Jun 24th, 2006
Q) Would be so kind to tell me which machine is better for recording and listening tapes? Revox B77 or Teac A3440?
A) Yes, one of my favorite kinds of questions, but strangely, a tough one to answer. Hereís the strange truth. Both decks at this age would need cleaning and calibration. If basic service is done, the Teac would win out mechanically, but not by much. Yet the Revox would be the better sonically, but not by much. Thereís the rub. The Teac can be put back into excellent consistent, mechanical and audio quality condition with little trouble. ButÖ As good as the Revox is, it will suffer some critical age related problems which will interfere with itís potentially much better sonic performance (which will be truly better). Ironically although itís electronic circuit is very well done, damn those older tantalum and English made capacitors. Virtually every Revox whatever will suffer noise and fidelity problems from the aging capacitor phenomenon. Oddly in itís era to design with tantalum caps was not too bad of an idea especially if carefully used in audio preamp circuits. To make the Revox truly sing many capacitors must be replaced these are critical to signal level and quality and in use in the critical equalizer circuits.
When a Revox A77, B77, PR99 is upgraded/serviced it will do the record playback better. I own one. I had to shove in lots of capacitors, however I used better new high quality tantalums mostly again!! Some BSEEís will cringe, but the tantalum capacitors work right and actually imparts a bit of the Revox sound. Then again the Teac can easily be calibrated for a wider range of tapes. Who cares, itís all Maxell, GP, ATR tape, and only this now. These are all top flight tape and running anything else is going away from a better performance, period. No old Ampex, TDK, and Scotch (maybe not 996 Scotch) hits the dust bin Ė sorry, end of discussion! All these tapes get sticky with age (the glue in coming through the oxide binder and gums up the heads, guards, etc.) Both decks can be set up for the 250 n.w. standard and the bias is so record level will allow all those tape in prefer. These higher recorded playback levels allow these machines to better than a 70 db noise floor. Some Teacs might seem a little noisier because so many Teacs may have been calibrated to Pro, Semi-Pro, Consumer, or even set up by other service shop incorrectly. Again if the Teac was correctly set to modern calibration it is an excellent unit. Itís blessing is it will pull even dirty old tapes and is easy to clean and built real tough and lasts really long stay in calibration well etc. The B77 are notorious to develop a wow flutter problems. Although when in spec they are very smooth. Problem is you have to modify the power supply to ensure proper pinch roller, pull in tension and if the heads get clogged the tape will drag down faster. Itís a must to use clean good tape. Older Maxell tape is fine but people collected on other tape sometimes itís O.K. If you live in a relatively cool dryer area tape holds up for a long time, but studio used tape is troublesome. SoÖ I also have and use a Teac A6100 among others. I prefer itís big metering and knobs which have been more critically calibrated for semi-pro levels. I need to edit tapes. The machine is less sensitive to the sticky tape problem. The heads are narrower, a little less deep bass response typically. The Revox heads are high and tape wrap over the head allows a bettor record play.
So itís the Teac for ruggedness and looks, itís the Revox for sound, but the electronics must be updated, so they will be more expensive. Both are great machines. I always have saved parts and kept familiar with these as both would be winners in the future. I am guilty of recording my CDís on tape just to get the little warm up character.
Obviously I understand the sound quality issue. Some people have misread me when I rant about no important differences in wire or CD players, but it is critical to understand that I comment on the fact that many manufacturers and salesman make special and extraordinary claims about the sonic attributes of their product. When often I see a few op amps in a box or a simple dimple tube circuit with a fancy face plate costs $1000. It does not take much to build a connector box with a volume control on it. Tape machines are very sophisticated. Personally from a technical view itís disgusting to see a $1000 turntable clearly bettered by a $300-$400 turntable, or worse a $1000 preamp claim to be so special. You get the point. Tape machines have many parts, very similar, but different ways to make recordings. Very clever stuff. These should cost $1000 and would if anyone could make them again. The best will survive, and did. I hope I have confused you appropriately. Ultimately though, people get the four track for exactly that reason. It can be used as a multi track recording device, record and playback, listen while recording another track and so on. Thatís the 3440 or 3340 real value (pun intended). But then again, it's the Revox for sound quality.
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