Studer A820 in for repair!

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,255
103
63
Beverly Hills, CA
#2
Can I steal it?
 
May 25, 2010
781
19
18
SF Bay Area
#3
Hi Tim, as your get into the repair, I would really like to get your sense of a repaired A820 vs. one of Fred Thal's remanufactured A820's. His machines are on the order of the $100K that the author of the article you posted quotes as the estimated cost of a new one today. Fred is also clear that he believes that one should have a reproducer (with the repro head position placed differently than in a recording machine) to get the best out of the A820 playback capabilities. He sells the play only machines for $81K and up.

Many people who want to play 15ips 2 track tapes do not have or are willing to spend close to six figures to play those tapes, but want more than a prosumer level machine. Also if they want to be able to record music, or dub tapes, they want more than a repro machine only.

Fred's dedication and skills in producing the best are admirable. And we have heard his opinions about what is necessary to achieve that. I would like additional perspectives, particularly with respect to the holy grail A820 and A80 machines.

Thanks, Larry
 
Feb 16, 2017
11
9
3
#4
Dear Tim & Larry,

Hi from Mike at Chasing The Dragon! We have several A820s and over the years I have found them to be like race horses! They are very jumpy and need the right diet and TLC however, when you love them and look after them properly there is no other machine like it in the world! The most important thing you need is an engineer who really knows their way round the machine. Many people claim to know what they are doing but in reality it requires quite a specialized knowledge to keep them on song. Once you have found that person ideally you should try and marry them!

Over here in the UK I use a chap called Petronel, who runs the Audiophiles Clinic and having gone through many engineers, he is without doubt the very best. All of the electrolytic capacitors, pinch roller and bearings etc have been replaced in our machines and the sound quality is now, because of the more modern components, even better than when the machine was new.

As a matter of interest, I have bought a machine from Fred Thal and found that in comparison with a good second hand machine completely updated by Petronel (at a vastly reduced price!) sounded far superior and I can therefore through personal experience, heartily recommend that approach.

Good luck and if you have the time please enjoy the website: www.chasingthedragon.co.uk

Kind regards,

Mike Valentine


IMG_2757.JPG
Lining up our 1/2 '' A820 at Air Studios, our Direct Cut albums are created on the Neumann Lathe behind, whilst we record tape and digital at the same time but from separate feeds from the Neve desk downstairs. In the foreground is the Harry Potter of the mastering world: John Webber.

IMG_2760.JPG
Our 1/2'' baby, who is now over 30 years old!

IMG_2903.jpg
Creating our tape to tape transfers from an original copy master of the session. Some companies copy their tapes from a digital source, however with each tape they produce God kills a puppy!
 

Ki Choi

Member Sponsor
May 13, 2010
744
1
18
Seattle WA area
#6
Hi Tim, as your get into the repair, I would really like to get your sense of a repaired A820 vs. one of Fred Thal's remanufactured A820's. His machines are on the order of the $100K that the author of the article you posted quotes as the estimated cost of a new one today. Fred is also clear that he believes that one should have a reproducer (with the repro head position placed differently than in a recording machine) to get the best out of the A820 playback capabilities. He sells the play only machines for $81K and up.

Many people who want to play 15ips 2 track tapes do not have or are willing to spend close to six figures to play those tapes, but want more than a prosumer level machine. Also if they want to be able to record music, or dub tapes, they want more than a repro machine only.

Fred's dedication and skills in producing the best are admirable. And we have heard his opinions about what is necessary to achieve that. I would like additional perspectives, particularly with respect to the holy grail A820 and A80 machines.

Thanks, Larry
Curiosity in me want to know too! Ki
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,595
11
38
Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#7
Curiosity in me want to know too! Ki
Dear Tim & Larry,

As a matter of interest, I have bought a machine from Fred Thal and found that in comparison with a good second hand machine completely updated by Petronel (at a vastly reduced price!) sounded far superior and I can therefore through personal experience, heartily recommend that approach.



Well we already know Mike's machines are better than Fred's! :eek:
 
Likes: Ki Choi
May 30, 2010
14,163
96
48
Portugal
#8
(...) All of the electrolytic capacitors, pinch roller and bearings etc have been replaced in our machines and the sound quality is now, because of the more modern components, even better than when the machine was new.
(...)
The question all DIY type Studer tape machine owners (there are a few in WBF) would love to read an answer - what type of bearings are you using in your machines? Are there any bearings comparable or better than the originals?
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,595
11
38
Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#9
The question all DIY type Studer tape machine owners (there are a few in WBF) would love to read an answer - what type of bearings are you using in your machines? Are there any bearings comparable or better than the originals?
And the bearings from Athan are not.....!!
 
