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1939 AEG Magnetophon FT4 tape recorder playing Deutsches Tanz und Unterhaltungsorchester

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Published on Dec 4, 2010

Demo of my AEG FT4 Magnetophon, probably the earliest machine still in working condition, and also the rarest after the K1 and K2 models, which I'm looking for in addition to later ones. About one hundered FT4 machines were produced between 1939 and 1941. This machine was originally used by the Senate of Berlin and has the Senate emblem engraved on the right of the board. The Senate von Berlin emblem is still the same nowadays.
The FT4 was designed for dictation, where the secretary would listen to the tape and type the text. Its predecessors were the T1 and T2 (which used the K1 and K2 transports respectively) and then the FT2 and FT3 which added remote control instead of fixed push-buttons on the tape transport.
What distinguishes this machine from the K (Kofferger├Ąt) series is that everything is built into the same cabinet, the tape plays at 25cm/s instead of 100cm/S and 77cm/s, and that the machine is operated using a remote control to be placed next to the typewriter.
The uncommon speed of 25cm/s has a little history. Originally, Magnetophon machines ran at 1m/s before being modified to play at 77cm/s, which the Americans rounded to 30ips, hence 76cm/s after WW2. Tapes played at 1m/s did not last long and several were required to record a speech or a concert. For example, nazi speeches, which often took over an hour, required at least four 1000m tapes. Reducing the speed to 25cm/s still gave enough bandwidth for voice recording and allowed recording one hour and six minutes on a single 1000m tape.
The transport is almost same as the 1937 K3 model. The gauge seen on the left spool has several functions. The main one is to monitor the amount of tape left on the remote control. The gauge is fixed to a potentiometer which sends a variable voltage to the VU of the remote control. It also serves as automatic stop when the tape is totally rewound or empty. The former can be adjusted using the rotary disc just under the black cover, since the reels can have different diameters.
The head assembly is same as on the K1 and K2 models: one "hornkopf" erase head (DC bias), one recording head and one playback head.
The three pushbuttons on the tape transport control fast rewind, fast forward and stop. The switch located over them selects the operating mode: local (only the previous functions) or remote to Play, Record, Rewind, Stop and Shut Down.
The amplifier is almost same as the one used by the K1, K2 and K3. It has three tubes: AZ1 (rectifier), AF7 (preamplifier) and AL4 (output). The volume is set on the amplifier chassis.
Two recording sources can be used with early mixing capability: telephone and microphone.
The machine also uses the early type of bobbies with a round hole. Rectangular holes, which are still used today, were first used in 1942. Round hole tapes are attached to their platter with a special lock and only rotate by friction.
The recording that you hear is actually a 1942 tape recording played by the German Das Deutsches Tanz Und Unterhaltungsorchester, which name translates as "German Dance and Entertainments Orchestra". Although created by Goebbels, its musicians were not more nazi than Furtwangler and Karajan. They would tour through Germany, play in dancing halls, and made many tape recordings (especially in Prag) for broadcasting until May 1945 when the russians captured the musicians.
Most, if not all of the DTUO recordings are now available on six CDs published by Monopol.
The recording heard in this video was transferred from an authentic 1942 AEG tape running at 77cm/s to a CD, and then to a 25cm/s tape. Thanks to Gerhard Bauer who kindly provided the CD.

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