Demo of the DTC-1200 prototype transport controller being tested during the development stages.
The Ampex MM1200 Studio Recorder
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This page is dedicated to vintage Ampex MM1200 multi-track analog recorders and keeping these wonderful sounding machines alive! During the 70's and 80's, countless hits were recorded on these machines in many major studios. Many of your favorite songs from this period were likely recorded on these machines along with countless other classic hits.
During the late 90's and into 2000 and beyond, RTZ® manufactured upgrade reproduce and record electronics for these machines. The cards were also used in the smaller AG440 machines and were a popular upgrade for two track machines. The RTZ upgrade electronics significantly improved the audio quality of these machines and raised the bar on some of the best sounding analog tape recorders ever produced.
We produced and sold these cards in limited quantities during this period and these cards are still sought after for their outstanding audio peformance even today. Unfortunately, these cards are fairly rare and it's unlikely you'll run across many of these in the field. None the less, our upgrade electronics achieved significant praise in the short period these were produced. Sadly, the cost of producing these cards eventually no longer justified the little demand that remained.
We still maintain and use a 24-track MM1200 in our private personal studio. Our machine has received numerous upgrades and modifications over the years, and we still continue to upgrade this machine and design new electronics as a labor of love. The RTZ machine has received all new repro and record electronics over the years through several revisions. We have the custom roller upgrade kit for our machine originally made by Mike Spitz of ATR Services. Over the years we experiemented with several diffent digital transport controller designs to provide a true constant tension servo loop transport controller using modern digital microcontrollers.
4840356 Capstan Servo Card
The RTZ capstan servo card is a direct replacement for the Ampex 4840356 servo card that includes several enhancements. It also includes an additional buffered output signal required on machines with the original Ampex constant tension kit. No modifications or hacked on daughter cards are required for use with machines that have the Ampex constant tension kit.
We've thrown in the SPARS capstan flutter indictor LED circuit also. This circuit is very sensitive and gives visual indication of any flutter in the PWM stream. The circuit is sensitive enough to give visual indication of motor bearings that are starting to fail or have a small tick.
Additionally, the RTZ capstan card supports the AG440 and MM1100 machines as well and is jumper configurable to support any speeds offered on the AG440, MM1100 and MM1200. A linear regulator was also added to provide true 5V regulation and replace the original crude zener regulator.
DTC-1200 Digital Transport Controller
The DTC-1200 digital transport controller completely replaces the original Ampex transport controller and provides full servo loop control of the transport reel motors as well as real-time constant tension control. A few wiring modifications are required in the MM1200 control card bay to use this new controller, but the original Ampex transport control card can still be used afterward if ever needed for some reason.
The DTC-1200 is designed around a Texas Instruments 32-Bit Tiva ARM M4 microcontroller especially designed for motion control systems and applications. TI-RTOS was selected as the real-time operating system. The real-time kernel is scalable and is designed to be used by applications that require real-time scheduling and synchronization or real-time instrumentation. It provides preemptive multi-threading, hardware abstraction, real-time analysis, and configuration tools.
The Ampex reel motors require modifications to add quadrature encoders to both motors. We provide a kit with bolt on magnetic quadrature encoders that is easily installed with common hand tools. These new magnetic quadrature encoders provide high resolution tachometer and direction information to the DTC-1200 servo controller. Please see the DTC-1200 Owners Manual for complete installation and modfications details.
STC-1200 Search/Timer/Cue Controller
The STC-1200 replaces the original Ampex search-to-cue/timer-counter card and greatly expands the functionality of the machine completely via software. This card uses an even more powerful Tiva TM4C1294NCPD ARM M4 processor that supports a number of communication interfaces as well as providing the tape counter and auto-locate functions.
The STC-1200 provides RS-232, RS-422, Ethernet, BlueTooth and MIDI communication interfaces. It also supports a SD memory card for logging and hosting other files. Support for web page hosting may be added in the future, or other Ethernet based control interfaces. Support for MIDI Machine Control (MMC) is also planned. MMC will allow MIDI controllers and DAW software remotely control the transport functions via MIDI.
The STC-1200 also serves as a host communications interface for the DRC-1200 remote control over high speed RS-422. The remote will provide access to transport control and multi-point auto-locate functions. Future sofware updates will greatly enhance the functionality of the STC-1200 and DRC-1200 features.
DRC-1200 Remote Control
The DRC-1200 is designed to be a robust remote control that provide basic transport functions and serves as a full featured multi-point auto locater. The STC-1200 serves as the host for the DRC-1200 remote control and the two units communicate via 1Mbs high-speed RS-422.
The DRC-1200 remote is basically a dumb display device with buttons and a jog wheel that communicates to the STC-1200 host. The balanced RS-422 communctions bus provides robust industrial strength high speed communications over long cable runs with standard twisted pair eight conductor wire.