. It no longer works, yet I have cases and cases of old reel-to-reel tapes that I recorded during a WestPac cruise to Vietnam. I would like to purchase a good used machine from Ebay, and would like suggestions from someone who really knows the reel-to-reel machines, as to what would be a really reliable machine and what price range I should bid for one on Ebay. Can anyone help??

Thanks - Tom

********** And Bender Sez: **********

The Sony 730 was a great design, but quite awful implementation of the high-end TC-580. Awful, I've preached about this sets problems in at least two archive posts. My own, new from the box, lasted 6 months and then spent the rest of the 3 year warranty period in the shop!

Its true that all Reel to Reel sets have their shortcomings, which is why cassettes, CD's, and then Ipods have taken over. Still, despite most RTR brands being "orphans", and well beyond their "design life", some minority of sets will still give great service, and well into the forseeable future.

Here is my take on the Reel to Reel "consumer" sets: I don't much care for single motor units, too many friction feeds, rubber wheelies, belts, and springs to wreck havoc and fail twenty, thirty, or forty years later. So unless you plan on spending a fortune getting it rebuilt - often, so FORGET ABOUT: the Sony TC-200, TC-250A, TC-252D, TC-255, TC-300, TC-350, TC-353, TC-355, TC-366, TC-440, TC-521, TC-530, TC-630, and similar sets, also forget about all of the Akai 2000, 3000, 4000 series or X-anything series, and pretty much any similar Akai with two operational knobs. Forget the Tandberg Model 12, the 64, 64x, 3000 Series, 6000 Series, and pretty much anything that weighs in the 10 to 30 lb. region. Any set that you don't know the manufacturer, you won't get parts. Also Teacs in the A-1000, A-1200, A-1500, and A-20x0 series even tho most of those are 3 motor units.

Sets that might still be usable but are not 10" reel monsters, we have left: the Sony TC-280, or TC-377, two later single motor sets, if you must. In 3 motor sets, the Sony TC-558, TC-640, TC-645, TC-650, and TC-651, TC-660 (if you want a set w/amps & speakers); the Akai GX-230D, GX-255, GX-260D, GX-265D, GX-266D, GX-267D, GX-270D, GX-280D-ss, GX-297D-ss, GX-365D, GX-365 (w/amps & speakers); the Pioneer RT-707; Tandberg's 9000x, 9100x, and 9200x, Sansui's 5000 series and SD-7000; Teac's A-2300sx, A-4070G, A-4010GSL, A-4300SX, are among the more commonly seen sets that I can recommend, but each has its shortcomings, some are spartan, some have lots of frills. I don't have much of an opinion on the later Teac X-3, X-7R, X-10, X-10R, X-1000R, X-2000R, sorry, you have to get to know someone who has greater experience with them.

Each of the above sets has its "failure modes". For some, its head wear, later Tandbergs seems to have less of that than earlier units, in the Tandbergs, the crossfield head seems to be a recording weakness, its meahanism gets stuck and the set no longer records. Sets with ferrite heads usually last much longer than ordinary permalloy heads; and the Akai GX heads can last longer than humans ( subject to wear to a smaller degree ).

All Reel to Reel sets can have break downs, with worn heads and tape guides being the number one item to watch out for. Today in general, more than half the sets seen on ebay will have one or more current failures, even more likely than not, after shipping to your location, it will not work. Also notice I did not include Akai's GX-266II, or GX-77 since most of those seem to be failing in huge numbers, while the earlier GX-265D, GX-266D, and GX-267D seem to rarely fail and rarely have problems. Pioneer sets may have rubber pinch rollers that turn to goo; I've not seen this in Akai's, Sony's, or Sansui's. Sansui's are massive and heavy, and are not so often seen. Some Sony's have plug-in boards whose edge-connectors can break during shipping; these can also be found in some older Akai's, while some later Akai's have transistors that get noisy with age, and fail. So, yes, many pitfalls can still await you.

Best deal is the most expensive one - get a set which has been tested and certified to a set of performance standards - given an overhaul, which also includes extensive functional testing, including: speed test; unweighted and weighted wow and flutter; record and playback frequency response; distortion tests; and signal to noise ratio; as well as tuning it to a specific tape - the one that you plan to primarily use. In this way you have a reasonable degree of certainty that it will meet its performance specifications in the reasonable future. -- Steven L. Bender, Designer of Vintage Audio Equipment



Comment #74

From: Frank Dolan

Subject: Akai GX270D -Playback Problems

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 09:22:24 -0700 (PDT)

My machine functions normally when replaying the front side of any reel, however when it goes into reverse mode the tape slips off,the playback picks up speed and I just get a loud garbled noise. Only when most of the tape has been rewound will I be able to obtain normal playback on the reverse side. Any ideas for rectifying this.

********** And Bender Sez: **********

Most times this is mechanical in nature, where the rubber pinch roller has been coated in oxide particles, and over time has turned slick. A very fine sandpaper taken to the rubber PR rotating surface will often help, then clean the same surface using 91% alcohol, or better yet 99% clean on a triple folded up paper towel.

This can also be due to insufficient take-up torque by the takeup reel; or even excessive winding torque where the take-up reel in the reverse direction, has excessive pull and literally yanks the tape right out from in between the rotating capstan and pinch roller. This can stretch and damage tapes irreparably. This can also be caused by stuck together relay contacts or some other failure inside the set. Don't ruin your tapes! Get the set serviced.

Steven L. Bender, Designer of Vintage Audio Equipment



Comment #75

FROM: "DORATHY" ( goblin2@earthlink.net )

Subject: RT-909 Hot Motor Revisited

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 11:29:38 -0400

Hi, Steven. Is it possible that "sticky" tape (that, BTW is leaving a lot of residue on my playback head) can be causing the Take-up motor heat problem. Didn't seem to affect the supply motor at all, temperature wise, forward or reverse play.

Also didn't seem to get as hot with a 7" reel tape at 3-3/4 ips (approx. 20 minutes of play, stop, reverse play at 7-1/2 ips for rewind) as it does when a 10-1/2" tape is played at 7-1/2 ips after approximately 20 minutes of play. Just a thought.

********** And Bender Sez: **********

I kinda doubt that. Sets using 10.5" reels would dissipate more heat when using them because a full 10.5" reel is way heavier than a 7" reel. Sticky-Shed tape will typically stop most single capstan sets dead in its tracks at some point, but I've run some 10.5" reels of Sticky-Shed Ampex 406 on my Akai GX-650D which much like the RT-909, has dual capstans, and yes, it played it, and yes, it gunked up the heads, but I didn't encounter any extra heat from the reel motors in doing so.

Steven L. Bender, Designer of Vintage Audio Equipment



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Last Update - July 28th, 2004 11:30 PM.


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