Ampex MM-1000 Story...


Reel deep thoughts...
This is the next chapter of the thread located here.

I am now the proud owner of an Ampex MM-1000 1" 8-track.

I got it for $300 along with literally a truckload of parts and gear...see the above linked thread.

I have yet to power it up. It uses a big twist-lock power connector and I'll have to go get one and make the cable, but my understanding is that the gal I bought it from did some tracking with it in the last couple years with a band she is has and it has been stored indoors in a climate controlled area.

Overview of the MM-1000:

The earlier MM-1000's like mine are basically a 440-8 with a monstrous console and a beastly transport based on the Ampex VR-1000 or VR-2000 Quad Video was a quick answer Ampex put together to respond to a new shift in the multitrack industry...a demand for higher track-count. They were available as a 1" 8-track, 2" 16-track or special ordered as a 2" 24-track. The 8-track could (relatively) easily be converted to a 2" 16-track so financially strapped clients could get into the MM-1000 for less money and then when funds were available they could move up to the 2" 16-track (or 24-track). The capstan was, like the 440, AC hysteresis or DC servo, but even the servo models are not able to slave in a sync relationship. Also like the 440 it is not a servo other words the reel motors don't "talk to each other" like a more modern full logic servo transport. BUT...the transport itself is just beastly...built to manhandle 2" tape on 14" reels.

What I Know About My MM-1000

My MM-1000 started out life as a 16-track but was converted to an 8-track. I lack the tape path parts to convert back to 16-track and I'm not sure I want to do that anyway, but (along with electronics from my 440-8) I have pretty much everything electronically to convert it back...there are pictures to come. Along with all the stuff I got in the thread linked above I got scads of spare MM-1000 electronic components. Mine has the AC capstan motor but the DC servo box is mounted in the console. Nothing wrong with the AC motor but the DC motor would allow 30ips...not sure I really care about that. Certainly not at this stage as it would require a 30ips cal tape and redoing all the eq cards...BUT...I may actually have a lead on spare 1" tape path parts, a full set of 2" 16-track tape path parts including heads for little more than shipping (making the door to 2" 16-track a near possibility).

My MM lived at Universal Studios in California, and ultimately fell into the hands of Bob Lawson, long-time technician and R&D specialist at Ampex. He also serviced Ampex systems for clients in the California area. For some reason this MM-1000 and a whole bunch of parts came to him and then ended up with his daughter after he passed away a couple years ago. That's who I bought it all from.

So because it was in a professional installation for much of its life (and because these things are too heavy to go anywhere anyway) it is pretty straight, clean and pretty much all there. No rust or corrosion...needs a little de-griming and kind of putting back together. Looks like somebody ran sticky tape on it as well as some flaky tape but the sticky stuff on the guides, lifters and some on the heads comes off easily. The heads by the way look great...little wear and I don't believe they have been lapped. I would be surprised if the heads were put on new when it was coverted to 8-track and then not used much after that.

So...without further ado let's get to some pictures. I'll be rigging a temporary power cord in the next few days and take it for a spin and see what I really have.
Pictures of the Transport and Console...

Here it is...


The overbridge is two 8U racks side-by-side. The lower section of the console is two 14U racks and there are another 2 14U racks side-by-side in the back. The guage metal used for the console is stupid thick...everything is just super-super heavy-duty. Its ridiculous. I said in the realted thread that it was like moving an upright piano. No joke. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 pounds. There is so much empty rack space in mine because normally that's where the second set of 8 electronics modules would go for the 16-track. The unit you do see down there is the unnecessary (at present) DC servo capstan control box. The wood-grain side panels you see there just lift up and away from the console for quick side access to the interior of the console.

Here is a closer shot of the takeup side of the transport:


That there is a mechanical tape footage counter to the right of the head cover...too cool:


I really think its interesting how (IMO) the appearance of this machine stands the test of time. In a way it doesn't look like a 40 year old piece of equipment. It has a cool vintage vibe to it and also has a contemporary industrial look. The MM-1000 was criticized for its size though back in the day which was due in great part to each channel amplifier being in its own discreet 2U chassis...the MM-1100 and 1200 machines that succeeded the 1000 had all the cards in a card-frame reducing the size.

