Is the AKAI MG1212 and 1214 worth buying today?

zking1774

New member
For example... there is an AKAI MG1212 not far from me for about $200. Guy is unable to verify anything about it, as he is not a musician and just got it with a bunch of other equipment from an estate sale etc.

I was considering picking it up, and repairing anything on it within reason. it seems it had a very high quality mixer section even without the Tape portion working. Thoughts?

Also, anyone know the differences between the 1212 and 1214? I also found a 1214 with a few missing faders, but working.

Thanks!
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
I’ve owned and worked on a lot of different tape machines and formats, and the same goes for mixing consoles. I’ve also personally owned a pair of MG1212s.

First of all, to your last question about the differences between the MG1212 and the MG1214, I believe the MG1214 included improvements in the transport mechanism for reliability, an improved mic preamp, and there was something about the sync interface...

Here is why I bought the pair that I had for awhile...sheer curiosity. If you are looking to get something to actually use as your only tape machine, I think it’s not such a good idea for several reasons:

1. The transports are problematic and often need work, and the transports being more complicated (mainly resulting from the loading/unloading mechanism...these are, after all, patterned after video cassette type transports and use a proprietary cassette derived from the obsolete Sony Betamax Cassette format...*different* than Betamax...not compatible, but similar), so you can expect some headaches now or later with an Akai MG series machine; not impossible to fix and there are some very good threads right here in this forum about that.

2. The tapes...again, proprietary format cassette, hard to find, expensive when you do, nobody can verify what tape type was loaded in the shells from the factory, rumor has it the tape was similar to Maxell EE formulation, but, again, nobody knows for sure and I wasn’t even able to verify whether the tape was a 1mil or 1.5mil class tape. Some people buy new tape and reload the shells with new tape. This can be done, but again what tape type to reload so you are using the proper tape in the transport? Nobody knows. And if the reloaded tape is thicker than the factory tape how are you going to reset the tensions and all that...it’s getting harder and harder to find the proper equipment to do this, and IIRC the service manual was not clear about that sort of thing because they assume you are using factory cassettes...they didn’t assume you would be reloading the cassette shells with something that may or may not be consistent physically or magnetically with the factory tape.

3. Basic maintenance...calibrating a tape machine is a standard activity if you own one. You have to have a calibration tape set the playback level, and the rest of the steps depend on accurately setting the playback level. When is the last time you saw a set of cal tapes for an MG series machine? I used to own a set. I sold them. I doubt I will ever see a set again. Could you buy a short form 1/2” open reel cal tape, transfer the tape to an Akai MK20 shell and use it? Yes. Would it be the correct tape physically and have the correct fluxivity? Can’t tell you. Because they don’t reveal that spec in the owners or service manual. Why? Because they assumed you would use the factory tapes and factory cal tapes and so who needs to know the specs? It is probably 250 nWb/m, but I do not know for sure. Oh, and what about biasing the tape in your reloaded shells? The service manual is also not clear about that, because if you were doing what Akai intended, you were always using the factory mystery tape and would not need to bias for different tape formulations.

4. Poor user community support...there aren’t a lot of people operating MG series machines, and anymore being able to connect with lay-users for community support if you have a tape machine is now, and has been for some years, of critical value. So I think, if you are getting into multitrack tape, it’s best to buy a machine that has a wide base of user support, and is a more readily used format.

