Fostex ‘Personal’ Outboard Equipment of the 1980s

Download fourteen-pages of original product information regarding FOSTEX’ “Personal Multitrack” outboard-equipment line of the 1980s:

DOWNLOAD: Fostex_Outboard_Gear_1986

Included in this download:  “Echo Buss Vol II, Take 1,” a FOSTEX newsletter to pro-sumer users of the 80s.  Plus 2-side product sheets for the 2050 line mixer, 3030 Graphic Equalizer, 3070 Compressor/Limiter, 3180 Reverb, and 6301 powered monitor speakers.

The 3180 offers a unique feature among line-level stereo spring reverb units:  a non-adjustable 24ms pre-delay hardwired before the spring drive amp.

Interesting to note that FOSTEX makes no attempt to disguise these pieces as pro-studio equipment; they were designed and marketed specifically for use in the new ‘personal studio’ of the early 1980s, alongside such other FOSTEX offerings as the personal reel-to-reel multitrack and the FOSTEX 250 cassette four-track.  See previous posts here, here and here for information on these recording devices.

The Fostex 6301 powered monitors did enjoy wider use, though; true to the photo at top, these compact 10w powered speakers did in fact experience wide use in video-facility machine rooms as basic program monitors.  Many are still in use in this role.

Magnecord INC Historical Archival Material Part 1

From the personal collection of D. Boyers, son of Magnecord founding partner John Boyers, PreservationSound is excited to be able to offer several rare documents and historical reminiscences.  The Magnecord PT6 was one of the very first broadcast-quality tape recorders ever made – 1948 – and you can still find working (or repairable) examples.  If you have been following this site for a while, you will know how much I like these machines.  See this link and this link for some examples of recordings I have done recently with the PT6.




PT6 Maintenance and Engineering manual:

DOWNLOAD: MagnecordPT6_MaintenanceNotes

The user-manual and schematics for the PT6 tape machine has been readily available on the internet; try this link if you need a copy.  The Maintenance Notes are harder to find.  Great information if you need to perform mechanical service on the unit.




Four-page “Magnecord, INC” Company Newsletter, July 1952:

DOWNLOAD: MagnecordInc_July1952




John Boyers was one of the founders of Magnecord.  He is now 95 years of age.   His son D. provides these notes regarding John’s career and contributions to recording history:

“I wouldn’t be too surprised to learn there are some (PT-6s) still in use, probably in some third-world broadcasting station somewhere. My first PT-6 was an engineering sample put together prior to the start of manufacturing. I still have it, and it still works, (although I make that claim having not tried to fire it up for 30 years!)
Dad is still with us, although he is the last survivor of the original group, at age 95… One of Dad’s favorite stories… is the time he couldn’t make payroll, but the man at the bank gave him the funds he  needed because of the trusting relationship he had built with the bank.


Dad’s interest was mostly engineering. He designed the heads, experimenting with various metals and ways to make the recording gap smaller and smaller. Back then, the
heads were built one at a time, by hand. One of the handiest features of the “6” was the
ability to do instant playback head alignment with that little 4/40 screw and spring
tensioner. …I don’t remember if that was a feature of the production machines or if it was just something  they built into the sample I have. Oh, here’s another story you might enjoy knowing about: Dad and one of the other guys in the shop had a brainstorm and decided to build a “binaural” (ed: Stereo) transport just for fun. They  got it working and took it down to the Illinois Central train station and made a recording of a steam locomotive going by.
I remember hearing the recording, with the locomotive coming in one channel and going out the other. The binaural recorder was the hit of the audio trade show in Chicago that year. According to Dad, the crowds around the little Magnecord booth were huge and the buzz of the show was all about the unbelievable train recording. I asked Dad why they didn’t get a patent on it and he says that it wasn’t patentable. It had been  done before, although not commercially, and it didn’t meet the “new and novel” requirement of patent law. I’ve often wondered if they weren’t just working with the wrong patent attorney.”

Thanks to D. for sharing this history.  We will leave you today with the remainder of a set of Magnecord-Factory photos circa 1950.

The Fostex 250 and 250AV cassette four-track machine

Fostex week continues at PS dot com. Download five pages of original FOSTEX product information on the 250 and 250AV ‘four-tracks’:

DOWNLOAD: Fostex250

I’ve never used one of these machines personally.  Anyone?

