Natural Born Kessler

    Back to My Reel-to-Reel Roots, Part 16: Stalking the Wild Revox

    Issue 164

    A slight departure this time, as a wonderful event – directly related to tape pursuits – took place on May 29th. After two years and three months, the Tonbridge AudioJumble (https://www.audiojumble.co.uk/) is back. A few main vendors were absent, but it still hosted more than you could possibly check out in detail in the time allotted. Of course, there was the flood of early arrivals, eager to clean out the choice pickings before regular admission began at 9:00 AM.

    Just as I had heard of the Munich High-End Show the week before, attendance was excellent because of all the pent-up cravings as a result of lockdown. I don’t know yet if the AudioJumble will finally deliver unto me a case of COVID-19, but as I had my fourth jab the week before, I hope I am OK. Hellfire, brimstone, COVID – nothing could detract from the sheer fun of it.

    As expected, given trends before and during the pandemic, turntables and cartridges were in huge demand, but the most obvious upswing was – yay! – in open-reel tape decks. The place wasn’t exactly awash with them, but plentiful were units from Revox, Ferrograph, TEAC, Akai, Sony, and TASCAM, especially a plethora of Revox G36s of various flavors, as well as a rare E36. Suffice it to say, if you wanted to embark on an open-reel adventure, there were enough decks to get anyone started, as well as numerous cassette decks in great condition.

    Indeed, I couldn’t resist collecting another deck myself. I picked up another open-reel machine (my ninth!) from a colleague, which I had arranged prior to the event. It’s a fine, boxed Revox A77 Mk IV, and I swear this will be the last of my deck purchases unless I suddenly come into money and can afford a Studer or two, a Ballfinger, or my dream of a Crown 800 Series. Instead, for me, the show was mainly about selling my surplus pre-recorded and blank tapes, and that yielded some pleasant surprises.

    A stall-holder since 2002 – yes, it was my 20th anniversary attending this event – I arrived with around 80 curated tapes of which 20 were soundtracks, plus a similar number of cleaned-up blanks. While I thought it would be the 7-inch blank tapes that would go quickly, it was the 10-inch tapes which seemed to fly off the table – the demand for them was incredible. Of that diameter, I had around 15 Maxell and TDK tapes and a half-dozen empty metal spools, and they shifted for good reason: I had the blank metal spools priced at half of what you’d pay on eBay, ditto for the blank tapes. All had been erased in real-time on a two-track machine, and had fresh leader and tail tape. And I suffered not one haggler nor complainer because new blanks cost a bundle.

     

    My table, with graded pre-recorded open-reel tapes.

    My table, with graded pre-recorded open-reel tapes.

     

    But the most heart-warming episode came from my first customer of the day, who returned a couple of times and even bought my QUAD book. The reason I’m so pleased in that he’s only around 20 and is as fascinated by hi-fi as I was 50 years ago, a rare case of a member of Generation Z looking beyond streaming and earbuds. Clearly inspired and encouraged by his dad, young David is a glimmer of hope. Check out his passion on Instagram at hifi.david.

    See you there in October!

     

    A gorgeous Denon DP59 direct-drive turntable.

    A gorgeous Denon DP59 direct-drive turntable.

     

    As-new classic Leak Stereo 20 amplifiers for £1,000/$1,260 - real gems.

    As-new classic Leak Stereo 20 amplifiers for £1,000/$1,260 – real gems.

     

    Early Rogers Baby DeLuxe monoblock amps.

    Early Rogers Baby DeLuxe monoblock amps.

     

    A fabulous built-like-a-tank mono Ferrograph Series 3 tape recorder for £90/$114.

    A fabulous built-like-a-tank mono Ferrograph Series 3 tape recorder for £90/$114.

     

    The event was well-attended.

    The event was well-attended.

     

    Needing work, but these TASCAM 32 and Revox A77 decks were ideal for a savvy enthusiast.

    Needing work, but these TASCAM 32 and Revox A77 decks were ideal for a savvy enthusiast.

     

    For horn fetishists, rare made-in-England Western Electric KS-6368 and 30150-A receiver.

    For horn fetishists, rare made-in-England Western Electric KS-6368 and 30150-A receiver.

     

    I was tempted...a refurbished Audio Research D115.

    I was tempted…a refurbished Audio Research D115.

     

    How to set up a vintage system on a budget.

    How to set up a vintage system on a budget.

     

    An immaculate Leak Delta 75 receiver.

    An immaculate Leak Delta 75 receiver.

     

    New tubes were popular because of the drought caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

    New tubes were popular because of the drought caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

     

    Pre-1970s US gear is impossible to find in the UK, this Scott 310F FM tuner and 335 Multiplex Adapter came as a surprise.

    Pre-1970s US gear is impossible to find in the UK, this Scott 310F FM tuner and 335 Multiplex Adapter came as a surprise.

     

    A TEAC A-4010 for £225/$285.

    A TEAC A-4010 for £225/$285.

     

    A Thorens TD166 Mk II with spare arm wands and Grace cartridge for £250/$315.

    A Thorens TD166 Mk II with spare arm wands and Grace cartridge for £250/$315.

     

    You gotta look under the tables also! Here's a funky Ferrograph Series 4 for £95/$120.

    You gotta look under the tables also! Here’s a funky Ferrograph Series 4 for £95/$120.

     

    All images courtesy of the author.

    3 comments on “Back to My Reel-to-Reel Roots, Part 16: Stalking the Wild Revox”

    1. The Tonbridge Audio Jumble is a biannual UK hi fi institution and a must for anyone into vintage gear. The Thorens deck is a steal and well worth renovating if necessary. Despite only being 30 miles north of me I have never been. Not got the room or the spousal approval to dip my toes in!

    2. That must have been a great meet. I still have the two track A77 I bought in the mid 70’s and it still works. I used to record Edgar Vilcher’s “Adventure in Sound” broadcast on Wbur Sunday afternoons on that deck.

    3. Hey Ken, though the Crown 800 looks more serious/professional than the Revox, the A77 sounds better. I have both a Mk.3 (bought new in ’73) and a Mk.4, all the reel-to-reel I need. I’m not intending to do any more new recordings, so sold my carton of new/unopened Maxell 10″ blanks on ebay a few years ago, surprised to learn how much people will pay for them!

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