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Rola MKIII Professional Tape Recorder


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Hello all,

As Chief Draftsman and designer at Rola Tape Recorder Division, South Melbourne 1959-1962, I started just after Rola bought it from Byer.

I developed the 77 MKIII deck which was quite a challenge to improve on after the previous decks,

like the Original Byer 66 which was already very good. 

The 77MKIII was the last model built. Rola was taken over by Plessey soon after and eventually disappeared as a Co.

My design was well accepted by the broadcast studios, so many were sold, including overseas.

I went on to found 5 companies including 2 factories building automatic packaging machines, which were also exported to Asia and Europe.

Now at 89 years old, retired in Switzerland, these are great memories.

Edited by Ozisounds
Minor spelling correction
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Guest Simonon

I spent hours rebuilding this machine and even found some new old stock heads for it as this one had a hard life with the ABC. A very well designed and beautiful machine that has pride and place in my collection. It is frequently used and shown off to friends. Full track mono at 15ips with the original tubes sounds amazing.

I commend you for your design.

Plessey 77mk3.jpg

Edited by Simonon
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Guest Simonon
Hello all,
As Chief Draftsman and designer at Rola Tape Recorder Division, South Melbourne 1959-1962, I started just after Rola bought it from Byer.
I developed the 77 MKIII deck which was quite a challenge to improve on after the previous decks,
like the Original Byer 66 which was already very good. 
The 77MKIII was the last model built. Rola was taken over by Plessey soon after and eventually disappeared as a Co.
My design was well accepted by the broadcast studios, so many were sold, including overseas.
I went on to found 5 companies including 2 factories building automatic packaging machines, which were also exported to Asia and Europe.
Now at 89 years old, retired in Switzerland, these are great memories.
Thought I would upload some pics of my restored 77 mk3. My favorite machine with simply the best tape lacing system. The Rola name is alive and well with an ex ABC audio engineer who builds some great audio, guitar amps and products here at Blackwood in South Australia. 0947fb9943ede983a003e54d1864fe33.jpg112d98512f43ea1dea311d012e4f98a0.jpg9f2faf28fbc3c10a565f24b0e9a26955.jpga8ad676d6906f42a1ac22f436b3f1934.jpg
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Guest Simonon

Here is a picture of the solid diecast chassis which is very heavy.
This was considered to be a "portable machine" in its day.
Currently listening to Freddie King is a Bluesmaster in full track mono.dfa1a6284f74da7aa532a3c85546d02d.jpg

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Guest Simonon
Simonon you are fortunate to have a later production model of the 77 Mk III, as it is fitted with the Papst outer rotor,  two speed capstan motor.
I saw a date stamp inside from 1971. Unbelievable production run as they were just so good. Just revised play/ rec azimuth and bias with new heads. The sound quality is very good indeed. The new old stock heads and pinch roller were a great find. Gotta be the easiest machine to align. If I find another Byer or Rola I will definately grab it.
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On ‎30‎/‎03‎/‎2019 at 8:27 AM, Simonon said:

Here is a picture of the solid diecast chassis which is very heavy.
This was considered to be a "portable machine" in its day.
Currently listening to Freddie King is a Bluesmaster in full track mono.dfa1a6284f74da7aa532a3c85546d02d.jpg

 

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Yes, a really solid chassis, thanks to Max Byer. For this 77MKIII, I personally designed the rectangular/rounded corner push buttons, which were a signifiant departure from the conventional round ones. The only staff member who criticised them was Graham Thirkell from The Boulevard head office. He was not liked by us at Dorcas St., (Tape Recorder Division) as he interfered a lot with our endeavours. Luckily we succeeded.  

One of the most important improvements we made was to change the design from 1 to a 2 head capping system so that the heads were capped simultaneously and completely with no noise. After many tries, and with the limited space available, we succeeded in doing this, thus reducing hysteresis, noise, hiss etc. The caps of course were made of monel metal.

Below is a cutting of a Melbourne Herald advert from Jan 9, 1964 promoting the MKIII with Qantas Air Cargo.

