Ricard's vintage magnetic recording page

I've always had a fascination for reel-to-reel tape recorders. My father used to have a Butoba MT5 which I vividly remember from my childhood. Alas, this particular machine is no more, because I took it all apart many years ago. I still kept the flywheel though, which came in handy when I finally managed to get hold of another MT5.

The MT5 is a battery operated 2-track machine with 5" reels. My father bought it because wanting a tape-recorder, a standard AC-operated model was out of the question, because at the time he was living in a house with DC current only!

Anyway, the MT5 sparked off an interest in reel-to-reel recorders, which then spread to other magnetic recording media, such as wire and magnetic disk. From time to time I've picked up machines at flea markets and through ads resulting in a modest collection of working and non-working magnetic recording machines; mostly reel-to-reel recorders from the 50's, 60's and early 70's.

On these pages, I've collected some images of my Tandberg tape recorders, some early Philips machines, and some battery operated machines as well, as well as a couple of pages devoted to Butoba machines. You won't find hoards of technical data on these pages, but the odd technical info and a few personal comments thrown in.

Tape recorder help

I like receiving email on the topic of tape recorders. However, one of the most common questions I get is "I've got a recorder model so-and-so, can you repair it or point me to someone who can?". Well, in general, I can't be of much help with that one. Although I may be able to fix your recorder, shipping costs would be excessive, and the lack of spare parts for most recorders these days would mean I'd most likely just have to ship it back without doing anything. Furthermore I don't really know of any places to get your recorder fixed in your part of the world. The Get Reel site does have a short list of repair shops in the UK and US which may be useful as a starting point if nothing else. In general, if looking for a place locally, try to find a service shop which has been in the business a long time; they might have experianced personel that have worked with these machines when they were new and/or access to old stocks of spare parts.

That said, if you're trying to fix your machine yourself, I may be able to be of some assistance. I have some experiance mending these machines, and I do have have schematics and servicing info for a limited number of recorders.

In general, the biggest problem with old recorders is failing rubber belts. Finding original replacements can be impossible, but rubber belts are not rocket science; if you can find a belt for any type of audio machine (record player, video recorder etc) that fits, it will probably work fine. Rubber O-rings are another good substitute for belts, they can be found in retail stores selling spare seals and other spare parts for machinery. If you find a belt (O-ring or other) that has the wrong length, note that rubber belts can be successfully glued using cyanoacrylate glue.

With Tandberg recorders, the achilles heel is the rubber pinch roller, which usually deteriorates after several years, usually going hard and cracking up, rendering it useless. Spare parts are no longer made, although I've heard there is a chance that a new production run of pinch rollers will be made; if I find out more I'll put more info here. Alternatively, a couple of pinch roller renovating services have cropped up over the past years, both in Europe (Norway and Sweden) and in the USA. See the links section below for details.

However, Tandberg recorders use only two types of pinch roller, differing in the inner diameter of the axle, the transition period being models designed prior to versus after around 1970. So, if you can find a machine of similar vintage with a working pinch roller, chances are that you can just pinch (pun intended) the roller from the other machine. Older Tandberg pinch rollers have a thin rubber tyre on a flanged roller; I've had some success stripping off the rubber and replacing it with several O-rings. I'm note sure how this affects performance though; especially if the O-rings are twisted, it might cause the tape to creep or deform. It might help in a pinch (oops, another pun) though.

Magnetic recording links

I don't really believe in putting up lots of links just for the sake of it. The web being a dynamic place, web sites tend to come and go, keeping an up to date list tedious. I'd suggest a Google search if you're looking for something specific. Nevertheless, here are a few sites which I recommend:

The Austrailian Get Reel site, which has quite a lot of info and links to repair- and other sites. Sadly, most of the info on actual recorders is only available on CD, not on the web.

Johan van der Levin is a collector who lives not far from me. On his home page you'll find mostly radios, but also an impressive collection of tape recorders.

The Norwegian Historic Radio Society has a nice collection of pictures of Tandberg tape recorders and related info. Most of the text is in Norwegian however.

Also in Norway Lasse Hovde renovates Tandberg pinch rollers, and also sells other newly made rubber parts for Tandberg machines, such as belts and brake pads.

Josef Svalander in Sweden has an audiophile site, and also sells spare parts such as rubber belts. He also offers a pinch roller renovating service. In Swedish only.

Vintage TX in Texas, run buy a nice guy called Rolf, has some info on tape recorder restoring. He also sells refurbished recorders, spare parts, and anything else tape recorder related.

If you're in the US and need to have a pinch or indeed any other rubber roller refurbished, Terry's Rubber Rollers and Wheels offers a refurbishing service. I haven't tried it out so can't vouch for the quality put it looks very good. Alternatively, try Lasse Hovde above, who also has connections in the US.

Back to my home page.