This is the section inside of the old machines that gets extracted and brought back to perfect working order and modified. The transport. The rest of the unit is abandoned and left aside for possible TE-1's, except for two single electronics components that can no longer be manufactured, which is a short list we whittled down after some preliminary work with the PCB folks' knowledge of component sources. So we pull those two components off of the old PCB's, but otherwise focus on making a totally new unit using just the transport here.
We have redesigned and replaced each of the big buttons 203M/200M/199M/201M/202M with custom high resolution 3D printed designs, reworked to fit within the Y axis limitations between the rails of eurorack. Eventually these will be made by injection molding, but for now we don't want to spend the up front 3K-6K, per piece, for that, so for now we're short term committing to the non-cheap cost per piece for the printing and they still look and feel great. But if the TE-2 rolls steadily enough out the door, we'll consider injection molding for those.
We also sourced the rubber component inside the metal 107M pinch roller mechanism, and we simply remove the inner shaft of the metal bit and are able to slide in our newly sourced rubber. On the TE-1, we were able to continue to use old stock pinch roller assemblies, including the metal bit and rubber inner bit, that we bought up from the world but now on those we're down to 62 pieces. So we're reusing the metal of the transport and replacing the rubber, which allows the TE-2 to exist beyond 62 units. The old metal pieces are in perfect condition generally, it's the rubber that needs to be replace. It took a while to find a solid source for the rubber, but after a few avenues of finding the right sizing, we have it, and by some stroke of luck, they all perform smoother than the OEM rubber. Maybe the OEM rubber, although unused, is not the best because the rubber is a little old now.
We removed S076 counter from the equation.
178M is a motor mount. We keep that, but for the TE-2 to exist, we needed to flip the motor upside down since the TE-2's PCB would conflict with the motor as it was originally positioned in the transport. So I designed an accessory motor mount piece made from 1/8" aluminum, and with a series of spacers it flips the motor upside down but keeps it in the same lateral position for the belt to reach across and be in the correct spot for the flywheels. But if the motor was flipped, from its original way, again there is a conflict since now the motor is hitting the flywheel, so, the new accessory piece has a sliding mechanism that allows us to adjust the motor to the right and away from the flywheel. But now the issue was that we could no longer use the same belt because it would be stretched to far away from the transport. Sure, it's just like 1/2" over now, and belts are rubber, but what happens when you stretch a tape machines belt too far is that it effects the wow and flutter performance, making your music more unstable in pitch. So we needed to source a new motor belt. But, belts are not a tremendously common things these days, as they were back in the 80's and before, and my experience with the TE-1 led me to learn the availabilities of belts and their specific lengths, so i was able to choose a new belt length that should in theory be highly available. It's 7.5 inches long, instead of the 6.7 or 7 inches belts that get listed as replacement belts for this transports. However, locking the motor into one position laterally based on this readily available 7.5 inch belt is perfect except for one glaring issue... what happens if suddenly in the year 2021, 7.5 inch belts, of this quality and manufactuer, and of the same width and also thickness, suddenly just vanish from production? What if they resort to making only 7 inch or 8 inch? We can't use 7, so we'd have to go big. So, i designed a sliding mechanism for one of the two legs of the motor mount so that the motor itself can be swiveled left or right and then locked down. This allows us to be able to use a wide measurement variation of belts now and in the future, probably anywhere from 7.2 inches long to like 8.2-8.5 inches long. Only time will tell. But, this means we can keep making TE-2's with certainty that we won't suddenly have sub standard belts. We could ship them and get good reviews still, but it wouldn't be quite as good. But, another giant perk, which was considered as a second justification for spending some time developing the sliding aspect of the motor mount, is that it ALSO lets us literally tune the position of the motor/belt in each TE-2 so as to make it just a bit tighter or just a bit looser. This is what impact our W&W. So we now give each individual machine its own wow and flutter adjustment belt tension step which precedes the CV-voltage-to-speed adjustment step. This is a big nice thing to happen! On the TE-1's, the wow and flutter control was as good as possible, but still a bit unpredictable from machine to machine. I got them all turning out great, but they each have some slight variation in the longer delays. With the TE-2, we now have more control over it and can improve things beyond the TE-1. But this wasn't the original purpose for the motor mount piece, it was just a perk on top of the fact that we successfully flipped the motor inside.
