I've asked my friend Song Soon Onn to write about his journey and experiences with real to real. Here a wholehearted, in depth story:
When I read about Tape Project 5/6 years ago I was intrigued with the ideas of R2R. Many questions came to my mind. Are there enough tapes? Where to get the tapes? The tapes are too pricey?
Who to service my R2R if it fails ? Would I have enough time to devote to R2R since I have DAC, turntable, HT ?
I wanted vintage turntable. I bought Lenco after reading lencoheaven.net. I wanted 301 & Thorens 124 & I bought it. I seem to want everything :). After much thought, I told myself why not go for R2R, after all we only live once & it's within my means.
The first thing I did was to search for a portable R2R & I found a Studer A810 in mint condition through Audiogon & had it shipped to Botttlehead to be modified by Dan Schmalle for direct head output to Bottle Tube Repro external preamp. To cut the story short, I bought some tapes & found that the presentation through reel to reel was excellent, but not fantastic. Probably at that time I didn't have exception gears. Fast forward 5/6 years & with the proliferation of R2R & the tremendous interest in R2R playback I decided to revisit R2R especially after purchasing more than 10 tapes from Horch House in Munich Show 2015 & carried it all over Europe & having to pay overweight luggage when I flew back from Munich :).
When I restart my Studer A810, I encountered some problems & proceeded to ask for some help from the experts in R2R in whats best forum. I was fortunate to encounter Dr Edward Pong, an Orthodontist by training & a very passionate R2R advocator & producer of Ultra analogue recording, so much so he converted his home to record live performance. Through him I was advised 1 of the best transports to use for R2R is the 50/60s Studer A80 with plenty of parts & much cheaper & more mechanical than Studer A820 which I was considering.
Man, I was amazed with the sound quality of R2R played through the stock electronic of Studer A80 with a 5m reasonable cheap XLR cables connected to a Lemo/XLR adapters. When my friends came by, I decided to let them sample through the sources that I have. We started with Vitus Masterpiece DAC connected to Aurender W20. After a few songs we proceeded to play a few LPs through my Techdas AFO with Axiom tonearm & Koetsu coral stone platinum ( my current favorite catridge ) & amplified by Vitus Masterpiece phono stage. I believe my friends enjoyed the massive improved brought about by my few days old Vitus Masterpiece Monoblock. Tan commented "the over hang is gone. It's much more transparency & quieter". I totally agreed with his assessement.
Studer A80 certainly pique my appetite about R2R & one day I will probably get a Studer A820, Stellavox TD9 or a modified A80 which can play both 1/4" & 1/2" 15/30ips tapes. Now I m in R2R heaven with a big smile :).