RolaAdvQuantas.JPG

Edited by Ozisounds
Head capping added. Max.1 to 2.Qantas Adv.
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Guest Simonon
Yes, a really solid chassis, thanks to Mr. Byer. For this 77MKIII, I personally designed the rectangular/rounded corner push buttons, which were a signifiant departure from the conventional round ones. The only staff member who criticised them was Graham Thirkell from The Boulevard head office. He was not liked by us at Dorcas St., (Tape Recorder Division) as he interfered a lot with our endeavours. Luckily we succeeded.  
One of the most important improvements we made was to design the 2 head capping system so that the heads were capped simultaneously and completely with no noise. After many tries, and with the limited space available, we succeeded in doing this, thus reducing hysteresis, noise, hiss etc. The caps of course were made of monel metal.
The tape lacing and head capping system is absolutely brilliant on the mk3 and I can see why many machines remained in service way into the 1980s at many radio stations. I also have a very early mk3 (1963) in need of a lot of attention and parts which is my next challenge. I also restored a set of ABC wharfedale broadcast monitors which contain a set of Centre Industries type 3 tube amps and Rola mid range speakers from 1963. You may remember them as they were built by the Postmaster General department for the ABC and were pretty standard at a number of broadcast sites. A good full track mono recording on a mk3 played through these ABC monitors is something to behold and I feel honoured to be the custodian of these pieces of Aussie ingenuity. The build quality and sound of this early aussie designed broadcast equipment was world class. It really is special to be talking to you as I love the history of Australian broadcasting having worked in the field for many years.d9fe3e30dc34e3b5140cc84ec6879c5e.jpga4e965c2bfb44ff461a6b064b111b4bb.jpgfc25e914c15df95b49aaf204751557f2.jpg321b85736134b26c10806712bc9d5ccf.jpg
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  • 3 weeks later...

My grandfather had a manual for a Rola 77 of some description in his collection.  Sadly. I believe he moved the tape machine on (he had a Realistic tape machine at the time of his passing). He had the Plessey service centre details handwritten on the manual.

 

He was a film editor at the ABC so perhaps he acquired it from the station.

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  • 5 months later...

The ONeill&Assoc site is the go-to reference site for Australian audio broadcast equipment.

They have manuals and other relevant info. 

 

By the limited info available on the site it is evident that a lot of this history has not been preserved, I would encourage anyone with info not on this site or hifi/vinylengine to send scans so our audio history is not lost.

 

Here is the link to the page on the Rola77MkIII:

http://www.oneillassociates.com.au/~poneill/Rola_77_Mk_III.shtml

 

Edit:  Sadly, the ONeill&Assoc site is dead.  It was a fantastic resource for early Australian professional audio equipment.  I feel that an attempt to preserve some of our very vulnerable audio history has been lost.  The site can be found on the internet wayback machine. 

Edited by audiofeline
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  • 3 weeks later...
On 26/03/2019 at 12:14 AM, Ozisounds said:

Hello all,

As Chief Draftsman and designer at Rola Tape Recorder Division, South Melbourne 1959-1962, I started just after Rola bought it from Byer.

I developed the 77 MKIII deck which was quite a challenge to improve on after the previous decks,

like the Original Byer 66 which was already very good. 

The 77MKIII was the last model built. Rola was taken over by Plessey soon after and eventually disappeared as a Co.

My design was well accepted by the broadcast studios, so many were sold, including overseas.

I went on to found 5 companies including 2 factories building automatic packaging machines, which were also exported to Asia and Europe.

Now at 89 years old, retired in Switzerland, these are great memories.

Hello John, Good to hear  your involvement with the Byer/Rolas back then.  I remember when they were very common in Australian radio and TV stations. I've been a service tech so have worked on Byers/Rolas over the years. Solidly built, compact, with very good performance. 

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  • 2 months later...

 Hi guys

I have a stereo Byer 77mk2

I can't find any info on it on the net such as how many were made and who bought them. The schematic in the manual is dated 24/8/62.

My father purchased it from an Adelaide radio station around 1970 and used it for many years before getting his Revox machines.

Late last year I contacted Onielassociatetes and he had never heard of one or seen a manual for one .I sent him photos and a scanned copy of the manual which he was going to put on his website but I have never seen it on there.

Thanks for any help.

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  • 6 months later...
On 26/03/2019 at 3:14 AM, Ozisounds said:

Hello all,

As Chief Draftsman and designer at Rola Tape Recorder Division, South Melbourne 1959-1962, I started just after Rola bought it from Byer.

I developed the 77 MKIII deck which was quite a challenge to improve on after the previous decks,

like the Original Byer 66 which was already very good. 

The 77MKIII was the last model built. Rola was taken over by Plessey soon after and eventually disappeared as a Co.

My design was well accepted by the broadcast studios, so many were sold, including overseas.

I went on to found 5 companies including 2 factories building automatic packaging machines, which were also exported to Asia and Europe.

Now at 89 years old, retired in Switzerland, these are great memories.

