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Thread: Ampex AG-440C Story...

  1. #1
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    Ampex AG-440C Story...

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    First of all, I don't know where this will go in the long-run...this is about the Ampex 440C "basket-case" that I have that came into my possession as a result of the events detailed in this thread, and about which I recently spoke in of this thread.

    The reason I don't know for sure where it is going to go is because its going to take a lot of work, and I already have a halftrack, my Tascam BR-20T.

    I've been desparate to try and clear stuff out but I always feel conflicted about this one, and the pictorial content below will probably explain why; its a pretty complete package in the end, with spares and room to grow.

    First of all, here's the transport. You'll notice there's no headblock. That's probably the biggest issue though more on that below. Overall it is very straight and clean...the bearings are good, pinch roller is excellent and I have an upgrade for it as well. The scrape flutter idler is there and in good shape. Needs new reel corks but I have those already, and I have a neat upgrade for the reel adapters...more on that below too. Here it is...yeah, I know its upside down...the proper way to store it when not in a rack because the power supply is a better "stand" than the transport control box:






    Those that know Ampex machines will notice that the capstan motor is the AC Hysteresis Sync motor as opposed to the DC Servo version, which was optional on the 'B' models but standard on the 'C' models...so I have a 'C' with an "optional" AC capstan motor. But I DO have a complete functional DC assembly...the motor and power supply from a spare 'B' transport. So...I plan on putting that on the 'C':




    Now, any machine like this needs something in which to mount, and I do have a proper Ampex roll-around for it...very dirty at the moment, and it will need a new cooling fan, but under all the dust and grime it is a very straight and healthy console. And I do have the rest of the hardware and risers and such for the rest of the machine, all in very good condition:




    Related to the console I also have the hard-to-find "belly panel" that goes in the front underneath the transport when mounted in the console...this one even has the original captive screws:




    And this is a silly thing but the transport contol box cover that came with the 'C' is missing some of the printed silk-screening regarding the tension resistors...I have this spare. Can't even remember where I got it but it is in nearly mint condition:




    And electronics modules I have, yes. Three complete units, and a couple partial parts-donor units. I even have VGC stainless cover panels for the cardbays, and this is another kind of silly-inconsequential thing but I have NOS meter lenses too:








    You may have noticed that the head-cable box was missing in the pic of the transport...no fear...got one:




    And cables to connect the electronics to the power supply? Got 'em:




    So back to the transport...the headblock or "head nest" as it is sometimes called...I DO have one but it is loaded with full-track heads...better than nothing, but the play head is badly keystoned. At any rate, it is complete, should clean up nice, and it is proper 440C as it has the ruby guides. One important piece of the picture here is that it isn't a 1/4" block...it is a 1/2" block (in which you can place 1/4" heads like what's in there...there is a factory spacer kit)...so if ever I DO decide to go crazy and purchase used or new 1/2" halftrack heads and guides and cans I've got the proper block for it. Here it is...the individual pics of the heads are in order of erase, record and play:










    Other fun bits for the transport include a premium pinch roller with cartridge bearings (will need a rebuild but...), and a brand-new set of reel table corks:






    And now for the bit about the reel adapters, and this includes what I consider to be an upgrade for the brakes too...I'd be using the reel motors that came out of my 440-8 that I parted out. Why? The brakes are a solid drum type as also found on the original "A" version of the AG-440. I consider it an upgrade because the standard 'B' and 'C' brake drums have a sprague clutch bearing in them...freewheel in one direction and lock in the other...or when they get old they freewheel in both directions...tape all over the place. I think VXB.com may have replacement bearings for the those one-way drums but I prefer the simple type. And the other reason? That's the reel adapter bit...the 440-8 instrumentation type reel adapters. The shafts are different on the 440-8 motors to accomodate the instrumentation type adapters. I love the look of these, and it turns out that when you take out the spacer that goes between the reel table and the adapter on the 440-8, the adapter is just right to clamp a 1/4" reel. One of the motors is already rebuilt (cleaned with new bearings, shaft straightened and brake drum polished). I'll have to execute a small mod to the reel adapter, but otherwise it'd be slick and a simple "bolt-on" upgrade. Here is the motor I have rebuilt and the adapter that has been cleaned up:






    I even have a new set of the two main caps that go in the power supply for the recap/upgrade for that unit. These caps are getting hard to find. The big one is on back-order from Mouser, and is about $50. With some help I got these for $17 each (there are also two sets in that box for the other two supplies in the MM-1000):




    OH! And we cannot forget the remote:




    So, I'm sure you all can see why I haven't been able to part with this one...and when you consider that the incremental cost of all the above bits was likely less than $100, its a sticky one.

