Ultimate Home Recording Machines of the 80’s

AKAI_MG1212Today: just a few of the ‘Uber’ home-recording machines available to musicians in the 1980s.  To this list I would also add the Audio Technica RMX64 and the AMR System 1, both which we have already covered recently at PS dot Com.  If anyone is using these things to make music nowadays, drop us a line and tell us about it!

Akai_MG1212_1984Above: the Akai MG1212 integrated 12-track recorder/mixer; all analog with automated punch in/out and VCA mute.  I have a coupla memories of these things.  When I was a kid East Coast Music mall had a used one that they were trying to sell for years.  It sat at the front of the shop and it looked to me like a fkkn NASA computer.   Years later, my college band The Cam Neely was invited to Boston to work with some Berklee students who needed to record some bands for… I have no idea frankly.  And oh shit I have the ‘CD’ right here: the engineer’s name was Skip Hoefsmit.  He recorded us on one of these machines, and I have to say, the recording sounds good considering i think we did two songs in about 6 hours and the only ‘production’ was that dude doubletracked our vocals.  Hey Skip, still hustlin’?  Drop us a line…

Sansui_6_track_1990Above: the Sansui WS-X1 of 1990.  OK so this thing is fkkn nuts.  You get six discrete tracks on a cassette tape, built in digital reverb unit, and stereo mixdown deck, all in one unit.  Some dude has a wordpress site solely devoted to this thing, and goddamn I want one of these! 

Tascam_234_1984Ah Tascam 234.  Someday you will be mine.  I actually found one of these at a tag sale in Norwalk last year, $60 I think??? but it was totally dead.  Despite all claims made by the seller.  Luckily I keep a cassette tape and a pair of headphones in my car at all times (WOW that is so embarrassing) for these sorta occasions, so i was able to scope it and didn’t get snookered.  Fkkn asshole DID manage to sell me some dead 10″ guitar speakers for $5 each though.  Alright here’s an idea guys: when yr shit breaks, either fix it, have it fixed, or take it to the town recycling center.  DON’T STORE IT IN THE BASEMENT AND THEN STICK SOMEONE ELSE WITH IT 5 YRS LATERFor fukks sake, why do people keep broken crap around?  We’re inundated with enough WORKING crap.  Jesus. 

20 thoughts on “Ultimate Home Recording Machines of the 80’s”

  1. Ah the ol “I was getting around to fixing it eventually”! Great post, merry chrimbus to you, hope to see more cool stuff from you in the next year! Cheers

  2. Fixing is a challenge that teaches you how stuff works.

    Usually when a unit is _completely dead_ it’s an easy fix.

  3. I used to sell those Akai recorders from a pro music shop in Berkeley CA. We were the first Akai Professional dealer in the Bay Area, so we had their first products: the MG-1212, the S-612 Sampler, and the AX-80 and AX-60 keyboards. They also made a line of rack mount MIDI control boxes (like channel shift, velocity trim and a patch bay. Akai started out with the solid black control panels with gold lettering, but the next year changed to the beige “test instrument” look of the S-900 Sampler. The MG-1212 got an upgrade to the MG-1214. There was also an programmable eight-channel, rack-mounted, MIDI controlled analog mixer, but I can’t remember the model name.

    The MG could have been a contender, except for one huge sticking point – it used a proprietary tape cartridge, available only through Akai and rather expensive. I was told by the Akai rep that the original plan was to have the MG-1212 work with a Betamax video tape cassette, which was affordable and easily available. But the licensing deal Akai tried to make with Sony fell through, because Sony didn’t like the idea of using their format to record side-by-side analog audio tracks, instead of the properly licensed helical-scan Betamax video system. Sticking an Akai MG audio tape into a Betamax VCR would make loud thumping noises and video chaos come out of your TV, and that scared Sony away.

    So Akai had to come up with a slightly altered physical package for the cartridge, even though the internal mechanism was basically the same as Betamax. All so it wouldn’t fit into a VCR by accident!

    I sold only a couple of these beasts, which is a shame because they sounded quite good with a simple, straightforward workflow. But the buyer would balk at the proprietary tape cartridge issue. If the damn machine had used Betamax tapes I could have sold dozens.

  4. Joey,

    “I was told by the Akai rep that the original plan was to have the MG-1212 work with a Betamax video tape cassette, which was affordable and easily available.”

    A sales rep may have said this, but it’s not the truth. Akai had made a home video recorder, like a Beta, VHS, etc., in the late 70’s. They developed their own tape, the VT-300, for this system. It looked similar to a Beta tape. They also developed the tape transport for this. The MG1212 was based around this transport, which already existed, the tape shells were loaded with audio tape. For some reason, this story made the rounds. For some reason, some sales people made up their own version of this. I was the product manager for all the Akai products back then. I may have met you. Did you work at Leo’s? I knew Mark Haynes there.

    Anyway, I just posted a training video for the MPX-820 that I did in 1987 on youtube. It can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvyS1zv6tNM

    Mike McRoberts

  5. Aah ha good point. I have like, four Tascam MK414II’s, a Fostex XR7 and several dual head tape decks, all with at least one channel problem, but they’re not in the basement, they’re in the attic!

  6. I still have and use my Peavey AMR ! That Tapeop article you linked to was me! It just recently broke down after years and years of flawless operation…it’s just a failed belt. I now have many tape machines but the ol AMR still gets use!

    1. hey there. yea i bought one not long after i posted this. It needed a new capstan belt, which i did, and it works great! The tape machine sounds eh OK, none of the 1.75ips cassette machines sound great IMO, but the mixer is surprisingly good and the thing is just cool as hell. I love it! c.

      1. Hi Chris!
        May I hire your AKAI 1212 to transfer some tapes to digital, please?
        Sincerely, Woody

      1. Hi Debbie,

        Could you pleasedrop me an email on this ? Condition , price, etc… Thanks ! Helmut.

    1. I am owner of an AKAI MG 1212 and own 12 used MK20 (once recorded) and 8 used MK20J (once recorded) and 4 new (welded) MK20J. All tapes are compatible for use on MG1212 and MG1214. I also plan to sell the Recorder AKAI MG1212 in good serviced (from Akai Germany/Munic) condition. Greetings ULLI

      1. Hello, Debbie,
        I am glad to see that you have a working AKAI MG1212!
        I am looking for one to play some old recordings.
        I am willing to pay : )
        How may I reach you?
        Sincerely -Woody

  7. shopgoodwill.com is auctioning a WS-X1 right now, currently at @ $25!!! Just supply the tapes!

  8. I still own one MG 1212 in my studio. It’s in very good, serviced condition, and doesn’t have to work since years. In the 90s I used two of the machines, to change 1:1, when servicetime for one appeared. Nice and solid machines!

    1. Hello Ulli!
      Do you still have an AKAI MG 1212?
      I am looking for one to play some old recordings.
      I am willing to pay, how may I reach you?
      Alles gute -Woody

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