documents the restoration of two vintage reel to reel tape recorders, the
Wollensak 1288 stereophonic tape recorder from 1965 and the Wollensak 5750
tape recorders were produced by the 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing)
Company from the 1950's through the 1970's. Oddly, Wollensak was originally
its own company making very high end camera equipment and lenses.
Wollensak, and hoping to capitalize on the brand name, released tape recorders
starting in the 1950's with the T-1500 series, possibly their most popular
tape recorder. This tape recorder was a workhorse, built to last out of
aluminum with a powerful tube amplifier. They made "pseudo stereo" models
and advanced into full fledged stereo machines over time.
By 1965, Wollensak
was producing the 1200 series of tape recorders which were based on the T-1500
mechanics. The 1280 and 1288 used a hybrid type of amplifier, with the pre-amplification
managed by transistors, and the power amplifier managed by twin 6T9 tubes.
These tubes are enjoying a resurgence among audiophiles today because of
their warm tone and characteristics.
In the 1960's,
tape recorders were the hot audio item to have, along with turntables and
other stereo components. Audio systems were a hobby for many, and the market
seemed very bright, especially for reel to reel machines. Tape recorders
came in all forms and sizes. In the United States, many of the popular tape
recorders were made in Japan, and even some U.S. brand names (such as RCA
and Westinghouse) had their tape recorders made for them by Japanese companies.
But other U.S. makers designed and created their own tape recorders. One
way to tell it the use of rivets to hold parts together. This seemed to be
a uniquely American approach to tape recorder deck construction.
By the late
1960's, the cassette recorder was heavily competing with the reel to reel
tape recorder market. Cassette format had been tried earlier in different
ways, but eventually, the Philips/Norelco mechanism driving the "Compact
Cassette" won out and tape recorders were made using this engineering.
Smaller reel to reel tape recorders began to wane (especially the little
3-inch reel portable machines) in favor of the cassette format. But due to
early audio limitations, cassette tape recorders could not seriously compete
with larger reel to reel machines that had better frequency response and
the design of reel to reel machines had to change to keep consumer interest.
Wollensak chose to deal with this by the development of what I call a "designer
series" of reel to reel tape recorders, the Wollensak 5000 series, of which
the model 5750 was a significant player. These were some of the most beautiful
tape recorders ever made. The designer concept is born out by Wollensak's
advertising of the 5000 series of tape recorders, ads which feature women
and their needs and desires rather than those of the more stereotypical
male audiophile. Sociologically, this reflected the increase on the role
of women in society.
changed a lot since the 1960's, and audio equipment, while much more convenient
in its digital format (MP3, CD,s etc) in spite of it's brilliance lacks some
of the warmth and character that was exhibited by the vintage reel to reel
tape recorders, especially those that used tubes for amplification. So it
is a valuable history lesson to understand these old tape recorders, and
to hear their rich warm sound.
DO NOT ASK US how to sell your old machine or tapes or records. We will
NOT respond to selling or value estimate inquiries.
YOU need a tape recorder restored? Contact us TODAY and tell
us YOUR story! We're happy to help! Call: 781 322-4430 or use our Contact
page on this website!
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Productions - 2007