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Pick of the Camera Reviews

(Click the pictures for reviews & links) 

ACTION CAMS

Yi 2 - Best Budget 4K 

Gitup Git2 (My Pick)

Xiaomi Yi

Dazzne P2

SJCAM M10+
 
DASH-CAMS (CAR DVRs)
 
A119
DR02 D - Best Budget Dual Cam
Yi

Yi Ultra 2.7K
   
    MINI CAMERAS
Mobius (also works as a Dashcam)
Polaroid Cube+
    HELMET CAMERA
Sena Prism Tube

My favourite USB battery power Pack

This is the excellent USB power pack I use when I travel.

2 x 2.1amp outputs. 8400mAh capacity.

Two digit Led display shows battery level

 

What SD CARD should I buy?

If you want an SD Card for your camera - these are the ones I use and recommend. 

I'd strongly recommend not to buy any SD cards off ebay - I've heard about too many issues with counterfeit cards - often sold on by unwitting resellers. My inbox regularly gets messages from people who bought a £150 camera then cheaped out and bought a £3 memory card on ebay - Then when it doesn't worth they blame the camera! It doesn't make any sense. Good memory is cheaper than it's ever been - see the links above.

A lot of HD cameras will not work properly with cards larger than 32GB (cards over 32GB are usually SDXC rather than the SDHC standard used by 32GB cards. SDXC cards use the ex-FAT system rather than FAT32 - in short they are a different standard). - so don't just buy the biggest card you can afford - read the specs in the manual to see what it accepts.

UK & US LINKS & PRICES BELOW

RECOMMENDED CARDS (for action cams - see dashcams below)

CLASS 10 UHS-1 CARDS (For HD Cameras)

 

U3 CARD (For 4K cameras)

 

 

SPECIAL DASHCAM CARDS

The SD card in a dashcam is re-written over, more frequently than in other types of cameras. Some manufacturers void their guarantee if an SD card was used in a dashcam. So, no surprise, there are special High Endurance SD cards made just for dashcams...here's some.

 

VERY IMPORTANT. These links take you to the product, however Amazon have three different ways of selling. There's Amazon Direct - This means that you are only dealing with Amazon themselves, then there's other sellers that use Amazon's facilities - these show as Fulfilled By Amazon and finally there's Market Place sellers that advertise on Amazon, but operate independently.  I strongly recommend that you only use the first...the Amazon Direct - Sold By Amazon option. Even if it appears that you are paying a couple of £/$ more it is more than likely you are comparing the price of a real item against the price of a fake.

To give you an idea of the extent of the fake goods problem. In a 2016 survey by Apple - 90% of the 'Apple' chargers sold through Amazon - using the other the two methods..which includes the "Fulfilled by Amazon" option -  were found to be counterfeit....90%! 

 
« Return of the Vac - Gtech Multi Review | Main | Using a Mobius Camera and some accessories to make my ideal Dash-Cam »
Thursday
Mar062014

Reel to Reel Recorders - impractical and beautiful

In my opinion one of the most beautiful pieces of consumer electronics ever designed is the Reel-to-Reel tape recorder. I know of few objects you could buy today for your house that would attract more interest and admiration than an old reel to reel machine.
 
To me, the 'priceless' objects people drag along to Antiques Roadshow are just boring old tat. You'll never catch me buying an antique vase or a painting...but late 1970s HiFi equipment, that's a different story. It's (often) affordable, beautiful, still relatively easy to find, and yet rare enough to be interesting. I don't think a single person, male or female, has visited my house in the last few years without asking about my reel-to-reel as soon as they had noticed it. I doubt I'd get the same reaction if I'd spent £500 on a teapot.
 
I anticipate that people in the US will be shocked when they see the price of the machines in the UK, but the price reflects their scarcity. Until I bought my first recorder, the only place I'd seen a reel-to-reel was on US TV shows and in films, usually as a prop in a villains penthouse apartment. From reading forums I often hear stories from people in the US who picked up a machine at the 'Goodwill' for a few dollars that I couldn't possibly source without spending hundreds of pounds, but that's just the way things are.
 
I bought my Reel to Reel as a piece of functional art, and it took me a lot of research (and a few false-starts) to figure out what machine to get and the features I wanted.  I thought I should share some of the knowledge that I picked up along the way. So below we have a video about my machines, and then below that are some links you may find useful. 
 
 
ebay llnks

Reel to Reel Recorders on ebay UK

German Reel to Reel Recorders on ebay UK

US Link for Reel to Reel Recorders on ebay.com

Pre-recorded Reel to Reel Albums -  In Germany. Good selection, not cheap but recommended.

This ebay search will hunt out the 7 1/2 IPS Albums 

New (expensive) NAB Adaptors on ebay

 Forums are the best places to get advice and learn about reel to reels.

AudioKarma.org

TapeHeads.net

Blanks.

7” Blank Tape Reels 

Tape Reels at Thomann.de

ATR Magnetics - New 10.5 Inch Tape 

Other Stuff

HiFi Engine - Manuals and Photos of vintage equipment

The Tape Project - $500! albums recorded at 15 IPS (Most domestic machines will not play these)

Digital Deck Covers - protect your device

This is a brilliant resource of old HiFi brochures - I could (and did) spend hours here

Reel to Reel Recording Museum - You can buy & download a 7hr! long documentary here.

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Reader Comments (13)

I'm still using a 1968 Sony Amplifier. It's been a good one.

The Reel to Reel is long gone.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge T.

Cool review thanks, love all that stuff from the 70s myself! My dad used to have that old reel to reel machine, thinner tape though I think, where we recorded stuff from the radio. It had small blue/green Vu Meters with some kind of "lava lamp" feel...will have to ask him if he still has it somewhere!

