Reel 2 reel fun and is it really still worth it

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


Seems like a plan.
I can very well imagine you being appropriately equipped and in good company to go down this particular rabbit hole.
Enjoy, and please share some more of the journey with us.


They are beautiful machines, without a doubt. I remember drooling over TEAC’s range in a catalogue around 1987. If I had the space, money and recording tape, plus a local person who could maintain one, I’d get one like a shot.

But, as I recently said to a mate who was being tempted: ‘Don’t do it: get addicted to crack instead - it’s cheaper’.



I am and i am not these day’s, as i don’t have a tape loop input/output any more.
Luckily the dCS dacs have 2 outputs that can be used at the same time, and it doesn’t effect quality. This means i can use the rca’s into the reel to reel, and then feed it into my vitus, and keep the balanced outputs as well.
It does mean recording vinyl is more difficult, and means messing with cables, but it’s doable, just not as straightforward.

Wonderful !!!
Wish I had met Vic before I had to get rid of my Revox I had for 40 years ?!

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I’ve lusted after one of these Philips machines (albeit the 4522 - 2 track version) for a good while. Technically one of the best consumer machines out there.


Revox were always the very best, although TEAC made some very good ones.

I always wanted a Revox, but I could never see the point, as I wouldn’t have been taping music, and prerecorded tapes were few and far between.

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Vic is very good at mending tape machines, the only one that has come close to braking him was a nakamichi dragon, i saw it with all it’s guts out everywhere, and it looked a nightmare to work on.
He actually fixes tape decks as a hobby.
But i have know vic since school day’s, and he had his first reel 2 reel back then, and i had my cassette deck to record the top 40.
Great day’s

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A few weeks ago I bought a collecting of tapes at an auction. Those shown in the photo plus about 75 standard quality 7” tapes.
Not really interested in recording anything on them, just interested in listening to what is on them. They appear to be recorded from Radio 3 in the seventies; most are classical with a few jazz.

Unfortunately, my player has dropped a channel plus it can’t play 10.5”. Enjoying listening the Liverpool philharmonic playing Dvorak Te Deum as I type. (In mono).

Must get round to buying a decent machine, I’ve also got another collection including 10.5” that I haven’t listened to yet.


Could be some right treasurers recorded on them.

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Reel to reels have always held a place in my heart, but more for their creative uses than straight recording.

I once had a pair of Sony TC377 recorders (3 head, 7" spools, max 7 ips) bought secondhand in late 1970s - not a patch on that Philips of course, but great for messing about, and all that I could afford in those days. I kept them for about 29 years!) I’d used a Revox A77 so e years before getting them, but way out of my league price wise).

Otherwise I recall around late 70s/early 80s being fascinated by an article in an electronics magazine, taking a studio bare deck, which for some reason were surplus stock and available at a very low discount (not sure if it was Studer or Brenell), around which DIY electronics were built, making a superb recorder at relatively very low cost. I don’t recall tape width - I guess narrower than the common studio standard of 1" as otherwise I’d have been less interested for consumable cost reasons. Given that electronics & DIY were hobbies of mine, I don’t know why I never followed through…

I miss my old Philips R2R tape recorder so much. I still have two 7" reels of tape with my 60s and early 70s music on it. I converted them both to cassette years ago but it’s just not the same!

The Sony TC-377 could sound really good so long as the mechanism was in good fettle. Trouble was the grease used would harden up with time, which plays havoc with speed, wow etc…, so they mostly need a strip down with new belts and a re-grease… I’ve stripped and rebuilt a number of 377s and with the right tape you could have a lot of fun. I’d take a TC-377 over the equivalent Akai GX-4000 any day.


Well, i am certainly going to have some fun with this over the next few day’s/weeks ?
Got a few ideas on what tracks to record on it, but any suggestions are welcome.

Dunc, just record the music you love.

Now I’m back on my laptop and not on my phone I see it’s the 4 track N4520, and not the 2 track N4522 I thought it was initially. It’s still a fab machine but whatever the speed, a 4 track machine will never hit the performance heights that a 2 track is capable of. Of course the advantage of a 4 track is that you halve your tape costs as you can record on both sides, and you can also take advantage of commercial 4 track releases, which were reasonably popular Stateside, if not here in the UK. I have a good number of these recorded at 7 1/2 ips and some sound really good.

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As said its not mine, it was just really to see how it got on.
I have no real use for one at all, be nice to own a nice example, but i can’t see me ever using it

My Dad bought a Ferrograph Series Seven in the early 1970’s. The sounds and smells it gave off when running were fantastic. Loved it until the mid 80’s when it needed lots doing (wow and flutter I understood fully by then) and nobody wanted to look at it.
I appreciate people like them - but it’s streaming all the way for me now.
I did weaken and get out my old TEAC cassette deck from the mid ‘90s recently - I was left very disappointed.
However I’ll always stare at reel to reel still wishing I was Alan Parsons at Brittania Row.

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