5. The mixer...you suggested maybe it’s worthwhile to buy an MG series machine just for the mixer alone. Here’s the problem with that...yes either the 1212 or 1214 will give you a 12x2 mixer, but the EQ section is 3-band peaking type filters on each band...they’re all swept bands but I find greater value in hi and lo shelving filters than peaking. So I don’t think the EQ is a draw. There are only 2 aux busses. Okay...so at least there’s 2, but this thing is relatively huge and really heavy. Couple that with the limited feature set and you have to ask “why would you do that to yourself” when you can find a better vintage console with WAY more features for the same or less money? Deal breaker: there are no direct outs, and no mix busses. This is a straight 12x2 console with 2 aux busses. There are some nice little features (switchable aux busses, one is pre/post, the other is tape/post...EQ section is switchable on/off...), but, again, if you want to use a 1212 or 1214 as a mixer only, you’ll have no way to get your 12 inputs out to your DAW or whatever...no direct outs. Yes each channel has separate insert send and receive jacks, and you could use the send as a direct out, but that is, I believe, pre fader, pre EQ...and here’s another thing, you’re probably going to have to exercise some TLC even if you want to use just the mixer. There’s a battery mounted to the power supply PCB that typically is leaking by now. That will have to be replaced and the PSU PCB possibly repaired due to the damage from leakage. And both of my 1212s had janky mixer sections. Like I’m sure they could be made to work, but it would require disassembly and cleaning contacts of the card edge connectors, possible reflowing of solder joints...the LED meters weren’t working right, intermittent signal connectivity etc. Oh I guess there are direct outs on each channel...but they only feed the corresponding tape track. I suppose it would be quite feasible to modify that signal path to feed jacks vs tape tracks, but you’d have to research that one...and *why* go to all that trouble...there is nothing particularly remarkable about the MG mixing section...not “bad” but nothing magical happening there. Lastly, these are lower headroom devices...the audio power rails are +/-12V vs the more typical +/-15V or even +/-17 or 18V. So it’s a pretty hard sell in my mind to pay $100-200 for a 12x2 mixer with no direct outs that weighs a ton and has a relatively huge footprint...and has relatively low headroom. None of this adds up for me.

Now, it seems like I think the MG series machine are just steaming piles of goo. No. I just think at this point in time they should be low on the list of considerations for someone either new to owning/using a multitrack tape machine, or looking to choose a sole multitrack tape machine for a working studio. These were nicely built machines, and for what they are have a really practical and robust feature set...there was nothing about the ones I owned that I thought was chintzy or cheap, they just have the odds stacked against them after all these decades simply because of the design. The heads are Akai’s GX glass heads which have long wear life. There is a fantastic onboard multipoint autolocator using track 13 (the locator track), and there is a separate sync track...these could be master or slave in a sync relationship. So you have all those sync and locate features and never have to sacrifice any of the 12 audio tape tracks...which are wider than the Tascam 388 and you have 4 more of them...same tape speed (2 speeds available, 3 3/4ips and 7.5ips)...onboard dbx noise reduction...I consider the MG series machines to be a more robust build than the Tascam 388 and to have a much more comprehensive feature set as far as the tape machine. I like the 388 mixer section better, but the Akai beneath the skin is a more professional build...better designed; a more “professional” machine. I can’t recall the details now but I believe there is indeed something of a decent change in the mic amp between the 1212 and the 1214. People actually tracked hits on MG machines, of course with a host of outboard gear and professional mastering resources, but Google that...Phil Collins, U2 and others actually used MG series machines for their multitrack masters on some projects. But ultimately it circles back around to my points above and I just think if you want a working machine or even just the mixer, it just doesn’t make sense. Unless you’re like me and you just couldn’t help yourself because you always wondered...had to get one to see how they were made. I’m strange like that.

Hope this helps. Not trying to rain on any parade if such exists...or be excessively pragmatic. At the end of the day if you read all that above and you just feel that tug, like that local 1212 is calling you, well maybe that’s your machine and with diligent efforts and reviewing the good work shared right here on this forum you too could get one working reliably. It’s totally doable, but you have to be patient and thorough.
 

zking1774

New member
Wow, first... thank you! Really appreciate the detailed response. I had researched through Google about the MG series for a few days, but even some considerations I hadn't thought about didn't come to light through those searches. Your post solved a lot of concerns I had. The deal breaker is those direct outs on each channel. I don't mind toying with one, and it is general curiosity about all these 80's multitrack cassette recorders that interest me, but if everything failed but the mixer on this... I wouldn't have much use for it. The others I have been looking for are the Audio Technica rmx64 and Tascam 688.
 

ChristopherBell

New member
What a blast from the past. I worked for Sam Ash in NYC back in the late 80's. We were an AKAI dealer. One of my fondest memories was working on the MG1212 owned by Paul Stanley of KISS. It took me to his apartment a few times which was very cool.

Of course, it's an old device - and the biggest thing (as others have said) are the proprietary tapes... If you're technical, you could probably fix most transport issues, but the tapes were the big deal there.