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterwebvan

These are impressive machines and always remind me from Knight Rider episode "Soul Survivor" where the bad guys played "hypnotic" music with Pioneer RT-909 reel-to-reel recorder to make Michael Knight unconcious so they could hack into and steal KITT:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDMLPvBWvpo
http://knightrideronline.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=17271
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alyxgN5Z448

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGuy from Finland

I had a nice setup that was all in very good condition (9/10) but sadly decided to sell most of it a year or two ago:

Akai 646 Reel to Reel
Pioneer PL-570 Turntable
Marantz 2252B Receiver (still have it and will not be selling it)

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeyte

I'm a US radio broadcast engineer, trained in the 80s on professional reel decks, and I enjoyed your thoughtful presentation on your machines. One note on analog vs digital that was brought up here: analog can have infinitely smooth wave forms and digital must be stair-stepped to mimic a wave form, which is why analog tape and vinyl records are said to be superior to CDs. While this is technically true, it's possible to fool the human ear/brain into hearing smooth wave forms even when they're actually stair-stepped at high sampling rates (96k samples per second, for example, is very good). And of course uncompressed digital formats, by their nature, are never plagued by tape hiss, vinyl crackle, wow & flutter issues we fought in the 70s ... unless of course you're digitizing your analog libraries.

March 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDan Robbins

Guy, Thanks for the Knight Rider links - excellent stuff.

Dan, For years I heard people say that CD didn't sound as good a vinyl. I never really understood it until I picked up a reel to reel, there is a body to the music that seems absent from CDs. I picked up a turntable recently, and whist it's fun, the static pops and crackles pretty much undo any benefits.
I was looking forward to seeing Neil Young's Pono system - I'm a sucker for a new format - I was hoping the album releases would come in an unusual and impractical form factor like a a cube or a pyramid - I'm bored with CD/DVD box sized media... however it seems it's going to be a download service - so no interesting boxes to collect.

March 9, 2014 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

Discoveryed your HiFi vids a couple weeks back and have been slowly working my way through them all. Remindes me of the stuff my Dad had back in the late 1970s. Your video on the Reel to Reel remained me when we joined Columbia House. At the time you could get your music on your choice of LP vinyl, 8-track, Compact Cassettes, or 7" Reel to Reel. And while my Dad had a Reel to Reel player I think we got cassettes or LPs as the selection was better and he mainly used the Reel to Reel for some old lessons on Tape he had.

Oh and the stair step thing that Dan brought up complete BS. A Digital to Analog converter outputs continuous analog waveforms. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIQ9IXSUzuM

February 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTheGeek

I still have the reel to reel tape recorder I bought in 1973 with my Army pay. It is a TEAC 1230 that plays 7 inch reels of tape and I bought it at a hi-fi store (since closed) in Columbus, OH. I had to have the amplifier repaired in 1987 when one channel stopped working but it is performing now as well as it ever did. Because the TEAC is a direct drive machine that uses motors for each of the reel platters as well as the drive capstan, there is no significant wow and flutter even today. No belts that dissolve with age either. It was an expensive machine when I bought it; I seem to remember having to pay about $350 USD in 1973, but it has more than made up for the cost by the good service it has provided over the 40 some years I have owned it.
I used this machine to record vinyl albums and music I heard on the radio so all of my tapes were recorded by me and were not commercially produced music reels issued by the major album labels. I saw these of course in the record shops of the day, but I never considered buying any of them because as you point out, they only had 25 to 30 minutes of music to a side and then had to be flipped in order to hear the other side. By about 1981 they were gone from the record stores anyway and all that was left on tape was the compact cassette. I had my share of those of course, but never that many. I preferred the LP record and, when they became available, the compact disc. I'm still a big fan of the CD, but I can appreciate the LP even with its pops, hiss, and crackles as there is simply too much good music available on LPs that will never be offered on CDs.
The reel to reel tape recorder is a piece of hi-fi gear that reached its zenith in the 1970s. Well preserved machines from that era can make some amazing sound and are worth having for the ultimate Retro Hi-Fi set up.

March 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Sandberg

Actually some German broadcasters like "Bayrischer Rundfunk" are selling off their professional reel to reel decks at rather low prices. Something in the area of 100-200 Euros a piece including "a bag of spare parts".

BTW you can also buy tape a bit cheaper at online stores like Thomann:
http://www.thomann.de/intl/spulenbaender.html

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChristian Berger

I've watched many of your videos, just caught this (older) one. I've wanted an open-reel ever since I sold my Akai 4000D in the late '70s, if only to listen to/transfer/digitize a handful of reels I still have laying about. As far as the 'info-caption' about GX heads in the video, the Akai Glass and Xtal ferrite heads were indeed developed to wear longer and provide better playback fidelity (we had a GX-equipped cassette deck in the early '70s). There was just one problem with these heads - they were SO smooth so that with the highly-polished chrome-type tapes used in cassettes the 'air-gap' would essentially vanish and with no lubrication between head and tape, it would stick and jam!

Responding to Don's post, the "stair-stepping" is a myth - although that is a good representative in explaining sampling to semi-to-non-technical folk, the digital to analog converters produce a fully variable voltage. Connect your oscilloscope to the analog output of a digital device, and there will be no hint of stair-stepping - a sinusoidal signal is reproduced as a sinusoidal signal. Why tape is sought for its sound is due to 'flattering' distortions - older equipment tended to roll off the highs and gave a fuller 'bottom', and tape saturation is a form of compression that yields pleasant third harmonics.

February 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDahFinstah

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