Finally there is a page on Butoba tape recorders on the web (namely, this one)!
Many a time have I visited Google or Altavista, and entered "Butoba" as the
search word, only to come up with a small list of very few pages, most of them
just referring to Butoba in passing.
So what about Butoba then?
Butoba was the brand name for a small German tape recorder manufacturing
company back in the 1950's and early 1960's. The actual name of the
company was at first Josef Burger Söhne (Josef Burger Sons), later
The name Butoba comes from from Burger Tonbandgerät,
German for 'Burger Tape Recorder'.
Back in those days it was not impossible for a company with no background
in the field of audio to
manufacture equipment of this type, and compete with the big brands like
Philips or Grundig, although usually it was in a specialized area; in the case
of Butoba, it was battery-operated tape recorders, an area into which the
larger makes had not yet ventured. Early Butoba recorders used
and battery tubes, with later models using electric motors and being
transistorized. I've tried to place Butoba into the history of
magnetic recording on my
Butoba history page.
Butoba machines were renowned for their quality of sound; as a matter
of fact, two of the about seven web pages coming up when doing a web
search on Butoba mention that the recorder was used for taping
nature sounds and voices of indigenous peoples.
This is probably mostly true of the
MT5, which had a massive brass flywheel
to keep the speed constant. Oddly however, on the Butobas, the record bias
frequency is quite low, just above 30 kHz, which doesn't usually result
in a clear sound. Butoba tended to use their own record and playback
equalization curves which might have added to the clarity of sound.
What about the interest?
Well, when I was young, my father used to have a Butoba MT5. It is now sadly
demised, taken to bits by an eager 10-year old who was not content to note that
the alarm clock just ticked and rung occasionally. My fathers reason for
getting a battery operated machine was unusual but simple: in the early 1960's
he lived in Stockholm, Sweden, and while most of the country had AC mains at
that time, he lived in an apartment block which actually had DC mains! Mains
operated tape recorders always have a mains transformer, and in those days were
always driven by asynchronous motors operating at the mains frequency, so a
simple inverter to convert DC to AC would not have been feasible. Radios of
that day were different; many tube radios were of an AC-DC design, with no
mains transformer; the mains was simply rectified and used as a B+ voltage; the
tube filaments being connected in series and connected to the mains. (This was
also a standard design for tube televisions, where a mains transformer of the
required power rating would have added significantly to the weight and cost of
a television receiver).
At any rate, when I grew up, there was the Butoba. We sent tapes
at Christmas time to my relatives in Canada - in those days, phoning
across the Atlantic was not just a question of picking up the
receiver (jeez, I'm sounding like an old man now :-), my mother
recorded stories for me, my parents recorded my sister's and my own
first words with it. From time to time, it was there, with it's 5" reels
turning calmly at a tape speed of 3 3/4 ips.
A common feature of all Butobas is the DM71 indicator tube. It was used even on
the transistorized models, in which the anode voltage of about 70 or 80 volts
is generated by rectifying the output from a special winding on the bias/erase
oscillator coil. Back in those days, an indicator tube was cheaper than a
moving-coil meter, and had the added benifits of being intrinsically peak
reading and having its own illumination.
DM71 indicator tube, showing 'no signal'
Unlike the larger indicator tubes used in mains operated recorders, the image
shown on the DM71 is just a thin line and a dot. In the Butoba, the line is
at its longest when there is no signal, a larger and larger signal causing
the line to get shorter and shorter, with the line being completely
extinguished at the point of tape overload. This is contrary to some
applications where the line starts out at nothing and grows with the input
Butoba Tape Recorders
My own collection of Butobas is comprised of a couple of
clockwork-driven machines and a couple of
Click on the thumbnails for more information and pictures!
(Clockwork motor, tube electronics, around 1955)
(Clockwork motor, transistorized, around 1959)
(Two electric motors, transistorized, around 1960)
Other Butoba machines
I have not been able to find very much info on any Butoba machines. Apart
from the ones in my collection, I know of the following machines. You'll
find pictures of some of them on my
Butoba history page.
If you have any info on any of these or other Butoba recorders, or have
any experiences to share, or have a recorder you would like to sell or trade,
or accessories (microphones, power supplies,
manuals, Butoba brand reels etc), please
drop me a line !
- "Butoba". The first Butoba didn't have a model name, it was
named quite simply, Butoba (I have also seen this machine referred to as
Battery operated all-tube recorder, with clockwork motor. Three tape heads.
Two tape speeds (9.5 cm/s and the non-standard 6.3 cm/s; most likely
the drive couldn't accommodate two standard speeds).
In contrast to the later clockwork machines, it lacks a running time counter
and external power input. Released in 1954.
- TPR2. Battery-operated all-tube recorder, with clockwork motor.
Most likely identical to the "Export", but with different speeds
(9.5 cm/s and 4.75 cm/s instead of 19 cm/s and 9.5 cm/s),
possibly with an updated mechanical chassis of the same type as the
transistorized models (TS6, TS61 etc).
Released in 1957.
- TS6. Battery-operated transistorized recorder with clockwork motor.
Predecessor of the TS61, the main difference probably being
an older amplifier design (the TS61 uses the same electronics as the
MT4 and MT5). Released in 1957.
- TS7,TS71. Semi-professional versions of the TS6 and TS61,
with full-track recording and higher tape speeds (the TS7 has only a single
speed though). Released in 1957 and 1958 respectively.
Predecessor of the MT5. Virtually identical, but with a
differently colored case (and controls), and some minor mechanical
changes. Released in 1959.
- MT5 S. Similar to the MT5 but with removable power amplifier
(8 or 18 watts depending on type) which fits in battery compartment.
- MT7. Small battery-operated transistorized recorder with electric
motor; maximum reel diameter 3". Released around 1962.
Sales brochure (with schematics!) here.
- MT22,MT225. Semi-professional battery-operated recorder with
3 motors, 3 heads and 3 speeds, and electronic touch control. Actually not a
true Butoba, as the machine was designed and built by the Franz Eben company
in Dachau. The MT22 was launched in 1964 but appearantly never reached
production and was later re-launched as the MT225 in 1966. I've never seen
one of these (although I have the schematics for one) so it remains to be
seen if it ever made it to production.
And a special thank you to all you who have already sent me pictures
and other information on your Butoba machines; I really appreciate it!
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