Sonicraft A2DX Lab: Ultimate Multitrack Analog to Digital Transfers
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Sonicraft A2DX Lab was designed to meet a specific need in the professional audio community: to provide the ultimate open reel analog-to-digital transfer service. We support every studio-grade and project studio analog tape format and noise reduction system used in the USA as well as Europe and other parts of the world.

If it's on open reel analog tape, we can transfer it into the digital domain with unsurpassed quality.

Here you will find technical info on the inner workings of the A2DX Transfer Lab. There are additional links to detailed Tech Notes in many of the sections below.

Large Format Mutitrack Recorders

One of the most remarkable achievements of the team that put together Sonicraft's A2DX Lab is our fleet of fully-restored and extensively modified Ampex MM1200 multitrack machines.

 

MM1200 #1 & 2 Fully restored and extensively modified

Why this particular make and model? We chose the Ampex MM1200 over any other multitrack platform for a number of reasons: sonic excellence, ability to control challenged tape, simplicity of design, availability of parts, and availability of significant upgradable components.

Before we tackled the first A2DX Ampex MM1200 restoration project, we did countless hours of research, testing, prototyping, and comparisons. We wanted to determine what kind of improvements over stock performance we could achieve. We investigated changes in heads, components, and signal paths, as well as other modifications. And, we discovered a wealth of innovations, products and strategies that would allow us to achieve significantly better multitrack analog playback.

Our expectations for the outcome of the restoration project were high. But, when we finally brought our newly renovated A2DX Ampex MM1200 on line, it yielded detail and sound quality well beyond what we hoped for.

Today, Sonicraft A2DX lab utilizes a fleet of four fully rebuilt MM1200s, each individually tuned and dedicated to a single tape format: 2" 24-track, 2" 16-track, 1" 16-track and 1" 8-track.

Tech NotesFor more pictures and in depth info on the A2DX Ampex MM1200 including Tech Notes on our restoration and improvements to four of them, click here.

One-inch 4, 8, & 12-Track Formats - Classic Scully Sound

The Mighty A2DX Scully 284-12

We have completely restored an all-original 1968 "Bridgeport" Scully Model 284 one-inch 12-track recorder.

Three original Scully head assemblies enable this machine to handle 1" 8-track and both of the incredibly rare 1" 4-track and 1" 12-track formats.

One-inch 4-track is also supported on our A2DX MR-70-4. And, one-inch 8-track and 12-track are supported on our A2DX Ampex MM1200s.

But, if you prefer the classic sound of this wonderful old Scully recorder, here it is.

 

 


Ultimate 1/2" 3-Track and 1" 4-track

We felt that 1/2" 3-track and 1" 4-track were special formats that deserved special treatment. So, we've built our ultimate 1/2" 3-track and 1" 4-track machines on the ultimate platform - the legendary Ampex MR-70.

The Ampex MR-70 is the final and best-sounding professional vacuum tube analog tape recorder ever built. There are many who feel that the sound of this machine has never been surpassed. It is believed that Ampex technicians hand-made only 50 of them and that every one was in some way custom-built.

Tech NotesFor more in depth info on the Ampex MR70 and Tech Notes on our restoration and improvements to three of them, click here.

Ampex MR-70 1/2" 3-Track Vacuum Tube Recorder
 

The performance of this MR-70 3-track is amazing and sonically, it is stunning.

Note that the MR70 supports all of the various equalization curves in use during the golden years of 3-track recording including NAB, CCIR, DIN and AME equalization.

 

 

The Sonicraft A2DX MR-70 one-inch four-track is truly one of a kind.

The head assembly had to be custom built from the ground up. Greg Orton of Flux Magnetics hand-crafted the heads to the highest possible standards. John French of JRF Magnetics came up with an ingenious design to ensure rock-solid tape guidance and head contact.

Custom MR70 1" 4-track head assembly
 

The performance of the A2DX MR-70 one-inch 4-track is extraordinary.

Support for all of the various equalization curves used by one-inch 4-track machines both in the United States and in Europe is built into every MR-70.

If you have half-inch 3-track or one-inch 4-track masters to transfer, these are the ultimate machines to do them on.

