Reel 2 reel, and is it worth it these day's

Well i have certainly had a full weekend off music, yesterday it was the new naim 300 turn, and today we go back 42 year’s, and see how a reel 2 reel stands up in my home system.

First off lets have a picture off this lovely bit off kit

This machine is one off many that my very good friend Vic owns, he loves all things tape, plus he likes to fix them up, and at one point had over 50 tape decks, yes he is as mad as they get.

This particular Philips N4520 machine has 3 speeds, 9.5, 19, and 38 cm/s you can also adjust the bias on the front, this turned out to be very interesting as most can only be adjusted from inside the machine.

So the purpose off all this was, mainly to see if it could record as good as the source. My own Sony elcaset El7 can not match my source, as it just loses the top end sparkle, and puts extra weight on the bottom end. It still does a good job but it’s pointless recording on it as streaming just sounds better.

Getting back to the reel 2 reel.
I picked a good detailed track, and off we went. At first we used a slow speed, and this gave very much the same results i get with my elcaset, you could use the bias to try and lift the top end, but it couldn’t match the vivaldi.
So next we upped the speed to the 19 cm/s this gave a much bettet result, the top end was getting closer, and the bottom end not quite as heavy as before, still not quite there but very close, and certainly good enough for most occasions.
But to really match the source it needed to be at maximum speed. This was certainly the point where we looked at each other, and said i can’t hear anything different, when we switched from tape to source ( as in listening to what’s just been recorded on the tape, to what’s going in. As you can switch it over when recording to listen live, just like any 3 head tape deck)
The only problem being this then makes it about a 30 minute a side tape, and that’s getting expensive as far as each track goes.

But it did highlight a few things.
1, tape can still do it even these days.
2, you need good machine that’s set up correctly and in very good health to even start to get the results.
3, you will need deap pockets to run one in tape alone, as it really needed to be on the fastest speed to match.
4, it looks lovely when working.

It would have been nice to try a master copy recording against me just streaming the same music from my dCS kit, but that is for another day i guess.
Also we are next going to try his 2 track machine and see how that goes as this one was a 4 track, so this uses less tape, and so the 2 track should bring more at slower speeds, and more at higher speeds, but lets see.

Anyway it was lovely to finally try a decent working reel 2 reel in my system. Not sure it’s worth it but at the same time it would be rather nice to have for when you feel like it. But it looks like it’s an even bigger rabbit hole than vinyl, and streaming put together, and i feel it’s one that can go wrong very quickly.

Anyway hope you enjoyed this, and i hope to add more reel 2 reel stuff to it as things happen.
For now i have it, and Vic wants me to record some music on it from my dCS, as he was blown away with how it sounded, and wants to hear what it will sojnd like on his system recorded from mine.

Cheers dunc


Very nice. Had about 30 years of reel to reel. Imho the digital playback will never equal the tape playback and the copy will never equal the source. So if you get a high quality recording that is in stellar condition and your heads are clean using highest speed it should smoke a digital copy of the same recording. An excellent copy of a digital source will always be slightly less. B

It’s a beautiful thing and part of me is jealous. However it is just another alternative in the endless search for the ultimately impossible to achieve “perfect sound”.

As this thread is about being worth it you correctly comment that

You’ll need to reach your own conclusions. . Too rich for my blood. Best quality pre-recorded tapes are currently going for £400 a reel for Chasing the Dragon and $450 for reels from Acoustic Sounds. You can buy Jazz at the Pawnshop for $1898.98 ( love the 98 cents. If only that hadn’t been added :wink:). BTW, be very careful of some stuff that is on offer from various vendors at lower prices otherwise. Much is sold with no provenance and the one that I have come across that has discloses that it has been made from a digital source. No indication outside of the well known Chasing the Dragon or Acoustic Sounds that these others are licensed. BTW do be aware of copyright issues when making dubs for friends.

Incidentally these days I try to buy music not formats for the reason in my opening paragraph.

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Just to clarify this reel 2 reel isn’t mine, it’s my mates.
I don’t intend to buy one, as i don’t really have a need for such a thing.
I also don’t like the music you can only get on the tapes available at the moment, so even more off a reason not to have one. As it would only be to record with.

The purpose off the other day was really to see if it could match the same quality when recording, and it can i would say, but only when it running at maximum speed, and that then uses a lot off tape so makes each track quite expensive as the tape isn’t cheap.
So for me no point in owning one apart from just liking to have one.

“Chasing the Dragon” would be a perfect description of my behaviour were I to go this route…

(Likely the same with vinyl, which is why I never started. I’m certain I’d enjoy it, but I’ve found less stressful routes to enjoyment that aren’t quite so ruinous or habit-forming :slight_smile:)

Mind you, remembering the flack-flack-flack-flack of a rewinding Revox or Studer in my childhood makes me feel good even thinking about it. Perhaps I can get a native DSD recording of that and play it on loop when I’m feeling nostalgic.


I’ve been wowed by reel-to-reel tape at an enthusiast audio show more than once, and I’m tallking sound quality here not aesthetics and nostalgia. As has been said above, there are a huge number of caveats if anyone seeks to replicate this in their own home.

That’s a fine looking machine, and for me it’s the aesthetics which make me pause now and again before walking on, despite the above experience; I just love the look! Cost of some machines is highly reasonable, cost of suitably maintained machines less so but still within reach for many, cost of suitably maintained highly regarded machines starts to get stretchy… but it’s the source material which hurts the wallet. Yes, anyone could buy some tapes and record from vinyl or digital sources and then play it back but the medium of tape can’t add anything sonically, it can only take it away, so I give myself a hard slap every time I’m tempted.


For audiophile tapes beside CHASING THE DRAGON and ACOUSTIC SOUNDS, is starting to take off

Thanks Philippe bur I don’t think that AudioSound Music are tape producers unlike Chasing the Dragon and Analogue Productions. They are sellers on of Analogue Productions, Horch House and Impex reel to reel apes along with cassette tapes, vinyl discs, equipment and accessories. So they are just another retailer.

Well just recorded one side for Vic to try. I hope he likes what i have done, but he will enjoy the quality off it, as the vivaldi stack is certainly better than anything he will have as a source before.
He is picking it back up sometime this week.
Then i will be trying another reel 2 reel, only this time it’s 2 track, so double the tape width. This should bring better noise control along with better dynamics.

Serious internet retailers of analogue products including recorded tapes are very few in the euro zone and this one of them

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