Beginning your analog dream – the Otari MX5050

Otari MX5050

The Otari MX5050

I am fortunate enough to own both a Zoom H6 and an Otari reel to reel.  When one looks at the technical advances in the recording industry be it for home studio or a multi-million Rand setup there is just no comparison between the analog of the 1960s to early 1990s and the modern digital installation. The H6 is virtually a home studio in the palm of your hand.  And lets not talk about price.

Otari MX5050
                             Otari MX5050 B2

Whilst the Otari comes in various models, some even being 8 track it is still one of the favourites amongst the home collector, along with Pioneer, Teac, Technics, Akai, Revox and Studer.  And no, this list is or should be infinite because each for his or her own.

A well maintained machine, which includes new or lapped heads is a crowd puller.  The question that arises is it because most of the crowd were born post 1990 or is it the quality.  I know of umpteen people that have never heard or even seen a reel2reel. Is it truly vintage and what determines whether something is vintage or not?  In a race against time, setting up the H6 is a breeze and the quality of reproduction will always surpass the Otari, even the highly ranked Studer.  That’s my opinion.  Try to over-modulate the H6 and we end up with one hellava mess. The reel deck is going to beat it hands down.

This is called record slam – pushing into saturation. We have all heard of the wonderful advantages of tube over solid state when it comes to distortion right?  Well it just so happens that some musicians like to slam their recording. You just don’t get the same result with digital.

So is record slamming the only advantage of R2R?

Zoom H6
Zoom H6 – 6 Channel simultaneous recorder

No, it’s not all doom and gloom – reel recorders have their place. We’ll move on later to the real Otari and why people buy open reel recorders.


Analogian definition

Isidore of Seville
Book II: Of Rhetoric and Dialectics

The tenth kind of definition is that which is called in Greek kaka analogian and in Latin per analogiam or iuxta rationem (according to reasoning), as when one asks: ‘what is an animal’ and the answer is ‘like a man’. The example given identifies the thing looked for. It is proper for definitions to clarify the thing that has been queried.

Make sense? Not to me. We do however know that logic prevails and that an analog signal can be derived from a digital signal at the expense of ‘stuff’.

Recent Posts

Stepping on the toes of DAT, CD and DVD

Time Warp CDP101 First CD Player

Speculation about Vinyl – is it really better quality than your cheap CD

The precursor

There is lots of speculation as to whether vinyl is really better than CD quality when it comes to audio reproduction.  To put more simply, are analog presses or recordings psycho-acoustic? Modern television standards have become so advanced that 4K already shows it’s limitations.  Where do we draw the line between marketing and reality? Is our eyesight really all that good? How about those that can hear 384kHz.

If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and the best electronic circuits are the simplest, which does imply a straight line then CD can never sound better than a straight analog sound system.  But…

The problem is that the digital media/medium used is cheaper, from raw material to transfer of data to resale and now we have the marketing department.

My first CD player was a Sony CDP1, purchased I think in 1984 at a cost of about R800.00.  (off the shelf in Yokohama but going stale by then). By modern standards it was pretty modest but the sound quality was amazing. Sadly it went bust when some geek forgot to use the 220:110V step-down.

Time Warp CDP101 First CD Player
By Atreyu – Own work, CC BY 3.0

Cue’ing a CD

DJs in the 80s must have seen the beauty of these devices from the outset. Quick setup, no feedback, fast access and no scratches. We had endless blasts, the Sony was reliable but the disks weren’t. The backing started to flake off two disks, both Island Records – Grace Jones and if I recollect, Jimmy Cliff. So they weren’t indestructible after all.

So, when is a CD a mastercopy?

The big issue with CDs and DVDs from an audio standpoint is the processing which takes place.  Sampling, bitrates, DACs – all to get an analog signal.  Logic tells us that a digital copy is a perfect copy. Right? Not really but it certainly should be better than a copy of a vinyl to tape recording.

Modern CD players have become throwaway cheap – not the turntable though. Turntables, even modest units are starting to become expensive. Reel to reel tape recorders which were virtually thrown away ten years back are now are now sold as rare high fidelity devices.  And now our problems start.

Good quality analog recording and vinyl reproduction is exorbitantly expensive.  Digital may have its drawbacks but it will always outperform an entry level or even mildly expensive cassette or reel to reel deck in quality and bang for buck.  What analog sound does have is depth creating that warm fuzzy feeling, that feeling of time travel and His Master’s Voice. Maybe noise, pops, crackles and a few other bits and pieces not tied into the original but we just love it. Or so we should.

Our motto:  “the more things change, the more they stay the same”

From bits to bytes to sampling, over-sampling and converters. The outcome will always be analog. Portable media in digital format will always be the winner.


Hello Analogians

Fellow Analogians!

Welcome to the Analog Ian website. Tired of minuscule energy grabbing circuits, gigahertz switching architecture, DACs, ADCs, bits, bytes and nano-particle amplifiers? This is then the site for you – valves, tubes, bottles, psycho-acoustics. Reel to reels, cassette players and turntables.

Officially up and running only on the 1st of January 2017.