Sean and I recently traveled to Philly to pick up an unsuspecting analog ¼” 2-track stereo mixdown reel-to-reel machine. We had no idea what to expect. The price was a little below average for an analog tape machine close to 40 years old, but these large vintage tape machines definitely do not move fast, literally or figuratively, as they’re over 200 lbs! And let’s not forget calibration and upkeep isn’t super sexy to some. (However, we love that stuff here at Mobtown!)
We tested it out in front of a garage in an unassuming suburb of Philly. It looked pretty cool. Everything seemed in line with having been dormant for a decade or so. The machine clearly needed to be cleaned like hell and calibrated, but everything seemed to be in working order.
Otari machines are no slouches. These beasts are built like tanks. Modular tanks. So if something breaks, you can just get a part of the specific entity that broke and replace it. The way everything is interconnected and designed is just pure genius.
What happened next was amazing. I pried a little more into the history of our new machine and it turned out that the seller lived across the street from an owner (or engineer – he wasn’t sure) from the Hit Factory. So we now know this machine resided at the Hit Factory from 1981 through some of the 90s. We’ve confirmed that this deck printed mixes for the following albums: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Milk and Honey, Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A., Whitney Houston’s Whitney, Laurie Anderson’s Big Science, & Angelo Badalamenti’s Music From Twin Peaks. There are too many to list. We just can’t wait to see what records we make on this beauty.
On a side note, there are some interesting modifications made to it. There is a second set of inputs with controls below the meter bridge. There’s also a mono button. And there’s a strange flip switch on the back of the machine and we’ve yet to figure out what it does. <Lost reference.> Some interesting features.