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Thread: Help needed: Akai 4000DS reel-to-reel

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    Help needed: Akai 4000DS reel-to-reel

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    Hey Guys!

    Sorry to jump on the ship here with a lot of questions, asking to draw upon your expertise without contributing any myself.

    The story is this: My girlfriend's grandfather recently died. He was a pretty solitary man and had his hobbies that he liked to practice by himself (building model trains for instance).
    Now, since her grandmother has pretty advanced Alzheimer's, she has been taken in by a home. We were asked to help clear out the attic of their house before it will eventually be sold.

    We found an Akai 4000DS there with a reel still on. No other reels were anywhere to be found.
    We learned that the grandfather bought this thing to record his thoughts whenever he needed to spill them, like a sort of journal. He used to be a judge here so imagine the things he might have told his tapes.
    The family now really wants to hear what is on this tape and since I busy myself with music and have my own little home studio, they look at me to do this. They want whatever is on the tape transferred to the computer.

    Now I have to say that I have zero experience with reel-to-reel tape machines and so I will need some help to achieve this.

    I plugged in the unit and it all seems to be working OK, all parts are present as far as I can tell, except for the rubber stopper that holds the left reel in place.
    The reels still turn and everything. When I plugged it into an amplifier I only got noise however. I don't know if this is because the tape is empty or because something is broken. When I connected the phones plug to my guitar amp, same thing.

    Now my question is: can someone give me advice on getting this thing running again or how I should test it to find out if it is still in working order?
    It was in a dusty attic probably for decades, so should I clean its insides out? How do I go about this, cotton buds and IPA cleaner?

    I can post pictures later if needed/desired.

    I already came across this site while searching, it seems they have the service and owner's manual available here: Akai 4000DS Manual - Stereo Reel to Reel Tape Recorder - HiFi Engine

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

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    Hi there,
    I guess the first thing to do would be to set the important tape aside and grab a cheap tape from eBay or something for testing.
    What country are you in? Maybe someone could even send you a used tape?

    If you had that you'd be able to test the inputs, recording and playback, and know what to expect.
    With an unknown tape you're right - the noise might not be symptomatic of a problem at all!


    As it happens I actually have a 4000DS in the attic so if push came to shove I could clean it up and do the transfer for you, if you were reasonably close.


    For now I suppose close up detailed photographs of the heads would be useful just to get an idea of what condition they're in in terms of wear and dirt/grime/sticky shed.


    The stopper being missing shouldn't be a problem. As far as I remember these units have rubber feet on the back so you can set them flat on a table and run them that way.
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    Hey Steenamaroo! Sorry for the late reply, I am participating in a clinical trial, so I was away for a bit. Thanks for all the suggestions, I'm in Belgium by the way. I got really lucky though, I just found another RtR tape player (Philips 4307) that had been standing incongruous in our house and no one had bothered to open it up to find out what it was. This player also had a tape on it and I'm pretty sure this one has music on it. Will keep you updated and see about those pics too!

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    Update!

    I tried the tape I got from the Philips tape player with headphones (without changing anything else) and I got sound. It ran way too fast though, voice sounded like a squirrel. I also only had a left channel, right channel just gave some noise.

    I have included some pics, the size of the tape wheel I got of the Philips (on the player) is a lot smaller than those on the Akai though, so maybe it is the wrong kind of tape for this player? The heads look pretty good to me, but what do you guys think?

    I want to see how much I can get fixed without actually having to open the player up, but maybe that time has now come?

    Ysct7VG.jpgHOcX43X.jpg

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    I managed to remove the sleeve of the capstan (was on very tight and I didn't want to force it, but some guys on another forum gave me the go-ahead), so now it plays back at 3 3/4 and the Philips tape plays at the right speed now. When I put it on channel 1-2 I get right channel only, stereo and 3-4 give me left channel only.

    I guess I'm going to try the grandfather-tape now to see if there is actually anything on there, unless you think it's a really bad idea? The other tape plays fine, rewinds and fast forwards fine too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Odowalt View Post
    I managed to remove the sleeve of the capstan (was on very tight and I didn't want to force it, but some guys on another forum gave me the go-ahead), so now it plays back at 3 3/4 and the Philips tape plays at the right speed now. When I put it on channel 1-2 I get right channel only, stereo and 3-4 give me left channel only.

    I guess I'm going to try the grandfather-tape now to see if there is actually anything on there, unless you think it's a really bad idea? The other tape plays fine, rewinds and fast forwards fine too.
    Hi,
    Ha...I was going to tell you about the capstan sleeve but you found out anyway. Good news.

    If the other tape plays rw/ff etc without issue I'd go ahead and try your Grandfather's tape.
    The playback you describe most recently is how it's meant to work.

    2-3 will playback track two (or three if the tape's reversed) and 1-4 will playback track one (or four if the tape's reversed).

    The stereo setting should playback tracks 1+3 as L+R, or 2+4 if the tape's reversed. Is that how it's working for you?
    The philips machine may not record in this format, though, so don't panic if the answer's no.

    If you find yourself getting one side audio only in the stereo setting, flip the tape and make sure the audio comes out the other side, albeit in reverse.
    That'll prove that the Akai works fine but the tape only has audio printed to one half or quarter of it.



    If it screeches or starts slowing down or anything strange with your grandfather's tape, stop playback and remove the reel.
    Those are symptoms that the tape has degraded (sticky shed syndrome) and you'll only damage it and the gum up the heads and tape path by carrying on.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Steenamaroo; 11-10-2015 at 12:22.
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