How We Fixed a 24-Track Studio Recording Deck
Customer brought to us an early-1980’s vintage studio recording deck: a 2″ tape, 24-track recorder—the MCI JH-24.
The MCI JH-24 is a rather legendary studio multi-track recorder—a very impressive piece of equipment, the first commercialized 24-track recorder. Many rock classics were recorded on MCI machines: Eric Clapton, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and the Bee Gees recorded many of their 1970’s era hits on MCI 16-track machines. The JH-24 carried an original purchase price in the $30,000 range. Even today working units are being sold online for over $8000, not including freight.
By the early 1980’s digital recording was emerging on the horizon, but many artists then, and still today, prefer the perceived “warmth” of analog recording equipment. And so we found ourselves facing a non-functioning JH-24 deck—the first one we have seen.
Assessing the Repair Prospects on the MCI JH-24, and Phase 1
Customer’s complaint was that “Tape transport won’t function.” Our diagnostic assessment found the following:
“MAJOR RECONSTRUCTION REQUIRED in POWER SUPPLY, STANDBY CIRCUIT WORK, and SYSTEM CONTROL CIRCUIT. ADVANCED TROUBLESHOOTING PLUS REPLACE OF MISC COMPONENTS INCLUDING DISPLAY LAMPS—HOWEVER IT IS OTHERWISE IN GOOD SHAPE AND REPAIR IS FEASIBLE & RECOMMENDED FOR REPAIR.”
After considerable efforts by one of our master technicians, our repair essentially stalled out—“I can’t fix it.” Despair set in. Eventually I transferred the ticket to our other master tech and assigned him a full time assistant for this challenge. The risk was considerable: should he and his team flame out, and the unit prove unrepairable, this would represent a large loss of valuable repair production time.
Phase 2: Breakthrough
The second tech team completed the remaining work, but having done so, we ran into additional complications with this very complex product. Customer had requested that at least 16 of the original 24 tracks be restored. As it turned out, each individual recording track presented individual electronic circuit issues. Both our master techs worked on the unit, and were finally successful in restoring 23 of the 24 tracks, each of which required individual troubleshooting and circuit repair, for a total repair cost below $4000—thus saving the customer over $4000 off the cost of purchasing a replacement.
Summary: We Fixed It
Finally, we presented the triumph to the customer: a restored, functioning MCI JH-24, at just half the cost of a working replacement. Just another save-the-day at Bammel TV Tech Services. For our main Pro Audio repair page, click here. Click on the video player below for a brief video review of the final, functioning unit.