I now own a piece of rock and roll history-Wilco's 16 track reel to reel!

KaatheSnake

KaatheSnake

Senior Audioholic
Let me start this thread with the link above.
A couple weeks ago, I saw a sale ad pop up on Reverb. I was in the search for one of these machines. I found this legendary piece of equipment at a great price and had my finger on the trigger and ready to purchase it.
I then started reading the description, and saw some words I thought I'd never read. The machine belonged to Jay Bennett of the alternative rock band Wilco!
I then contacted the owner, who turned out to be the up and coming rock star Neal Francis! He got me in touch with his manager, Brendan, and we got the sale good to go!
It turns out the machine was originally owned by Leroy Bach, who was the keyboardist for Wilco, and he used it in their famous Loft studio for first demos of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, their breakthrough album.
After Jay Bennett's departure from Wilco, Leroy Bach sold it to him and it was used in his Pieholden Suite Sound Studio with engineer Matt Dewine for a while until Jay's unfortunate passing.
I do not know how Neal Francis got ownership of the machine, though I believe it was from help from Mike Novak at the Chicago Electric Piano Company.
Anyway, thanks for reading my thread!
Ryan
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Overlord
I watched the video included in that ad. That thing is insane. There's so much going on just to slide a tape across a head. Such a complicated, intricate piece of equipment.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Slumlord
If you haven't received it yet and think you'll be able to move it without help, call a friend. I helped move the 8 track version and just the base took two of us to get it to the basement, even without the meters.

Thank you, Les Paul- that guy was ahead of his time.
 
Eppie

Eppie

Senior Audioholic
I watched the video included in that ad. That thing is insane. There's so much going on just to slide a tape across a head. Such a complicated, intricate piece of equipment.
It's not as bad as you would think. You probably saw the photo with the cover removed exposing the tape heads. The tape runs on the outside below the heads, guide pins and rollers, so you only have to thread it between the capstan and pinch roller and around the two tensioning wheels above. The pinch roller is the rubber wheel on the right which engages the white capstan which is below it to the right. The capstan is what drives the tape and you can see some of the particle build up on it. They need to be regularly maintained. The two tensioning wheels above keep the tape taught against the heads and prevent slack on the reels.

Beautiful machine. At that performance level there is likely no measurable wow and flutter (a term that only applies to tape decks and turntables). With the right electronics to reduce tape hiss they can sound very good.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Overlord
It's not as bad as you would think. You probably saw the photo with the cover removed exposing the tape heads. The tape runs on the outside below the heads, guide pins and rollers, so you only have to thread it between the capstan and pinch roller and around the two tensioning wheels above. The pinch roller is the rubber wheel on the right which engages the white capstan which is below it to the right. The capstan is what drives the tape and you can see some of the particle build up on it. They need to be regularly maintained. The two tensioning wheels above keep the tape taught against the heads and prevent slack on the reels.

Beautiful machine. At that performance level there is likely no measurable wow and flutter (a term that only applies to tape decks and turntables). With the right electronics to reduce tape hiss they can sound very good.
Scroll through the images. One of them is a video of it in action.
 
Eppie

Eppie

Senior Audioholic
Scroll through the images. One of them is a video of it in action.
Yes, I did have a look at the video as well. Beauty in motion. :) Tascam also made a lot of 4 track reel to reels that were popular with musicians writing music. I've seen a few of those but I've only worked once in a professional recording studio.
 
KaatheSnake

KaatheSnake

Senior Audioholic
If you haven't received it yet and think you'll be able to move it without help, call a friend. I helped move the 8 track version and just the base took two of us to get it to the basement, even without the meters.

Thank you, Les Paul- that guy was ahead of his time.
I brought it up 20 stairs to my recording studio in my aunt and uncle's garage apartment.
I carried it up by taking the transport and the preamp module out of the stand and then toting them separately (and gingerly) up the stairs.
I then put it back together once again slowly but surely, then, I was done!
 
KaatheSnake

KaatheSnake

Senior Audioholic
I watched the video included in that ad. That thing is insane. There's so much going on just to slide a tape across a head. Such a complicated, intricate piece of equipment.
It's a very unique piece of equipment with a ton of history! It has such a great sound to it!
Here's a video of me playing back some drums I recorded on it with three mics; two overhead condensers and one bass mic.
 
KaatheSnake

KaatheSnake

Senior Audioholic
Yes, I did have a look at the video as well. Beauty in motion. :) Tascam also made a lot of 4 track reel to reels that were popular with musicians writing music. I've seen a few of those but I've only worked once in a professional recording studio.
Those were common in project studios back in the day. I have one; the TEAC A3340S.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Overlord
The tape runs on the outside below the heads, guide pins and rollers, so you only have to thread it between the capstan and pinch roller and around the two tensioning wheels above.
I wasn't thinking so much about threading of the tape as just the entire rest of the machine that drives it all. There's a lot going on inside and out just to spin a couple of wheels and read the tape.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Hey Ryan, congrats on the killer setup....that should test your maintenance skills eh?
 
Eppie

Eppie

Senior Audioholic
I wasn't thinking so much about threading of the tape as just the entire rest of the machine that drives it all. There's a lot going on inside and out just to spin a couple of wheels and read the tape.
I guess having serviced tape decks I'm just used to all of the mechanics involved. I would actually wager that mechanically it is more simple inside than most cassette decks. Cassette decks typically run off of one serpentine belt and use gearing inside to turn the take up reels and tape counter. That monster likely has separate motors for the capstan and take up reels with little to no gearing to keep noise and maintenance low. A couple solenoids to engage the pinch roller and switch take up reels and that would do it. Maybe we'll get @KaatheSnake to take off the front cover and post a picture. ;)

The close up of the tape heads shows that it has been well maintained. I don't see much wear except on the erase head and there are no tape particles stuck to the heads or metal rollers. It's normal for the rubber to get dirty over time but if you stay on top of it you can keep them clean and make them last a long time.
 