For $200, if it does ANYTHING you want... Mixer, etc. I'd get it just to get it....
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Wow, first... thank you! Really appreciate the detailed response. I had researched through Google about the MG series for a few days, but even some considerations I hadn't thought about didn't come to light through those searches. Your post solved a lot of concerns I had. The deal breaker is those direct outs on each channel. I don't mind toying with one, and it is general curiosity about all these 80's multitrack cassette recorders that interest me, but if everything failed but the mixer on this... I wouldn't have much use for it. The others I have been looking for are the Audio Technica rmx64 and Tascam 688.

That's a really interesting array of machines you are interested in. They are all very different...different recording formats and/or tape (4-track, 8-track, 12-track...Philips Compact Cassette and Akai proprietary MK20 tape...) The mixer on the Audio Technica is arguably the most useful as a standalone mixer out of the trio and I say that for a few reasons...it has 4 mix groups with dedicated outputs, inserts on all channels, phantom power, two aux busses that are globally switchable between pre and post fader, the EQ though its only 2 band has swept filters on both bands and the EQ type is individually switchable between peaking and shelving...there are only 6 channels but its a pretty useful feature set...real panel-mounted jacks...the thing overall is a really substantial build. All of the mixer strips are modular plug-in type, you have to remove the dress panel with a few screws but then there are the modules underneath. Its got a pretty big footprint for a cassette portastudio...24"W x 20"D. And its over 50lbs. And its pretty rare and good luck finding any technical documents on it, which would be pretty essential to have anymore because I'm sure most of what you can find needs service. I wish it had dbx noise reduction, but it does have Dolby B & C and is dual speed (3 3/4ips capable). I'd wager it is the most "professional" integrated mixer/multitrack machine ever made that uses the Philips Compact Cassette, but is 4-track what you are looking for?

The 688 offers more in terms of track count and mixer flexibility, but I've had one apart and honestly I don't like the fragility of the build...like, if you have to work on it, take things apart, solder on anything, you just have to be careful. And there is a digital routing matrix and if the logic goes belly up you'll have your hands full. Its a neat machine for what it is, but if you want something that is going to be a main analog mixing front end to something else, I would not be looking to a 688 to fill that void. Plus, if you are using it for multitracking, honestly 8 tracks on cassette is really pushing the limits. I've used a 238 and a 688 and you can get some nice results out of them...a band I was in for a couple years in the early 90s made a full-length release on cassette...used a 488mkII and with a lot of careful planning and execution we really made a nice sounding release, but as these cassette multitrackers age I'm experiencing more issues with edge tracks and they are more challenging to align and keep in alignment...and you just can't dial them in like you can a wider format open reel machine. I think 4-track at 3 3/4ips with dbx is where its at as far as cassette multitrack but you have to know how to make the most of the format as far as the limited track count...but you really can do nice things with it and I like the simplicity of a 4-track cassette portastudio for capturing ideas if you want to record in the analog realm and want simplicity. But that's why I'm suggesting the dbx, because it typically performs about 20dB better than Dolby noise reduction on signal-to-noise and that matters if you are bouncing/ping-ponging tracks.

Do you have a lead on an RMX64?
 

Dreverb

New member
I


3. Basic maintenance...calibrating a tape machine is a standard activity if you own one. You have to have a calibration tape set the playback level, and the rest of the steps depend on accurately setting the playback level. When is the last time you saw a set of cal tapes for an MG series machine? I used to own a set. I sold them. I doubt I will ever see a set again. Could you buy a short form 1/2” open reel cal tape, transfer the tape to an Akai MK20 shell and use it? Yes. Would it be the correct tape physically and have the correct fluxivity? Can’t tell you. Because they don’t reveal that spec in the owners or service manual. Why? Because they assumed you would use the factory tapes and factory cal tapes and so who needs to know the specs? It is probably 250 nWb/m, but I do not know for sure. Oh, and what about biasing the tape in your reloaded shells? The service manual is also not clear about that, because if you were doing what Akai intended, you were always using the factory mystery tape and would not need to bias for different tape formulations.
It seems to be 3180 x 50µs 19 cm/s 200nWb/s. I still can't understand what it really means that. :)
MG1212 and Mg1214 were calibrated at -5.5dB and MG14D at 0dB with -10dBV on unbalanced outputs and +4dBs on balanced.
 

D0k

New member
Do you live anywhere near Southern California? Dave at VST in Arcadia is THE authority on these machines and he services them for relatively cheap (under $300 to get mine in working order). I'm super happy with my 1212 but if Dave ever retires I'm SOL. I have no interest in learning how to repair the damn thing.

