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Thread: Help with Otari Mx5050 BQII

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    Help with Otari Mx5050 BQII

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    I'm working on a project converting spoken word analog tapes to digital mp3s. The original project was recorded on an Otari MX5050 BII two track machine with large reels on slow speed. The motors on the BII started to die causing the audio to drag in certain spots so I found and bought a newer machine (Otari MX5050 BQII) which is a four track unit. I'm trying to record these tapes to my DAW with a PreSonus Firestudio Project. My recording software is Sony Vegas Pro 8. When playing back the two track tapes on the four track machine the levels vary greatly. Track one is very hot, track two, three, and four have much lower levels. The BQII machine does not have any line out level controls that I can see. I also notice that the sound is distorted and kind of metallic sounding. Is it possible to get clean audio from a two track tape with a four track machine? I have been working with digital audio for a few years but this is my first adventure into the analog reel to reel world. Any information or tips on doing this would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

    LSChapman

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    Hi,

    Well, the good method would be to use a deck with the same head configuration that the one used to record the tape. If you have a 4 tracks - 2 channels, you need a 4 tracks - 2 channels deck, but you could also record to digital from a theorical 4 tracks - 1 channel mono deck, and in a postproduction arrange this to get the stereo tracks together.

    If you have a half track stereo tape and plays it in a quarter track stereo deck, you'll have right channel with some dB level below than the left channel, and maybe even some high frequence lost, but if we are talking about people conversations / conferences, then you can arrange this using a higher recording level in the right channel.

    But first of all, ensure that the heads are well cleaned and also the entire tape path.

    You should use track 1 and 3. Track 1 is the left channel and track 3 is the right channel, but you can also try to use Track 1 for the left channel and track 4 for the right one.

    About the distorted sound, maybe the deck has XLR outputs with a +4dB level?...

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    I was thinking that maybe you should try another configuration: track 1 and 2 for the left channel and track 3 and 4 for the right channel. I think this will be the best configuration because the MX5050 BQII is a quad deck, 4 tracks 4 channels.

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    If interested, my studio does this kind of recovery work all the time. I can deal with just about any 1/4" and 1/2" analog format, with the exception of 1/4" 8 track. I can be contacted at:

    rick@liondogmusic.com
    Rick Ruskin
    Lion Dog Music - Seattle WA
    http://liondogmusic.com

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    This should be common sense, but just to be sure - the MP3 is just for distribution, right? If it's for long term archival, you really, really want to be storing them in WAV or FLAC format, since MP3 achieves its smaller size by throwing data away.

    Just in case you're unaware, WAV is uncompressed, and FLAC is a lossless compression scheme. Whereas MP3 can reduce the size ten times, FLAC varies from 33% to 75% of the original file size, but unlike MP3 can be reversed to recreate the original WAV file exactly.

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    Thank you for your suggestions on routing. One thing I have noticed that periodically during playback this unit will make a loud squealing sound. I’m not sure what is causing this but it seems like maybe one of the transport wheels could be the culprit. The distortion in the audio only occurs when the unit makes this sound. Is there any regular maintenance other than cleaning the heads and tape path such as oiling any of the moving parts that could be causing this problem?

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    Quote Originally Posted by lschapman View Post
    Thank you for your suggestions on routing. One thing I have noticed that periodically during playback this unit will make a loud squealing sound. Iím not sure what is causing this but it seems like maybe one of the transport wheels could be the culprit. The distortion in the audio only occurs when the unit makes this sound. Is there any regular maintenance other than cleaning the heads and tape path such as oiling any of the moving parts that could be causing this problem?

    You are describing a tape with sticky-shed syndrome. Trying to play any tape with this problem will do nothing but bad things to the tape and the deck being used. Get these reels properly baked and transferred and hope you haven't screwed them up too badly.
    Rick Ruskin
    Lion Dog Music - Seattle WA
    http://liondogmusic.com

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    Thanks to everyone for all your help. I really appreciate it.

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