We did without 218M.
We removed what i think is labeled the 081M, which is the swivel piece that reads wether or not the cassette has its tab in/out. The whole old school record-protect thing. We had to remove that for the TE-2 because it doesn't fit within the rails. Plus, whatever. Don't accidentally hit record.
Ok i think that's it for the transport replacements/changes done by us. As for the rest of the diagram above, the reason we keep it is twofold... 1, each and every single one of the small pieces could very well cost a couple thousand to prototype and then production runs could be affordable maybe. I have no real quotes, but do have enough sense of general manufacturing situations now to be able to guess. Things were different back in the 80's for this kind of stuff. There are hundreds of pieces, all precision cut, and many with odd bends. So if we wanted to somehow remake this transport, it's an unrealistic cost at the up front. Millions? Thats ignoring time involved, so maybe a couple years of my time non stop in addition to all this time already? Not sure. But, this is all just an effort to recreate this exact transport new so that we didn't have to refurb them. So then the question is, why not just redesign and make a whole new tape transport? Maybe even with off the shelf parts from suppliers around the world! That's the number 2 reason; Because this transport, when working like new, performs WAY beyond other cassette transports. It was over engineered, by a serious team funded by a serious company in the hay day of cassette technology, and the "tape handling" feels close to a professional studio machine, just a tiny version. It's stability at low speeds is why we can use this thing as a tape echo and not need to only run it at full speed to get good musical results. Point is, no body is going to beat this cassette transport's performance without millions of dollars and full time engineers involved for a stretch of time. There are a handful of new tape based products out there claiming new parts are involved, but they do not perform to my musical-mechanical standards. Also on a side note, lets not forget that unlike most tape echo transports, this thing can playback, rewind, record, FF, stop, pause, etc. Controlled by hand or by CV at much of that.
Then there's the tape heads.. Does anybody make tape heads now? And if they do, are they as good as these? I still have no idea if anybody makes tape heads. But these are really impressive.
We do have some plans for original pieces though.. Those disc looking things, 146M and 149M, are plastic injection molded pieces that the belts spin on, and they are key to the stability of performance of these machines. Some of them have some very slight warping due to age, and are not perfectly round and you can hear it albeit not see it. As it stands now, we have to pull ones out of machines that we buy up as parts machines so as to have a surplus mixed in with the keeper machines' ones, and then test (in rolling units) and select the best ones and use those in the final transports. There are only two or three very key ones of these in the overall design, and they have a very very significant impact on wow&flutter, so we are hoping to at some point fork up perhaps what is around 7.5K-15K to get injection molds created so that we can mass produce them to be perfectly symmetrical, and cheaply after the big hurdle. It would be pretty exciting. So what about buyers who already have transports in the world who want to upgrade to these brand new plastic wheels/gears when they are available? That was one of the major handful of reasons we designed the transport to be removable by the end user so that it can be placed in the mail and sent back to us for repair. However, it maybe be easy enough that you end users could put them in yourselves if you are careful. But it's not very simple, so i'm assuming that most of you will want to ship it back for the cost of a small package and have me do it, and then i could also do a general checkup on your transport.
But we could have decided to make an announcement that we refused, as purists, to ship machines until we have brand new injection molded pieces on hand to put into the units. That would be ideal, but idealistic, and would add a bunch to the up front budget. So our compromise is fine, and we'll get them out eventually if they do happen, and for now, the old pieces that have been selected do work well. But when you guys get new pieces popped in, maybe a couple years after, you'll get a boost of W&F improvement since those couple bits will be exactly symmetrical again, so you'll have a moment of fresh excitement for your TE-2 and perhaps you'll be able to dive further into longer tape delay sounds than before and get some new kind of musical tones. It'll also save us production time, since we could just put them right in and not have to do extensive comparison tests of the same few old parts that we salvage.
