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scullyfan

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Posts: 1,568 Member Since: 27/07/2011

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Apr 19 17 11:33 AM

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I was helping a friend of mine yesterday and he asked me if I wanted any old tape machines. This guy owns a dozen radio stations and basically just wants to get rid of the old analog equipment that they don't use anymore. I previously took a couple of Otari 5050 MkII and a MKIII machine off his hands, but I wasn't prepared for what he had in the basement. Hiding in the corner under some old banker boxes were two Ampex 440 machines. A quick inspection of the machines indicated missing electronics and an erase head on one machine and one complete machine with the pieces scattered in several different spots. I've worked on tape machines for years, primarily Scully 280-series and the older 350/351 Ampex machines. The 440s are of course newer than the 350/351, but I have no experience with them. Since this is the BEST place to ask, does anyone here think fixing these machines up would be worth it?

BTW, I'm not looking forward to trying to get them out of the basement, they are EXTREMELY heavy.
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soapfoot

Ruby Baby

Posts: 7,207 Member Since:04/02/2011

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Apr 19 17 4:41 PM

We had a 1/4" 440 around for awhile, and I have a 1" 8 track 440 sitting to my right as I type, which doesn't really get used truth be told. But when we had the 2 track (before the two ATR102s came in), it did get used from time to time.

The 440 is an interesting machine... not quite as old-school as a 351, but not a modern machine like an ATR102, either. Kind of a 'tweener.

It does have a sound-- a rather big, characteristic sound. It's got a form of that classic Ampex "larger than life" thing. Repro definitely does NOT sound like input, but I wouldn't exactly call it "lo-fi." More "euphonic." Not a lot of precision in the transport... it relies on brute strength, whereas the swiss machines rely on precision and engineering. A 440 in fast-wind is a terrifying thing to behold.

It sort of has all the attributes that make one generation of engineers relieved to no longer use tape, and also all of the things that make another generation fascinated with and attracted to tape (if that makes sense).

I wouldn't want to use one as my main 2-track machine, but it's definitely cool to have around as a "flavor." It sounds "burly." It would be appropriate especially if you're working on some period music, or a mix where you want to impart some euphonic coloration and make "technicolor." Also would likely be really cool as a tape slapback machine, though I never used ours in that capacity.

I modified ours-- I took all of the tantalum caps out and replaced them with WIMA metallized film caps where possible, and Nichicon KZ electrolytics where the films would've been too big. Definitely opened up the machine a bit in terms of making it a little more "hi fi," but perhaps lost some of its signature "grit."

brad allen williams

Last Edited By: soapfoot Apr 19 17 4:43 PM. Edited 1 time.

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scullyfan

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Posts: 1,568 Member Since:27/07/2011

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Apr 19 17 5:06 PM

Thanks Brad, I'm sure they're going to need a lot of work just to be able to play back a tape and I'm thinking I probably have more productive things to do with my time. Still, they sure would look really cool sitting in the control room.

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soapfoot

Ruby Baby

Posts: 7,207 Member Since:04/02/2011

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Apr 19 17 7:55 PM

The thing about these is, they're sort of like an old Chevy. Hard to totally kill, easy to work on, easy to put back together. If the motors are good and the heads are decent, it might not be the hugest restoration project.

Good luck whatever you decide!

brad allen williams

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seth

Ruby Baby

Posts: 5,531 Member Since:26/01/2011

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I had a line on one years ago, a 1/2" stereo machine, that I was going to buy for $250.00. It got stolen the night before I went to pick it up.

I also had a Scully 280 1/2" stereo machine for a while, that was truly terrifying in fast wind.

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waltzingbear

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Posts: 1,231 Member Since:16/07/2012

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you ain't seen nothin' til you've seen a Magnegord PT-6 in rewind. Still got all your fingers?

Brad's summation pretty much covers it. There are several incarnations of the 440, from just barely above the 351 to a tension controlled, servo capstan machine (440C)

Alan

Alan Garren
Waltzing Bear Audio

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chetdelcampo

Silverado

Posts: 101 Member Since:27/03/2013

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waltzingbear wrote:
you ain't seen nothin' til you've seen a Magnegord PT-6 in rewind. Still got all your fingers?

Brad's summation pretty much covers it. There are several incarnations of the 440, from just barely above the 351 to a tension controlled, servo capstan machine (440C)

Alan

Those Magnecord PT6's are a personal fave tube pre, post a few mods here & there. I like to keep that on the down low, ha.

I agree that Brad's summation is right on. 

I'll only add fwiw that we're a few weeks away from a little 440 restoration here.
I got it from the old long view farms MA (Gil Markle's wife, a lovely woman).

Dan (good guy from ATR) has been helping get it into good shape w/o going too crazy on superfluous mods. Basic card electrolytics (see below) some bearings and transport attention. Retaining values on the cards can be preferable IMO for keeping its sonic size in tact. 

Advisable to change out the 15 uF cap on the record card.  On the bias cards, one should replace the output transistors, 2n2102s.  Same thing applys to the outputs on the Repro cards.-Ultimately, "transport integrity" & heads are more-so of significance-

  I got lucky in that this one (440B 1/2") came with 1/4" heads that John French said were very close to new.  I just got some very good 1/2" heads as well. The motor is in really good shape I'm told. It was a compromise. I wanted a 8 tk 1" but after much soul searching decided that 1/2" 4trk would be more practical in considering maintenance ...+ for tracking, I could make 1/2" 4 work (in my case anyway) ...dumping straight to DAW. Could also save on tape using 1/4" if simply doing 1-2 trk overdubs & straight to DAW.
For mixing, of course 1/4" 2 trk if needed. Sometimes wins, sometimes not. After all, it's a workflow choice mostly IMO and the sense of "uping the game" in the moment of capturing performances that matters to me.  

Ultimately, there's no holding one back sonically (w/o tape) if you have enough HW, good converters and a few skills.
Of which I have much less than most good folks around here.

Last Edited By: chetdelcampo . Edited 3 times.

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