There was a time when some of the best hifi-products came out of Switzerland. Brands like Thorens, Lenco and especially Studer/Revox stand for decades where there was no need for importation from abroad. Today the flagships of these enterprises from the 1960s and 1970s can be purchased for relatively little money. And what you can get out of these devices can be surprisingly crazy.
Lukas contacted me because somehow he found out that I had a few Revox Reel-to-Reel recorders at home. After several months of waiting – I was quite busy and the machines needed to be fixed – we finally met. Such Reel-to-Reel machines can be used in manifold ways. Lukas mainly wanted it in order to give a certain warmer quality to the already digitally recorded songs of his band. To test the machine we directly plugged in an electric guitar, played some chords, listened to them and both were surprised by the fullness of the sound. …and the machine was sold. In fact before digital recording took hold, magnetic tape was the popular choice for recording audio.
I myself did my first analogue recordings a few weeks ago with the British garage band THEE MVP’s. As they where in my hometown for a show we used the time for bringing a few songs onto tape. Without much experience and only two hours time I started this endeavour. I sloppily connected the Revox A77 tape machine to a mixing desk an installed some microphones - done. The result blew my mind. Far from being perfect it was ways better than anything I had recorded before. It stroke me that without any reworking the quality of sound of the recordings was already great.
The A77 indeed is a spectacular sounding piece of recording history. Known for being hand-made in Switzerland and thereby associated with high-quality the Revox tape machines are precision audiophile units engineered to the highest specifications in the industry at that time.
The company Studer/Revox was founded in 1948 by Willi Studer in Herisau, a rather rural smalltown in eastern Switzerland. Honestly said, I can hardly believe that this town – or shall I say village - in the 1940s was the origin of something so innovative like Revox. However, first Studer/Revox produced and distributed tape recorders under the name Dynavox. In fact the company was among the first that engaged in the development of tape recorders. Soon after starting Studer/Revox from the 1960s on had been dominating the sector of professional music recording. For instance the path-breaking Sergeant Pepper Beatles album was recorded in Abbey Road Studios on a Studer machine.
The model purchased by Lukas – the A77 - was the most successful serie of devices ever produced by Studer/Revox. It was introduced in 1967 with a list price of around $500. Being one of the most often buyed reel-to-reel machine ever the A77 is conceptualized for the use at home. From its introduction on, the A77 had been sold as part of an integrated stereo system made of a FM-Tuner, a stereo amplifier and the tape machine itself. The A77 was built to such exacting standards and with so many options, however, that it crossed over from home-users to pros and was embraced by broadcast and recording engineers soon. One can say that the A77 set the standard of the late 1960s in the home/semi-professional recording sector. This explains why it was produced until the late 1970s with only small modifications. At times, Studer was hardly capable to keep up with orders and even had to reduce marketing efforts in order to control demand. Over the years many different models of the A77 were sold in dozens of configurations. It exists as two track and as four track version. Four track models let you record two tracks, flip the reel over, and record two more. Half-track models recorded two tracks in one direction only and were popular as mixdown decks. Lukas version is a two track A77. Another great characteristic of the A77 is its solidity. Built like a tank it is nearly undestroyable. Not surprisingly, thousands are still in good operating order and available for sale online.
With the A77 Studer/Revox created a myth around its brands that still resonates today. It can be regarded as the global breakthrough of the enterprise. In the 1960s/1970s many recording studios and radio stations around the world were equipped with Studer/Revox tape machines. Furthermore it was used by the army, in parliaments, by police and also at home to record child birthdays.