The 250AV, btw, is the same as the 250, except that it runs at 1.875ips (the same as a regular consumer tape deck); the intent was to simplify multi-track bouncing in audio-visual post-production situations.  Read the product sheet and you will see what i mean.  It also boasts a 5db lower crosstalk spec than the 250;  FOSTEX claims that this allows a pulse (sync) tone can be placed on one the tracks to drive other machines without the pulse -sound  getting into your other 3 tracks.

The Fostex A-8 multitrack tape machine

Download the original 2-page product sheet for the Fostex A-8LR tape machine.


Billed as being “about the size of twenty albums stacked together,” the A-8LR differed from the more common A-8 by virtue of 8-track simultaneous recording (as opposed to 4-track simultaneous on the A-8).  We had one of these machines in the house briefly when we were kids and it did not sound very good.  The A-8 records on 1/4″ reel tape.  It is certainly very small for an 8-track machine.

The Fostex B16 tape machine

Download fourteen pages of early-80s publications regarding the Fostex B16 1/2″ sixteen-track tape recorder.


You will find in the package: a complete pricelist; a lengthy ‘test report’ as published in ‘Modern Recording and Music’ Nov 1984; plus an original 6-panel full-color product sheet.

The B16 was the flagship product-offering from FOSTEX in the 1980s; it was available in 3 models.  The base model had a belt-driven system and was capable of 7.5 ips or 15ips operation.  The B16D was direct-drive and offered a number of additional ‘professional’ features, including 30ips operation.  The B16DM was a 3-head version, which I have never seen or heard of outside of the literature that I am offering here.

Anyone using one of these things?  impressions?

Follow this link for earlier PreservationSound dot com coverage of the FOSTEX B-16, featuring Christine McVie.

What’s a Fostex?

Download the 4pp circa 1984 Fostex Full Line (condensed) catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Fostex1984

Fostex was the yin to Tascam’s yang in the home-recording 80s.  What does this mean?  What is the sound of 4 tracks of noise reduction with no recorded signal?  ANYway…  I always imagined Fostex equipment to be just a little bit flimsier and crappier than the similar Tascam products…  although in retrospect I think they were about equal.   The two pieces of ‘pro’ tascam/fostex gear that i owned back-to-back (balanced-input CDR recorders) both failed completely in 2 years each, so clean slate there.

Fostex 250 cassette 4-track machine

Is someone out there collecting examples of every 4-track machine from the 80s?  (the pre-ADAT era)?  Likely.  If you are that weirdo, blogging away about the relative merits of each, do drop a line.

I seem to have a massive amount of early-80s FOSTEX ephemera piled up here, so I guess this gonna be FOSTEX week at PS.  First stop: The B16 1/2″ 16-track machine.

Out-of-print-book report: Magnetic Recording (1948)

Not sure where I came across this obscure volume.  Written by one S.J. Begun, then VP and chief engineer of recording-tech pioneer Brush Development Corp, ‘Magnetic Recording’ (h.f. ‘MR’) was completed in June 1948 and published the following year by Murray Hill Books.

There is a lot of information in this 235pp volume; the best feature by far, though, is that it contains diagrams and schematics for a great number of the recording devices discussed.

Here’s a quick survey of the machines covered in MR.  Most are wire recorders.  Remember that tape recording was still incredibly new in 1948; wire was still the dominant format.  If you have any of these machines and need to service it, seek out this book. You might find what you need.  Names are beneath each image.

The original circa 1948 Ampex tape recorder, which promised an unheralded 30-15k (+/- 1db) frequency response.

The WW11-era German Magnetophone, from which the Ampex was largely derived.  The Magnetophone ran at 30 ips in order to achieve its (then) excellent performance.

The Armour Master wire recorder.

The Armour Model 50 wire recorder

The Bell Labs Mirrorphone

Brush Labs Model BK-303

Brush labs model BK-403, the portable Sound Mirror

Brush Labs model BK-503 ‘mail a voice,’ which recorded a magnetic signal on coated paper discs.

Brush Labs SoundMirror

Brush Labs model BK-401

The Lear Dyanport (pictured with American Dynamic mic)

The Magnecorder SD-1, a predecessor (prototype?) of my beloved Magnecord PT6.

