Akai reel-to-reel (and other tape machines)

The reel-to-reel came second hand from Chris the DJ who I mainly hung around with so I could fondle his amplifiers and Akai reel to reelloudspeakers. I have no idea what caused me to be drawn to amplification equipment but it's a financially crippling weakness I have never overcome.

It was your standard 7 inch reel, quarter inch tape, stereo model. The track width was 1/16 of an inch per channel so half the tape width was used for the stereo recording and you could turn the reels over at the end of side one and record two more tracks going the other way.

Much of our mastering was done to this machine and then copy cassettes run off from it. I can't remember how we did it but Mark and I each had a master tape of the various cassette albums so we could distribute cassettes from our two locations. Perhaps we just compiled all the various tracks twice to make two master tapes, though as we sometimes added things during mastering there must have been more to it than that…

[I can answer that. We would purchase two master reels for each cassette. During the mastering session, Side One of the cassette would be mastered onto one reel and Side Two onto the other. Then the opposite sides would be copied from one reel to the other. What this meant was that I would have a reel containing, say, the original master of Side One and a copy of Side Two and Protag would have the reel containing the original of Side Two and a copy of Side One. Well, it seemed to make sense at the time. - Mark]

I still have most of those reel-to-reel tapes but lent the machine to someone in the mid eighties and have been too embarrassed to ask for it back due to the (quite reasonable) possibility that he's thrown it away, so much time having passed.

I actually bought another machine to play the tapes on but it needs a new head and they're hard to find nowadays…

When I got the Teac four track it came with a massive Brennell valve two-track which used the full width of the tape for the two tracks - but it was a bit temperamental; we did master songs onto it but the compiled "production masters" for cassettes remained as 7 inch (or 5 inch for C60s) reels on the Akai domestic format.

The last few tracks on "Not So Deep…" were recorded on the Teac and often we'd mix to stereo and put the master tape from the Brennell onto the Teac where the sound would (mainly) emerge from channels 1 and 3, allowing us to record overdubs onto 2 and 4. The hiss from the two machines (and the 741s in the mixers) was amazing and an incredible job has been done of reducing it on the CD.

Years later (as the saying goes) I gave the Teac away as it had been so extensively borrowed the heads were almost worn out and, with the Portastudio boom in full swing, repairs were not economical (even if the funds had been available).

The Brennell was left behind in the basement with the bass pedals, trumpet, Transcendant 2000 synthesiser, valve Watkins Copicat and countless other possessions; but that was a post-Instant Automatons calamity of no importance here, except as an explanation for the lack of photographs.

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