It's a great sounding machine when it's working properly. But it probably won't always work properly.
 
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RobMG1212

New member
Wow Sweetbeats. You really know your stuff. I just registered because of this post. I am the guy who bought your 2 akai machines. Alot of work and no luck. Plays but wont record. I bought another mg1212. Same thing. Plays. Wont record anything to tape. Found another machine . By this time, I had new idler tire from VST and experience dissasembling. Put the new rubber on. Held my breath........works great. Any ideas why the other machines wont record or erase?
Rob
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Hey, Rob...sorry you’ve had troubles with the units! As I recall the assumption was they would record because all the tracks armed and you could hear the relays clicking, and the transport would engage record mode. But I never tested actual record functions.

Thanks for the compliment...I know some stuff and know my way around a number of devices, but not so much the Akai...never got my hands into the guts.

If it won’t erase or record across any of the tracks though typically the first place to start is the bias amp. As you may know, “bias” signal in an analog tape machine does a couple of things. First of all, bias signal is a high frequency sinus tone, usually 100kHz or higher. At low levels bias signal excites the oxide on the tape enabling a higher quality (i.e. lower distortion and better HF response) signal to print to tape. That’s the layman’s description. And at high levels it erases existing signal from the tape. So if nothing is erasing when you record I would start by seeing if the bias oscillator is working. The oscillator generates the HF tone, and then each track usually has an amp. The service manual would detail where/how you check the oscillator and the levels from the amps. That’s where I would start. You could also verify the PCB with the bias circuitry is getting power, and if you want just start shotgun re-seating connections to things, just be gentle when doing this.

I’ve not heard of the issue you’re having being one of the common problems with the MG1212, but then again I don’t follow them very closely and they’re not so very common either. There are a couple members here who *have* had their hands into the MG series guts and would like likely have some guidance or maybe anecdotes to share. Hopefully they’ll chime in.
 

RobMG1212

New member
Sweetbeats. Great info. I do have a couple schematics so I will see what they tell me. That sounds right.......even though 3 techs have had their hands in it, what your saying makes sense. If I hit the tape super hard with a drum machine on high volume, there IS a very very faint sound..... but absolutely no erase feature.
Also, for anyone with sluggish transport issues, take the reels out. One of my machines will not pull tape in cartridge, but reels run directly in machine play fine. There is a video of some Spanish speaking dude doing this. Was it Brazil? He has an entirely rebuilt 1212 that had been shipwrecked or some weird water deal. No english, but very cool to watch.
Rob
 

RobMG1212

New member
Mg1212

Sweetbeats. Great info. I do have a couple schematics so I will see what they tell me. That sounds right.......even though 3 techs have had their hands in it, what your saying makes sense. If I hit the tape super hard with a drum machine on high volume, there IS a very very faint sound..... but absolutely no erase feature.
Also, for anyone with sluggish transport issues, take the reels out. One of my machines will not pull tape in cartridge, but reels run directly in machine play fine. There is a video of some Spanish speaking dude doing this. Was it Brazil? He has an entirely rebuilt 1212 that had been shipwrecked or some weird water deal. No english, but very cool to watch.
Rob
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Sweetbeats. Great info. I do have a couple schematics so I will see what they tell me. That sounds right.......even though 3 techs have had their hands in it, what your saying makes sense. If I hit the tape super hard with a drum machine on high volume, there IS a very very faint sound..... but absolutely no erase feature.
Also, for anyone with sluggish transport issues, take the reels out. One of my machines will not pull tape in cartridge, but reels run directly in machine play fine. There is a video of some Spanish speaking dude doing this. Was it Brazil? He has an entirely rebuilt 1212 that had been shipwrecked or some weird water deal. No english, but very cool to watch.
Rob

You have a link to that video? That sounds like a must-see!

I’m sending you a PM as well so look for that.
 

Don W

New member
Own an old Akai MG1212 Mixer/recorder. Does anyone have the same issue I have with the Low Impedence MIC inputs (all 12) having noise? To manage this issue, I had to purchase exterior low impedance mic input to 1 3/4 inch plug and use the "LINE" input to the MG1212. Hiss went away.... What is the issue here?
 