Likes: Ki Choi

RogerD

Active Member
May 23, 2010
3,156
0
36
BiggestLittleCity
#10
I believe the bearing would be ABEC 7 class aircraft type. I would not go below a type 5. Barden,Fafnir ect
 
May 25, 2010
781
19
18
SF Bay Area
#11
I want to especially thank Mike for his comments. This is the first time I have read about someone who had bought one of Fred Thal's machines and compared it to an A820 which has been restored by a different person. Clearly there is a difference between remanufacturing and restoring, including cost. Quality of sound has been more difficult to ascertain from the experiences of customers.

However, there also appears to also be a difference between a reproducer and a regular tape recorder (at least for Fred's A820's and A80's). I wasn't clear whether the reproducer configuration (which appears to reposition the playback head and eliminate record and erase heads) is a Studer configuration or ATAE configuration. Any thoughts from the Studer cognoscenti in the group (Bruce, Ki, Mike, Roger, Microstrip, Mike L.)?

Although the price of ATAE machines is beyond most people and I think beyond the professional studios that I am familiar with, there are quite a few audiophiles who spend that level of money on high end speakers, turntables, DAC's and other equipment. When I look at how much I have spent on tapes, I can see the total in that range, although doing it chunk by chunk over time makes it less of a shock and easier not to think of it!

Larry
 

Mike Lavigne

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 25, 2010
7,138
58
48
#12
Larry, as an owner of -3- Studer A-820's i'm watching here with considerable interest to try and learn something. Mike's comments are very interesting and i'm hoping more info is forthcoming.

i suppose one contemplates how much shipping my -3- A-820's to Petronel in Kent, U.K. might cost? :)
 
Likes: Ki Choi
May 30, 2010
14,163
96
48
Portugal
#14
(...) Although the price of ATAE machines is beyond most people and I think beyond the professional studios that I am familiar with, there are quite a few audiophiles who spend that level of money on high end speakers, turntables, DAC's and other equipment. When I look at how much I have spent on tapes, I can see the total in that range, although doing it chunk by chunk over time makes it less of a shock and easier not to think of it!

Larry
IMHO the big issue is that most audiophiles will not valuate enough what Fred considers fundamental - extremely high and objectively verifiable mechanical performance and adhesion to very strict and rigid technical electrical standards. Long term repeatability is a must for ATAE machines - a tape reproduced ten years ago or in 2030 should sound exactly the same in any of such machines. Fred machines are standards. His refurbished machines should play tapes exactly as they are, not embellish them to our preferences. Just look at the vinyl threads where people do exactly the opposite - they tune vinyl playing systems to their preferences, having several turntables, tonearms and cartridges, each with different eletro-mechanical performance and sound characteristics.
 
Oct 22, 2011
647
6
18
#15
Is Mike saying that Thal's unit sounds better or the ones he had restored locally?
 
Likes: Skylab
May 30, 2010
14,163
96
48
Portugal
#16
I believe the bearing would be ABEC 7 class aircraft type. I would not go below a type 5. Barden,Fafnir ect
Having read Fred post in the Studer list I think that ABEC class is not the most important parameter - their are other extremely important aspects. Being a non expert in bearings I am looking for a firm recommendation for a brand and specific type, preferably with an explanations why these ones ... In the past I could get excellent bearings for my A80 from NMB, but my supplier is not able to source them anymore.
 
May 30, 2010
14,163
96
48
Portugal
#17
Is Mike saying that Thal's unit sounds better or the ones he had restored locally?
Happy to see that I am not the only one in doubt! :)
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,595
11
38
Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#18
Curiosity in me want to know too! Ki
Well we already know Mike's machines are better than Fred's! :eek:
Dear Tim & Larry,

As a matter of interest, I have bought a machine from Fred Thal and found that in comparison with a good second hand machine completely updated by Petronel (at a vastly reduced price!) sounded far superior and I can therefore through personal experience, heartily recommend that approach.
/QUOTE]
 
May 25, 2010
781
19
18
SF Bay Area
#19
Happy to see that I am not the only one in doubt! :)
I took it to mean his local tech's was better. It is not completely clear however.
 
May 25, 2010
781
19
18
SF Bay Area
#20
Larry, as an owner of -3- Studer A-820's i'm watching here with considerable interest to try and learn something. Mike's comments are very interesting and i'm hoping more info is forthcoming.

i suppose one contemplates how much shipping my -3- A-820's to Petronel in Kent, U.K. might cost? :)
Mike, did you get your A820's from Fred? Thanks, Larry
 

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