The Nemeth Master Wire Recorder

The Peirce Dictation model 55-b

The Rangertone, by Rangertone

The Telegraphone, a pre-vacuum-tube wire recorder.  See this earlier post for the details.

The Webster Wire Recorder.  In my experience, these are the most commonly-found wire recorders that you may encounter.

The WiRecorder Model PA

Altec Sound Equipment 1968

Download the sixteen-page 1968 Altec Sound And Communication catalog:


Products covered, with text photos, and limited specs, include the full range of microphones, horn speakers, Duplex coaxial speakers, full range drivers, voice-of-the-theatre systems, tube and solid-state power amps, pre-amps, compressors, and mixers; the full range of plug-in transformers, 9200 console and attendant components; a page devoted o the ‘Giant Voice’ public warning system (see earlier post); plus the range of telephone audio equipment and intercom systems for industry and hospitals.

If you are not familiar with Altec’s classic pieces, this brief catalog is a great place to start.    Altec’s market-leadership would soon be supplanted by a range of innovations introduced by smaller companies in the 1970s, but at the time, this was still top-end gear.  Much of this equipment is still used today; if not in recording studios, then by audiophiles.  Dig in.

Altec Musical Sound Equipment circa 1973

Download the sixteen-page Altec Musical Sound Equipment catalog circa 1973:

DOWNLOAD: AltecMusical1973

Products covered, in text, specs, and lovely 70s gradient photography, include: Altec 417, 418, 421, and 425 series musical instrument speakers (drivers); Altec 626A, 654A, 655A, 650B, and 656A microphones; 1212A and 1214A ‘altec control consoles’ aka powered mixers; 1207C, 1211A, and 1217A column loudspeakers; 1202B, 1204B, 1208B, and 1218A ‘voice of the theatre’ speaker systems; 771B BiAmplifier and its associated 1209B, 1219A, and 1205B powered ‘voice of the theatre’ systems; 1215A an 1225A folded horn and multicell tweeter; 9477B power amplifier; 1220AC ‘audio control console’ aka 10×1 live sound mixer; plus the contemporary voice of the theatre individual components 811B and 511B horns, 807-8A and 808-8A drivers, N809-8A crossover, and 828B cabinet.  Plus a range of accessories.

This is not a full-range catalog; rather the focus is plainly on live-sound reinforcement for rock and pop bands.  There is an emphasis on volume, power, and road-worthiness in all of the product-prose.

Dig the excellent tequila-sunrise comin’ on behind the Altec Musical Instrument Speakers.  It was a popular, if pricey, move in the 70s to replace the factory-installed drivers in your Fender Amp with an Altec (or JBL) aftermarket speaker.  Many amplifier manufacturers of the era offered these as factory-installed options as well.  I have never liked the sound of of these speakers in a guitar amp.  It’s likely simply because I have a more roots-oriented guitar style, but i find that Altec and JBL speakers really rob a good tube amp of the responsiveness (touch-sensitivity) and proper harmonic-breakup that I depend on from the amp.  Maybe if you are into Jazz and/or Metal these would be a good choice.  Anyhow, I always replace them with regular Alnico or ceramic instrument speakers, which generally have a more limited frequency response.  Another downside of the JBL replacement speakers in particular is that they weigh a goddman ton, turining your Deluxe Reverb into something requiring casters.

Since this is essentially a live-sound catalog, the microphones on offer are limited to a range of 5 hand-held type units.  The top-of-the-line dynamic on offer is the 654A.  I bought pile of 4 of these on eBay a few years ago when I needed some mics for a series of rehearsals we were doing.  They were pretty cheap and I figured they would work pretty well.  I found them to be not especially durable, but decently so.  They have pretty good sound, but the feedback rejection is really really bad, even with properly-positioned monitor wedges; but perhaps their worst feature is that the shafts are so frikkin thin that you need to use those awful spring-loaded mic clips.  We still use these in the rehearsal studio when absolutely necessary, but I cannot recommend them.  Might sound cool on acoustic guitar for recording applications.

If you have been following this website for a while, you will know that I am totally obsessed with this style of product photography.  Bring that shit back I say!