We are continuing to restore and enhance MR70 components. Other formats can and will be made available. Contact us for details.

 

 

 

Ultimate Ampex MR-70 1"4-Track Vacuum Tube Recorder

Smaller Pro Formats

Half-inch 8-track, 4-track, 3-track and 2-track tapes as well as quarter-inch 4-track, 2-track European DIN stereo and full-track mono, can all be transferred into the digital domain with ultimate quality on our thoroughly customized Ampex 440Cs.

Basically a subset of the Ampex MM1200, these machines provided the platform used to prototype the A2DX Ampex M1200 improvements. The machine on the right was the first machine to undergo the A2DX restoration and enhancement process.

Extensive listening tests have proven these machines to be amazingly accurate as well as "pleasantly transparent". Furthermore, performance of the transports of these machines has been dramatically improved over stock units.

Tech NotesFor Tech Notes, pictures and in depth info on advancements made to the A2DX Ampex AG440C machines, click here.

At the top: Ampex 440Cs fully rebuilt with Flux heads, RTZ record and repro amps, fixed precision guides and constant tension mods. Top left optimized for 1/4" 2-track at 3.75 & 7.5 ips. Top middle configured for 1/2" 4-track or 1/2" 8-track. Top right optimized for 1/4" 2 & 4-track. See 440C tech notes for more detail. Also shown: Tascam MSR-16 (bottom left) and MSR-24 (bottom right) 1/2" 16-track and 1" 24-track machines coupled with 24 channels of line amps to drive 24 channels of pro level Dolby 422 B-C-S decoders. Can also be patched to a rack of 24 channels of professional dbx, Dolby A or Dolby SR noise reduction.

Semi Pro / Project Studio Formats

As mentioned above, we can configure our fully optimized Ampex 440C machines for ultimate 1/2" 8-track and 1/4" 4-track transfers.

Additionally, we carefully maintain the full complement of analog tape machines needed to make excellent transfers from even higher track-density project studio formats like 1" 24-track, 1/2" 16-track, Akai 1/2" 12-track and 1/4" 8-track. Every possible combination of track format, reel size, tape speed and noise reduction system is supported.

If your 1/4" 8-track, 1/2" 16-track or 1" 24-track tapes were recorded on Fostex or Tascam machines, we have important information for you. The bad news is, all of the Fostex G-Series machines are currently disintegrating due to defective early surface mount technology used to manufacture them. And, Fostex and Tascam machines that utilized Dolby C or S noise reduction are also failing due to permanent degradation of the consumer-grade Dolby NR chip sets used in their manufacture. The good news is that we have the ultimate solution.

24-channels of Dolby 422 B, C & S decoding
 

Determined that no client's tapes should be orphaned, we tracked down and installed 24 tracks of professional Dolby 422 B-C-S decoders. We can now bypass the failing noise reduction circuits built into the machines and use these decoders instead.

 

 

This cloud has a silver lining. By installing these Dolby 422s, we solved a lot more than the problem with failing noise reduction circuits in the machines. We can now make transfers remarkably better than any that could ever have been made on stock Tascam and Fostex machines. First, Dolby 422 decoders deliver stronger, fuller bass and quicker, more open midrange and highs than the stock machine's consumer chip sets ever did. And, second, their ready adjustability allows us to tune them individually to your tapes for tighter, cleaner, more open sound.

This is not just a subtle tweak. It's a significant upgrade. If your 1/4" 8-track, 1/2" 16-track or 1" 24-track recordings were made using Dolby noise reduction, you'll hear the music on them like never before.

Fortunately, machines using dbx noise reduction are holding up much better. But we still bypass the consumer grade decoders built into them and take advantage of our professional dbx rack for the sonic upgrade it provides.

Two-track Mastering Machines

Heavenly twins: Ampex 1/4 & 1/2" ATR-100s


Half and quarter-inch 2-track tapes can be transferred on these Ampex ATR-100s, fully rebuilt from the ground up to our uncompromising standards.

Studer A80 RC

Especially delicate 1/4" 2-track tapes are best played on this fully restored Studer A80 RC.

