Here’s the latest acquisition for my studio… an Otari MTR10. This was purchased from Chris Mara of MaraMachines and Welcome To 1979 Studios in Nashville, TN. I saw it when I was there for the Producer’s and Engineer’s Summit. Unfortunately it violates my “large equipment rule” (don’t buy anything that’s too big to resell on eBay if you need to), but this one is worth the exception.
We had a similar MTR12TC of these at On Line Audio in Charleston, SC. It was the same machine, with the addition of a special head that laid a narrow timecode track in the center of the tape. We only used this a handful of times, and that feature isn’t quite as useful nowadays.
I’m a big fan of these machines. Their large size means they’re easy to align and maintain. Now that they are all “of a certain age,” they’ll need more care and attention than they did at my old studio (if I recall correctly, both our MTR12 and our Otari MX80 24track version were brand new. Of course, they worked like a charm.) Fortunately this machine is in fantastic condition… everything works except the return to zero function, and even though it’s non-essential, I’ll have that sorted in a few days.
This one has probably seen quite a few miles of tape through it, as it was formerly owned by Disney. The heads were at the end of their service life, so Chris had John French of JRF Magnetics put on a pair of refurbished heads. Now the record and repro spec is back up to factory standard. (JRF Magnetics was the go-to company for any kind of head work as far back as I can remember, and I was pleased to hear that they are still doing work on tape machines. I wish I’d thought to have John sign my head stack somewhere… he’s a rock star in the tape machine world.)
I’m especially excited to have this machine in my inventory. As far as I know, I’ve got the only real analog tape machine left in town, so that’s a competitive advantage. It opens up several creative options… in addition to using it as a straight mastering deck, it can also be used as a tape delay, as well as for straight tape-to-digital transfers.
There is a real difference in the sound of projects that have been mastered on analog tape. It is very subtle, but it’s there. And while plug-in emulations of tape machines are cheaper and more convenient, they aren’t the same… they will always be copies, and this is the real deal.