Fantastic to hear this! Well done sir, the machines still look and sound great.

I did a recording session a couple of days ago at Quasar Sound https://quasarsound.com/ and we recorded to a Rola. 

The studios owner Sam, swears by the gear and only had praise for it.

I sincerely hope people can keep these machines going - moving parts need to move, electronics need voltage, they need to be used!

It's quite astonishing to think that we actually made this kind of gear in Australia.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...
On 15/07/2020 at 9:48 PM, Anodecap said:

The Oneill and associates website unfortunately has disappeared. This one is interesting about Rola and when we used to manufacture broadcast equipment in Australia. http://www.aesmelbourne.org.au/thirkell/

Edit - I'm pleased to say that the ONeill & Assoc website is back online: 

http://www.oneillassociates.com.au/~poneill/Aust_audio.shtml

 

Edited by audiofeline
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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a great site and Im glad I just stumbled on it. Here in New Zealand the Rola Mk's were the de riguer tape machines of the 22 radio studios of the NZ Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) and later in the television networks established in 1962. 

 

I have a Mk3 in my possession, still in its red wooden portable cabinet. 

 

In tv where I worked in sound for 30 years (and still do a bit of contract sound, all digital of course), the Mk3s were replaced in the mid-80s with Cuemaster version. But this was a clumsy version of the Mk 3 that had an awfully grindy throttle control and slow mechanical response to the fwd and rew functions.

 

I've joined this site and will drop in regularly to read these informative posts. Great to see the history of the classic Rola's presented here and learn of the people behind a most admirable (and great editing) audio tape machine.

Gary Potts, Auckland NZ

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  • 2 months later...

Ola! I have one of these machines and I’m about to fire it up and run it through it’s paces. Apparently the reverse tape function does not work but everything else is mint. I will be selling once I have assesses. If you have interest feel free to contact me xxxxxx, cheers, Peter

Edited by candyflip
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  • 5 months later...
Posted (edited)

Managed to score four Rola tape machines over the weekend. Two consecutive serial number 66's #2327, 2328 & two 77 MkIII's one that's SN# 2683D1 and the other labelled with a Plessey Components Group sticker that's SN# 3386. I found two of the large electrolytic capacitors to be be hanging off the underside of the tape electronics which I soldered back on before powering them up.  

 

They all seem to power on but are in various states of functionality. One of the 77's (Plessey stickered one) seems to be mostly running ok but is introducing some hum through the speaker that's intermittent and won't rewind using the shuttle. The other 77 has no hum but only the shuttle fast forward & rewind is working on the tape part with no playback or record working. The 66's are similar, one seems to be mostly functional, the other blew the safety switch when I selected the fastest shuttle mode but was recording & playing back prior to something blowing the fuse. I'm in two minds what to do with these. Should I try to get them serviced and operational again or just remove the tape transport and use the amplifier section as a tube microphone/guitar pre-amp? I've seen many of these converted to pre-amps only and they reportedly sound fabulous.   

 

 

Photo 2-5-21, 3 04 57 pm.jpg

Photo 3-5-21, 8 17 07 pm.jpg

Photo 3-5-21, 8 17 18 pm.jpg

Edited by Matt_Gray
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On 28/11/2020 at 8:43 AM, Peter heard said:

Ola! I have one of these machines and I’m about to fire it up and run it through it’s paces. Apparently the reverse tape function does not work but everything else is mint. I will be selling once I have assesses. If you have interest feel free to contact me NNNNNNNNNNNNN, cheers, Peter

Peter, it is better to be contacted via the forum's Message system for private communication.  It's never advisable to publicly post personal emails, phone numbers, addresses, etc. on a forum.  I echo the advice given above, edit your post to remove your phone number.  Click on the three dots ... in the black bar at the top of your post to access the editor. 

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On 03/05/2021 at 9:02 PM, Matt_Gray said:

Managed to score four Rola tape machines over the weekend....

... Should I try to get them serviced and operational again or just remove the tape transport and use the amplifier section as a tube microphone/guitar pre-amp? I've seen many of these converted to pre-amps only and they reportedly sound fabulous.   

 

Fantastic score on the Rola tape decks, Matt.  These were produced for commercial use, I believe the ABC used them extensively.  Therefore, they should be very good quality when running.  They are a part of Australian audio history, and it's likely that there are not many surviving.  Therefore, I would suggest restoration.  It would be a shame to gut them and turn them into guitar amps.  There are a lot of valve-based film projectors around that can be converted. 

 

 

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