There is no doubt that reel-to-reel machines are expensive, Ken Kessler, a writer for Hi-Fi magazine with a self-proclaimed obsession of Reel-to-Reel tape players recently wrote an article for the publication about his research for the top pre-owned and refurbished open-reel decks that are not only worth having but also affordable for now, the prices on all decks are soaring upwards as the trend for these open-reel tape machines become more popular with audiophiles.
Kessler had 10 decks total he recommended including the Akai GX-4000D for a good basic deck between $150-$700 depending on condition and the Otari MX5050, that was his pick for an excellent all-in-one built to prosumer standards which brings between $700-$4000. For the best sounding reel-to-reel player, he chose the easy-to-use, auto-reverse tape machine Pioneer RT-707in the $800-$2100 range.
I would like to highlight two of his reel-to-reel audio tape deck finds:
TEAC X-Series:If you saw the movie Pulp Fiction you would have seen the TeacX-2000R, both the X-2000 and the X-1000 prices soared after the movie came out, however, Kessler writes the X-3 and the X-7 are affordable, robust, plentiful and sound great. The 10in spool models start at about $700 and are amazing open-reel decks.
Technics RS-1500/1700:These machines have 3-speeds, 3 3/4, 7 1/2 and 15ips with 7in/10in spool decks. The price of these NAB decks is going up due to high-end users wanting them and their popularity with refurbishing companies who are purchasing the donor machines. Kessler says to allow at least $1700-$2100 for working machines with an added $300-$550 for the auto-reverse RS-1700. A completely rebuilt, customized deck can run you between $8000-$12,000 according to Kessler. Kessler claims the RS-1500 “will never disappoint” if you want one machine that does it all. I personally own the RS-1506 and can vouch for how amazing my reel-to-reel deck is in sound and quality. Our beautiful carbon fiber RX Reels 10-inch reel spools are designed to complement the unique color of the Technics RS 1500 line up as well.
When shopping for a reel-to-reel tape player Kessler suggests you take your time, decide on a budget and stick to it, call around to and email companies who work on whichever machine you have decided is yours and find out how much it will be to service that deck. Your due diligence and patience will pay off in the end.
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“What’s in a reel?” you may well ask. Well, a lot more than simply being a device to store audio tape – Neville Roberts delves into the detail!
Martin Pipe takes up his tape with this superbly-made reel from the USA.
Thanks to RX Reels careful balance, fast-winding is quieter than with lesser articles due to a considerable reduction in vibration - which is itself a good thing, for the life of your deck's reel motors. The lack of physical noise during playback isn't the only audible benefit - I also found that the stereo image was more solid and better defined. Quite frankly, it's highly unlikely you'll find a better spool for your deck.