Consumer tape occupy less space and have “Consumer Parameters”. Tape speed is usually 3.75 ips and 7.5 ips and track count has maximum 4 tracks. Their tape transport is not as solid and heavy, which isn’t a requitement for home use. These recorders produce exceptional recordings compared with MP3 and other digital standards used today. If you want the most compact machine possible, you have an option to look for tape recorders which are designed to play smaller 7.5 inch tape reels, such as AKAI GX77, Pioneer RT707 – those two being the most iconic and compact of this type. But there are much more choices of course, like the very fruitful and sometimes underrated manufacturer TEAC. Most valued models are the X series, where X300/R and X700/R are more most sought after (“R” in the model name stands for autoreverse feature).
What were these recorders used for at their hay day? The answer is simple – to record and play back:
(a) live recordings of yourself singing/playing or friends and family members;
(b) your valuable LPs. Why copy LP (Vinyl records) on a tape? To preserve them and to make a “Long Play” medium in order not to change LP sides every 20 minutes. You can basically record up to 6 LPs on one 10,5 inch (26.5cm) reel tape with a speed of 9.5 cm/s (3.75 ips). That is also how they were used back in the days in cafes and restaurants as providers of background music etc. Normally “prosumer” machines were used for such purposes.
Most Popular Consumer Hi-Fi machines
Please note that I will mention only the most popular ones. Very good source of the available models per brand you can explore for example in this site http://www.hifiengine.com/database/hifi_database.php. It started mostly for consumer products, but lately they have included many Pro products as well.
List of popular models:
AKAI: GX-620, GX625, GX-630, GX-635, GX-77, GX-747
TEAC: X-1000R, X2000R, X-10R,-X-3, X-7, X-3R, X-7R, X-300, X-300R, X-700, X-700R
PIONEER: RT-909, RT-901, RT-701, RT-707
SONY: TC-755, TC-756, TC-758, TC-765, TC-766-2, TC-880, TC-788
REVOX: A-700, A-77, C-270, C-274, B-77, PR-99
TECHNICS: RS-1500, RS-1506, RS-1700
There is also PHILIPS and other popular brands. The models and manufacturers are so many that you can pick up anything according to your taste. Just go to ebay, use the http://www.hifiengine.com/database/hifi_database.php, choose “Reel to Reel”, then choose a manufacturer – and you will get hundreds of them. You will find exotic names such as UHER, TELEFUNKEN, DOKODER etc. The only slight problem with not-so-popular models will be the availability of spare parts. But you know how it is – if this is really the hobby for you, you will find anything you need.
As it always is with spare parts – the more popular (not always the best) is the machine, the more easy you will get parts for it. Or you can leave it for the professionals, if you are ready to pay for their services. The most important detail you should pay attention to (because it is also most important recorder part) is the condition of playback and recording heads. If you switch your recorder on just occasionally and heads are not worn already, their life will be enough for your life 🙂 However, if you use the recorder extensively, the tape heads wear off. Unless they are the Glass Ferrite (AKAI) or better F&F (Sony), which are considered relatively “unwearable”.
Another most commonly needed spare is a rubber roller and for non 3 motor recorders – drive belts, which might be needed to change if it has become too hard with age. These you can get new on ebay.de – there are several companies who manufacture rollers and belts. By the way, if you want just one recorder, better choose a 3 motor machine. A 3 motor reel to reel recorder is always better than the one motor design.