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A Roughly Treated Otari

sn: 18309217

circa 2008 I purchased this Otari MX 5050 BII 2 from an ebay seller.  This "BII 2" is a 1/4 inch tape 2-track machine that records and plays back in 2 track mode.  Sometimes 2 track machines are called "half track"  Because 1/2 of the tape width is one channel (or track).  In addition to the other three, there is a 4th head.  That one is a 4-track play-back only head. It splits the tape width into 4 tracks (channels).  So this is a very versatile machine.  It can record and play back in  half track mode.  And it can play back pre-recorded 4-track r2r tapes as well.

In the ad it was listed as being in rough cosmetic condition but recently serviced and still fully functional.  When I took delivery I found that having the thing in front of me was quite a bit different than looking at blurry photos in that ebay ad.  Nonetheless, it still is fully functional as described.  And it sounds very good playing the commercial R2R recordings I have gathered. Later, I purchased another Otari of the same model.  But that one was in near mint condition.  And for not much more money.  But I digress.  This page is dedicated to the roughly handled R2R deck we see in the photos below.

I'll refrain from speculating on just how this deck came to be in the condition that it is.  Yet, each broken corner, broken foot, each scratch and each gouge bears witness to some very rough treatment at the hands of somebody.  Perhaps these photos serve as a testament to the rugged build quality of the machine.

Above:  Maybe it isn't quite obvious but the VU meter on the left has a burnt out bulb.  The right VU still lights up. Otherwise both meter function normally.

DSC_0606.jpg (345686 bytes) DSC_0607.jpg (424671 bytes) DSC_0608.jpg (410600 bytes) DSC_0609.jpg (286769 bytes) DSC_0610.jpg (290979 bytes) DSC_0605.jpg (294891 bytes) DSC_0620.jpg (359557 bytes)

DSC_0601.jpg (273280 bytes) DSC_0602.jpg (367833 bytes) DSC_0617.jpg (358645 bytes) The feet are broken off just fore of the mounting screws.  I can imagine the deck being dropped when this happened.

DSC_0618.jpg (313315 bytes) DSC_0619.jpg (282801 bytes) These Otari reel clamps have seen better days.  They still function, but one of them has a "sticky" operation.

DSC_0621.jpg (230697 bytes) DSC_0622.jpg (184363 bytes) I don't know if these close-up photos are close enough to reveal actual condition of the 4 heads on this machine.  But they can't be completely toast since the deck sounds good.



This unit was up for auction on ebay March 2014.  The winning bid was for 158.49.  Add shipping.  ($86.00) Add ebay final value fee (10% = $15.85).  Add pay pal transaction fee ($6.05)

The buyer was located in Ohio.  Item shipped via UPS.  When buyer received the item he opened a dispute saying the unit was not as described.  In a further description he stated that the unit would not run tape nor would it rewind.  My only choice, per ebay policy, was to refund the buyer's purchase price plus shipping once I had received it back.  But the buyer had to pay shipping back.  Not good for him either. 


When It arrived back to me I observed that the buyers' observations were correct.  I also noticed that there was something heavy inside the casing of the Otari that was loose and crashing about.  I also noticed that the back cover was dented and screws meant to hold the cover in place were coming out.  Further, the 4 plastic feet attached to the back of the unit were all smashed and falling apart into small fragments.  Clearly, this reel to reel deck had encountered some rough handling during its trip out to Ohio.  Small wonder.  It weighs 60 lbs out of the box.  Imagine the UPS folks trying to handle it.  Likely the trip back to Seattle wasn't too good for it either.  Ouch. 


Now it needs repairs.  Below are some photos of the damage.  Notice the top photo and the large and heavy transformer.  It had broken its steel strapping that held it in place at some point.  Then it was free to crash about while the package was in transit and being handled.


DSC_0710.jpg (390406 bytes) Loose transformer.

DSC_1814.jpg (370002 bytes) Transformer refitted to chassis

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DSC_1811.jpg (365387 bytes) Cracked PCB shows gap in circuit.  This is suspected to be the cause of operational malfunction.

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A repair is made to the broken circuit. 

  1. First, the cracked board is epoxied in the area of the crack to secure the board from cracking any further.
  2. Next, a short length of fine gage  copper hookup wire is cut to length.  Then its either end of it is tinned with solder
  3. Next, either side of the broken circuit is scraped to uncover the copper surfaces. Once clear of outer coating the circuit is coated lightly with resin flux.  Then tinned with solder.
  4. Lastly the short wire section is soldered to both ends of the broken circuit, to form a bridge and complete the broken circuit
  5. A multimeter is used to test continuity at either end of the damaged circuit.  Continuity is good.
  6. Time to see if this is the fix.


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DSC_1819.jpg (321277 bytes) Wow.  it's back as before.  One VU meter needs a light bulb.  I'll get to that next.  The good news is that it plays back as before.  Currently spinning a BS&T album at 7-1/2 ips. First album; CIFTTM.

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Stay tuned for further adventures in the rehabilitation of this old soldier.