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"Phatzilla": The Ultimate Analogizer

PhatZillaWant to breathe more life into your digital tracks? Sonicraft A2DX Lab has the ultimate answer for you! "Phatzilla", the Ultimate Analogizer is here and ready to infuse your projects with the sound of vintage multitrack analog tape recording.

Why this particular analog multitrack? Let's go back to 1967 when there is only a handful of studios privileged to have tape machines that go as high as eight tracks. Scully has released it's model 284 1" 12-track into the market. It is used on many important sessions but as a product, it does not take flight.

Meanwhile, a group of visionaries at a very entrepreneurial studio in New York City -- Mirasound -- are almost home on building their own multitrack by cannibalizing and reconfiguring Ampex machines. They have taken an Ampex 2" video transport and adapted sixteen channels of AG350 electronics to work with it. All they need are the heads.

As fate would have it, they tried to place an order to have custom 2" 16-track heads built by Ampex. As George Schowerer, Mirasound technician tells it, when the powers that be at Ampex learned of the plan, it finally awoke them to the need for an immediate response to the growing interest in multitrack recording. Ampex replied, "This must be our machine. Let us build it for you." And they did -- in a hurry.
Photo of the world's first Ampex 16-track courtesy of George Schowerer


Photo of the world's first Ampex 16-track
courtesy of George Schowerer

Under the gun, the designers in Ampex Special Products Division grabbed sixteen tracks of their newly-designed second-generation transistor electronics off the shelf, piled them into a double rack with the nearly indestructible transport from an Ampex VR1000 2" video recorder, bolted on custom 2" 16-track heads developed in their in-house lab and wired it all together. Thus was born one of the milestones in recording history: the world's first 2" 16-track recorder: the Ampex AG-1000.

Ampex Special Products had a winner. The 2" video transport was rock solid and the second-generation discrete class A electronics sounded terrific. During 1968, the prototype AG-1000 quickly evolved into what became the MM1000 -- the Godzilla of multitracks and the machine that truly launched a golden age of multitrack recording.

Flash forward to 2006 here at Sonicraft. We were considering the digital audio engineer's yearning for "Phat" -- the desire to "analogize" their digital tracks without having to go through the hassle and expense of buying, restoring and maintaining a vintage analog tape machine. For this, the ideal format is 2" 16-track and what better vintage analog tape machine to use than the machine that started it all?

Project "Phatzilla" is launched

The hunt began and we found the right MM1000 in Rhode Island. Although ravaged by time and neglect, it had been built near the end of the run and had certain essential refinements we knew we needed. To be extracted from its underground tomb, it had to be fully disassembled.


Ampex MM1000-16 as we found it

It was daunting to see it like this, but inevitably, we were going to take it apart anyway. So, we began the rigorous process of fully restoring this wonderful old analog warrior. It took a small army of dedicated workers just to thoroughly clean all of the assemblies. Sonicraft technicians John Chester and Bob Ligotino were indispensable help in the repair and reconstruction of all things electronic.

After rebuilding the transport

We purchased parts from a total of four other MM1000s being parted out. After deep cleaning, we reconditioned and combined the best parts from the lot making repairs as we went along. Eventually, we had it pulling tape solidly.



Top and bottom view: filter cap replacement in all sixteen channels

For this restoration, Instead of transparency as our goal, we wanted to preserve the vintage MM1000 sound. Under John Chester's astute direction, we replaced only components that did not age well or did not affect the audio. One discovery was that the filter caps in each channel had thrown in the towel. John designed a template to do the recapping and Bob Ligotino took on the job. Doing this kind of surgery to sixteen channels was grueling at best but the end results were perfect.

After final assembly, we ran listening tests and were truly amazed at the quality of sound this machine produces. We went on to comb through the entire machine, repairing, calibrating and tweaking until all sixteen channels were performing perfectly.

The MM1000 shares the same power supply design as our highly modified A2DX 440C machines. John Chester designed a power supply mod for the 440s which we found very desirable for it's ability to bring an improvement in focus to the sound. We have implemented that modification to the four MM1000 supplies as it makes a nice improvement without compromising the machine's inherent sonic signature.



Phatzilla, the Ultimate Analogizer is here!

"Phatzilla", Sonicraft's fully-restored vintage Ampex MM1000 2" 16-track is ready to roll tape. Let us Analogize your digital tracks. We'll bounce them out to "Phatzilla" and recapture them back into the digital domain for that "phat analog sound" on your digital projects. Or choose your preference of any of our analog multitracks. Every A2DX machine has full erase/ record/ play capability.

"Phatzilla": Sonicraft A2DX Lab's fully restored Ampex MM1000-16 is The Real Deal Analogizer


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