Reel tape recorders are coming back.

Published on May 10, 2018

Reel tape recorders are coming back.



    Retro is back in fashion. Today sales of vinyl records are at a record level for several decades, and this is no accident. The faster the progress of digital technology, the more people are drawn to old analog things ... paper notebooks with leather binding, records with a warm tube sound. Even unpretentious cassette recorders are again becoming popular with teenagers who have never heard the gentle hiss of an analog film and have never rewound an audio cassette on a pencil.

    Such artifacts of the past awaken warmth in the heart and keen nostalgia for natural, natural life. Once a mass product is even transformed into an elite expensive product, available only to real connoisseurs who can afford such a rarity.

    This week there was a landmark event. After twenty years, the German company Roland Schneider Precision Engineering from Düsseldorf decided to resume production of bobbin (reel) tape recorders. They will go on sale under the brand Ballfinger at prices ranging from 9,500 to 24,000 euros.

    Audio film reels dominated the record market in the lion's part of the 20th century (from about the 40s to the 90s) until they were supplanted by other formats. They provided the highest quality professional sound, and the film was relatively easy to edit, sticking together audio recordings and cutting out extra fragments. Only at the end of the 20th century appeared high-quality digital equipment, which was able to replace studio reel tape recorders in professional work with sound. On the computer it was much easier to reduce and edit the sound, as well as copy recordings.

    In the domestic sector, the coils were almost crowded out by cassette models by the mid-80s - for the average consumer, compactness and ease of use turned out to be more important than sound quality.

    Technology seemed to be a thing of the past. Probably the reels with the film in the film “Pulp Fiction” saw more people than in reality.

    But now reel tape recorders are coming back to life. German Ballfinger models target the most demanding audiophiles. The devices are sold at an exorbitant price from 9,500 to 24,000 euros (as in Soviet times, the highest quality bobbins cost the engineer’s annual salary, as well as now). Some models can be completed under the order. The top Ballfinger model is equipped with three direct drive engines, an audio editing system, a volumeter, and walnut side panels. Photo: Ballfinger




    “Digital media is great, but experiencing music is more than just listening to a sound file, it’s something sensual, coils that rotate and you can touch,” said Roland Schneider, designer of Ballfinger. “When it comes to sound quality, nothing else in the analog world gives you the feeling of being in a recording studio like a film on reels.”


    Photo: Ballfinger

    Schneider presented prototype reel-to-reel tape recorders last year at the Hamburg industrial fair. They immediately caused a noticeable agiotage among audiophiles - and it immediately became clear that such retro-technology would be in demand.

    Such a tendency to retro return is observed not only in Western countries, but also in the post-Soviet space, where audiophiles are enthusiastically discussing on forums the cult models of Soviet tape recorders and other equipment: Sonata 304, Comet 209, Rostov 102, Rostov 112 "," Olimp 003 ", Svema coils ...


    The tape recorders “Nota-202-stereo”, “Nota-203-stereo” and “Nota-203-1-stereo” from 1976, 1977 and 1979 were produced by Novosibirsk EMZ. The

    German company spent six years designing a reel-to-reel tape recorder of a new generation. More in the process of mass production preparation, orders were received from more than 80 distributors from around the world.

    Obviously, the market is ripe for the return of a retro format, which even sounds a little different than “flat” digital recordings without distortion. Analog equipment is being installed again in recording studios, and many pop stars are rediscovering the old way of producing songs. Lady Gaga, Ryan Adams and The Black Keys are just some of the artists who recorded the songs on tape in recent years. Experts suggest that others may follow their example.