That's most of the Transport story, and I'm hoping that it's helpful to hear just one of our channels of how things have proceeded and been pursued and improved, but not disastrously suspended by perfectionism, so as to hopefully smoosh the process as compactly as possibly without making sacrifices.
The alligator clips on a big fat bread slab, when posted, was a pic that i knew i'd get people confused about. That sure looks like some early early stages and maybe could have been disconcerting. I just wanted to take a picture and make it public for fun, finally after staring at its madness in the workshop forever. That thing is how all this concept and theory from 2014 onward, came to be physically testable in late 2016 and onward. We still have it set up in the workshop though because it's the genesis of the TE-2 audio core, including the vastly hacked TE-1 pcb, and CV filters and gain staging and feedback and transport electronic changes and set/cycle controls and anomaly and MTR kill and more, and we're not taking it down until TE-2's have been shipping. It is our reference point for the original product design, in physical fully functional throughhole platform for leaving open the possibility of instant application-testing a very last second change to the circuit/pcb. Haven't had to do that, but it's there in case. It's a working core audio TE-2, aside from the cv control brain technology that went through the process of getting adapted into microcontroller form by the pcb folks once i sent over the schematic.
I chose to use the word prototyping perhaps a bit more liberally that i should have publicly. Sorry! But, there are gigantic separate core aspects to all of this, like the enclosure, the transport, the audio core, the control brain core, the faceplate, all of the hardware on the faceplate/module, and the circuit/pcb itself of course. And when we're in prototyping stages for those things, i'm very proud since it is a result of years of concept/design for each. I'm like, "we're MAKING this section!!" "We're prototyping this big sub thing and it's been years in prep for it!" It's in essentially in final form, as a result of a whole lot of inter-related influences. And sure enough, that aspect is done and waiting for the rest.
This is not just a euro module that is 12HP and has 6 pots and 3 switches and 6 jacks, some graphic design, and a low pass filter PCB with cv control and a power input. In that kind of world, you can essentially just finish your filter circuit after some trials, and submit it to be a board a month later and in the mean time order up small hardware and get your faceplate from Metalphoto and put it all together in 30 minutes and it'll likely work or close to work, then make changes for a couple rounds and have it solid pretty quick. And you would have had no risky moves and concerns about fitment, or obscure parts. In our situation, the design of one core segment informs and influences the other segments. We had to designate and order of sub-prototyping of core aspects, so that things LOCKED FOR the next things to proceed, and arrange that progress in the most efficient way possible so that this didn't take until 2025. It's a tightly packed unit, and every MM counts. Nobody has ever done what this is, so as much as we tried to set targets and deadlines, it was always been pioneering and we suffered through it.
And we all want all of the features that made it into the TE-2. So there in lies another component here, which is the fact that i opened this up publicly for suggestions, starting April 1st of 2018. Suggestions gradually rolled in, and i'm proud to be able to say that we pulled them all in. But incorporating requested features took its own toll on the sub-prototyping... Looping/erase head solution? Tap tempo? Banana jacks? Certain voltage standards vs others? 1V/oct speed performance? More interfacing both for CV and for audio, and simultaneous use of all it? Then it's a question of, regardless of the electrical applications, how are we going to physically accomplish/implement these new things onto the machine? It's going to take one or two of our sub-prototyping aspects, maybe the faceplate and the circuit and the case, and put them on pause until we solve the interrelated installation for each. What if the circuit part is easy for the one thing, but we electronically require a certain kind of different switch or jack for it that now doesn't fit in the faceplate, and then we get that in the faceplate but the only way we got it in the faceplate is in a way that it interferes with the transport, so now we have to adjust the sizing and positioning of the 3D buttons of the transport, which also then means that our 1-8 round buttons up top have to be redesigned to be 0.2 MM shallower or they'll constantly be pressing themselves? We had to take things in a certain order of events so that this kind of relationship was ALLOWED, and not set us back months but instead set us back a couple weeks. I'm satisfied wit how we were able to take accommodations and get all these features in, but it still took time. All of this adding weeks for each aspect of each sub thing. Is it worth it? Should we have never posted this thread at all? I don't think so. I'm very proud of what the TE-2 is now, and I owe the final touches to the community. The mistake was probably allowing for too wide and long lasting of a window of public input. I didn't actually plan for a specific point to cut this off. Sometimes people made suggestions, and then the soul search began.. "well, wasn't really wanting more input anymore, but that's a good one. Gotta just do it and be glad later" And one principal for any creator is that if you can't think of any subtractions or additions, the piece is done. So, probably subconsciously, the fact that suggestions have been wide open for a long time and then they petered out is testament that we are all getting what we want. Not a healthy business model, but i'm looking forward to this TE-2.
