Asking For Advice
Asking For Advice
The Ampex list is a treasure-trove of information. There's people here who worked on the design projects of many of the Ampex machines. There's people who have used and maintained them across the years, and
there's people like yourself who have undertaken a restoration on a vintage machine. There are people who make or made hit records. There are bona-fide experts here.
That's a lot of accumulated knowledge and experience. People here are happy to give that
you can make things quicker and easier for all by providing the right information up front, and asking questions that have reasonable limits. The list is the world repository of
of analog tape recording.
The span of list member's knowledge and education spans a wide range, from degreed engineers to rank amateurs. If you're a new poster, then tell us a bit about yourself,
which helps responders write in language that you understand. Tell us about yourself and your situation:
We don't care how many letters you have after your name, but if you're an engineer (meaning one who designs things rather than a balance engineer), then let us know,
because the answer to an electronics question is different if you're writing to an engineer vs that same answer to a guitar player. If you know something about electronics, then say so, but
likewise, if you don't know an ohm from a faucet, then let us know that too.
Do you know how to do electronics soldering? Are you proficient with hand tools? Do you have an aptitude for mechanical things?
If you have never done more to a tape machine than press RECORD, but now you own a machine and need to make it work, that's fine. Just let us know.
Where do you live? -
This matters from the standpoint of parts and services availability and the frequency of your local power system (50hz vs 60hz). It also affects the
resources that other list members might recommend.
Tell us what test gear you have (or don't have). Some tests or adjustments are best made with some sort of test equipment.
Many things can be done using the machine's VU meter. Do you know how to use it?
If you don't have test equipment, sometimes there are workarounds.
| Useful Test Gear
Digital Multimeter (DMM)
Needed for measuring circuit voltages and continuity thru wiring.
Doesn't need to be fancy; a function generator would do here, but you do need a stable (constant amplitude vs frequency) source of sine wave signals in
order to perform the record alignment. You could use your DAW to do this. It could have switched frequencies. It is helpful, though, if there is a rotary dial (sweep) kind of frequency selection.
A single trace scope is fine, although a dual trace scope could be useful. You need this for azimuth alignment and for troubleshooting. A scope can tell you much more than a DMM does.
You really do need an alignment tape. It's a piece of test equipment. Buy it new, because you don't know how a used one has been (mis)treated. It is the
calibration standard for your machine, and it's the way that you ensure that tapes you make can play on other machines as you recorded it.
What is it? -
Complete model number, with any letters, etc. An AG440 is different from an AG440B is different from an AG440C. Tell the track configuration, tape width, and operating speed.
Any extras added on? -
This would be things like the capstan servo or the PURC modification, etc. If you don't know, that's ok, it'll come out in the wash.
Other extras -
If the machine has plug-in transformers or preamps, are the preamps/transformers installed? If the transformers/preamps aren't installed, are the jumper plugs installed
(this will prevent recording)?
Try to clearly state what your problem or question is. It could be as simple as, "351 doesn't go into record," or as complex as "ATR100 thinks it's always in fast wind mode."
Put boundaries around it so that it doesn't require writing a book in order to answer it. You'll get way more replies that way.
Tell what you've tried to do to understand it better. Try to be organized in your writing. Don't use abbreviations or acronyms unless you're sure that everyone reading your post will understand it.
The list doesn't accept attachments, so if you have pictures (remember that a picture is worth 1k words!), then it helps to have a place to host them, so others can see them.