Frankly I love that it is so is the most rugged rack I own and will actually work well as a furnishing in my small studio. Plus the 440C I got in the lot of parts and equipment in which the MM-1000 was included is mounted in a 28U upright rolling rack that is the same color-scheme as the MM-1000 and made out of the same crazy heavy-duty steel. MM-1000 with matching studio rack. Oh boy. I'm selling racks like crazy on craigslist right now...they say you can never have too much rack space but this is nuts.

Here is a shot of the supply side of the transport with the head cover open:


Because of the size of the transport the tape path is loooong which is not great for the scrape flutter frequency...the greater the length of unsupported tape the lower the scrape flutter frequency meaning it may be more audible, but scrape flutter is also a by-product of the total of the angles the tape has to take around static tape path components prior to the capstan, and this thing is full of rolling guides...the only static surfaces aside from the heads are the supply tension arm (which is a small angle), and the static guide just prior to the erase head and I may have a source for a rolling guide to put in there which was an option. Plus this baby has jewel bearing scrape flutter filters between the erase and record heads AND the record and repro heads. I'm not sweating it. :)

Let's zoom in on the tape path now from the supply side to the takeup side.








As I said the tape path doesn't look too tired...fairly young in my estimation, and the good news is that I actually have at present two sets of spare heads that will fit this thing.

Artsy closeup oblique shot of the overbridge:


Couple closeups of the of the control panel...I'm telling you, all these controls have a sturdy industrial feel, and it appears that they are all backlit...



In the last one you can see the Universal asset tag. That sticker stays. :D

In this side shot you can see the spare control panel dress panel...I believe this is the original and has the second slot cut for the Channel Selector switches for tracks 9~16:


Here is a shot of the back side of the overbridge...the light-grey round cans on the left side of each electronics module are the plugin balancing transformers...thoses things go for, like $25~35 this is a 1" 8-track with true transformer balanced class-A discreet amplifiers, and based on my limited testing of an electronics module off my 440-8 (basically the same module) they sound really great...great like now I understand why people like this stuff...and the 1" format should capture that nicely.


Here is another example of the beastliness of the transport...below is a picture of the bottom of a reel motor...the square aluminum thingy is a brake. I should've included my hand in the picture for scale...the square is like 6" x 6". Beefy. BTW this is the only known thing wrong with this machine is that the takup brake does not engage. It is not a mechanical issue as the brake can be manually engaged so I'll turn it on and see whether or not voltage is getting there and if so then I'll just need to see if the solenoid is dead and find a replacement, but I ain't putting this thing into fast-wind until I get that resolved...

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The Remote...

It is a full-function remote. It needs some help but I have already found a really good potential for very affordable parts to replace what's missing on this remote.

Spare Parts...

A bevy of them...Channel Selector switches and frames galore (several for 24-track and one for 16-track), sync relay boxes, tension resistor assembly, and a scattering of bulbs and lenses are pictured below. Not pictured here are the two extra PSU's that would be needed with 8 more electronics modules for 16-track operation...




Holy cow. That thing is unbelievable. Like a tank. I can't wait to hear about it when you get it running. I'd love to hear something recorded on it.

Sweetbeats, excuse me if you mentioned this already, but are all those channel preamps working? Or is there no way to know yet?

Also, where are the inputs?
Holy bejesus man!:eek: I think it's safe to say you made out like a bandit.;) I haven't even had the time to put my TSR-8 through it's paces since I bought it, and yet here you are lucking into a monstrosity of a machine! I think everyone here would LOVE to hear some material recorded on there after the cleanup and testing.
Hey thanks for the questions...I don't know if the electronics modules are all working but they are all in very good condition...all very straight and clean and (with the exception of one) the numbers are fairly sequential. I bet they haven't left the overbridge since they were put in and the fact that they aren't dented or scratched up supports that, so that is a good thing. I don't recall where I mentioned it but the lady I bought the lot from recorded an album on it within the past couple years and since then it has been in the band's practice room which is part of her house...climate controlled. So my hopes are high that it will work when plugged in. I'll know in a couple days.

