Big Sound and Big Bucks
These decks were designed for studios, planetariums, and other commercial applications that demanded the highest in fidelity and reliability, with a similar hi-fidelity price tag. Typical tape speeds were 15 and 30 IPS, while some machines ran at 60 IPS, which meant you’d get a whopping eight minutes out of a 10½” reel of tape. The mechanisms and electronics were overbuilt, to withstand 12-hour (or longer) recording days.
These decks also made SOME noise due to the large motors, and wired remotes were almost always included so the tape machines could be housed in a soundproof room, away from the recording studio. The wired remote allowed the mixing board operator to run the tape deck from the control room.
Pro machines would range from two-track to 24 tracks. The two-track machines were usually designated as ‘mastering’ machines, while the multi-track units would record the basic sound tracks of each instrument and vocals. The multi-track tape would then be mixed down to a two-track mastering machine. Brands include Tascam, Studer, Ampex, 3M, Otari, Sony, Nagra, Crown, MCI, and others.
Many audiophiles use pro machines for consumer use because of their hi-fidelity and features. Remember, though, that you won’t be able to play a consumer home stereo reel of tape on a pro machine. If you’re making all new tapes from scratch, you’ll definitely get the best fidelity from a pro deck.