RobMG1212

New member
Hey guys. I have done a ton of reading and speculation on tape. I have read that some tape sounds ok for "composite music" but won't bias right for track by track. So not sure how this will work long term or what issues may arise......but imagine my surprise when THIS happened. ..........ok. so beta tapes don't fit. I pulled the reels out of a beta tape, even though reels look different, they ran. I figured it MIGHT record a sound, so imagine my surprise when I ran Pantera mouth for war into the video tape. It not only recorded but had awesome sound, clear, great full response. I was so stoked. Even if there becomes an issue somehow, at the very least, you can use this old disposable tape to trouble shoot the machine.
I imagine vhs would work too, but the beta wheels working means you don't even need a real akai shell to load tape.
Also, how I load tape is push play, and when the gears turn to pull the tape to the heads, I hit the power button to kill the motion. Then thread tape and power back on. Sweetbeats. I found the record bias. I adjusted it higher and it made a difference but only very slight. One of 3 machines records well, but still takes several passes to erase. I bet a VCR tech could work on these. I also have a good manual for schematics etc...
God is good, even if my Akai is always "in the shop".
 

RobMG1212

New member
Here is my update after a few days of straight Akai Mg1212 work. The "parts machine" I got from you Sweetbeats.......the cam gear had a broken pin. The fix I did with a drill bit and epoxy is better than new. Way better. I worked alot on transport alignment, timing etc.... I could not get everything to fire properly BUT.....I swapped transports from another machine and vice versa. The fixed transport worked great in another AKAI I got in Salem. SO.....there is a control issue somewhere. It will basically work with 3 exceptions. Play plunger must be hand activated, brake plunger must be hand activated and it wont eject. No big deal on eject. I am still running raw reels in there of chewed up beta tape. Its thrashed but still plays! Not sure of record function. Also Sweetbeats, that parts machine had some water damage on rear board and it would hve been a small fortune to rebuild it. Fortunately, I took a good board out of another machine and there was no difference. The other machine ran fine without it! Probably some logic control board. Great if it all works with auto punch in and all that, but I can use my fingers. I do not need all the fancy stuff. I got to looking at schematics and alot of that stuff is just computer controlled bologna. Soon I will start testing voltages and comparing to other known working units to isolate the bad board. Having 4 units seems crazy, but it super helps to swap around stuff. I need power supply schematics. Please let me know who has some. So as of now, I have one that works. One that plays well but no recording. Another one that plays well on open reels, but I need to add a little hand pressure to pinch roller if using full casettes. And a fourth one that has a good transport (atleast with open reels) and may or may not record.
These last few days I learned alot. Work too fast and stuff shorts and fuses blow, That cam gear is under alot of pressure. Switch machine off NOW if it starts to bind. Cam gear is a sucker to re-align. Be ready to kill power or you will grind it up. The long aluminum rod on left of transport under springs drags alot. It needs lube. I took one of mine to the grinding wheel. This need to move smoothly, or the cam gear bears the brunt. (Note to self, grind it more.) I learned it would be nice to make a set of "extension cords" for transport so it can be worked on outside of machine. These machines do have problems but consider this. One of the machines I got took a serious drop. I just noticed that the "cave in" of an inch underneath, transfered into transport area. I had to re-bend that gold plate that the whole transport rides on. That drop would have killed some machines. Ok. There is a load more I learned, but thats enough typing for now.
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
Rob,

First of all, CHECK YOUR PMs. I sent you a couple messages, one back in October last year and one today.

Secondly, commendable work there...Rob...dog will hunt.

The "water damage" is likely not that at all. If you were seeing rust and corrosion, its likely the power supply board with the backup battery on it. This is a known issue, they go bad and begin to leak after all these years and the leakage is corrosive. Somewhere in an MG1212 thread on this forum there is info as to where you can get a replacement battery. Anyway, just wanted to propose that possible alternative to water damage.
 

mirihida

New member
I have an akai 1212 looking to get rid of it before i start turning screws loose on it..haha.. dmv area
 

sweetbeats

Reel deep thoughts...
You might want to try posting in the gear for sale forum instead of tagging onto an unrelated topic. Also might help if you clarify what “dmv”...that means Department of Motor Vehicles to me. Also more detail as to your MG1212’s cosmetic and operating condition as well as what you hope to sell it for...pictures are helpful too.
 
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