The inputs and outputs are in the


I almost forgot...I shot some video too with a general overview of the console and transport...its here:


I realize already that I threaded the tape wrong in a couple spots when I was demonstrating the threading path...and I think I stated that the MM-1000 transport was based on the Ampex "VO-1000" quad video transport...that should be "VR-1000" (though it looks more like a VR-2000... :confused:)
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Congrats on the find. This should be an interesting project. ;)

Size wise that thing reminds me of the old 16 track Scully macine that one of my customers had. Here's a picture with a 2 track Scully and a Teac 7300 sitting next to it.

Oh right! I seem to recall a thread some time back with a shot of one of those Scully machines and somebody asking what it was...maybe it was even you that responded. They have that very distinctive meter bridge.
So you got a 440 and this M1000 for 300 bucks?????? :confused: :eek:
Plus a whole load of other goodies it would seem.

I had a new fridge delivered today. Reading about this late last night gave me confused nightmares of someone delivering an Ampex Quad VTR which I didn't have room for in the house...
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Oh right! I seem to recall a thread some time back with a shot of one of those Scully machines and somebody asking what it was...maybe it was even you that responded. They have that very distinctive meter bridge.

I was testing your memory. ;) I posted that same picture a while back.
I was testing your memory. I posted that same picture a while back. how'd I do? :)

So you got a 440 and this M1000 for 300 bucks??????

Yes...everything in this thread for $300...and there may be more odds and ends as she starts cleaning and organizing. :eek:

The module below the reel motor is clearly marked 'control track'. Any idea what that's for?

From what I understand it is for primitive sync...pilot tone stuff...I think at the time one way it was done was a 9.6kHz tone was recorded on the "control track" like striping SMPTE but the synchronization required an operator and a varispeed control. This machine, if I understand correctly, will not operate as slave in a chase-lock scenario even if I had the DC servo capstan.

I hope to rig up a temporary power cable this weekend and do a smoke test but I'm concerned about operating the transport with the takeup brake non-functional so I'll see if there is a quick solution to that, clean up the tape path and put a reel of non-sticky tape on it and see what it does.
Let me see a photo of the socket for the power cord. If it is the same as for the MM-1100 I have a spare cord you can have.


Ah, I see it in the photo in post #8. It is the same. PM me if you still need the power cord - you are welcome to have it for the cost of shipping.


David, that is awesome. Thank you so much! I will send a PM shortly! ;)

Did some climbing around in "Matilda" tonight to get a better grip on how the wiring runs and to confirm a few things. What a plus its been having had experience with my Ampex 440...just helps to kind of understand how Ampex did things.

I was relieved that the reel idler flywheel is the proper viscous type. The reel idler is the larger idler just before the last guide the tape hits before the erase head. There is a flywheel housing underneath that is filled with a certain grade of silicon oil. resistance is low when it begins rotating but as speed quickly picks up the oil is thrown to the outside walls of the flywheel grabbing the outer flywheel and increasin resistance. This is supposed to (among other things) reduce flutter. Anyway, its there.

This thing is built for field servicing...MAN! If you need to take the entire control panel off you just lift up and pull the side panels away (no tools needed), and then there are two socket head screws accessible for each side of the control panel...take those out, unscrew the locking ring on the super high quality amphenol connector, unplug and you can tuck that control panel under your arm and take to the workbench...I really, really like this machine.

Studied the schematics again briefly this eve. Thanks to thinbrownline I will soon have a proper power cable, but in the meantime it will take all of a couple minutes to reach in and disconnect power from everything and then connect a temporary power cable. I will then get my oscilloscope out and sequentially test power from each rail for proper voltage and ripple before connecting it to systems. Maybe this weekend?

Another thing I really like about this machine is that it is more sophisticated (in a way) than the 440-8...its a hurkier machine all around, and while it is not a logic servo transport, that fact makes it easier to diagnose and troubleshoot. I've learned very quickly that unless you're really smart and experienced like evm1024 and others here you just don't want to have to go troubleshooting IC logic. There's a certain amount of long-term security for me knowing that its all discreet electronics, and yet the transport was designed from the ground up to pull 2" tape...1" is no problem and the tape path has some considerable niceties but it is still like working on a pre electronics fuel injection pre emission controls automotive engine.

That is an amazing good to see it's gone to someone who appreciates it :). Would I be right in guessing the 1" precision reels came with that machine?

Chris :cool:
Chris, yes. did you peruse the thread I linked that details what came in the $300 haul? I almost feel guil....nahhhhhh.