Natural Born Kessler

    Back to My Reel-to-Reel Roots, Part 24: The R2R Revival Gains Pace

    Issue 173

    Ken Kessler assesses the increase in the reel-to-reel presence at the Tonbridge AudioJumble.

    Only five months have passed since the previous AudioJumble, but cataclysmic events have taken place in that period, at least for the UK. We lost Queen Elizabeth II, the second-longest reigning monarch of all time and the longest serving British royal ever, fuel prices have skyrocketed globally – thus decimating disposable income – and Putin has continued to invade Ukraine. (That matters to the British not so much because of Russian gas, but because we are Ukraine’s strongest ally and within range of Russian nukes.) Add to that a change of Prime Minister, and a possibly catastrophic mini-budget (unless you’re already a bazillionaire) and you can understand why spirits were slightly dampened at the October event.

     

    Attendees at the Tonbridge AudioJumble.

    Attendees at the Tonbridge AudioJumble.

     

    Despite all this, I noted a flood of intriguing gems, including a brace of Ampex tape decks, assorted vintage Luxman treasures, rare turntables, and more. This installment covers the tape-related goodies, while the next episode will look at other tasty items. As I am no longer predisposed toward acquiring more gear, as opposed to downsizing my hardware collection, I did pick up a rough Revox D36 in a swap for some vinyl. More than any previous AudioJumble, this one offered too many unusual reel-to-reel decks to contemplate.

     

    Who can argue with a working Revox G36 for £250?

    Who can argue with a working Revox G36 for £250?

     

    There were plenty of entry-level decks for newcomers which weren't priced to deter, like this Tandberg 3441X with flight case for £130.

    There were plenty of entry-level decks for newcomers which weren’t priced to deter, like this Tandberg 3441X with flight case for £130.

     

    What took all of my willpower to resist were a clean Luxman preamplifier, some stunning turntables from Thorens, Fons and Pioneer, a tube tester, and ValvePower’s sublime reborn Leak tube amplifiers. But those will have to wait until Issue 174. As the images here show, cool oddities included an obscure Leak cassette deck (and, yes, the cassette revival is well underway), a Heathkit open-reel not common on these shores, and a plethora of superb Ferrograph products, including two fully-restored open-reel decks, one of which was a unique example as it had been modified to provided both 1/4-track and 1/2-track compatibility.

    Most plentiful among the reel-to-reel decks were Akai D4000 models at great prices, not a few Revox G36s, a superb Revox A77, and a gorgeous Akai GX-747 dbx. But I am stopping at 10 decks…unless I get lucky, win the lottery and can find my dream Crown 800.

     

    A pair of restored Ferrographs that caused a buzz at AudioJumble.

    A pair of restored Ferrographs that caused a buzz at AudioJumble.

     

    Another hugely desirable rarity: the Leak 2002 Cassette Unit.

    Another hugely desirable rarity: the Leak 2002 Cassette Unit.

     

    Bargain of the show? An Akai 4000DS MKII for £110.

    Bargain of the show? An Akai 4000DS MKII for £110.

     

    Another mystery to solve: a Heathkit STR-1 tape deck with a BSR badge on the head cover.

    Another mystery to solve: a Heathkit STR-1 tape deck with a BSR badge on the head cover.

     

    Certainly outside of the audiophile wheelhouse: a Fostex R8 8-track deck but at a knock-down price of £300.

    Certainly outside of the audiophile wheelhouse: a Fostex R8 8-track deck but at a knock-down price of £300.

     

    A fully-serviced Revox A77 MK IV for £700 - a gift!

    A fully-serviced Revox A77 MK IV for £700 – a gift!

     

    A near-mint Akai GX-747 dbx version.

    A near-mint Akai GX-747 dbx version.

     

    One vendor had two of these – Ampex 800 series portables with rebuild kits purchased by a well-known restorer for £100 for the pair!

    One vendor had two of these – Ampex 800 series portables with rebuild kits purchased by a well-known restorer for £100 for the pair!

     

    Otari MX5050 for £1500 – at the exchange rate of the day that was under $1600!

    Otari MX5050 for £1500 – at the exchange rate of the day that was under $1600!

     

    TASCAM's 112 Mk II cassette deck for £400 – snapped up by a young enthusiast.

    TASCAM’s 112 Mk II cassette deck for £400 – snapped up by a young enthusiast.

     

    Here's a vast selection of new-old-stock cassettes at sane prices.

    Here’s a vast selection of new-old-stock cassettes at sane prices.

     

    All images courtesy of Ken Kessler.

     

    Header image: one vendor arrived with 400 home-recorded tapes in top condition.

    One comment on “Back to My Reel-to-Reel Roots, Part 24: The R2R Revival Gains Pace”

    1. Ken, this is not the first time I’ve read of your lust for a Crown 800. I have one, in perfect shape, and I agree, it is a very cool machine. I ditched the electronics and fitted it with a DeHavilland tape head preamp and half track and quarter track playback heads. Hope you find one for your own. There is a guy in Florida ( Chuck Ziska ) who acquired much of Crown’s RTR inventory when they got out of the tape biz in the later 70s. [email protected]. He gets machines occasionally. Good luck.

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