Additionally, we have completely redesigned the entire playback system in this machine. A Flux Magnetics playback head was custom built by Greg Orton and mated with totally redesigned playback electronics by our own John Chester. The sonic purity of this machine is absolutely stunning and, for transparency, outperforms anything we've ever heard or tested.

Tapes recorded and stored on European AEG / DIN hubs can be played as-is or moved to standard NAB reels for transfer on any of the A2DX 1/4" mastering machines.

 

 


If you are looking for the ultimate vacuum tube sound for your 1/4" 2-track transfers, look no further.

A2DX Ampex MR70 1/4" 2-track

This Ampex MR-70 machine has been given the same kind of exhaustive restoration and enhancement as the A2DX 1/2" 3-track and 1" 4-track machines previously discussed.

All US and European equalization curves are fully supported.

Classic Tube Sound

Classic tube Ampex 351-2 and 350-3 1/4" machines

For those who might want a less transparent and more retro sound, we offer two classic Sonicraft-restored Ampex tube machines. Like the Scully 284-12 mentioned above, we will maintain these in their stock configuration for an authentic vintage alternative sound.


Noise Reduction

Sonicraft A2DX maintains the full range of professional noise reduction systems including 24-track racks of Dolby A, Dolby SR, dbx Type I and Telefunken / Telcom C4. Furthermore, we've taken vital steps to prevent undesirable degradation of your transfers by ensuring optimal tracking of the noise reduction systems.

Tech NotesPlease click here to read the A2DX Tech Notes on why Sonicraft's noise reduction decoding is superior.

Top to bottom: Patch bay and 24 tracks of Mytek 192/24 ADC, dbx Type II NR, Dolby A, Dolby SR, Telcom C4

Sorting through the many configurations of professional noise reduction systems was an enormous job. We needed to be sure that the latest versions of each were indeed the best and would be fully backwards-compatible with tapes made on earlier systems. We purchased, rented and evaluated practically every style of Dolby and dbx noise reduction system. In fact, for dbx Type I decoding, we purchased and evaluated a total of six different dbx multitrack noise reduction systems before we made our final decision.

Both the Dolby A system and the Dolby SR system are Dolby's latest design and are housed in XP racks. The dbx Type I (professional) system utilizes 911 modules in 900A frames. The Telcom C4 system is an ANT e413 rack utilizing C4 E modules.

Also installed are 24 tracks of Dolby B, C & S in the form of six Dolby 422 professional systems. Each of these represents the latest and best of its kind, all meticulously maintained and calibrated.

 

The ADC Converters

Sonicraft A2DX analog-to-digital converters are current Mytek 8X192 units capable of up to 192kHz / 24-bit sampling. These converters are truly amazing and have been chosen for their ability to capture every bit of the quality, accuracy and detail of sound that we have worked so hard to deliver to them.

Beyond that, our 8X192 A2D converters have been factory-modified with precision calibrated 2 db stepped attenuators so we can more accurately tune their individual channels to the levels on your tape.

Power Conditioning and Wiring

During fast-forward or rewind, it's not uncommon for tape to reach speeds in excess of 20mph. So, what happens to your tape if the power fails while the machine operator is rewinding it? Here at Sonicraft, the answer is "absolutely nothing". That's because at all times, Sonicraft A2DX lab runs entirely on battery power.

Nothing is running off of public utility power -- not even the digital audio workstations. Instead, the public utility power is used to charge batteries. This battery power is fed to a pair of very high grade of inverters which together produce 5000 watts of exactly 120 volt pure 60 Hz sine wave power -- enough to power the entire lab with complete ease.

Sonicraft A2DX runs off of battery power at all times.

5000 watts of 100% stable battery power means bulletproof power reliability, rock-solid tape transport behavior, and super-clean ultra-regulated power to the analog circuits of tape machines and noise reduction systems, A2D converters, digital audio workstations and anything else your transfers come into contact with. It's every sound purist's dream come true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for audio wiring in the Sonicraft A2DX transfer lab, all of it is done in short discrete runs of the very highest quality and heaviest gauge Mogami or Canare cable. All patch bays and patch cords are quarter-inch military grade products and all connections are meticulously hand-soldered. And we have implemented sophisticated technology that isolates the analog equipment from the power fed to the computers.