Posterity is the #1 principal in all of this. What will we be glad we have in the end?
Here's an entertaining and somewhat psychotic thing i say to myself sometimes in order to be glad about the way things have gone... the fact of the matter is that in late 2017 when i burned out on making TE-1's i could have taken the TE-1 circuit and sent it off to the wonderful pcb folks, figured out mounting the transport exactly as it was but onto a euro faceplate, made some decent buttons for it, translated the TE-1 artwork onto a Metalphoto'd plate for cheap, set up a logical layout of the same TE-1 features' knobs, screwed on the ugly and clunky old cassette lid from the old machines and cleaned it up and claimed purism, added CV jacks for time and feedback, made sure there was a guitar input/output, called it the TE-1M and sold that sucker to this community here for 1250$ over and over until the end of time. It would have been rather close to the HP size of the TE-2 too. Wouldn't have even needed to provide an enclosure. Could have abaondoned the rest of the device world outside modular. The financial picture would have been more lucrative for these units per sale, and faster to complete, and simpler. And maybe a few of you will now say you'd rather just have that. But I did not want that, i wanted to build what amounts to nearly being a musical instrument, that can make a lot of sounds and tonal musical phrases that have never been heard before, can be applied to musical scenarios is ways that things have never been applied (I.E, tapping the Step button on a footswitch on stage between songs to flip to your next songs' needs for filter, echo level, and feedback, of a tape echo.. for up to 8 different songs as a bank to choose from..or just flip between them hands free during different segments of a song) and that takes advantage of a physical medium that doesn't get embraced as much as it could, that being moving tape with gears and motors, and is vastly more refined sounding and performing as its core tape echo purpose, and also exists for guitarist and engineers just the same.
We have this design locked and loaded and a whole lot of sub aspects are prototyped and effectively final and the PCB's are the thing we've framed our process around knowing that they'd arrive last, which is when we pop them in and have prepared all other factors in order to eliminate them from the equation of making changes, and can just focus on the way the pcb works. The PCB's have their own 3rd party testing stages, prior to sending us something, and mind you, a lot of the audio of the circuit was used in the TE-1 over and over and is out in the world, and the remaining new TE-2 circuit was breadboard connected to the previous TE-1 stuff and tested till the cows crowed, so it'll be a moment of putting together things that were all built and tested. Like I've mentioned in one of the recent buyers updates, prototyping this thing is not quite like prototyping most things. Sure, there's some idealism involved here, but optimism is what keeps sane through this and it's not that out of check. Jackie kicks my ass about it.
A flattering number of people are on the signup list. Many also reach out beyond the website sign up form in anticipation just to say they're ready to order when the machines are shipping. That's great! Now, the committed and supportive folks of you have pre ordered. It is a very small percentage compared to those "waiting for later". But you pre orderer's will of course get yours very significantly prior to those who plan to pay when available units are on the floor without names on them already. Just had to state that clearly since it was just mentioned. You are the first batch, and nobody else will get machines in the time frame you get yours. There will be a pad of time after. Also you're getting the foot switch and lid for free. (BTW, the foot switch is probably going to ship with the units now. Just the lid comes later. We developed a situation that allows for the foot switch production to tie in with the TE-2)