    Don't know when I'll be posting any updates, but as I'm going through and selling stuff I've had my hands on this stuff more than once, and just thought it dseserved a thread.

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    1/2" 4-track all the way i say!

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    Corry, I envy your fortitude to even contemplate taking on yet another project! But I can't say I'm envious of all the work involved in restoring yet another rescue pup!

    I like photo restoration instead. Couple of hours at it and I can spiffy up the most beat up dog in the yard.

    Best of luck and enjoyment in doing this...should you decide to.

    Cheers!

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    Good luck, man. Maybe someday rich guys will pay for you to fully refurbish equipment for them.

    ...maybe someday I'll be rich...

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    Cory,
    You are in the exact same place I am with the 440C 4 track I picked up. Mine was complete with a nice 1/2" 4 track headstack and the DC servo motor setup, but shows some spotty issue from moisture damage (storage induced). I decided that it would be wiser to do my restoration/ buildup using a combo of the 4 track and one of the very nice 440C 1/4" two tracks I already have. Right now I am almost done restoring the 4 track Ampex console so I have something to build up in (the two track is in a Russ Lang).
    Amazing how well built that console is (except for the pivoting rack that actually holds the transport).


    I plan to start with one of the two track transports and swap in the 4 track head box and the DC servo motor (if I can get it working)

    A few questions and points of comparison with your project.
    1) My two track units both came with AC motors. Are you sure the DC servo was standard? My DC unit is currently non-functional so that is a project I have the you don't.
    2) VU meter covers...your pic of the spare meter lenses shows them as yellow tinted(?). One of my two tracks has yellow tint, the other and all of the 4 track electronics are clear. In fact, the one with the yellow tint the meters look the same from the front but are different in the back. Ans the freakin bulbs are different. Any ideas on which is correct? Maybe just a parts sourcing issue back in the day?
    3) You mention the cooling fan on the cart. Mine has the cutout for the fan on the lower shelf, but no screen or fan. I see yours has screen on it like the belly pan has. Was there actually a fan monted there, or is it just a place to let the air exhausted from the belly pan out? I dont know how warm these units get, and the Russ Lang consoles do not have any underside cover, so there is free air flow.

    I dont have a lot of free time, so my project will go rather slow. I need to get the console finished before it gets too cold in my garage shop...the rest of the work I can do inside.

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    Oops...now i look closer and see the cooling fan is under the deck.
    That should not be difficult to find.

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    1. By the time of the 'C' series the DC capstan was standard, AC hysteresis sync motor was optional. You can tell this when you look at the manuals...the 440B manual has a supplement for the DC servo and motor and the 440C manual shows the DC motor in every stinkin' picture...the first mention I see of the AC motor that I recal isn't until the parts list and exploded view where it shows both motor types. Guess you and I just got lucky...
    2. Yellow tinted lenses came later...IIRC the meters in the 'C' electronics are the same as on the MM-1100 and 1200 which were amber tinted, so by the time the 1100 hit the market I think they switched to the amber ones all around. On the lamps themselves double check the resistor values ahead of the lamps...I'd have to dig through the archives but I *think* there were a couple different lamps that went in there...it was a chronological design change I think.
    3. And the fan...yeah...so your console is like the one my 440-8 was in...fan was broken out and I'm not sure if the screen was always installed, or may have even been an owner installed bit. I'll be getting this fan: http://www.mouser.com/Search/Product...-OA109AP113TBR. It is the same one I got for my MM-1000, and I need to get another as there are two called for in 16-track form. They aren't really as quiet as I'd hoped, but neither is the stock one in my 440 console right now (but that's partly because it is tired). They have a nice die-cast aluminum frame, good price...nicely made. It will bolt right up and runs on 120VAC as designed in the console. The fan on the AC motors actually pulls from below and blows up into the motor. The belly pan screen is to allow ambient air to be accessible by the fan to force into the motor. The fan in the console is to keep air moving around the 39VDC supply mounted on the back of the transport as well as to get some air moving up around the electronics.