KaatheSnake

KaatheSnake

Senior Audioholic
I guess having serviced tape decks I'm just used to all of the mechanics involved. I would actually wager that mechanically it is more simple inside than most cassette decks. Cassette decks typically run off of one serpentine belt and use gearing inside to turn the take up reels and tape counter. That monster likely has separate motors for the capstan and take up reels with little to no gearing to keep noise and maintenance low. A couple solenoids to engage the pinch roller and switch take up reels and that would do it. Maybe we'll get @KaatheSnake to take off the front cover and post a picture. ;)

The close up of the tape heads shows that it has been well maintained. I don't see much wear except on the erase head and there are no tape particles stuck to the heads or metal rollers. It's normal for the rubber to get dirty over time but if you stay on top of it you can keep them clean and make them last a long time.
The heads have been re-lapped by JRF. I haven't taken off the front cover, but I do know all the motors in this machine are direct drive. There's not a single rubber belt in this machine. It's just a couple of solenoids and logic control boards running the motors.
The amplifier module has 16 computer-like cards for each channel, and the heads are connected to the amplifier module by some type of weird gigantic serial bus connectors. My model has the DBX "dummy plugs" so the unit can actually produce sound without the DBX modules.
Thanks!
Ryan
 
Eppie

Eppie

Senior Audioholic
Got to admire anyone doing the one-man-band thing. I only play bass. Never quite developed the fingers for guitar or keyboards, but I could tell whenever someone's guitar was out of tune. :)
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Let me start this thread with the link above.
A couple weeks ago, I saw a sale ad pop up on Reverb. I was in the search for one of these machines. I found this legendary piece of equipment at a great price and had my finger on the trigger and ready to purchase it.
I then started reading the description, and saw some words I thought I'd never read. The machine belonged to Jay Bennett of the alternative rock band Wilco!
I then contacted the owner, who turned out to be the up and coming rock star Neal Francis! He got me in touch with his manager, Brendan, and we got the sale good to go!
It turns out the machine was originally owned by Leroy Bach, who was the keyboardist for Wilco, and he used it in their famous Loft studio for first demos of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, their breakthrough album.
After Jay Bennett's departure from Wilco, Leroy Bach sold it to him and it was used in his Pieholden Suite Sound Studio with engineer Matt Dewine for a while until Jay's unfortunate passing.
I do not know how Neal Francis got ownership of the machine, though I believe it was from help from Mike Novak at the Chicago Electric Piano Company.
Anyway, thanks for reading my thread!
Ryan
Does that machine take 1/2" or 1" tape? If it is a pro machine it should take 1" tape if it is a truly pro machine.

Your biggest problem will be supplying it with tape. The only source now is ATR magnetics. I note a 10 1/2" reel is $183 dollars. That will give you an hour of recording at 16 track, but I assume that machine does allow you to record on stereo and bounce tracks if you want to. So you could record in stereo 8 times though on 8 pairs of two track. If you use the full 16 tracks for a recording that $183 dollar reel will give you 30 min of recording at 15 ips.

That was why I went digital as soon as I could. If you had a two hour concert you would get through four reels, and had to use two machines and overlap. You needed 15 ips for 20 KHz at full modulation and also for ease of razor blade editing. So before 1985 I had to lug two reel to reel machines and lots of tape for my broadcasts.
Master tape was expensive back then also. dbx 1 by the way is a really good codec, as long as you record at 15 ips. That is because dbx encoding doubles frequency response errors, mandating keeping machines in top condition.
 
KaatheSnake

KaatheSnake

Senior Audioholic
Does that machine take 1/2" or 1" tape? If it is a pro machine it should take 1" tape if it is a truly pro machine.

Your biggest problem will be supplying it with tape. The only source now is ATR magnetics. I note a 10 1/2" reel is $183 dollars. That will give you an hour of recording at 16 track, but I assume that machine does allow you to record on stereo and bounce tracks if you want to. So you could record in stereo 8 times though on 8 pairs of two track. If you use the full 16 tracks for a recording that $183 dollar reel will give you 30 min of recording at 15 ips.

That was why I went digital as soon as I could. If you had a two hour concert you would get through four reels, and had to use two machines and overlap. You needed 15 ips for 20 KHz at full modulation and also for ease of razor blade editing. So before 1985 I had to lug two reel to reel machines and lots of tape for my broadcasts.
Master tape was expensive back then also. dbx 1 by the way is a really good codec, as long as you record at 15 ips. That is because dbx encoding doubles frequency response errors, mandating keeping machines in top condition.
This is a one inch tape machine, and it is custom made by the factory to run at 30 IPS only. I have a source of tape stock I can get for less than $183 a reel. I plan on using it as a 16 track, one direction machine.
Thanks for your reply,
Ryan
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
This is a one inch tape machine, and it is custom made by the factory to run at 30 IPS only. I have a source of tape stock I can get for less than $183 a reel. I plan on using it as a 16 track, one direction machine.
Thanks for your reply,
Ryan
30 ips, that will really give it a healthy appetite!
 

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