Unveiled 30 years ago, the Ampex ATR-102 is still considered by many engineers to be the best mastering deck built. In the early days, the machine wasn’t considered all that great. Some of the early designs were unreliable due to substandard assembly and sub-quality parts from outside suppliers. But after a few years of growing pains the ATR-102 emerged as the preeminent mastering reel to reel.
Created by Ampex, the ATR 102 incorporated advanced engineering techniques with clever details. For example, the transport’s gentle roller-less design with capstan and reel motors under servo control provide smooth, continuous tension and tape movement. A unique plug-in head block lets users change heads and guides in minutes. And the layout and convenient thumbwheel makes for fast, easy editing. In all, roughly 3,000 machines were made until the series was discontinued in 1982 but ATR-102s are still alive thanks to parts, service and even new designs.
This machine is a classic and I am very lucky to come across a serviceable machine in such good condition. I have never heard a better sounding reel to reel.