Tape Baking, Cleaning & Restoration

Baking Tapes in the Fisher Scientific Laboratory Incubator

As you may know, a large percentage of older analog tapes suffer from stickiness and shedding. For more info, see our article on tape baking and restoration. In order to make these tapes safe to transfer, they must be recured by "baking".

Many tape restoration facilities use kitchen appliances for this purpose. For the ultimate in safe handling, we use a Fisher Scientific incubator designed for critical use in research labs. A precision piece of laboratory gear, it can hold temperature to within 1/10 of a degree Celsius. Drift of temperature beyond 3 degrees will shut the unit down.

Spacious interior dimensions allow the full range of tape reel sizes up to 16" reels of 2" tape.

 

 

 

 

There can be more to restoration than baking. Various types of contaminants can find their way into a tape: dust, nicotine, mold, etc. In fact, the tape itself can sometimes "manufacture" its own contaminants.

Even the most microscopic particle or coating can substantially reduce and destabilize high frequency response. If some of these contaminants leave the tape and adhere to the playback head, they can build up and make the problem even worse. We've experienced tapes so badly behaved that we can actually hear playback get progressively muffled as the tape plays. Part of our evaluation of tapes is to check them for cleanliness and if found to be challenged in this respect, we will clean them.

To take tape cleaning to the ultimate, we consulted with a designer of tape cleaning systems and used proven tape cleaning technology to develop our own highly sophisticated cleaning machines, tailored specifically for safe and effective cleaning of our client's audio tape recordings.

Sonicraft A2DX Lab's custom tape cleaning machines

Based on Studer tape transports, these machines feature: (1) Vacuum removal of loose contaminants as the tape comes off of the reel, (2) optional sapphire cleaning blade, (3) Motorized Pellon cleaning station, (4) Backcoat cleaning station, (5) Vacuum removal of contaminants during rewind.

 

Components of Sonicraft A2DX Lab's Tape Cleaning Machines

How well does does all of this work? You might be surprised. For example:

Before   After
Before tape Restoration
  Tape After Restoration
2" 16-track Master Before Restoration   2" 16-track Master After Restoration
This is a 2" 16-track master from the mid-1970s which had been in a flood and then stored for several years under the worst of conditions. The box was literally disintegrating, the metal hub retainer from the box was fused to the interior of the tape hub and corrosion in the hub was so bad that the tape could not be mounted on any of our machines. The condition of the tape itself was so deteriorated it could not be wound or played.   This is the same 2" 16-track master after A2DX restoration. During the restoration process, we baked it, cleaned it, remounted it on a new hub, leadered and re-boxed it. It transferred with perfect results. Here you see it after transfer, library wound and ready to be placed in safe storage.

The Matrix

The Formats and Noise Reduction page shows the complete matrix of tape formats, speeds, noise reduction support and other important information.

"Phatzilla": the Ultimate Analogizer

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

The yearning for "Phat". How do you infuse your digital tracks with the sonic character of analog tape recording? There are now a lot of "analog tape simulators", products that claim to simulate what is the indefinable euphonic character of analog tape recording. The key word is "simulator". They use an assortment of gimmicks trying to get around the inescapable fact that nothing really sounds like the real thing.

Perhaps you are dreaming of front-ending your Pro Tools, Nuendo, Logic, Sonar or other digital audio workstation with a multitrack analog tape machine? Are you really up to choosing, purchasing, restoring and maintaining one?

Sonicraft A2DX Lab has the ultimate answer for you! "Phatzilla", the Ultimate Analogizer is here and ready to roll tape.

We know analog tape recording and A/D/A conversion inside and out. 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.

Tech NotesPlease click here to read the A2DX Tech Notes on Phatzilla: the Ultimate Analogizer!

Use Sonicraft A2DX Lab as your ultimate "Plug-In". Take your choice of any of our analog multitracks. Every A2DX machine has full erase/ record/ play capability.

 
  Sonicraft Tel: 732-303-8559

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