    My project will go slow too, if at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Audiophallic View Post
    Good luck, man. Maybe someday rich guys will pay for you to fully refurbish equipment for them.

    ...maybe someday I'll be rich...
    That'd be sweet. Look me up if you strike it rich, though I'm pretty certain I wouldn't be getting rich doing that kind of work...but I'd be happy...

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    Yes well if I had the money I'd definitely rather have you do all the work for me...

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    Reel adapter modded...

    Did some work on one of the reel motors and the reel adapter.

    To refresh, the 440C has Takanawa motors and nice adapters. Its just that I have these nice Ashland motors with intrumentation reel adapters from the 440-8 I parted out. I tried selling one of them...all cleaned up...new bearings, etc. Wouldn't sell. So I've been thinking about using them on the 440C since I'd probably need to replace the bearings in the 440C Takanawa motors anyway, and the instrumentation reel adapters are just so freaking cool...and I'd have to chop the motor shafts on the Takanawa motors to fit the 440-8 adapters (standard 440 reel motor shafts protrude a couple inches out past the reel table for reel adapters to slide over...the 440-8 reel motor shafts extend only about 5/16" beyond the face of the reel table).

    BUT, the caveat is that the 440-8 tables are designed to hold 1" reels. duh.

    The thing is, on the 440-8, the actual adapter sits on top of a 3/4" spacer, and I'd always wondered "Huh! If I take that spacer out will those adapters work for 1/4" reels?" Its not quite as simple as "well yeah 1" minus 3/4" is 1/4" because of the cork material on the reel table. Suffice it to say that on the 440-8 the reel adapter and spacer disk mate direct to the reel table and the cork is just a ring around the exposed remainder surface of the reel table. If you just pull the spacer out the adapter sits too low. So I did some measuring and confirmed that if you put a standard 440 reel table cork in between the adapter and the table, it is JUST RIGHT for a 1/4" reel. The reason I couldn't just slap it together that way and check (as opposed to what I did which was to get out the dial caliper and start measuring a bunch of things) is because the alignment hole in the adapter is too small for the short section of motor shaft protruding through the reel table. Its a 5/16" shaft and the hole in the bottom of the adapter is, like, 1/8". This is because the spacers have a stepped bore in them...5/16" on one side that steps down to, like, 1/8" on the other and then there is a little, like, 1/8" pin to align the adapter to the spacer. Swell. So I figured out that I could just bore out the hole in the bottom of the adapter and there would still be enough clearance between the end of the motor shaft and the rest of the hardware inside those freaking cool reel adapters...AS LONG AS THERE WAS THE THICKNESS OF A REEL TABLE CORK IN BETWEEN THE TABLE AND THE ADAPTER...which, if you've been following along thus far (and congratulations if you have), you know is just right because the reel table cork ALSO gives the right amount of relief for the adapter to clamp 1/4" reels.

    Presenting, an adapter with an oversize hole in the bottom...the modded one is on the top left, the stock one (yet to be modded) is on the bottom right. You can see the 5/16" shaft protruding from the reel table (with new cork) to the right, and the now superfluous 3/4" spacer on the lower left:




    And here it is all slapped together, and even a token shot of it actually holding a reel!!!






    Okay...so...back to cleaning up, which is what I was doing when I stopped to assemble this stuff. I'm trying to prep the new sound room for trim and carpet soon and it has become a crazy mess in there as an eBay shipping prep room...didn't want to just put the parts in a box *somewhere*...feel better having that little tidbit complete, and now I know what to do for the next one...at some point.

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