Mag Dubber Workflow


1_Mag_Dubber_Cover.pngThe Mag Dubbers are used to transfer audio from a variety of sources to mag stock, which can be edited on a Steenbeck and screened using the analog equipment in Mix A. Read on to learn how to operate these beautiful and dangerous machines (or just watch this GIF).


What You’ll Need

  • Source material - Emerson's Mag Dubbers can transfer audio from a CD or any source with a mini stereo output (eg. Laptops, smartphones, mp3 players, etc.). You will need a converter for newer smartphone models, which can be vended from the annex in 606.
  • Split Reel and Take Up Reel - these are usually found on the mag dubber, but if there aren't any there then you can ask a lab assistant for a new set!
  • Mag Stock - usually on the mag dubber! Ask a labbie to replenish it if there's none left.
  • A 3" Core - found near the annex
  • Editing Kit and Splicer - Not necessary for recording, but you will need to add leader to the head and tail of your mag when finished.

A Word of Warning!!!

If mag falls off the reels and they spin out of control, DO NOT TOUCH THE REELS. They can take off a finger, and you do not want that to happen. Stop the reels by turning off the Forward and Hold knobs, or switching off the main power. Then let them stop spinning on their own.



Preparing to Record

Control Overview

The following figure identifies all relevant components of the Mag Dubber.



1. Check that all three of these switches are powered on:


2. Load your mag:

  • Make sure your mag tape is on a core with the record side facing in
  • Put it on a split reel on the left hand side of the mag dubber with the sprockets facing you
  • Fold down the metal pin to lock your split and take up reels


3. Thread the dubber as shown below:



4. Proper tension is extremely important for an effective transfer. Make sure that BOTH the tension rollers float halfway between the stoppers.


Setting Levels

1. Decide how you want to monitor your audio

  • Turn the speaker volume in the middle of the rack to about 9:00
  • If you want to monitor with headphones, plug them into the headphone input on the speaker deck (not the flash recorder!)

NOTE: The levels on the meter are most important. FIRST adjust the “Record” dial, THEN adjust the speaker volume so you are listening at a comfortable level.


2. Set the input to your chosen format:

  • Smartphones, laptops, and anything with a mini stereo output will plug into the visitor at the bottom of the dubber (set the input to visitor)


3. Listen and set an input level

  • Press the yellow “Ready” button, and make sure "Reproduce" is off
  • Turn the volume all the way up on your digital source and listen through the entire recording
  • Adjust the “Record” dial to set your recording level (don't change this during recording)
  • Keep an eye on the VU meter:
    • The needle should land between -3dB and 0dB for the majority of your audio
    • Loud sounds can “kiss” the red but shouldn’t hang out there or else your sound will be distorted


Recording to Mag

Now that your mag stock is properly threaded and you have set your recording levels, you are ready to record!

  1. Turn the top left knob to “A Wind” (This ensures that the motors will turn the right way)
  2. Turn the bottom right knob to “Hold” (This engages the motors)
  3. Turn the top right knob to “Forward” (This will advance your mag stock)
  4. Press “Record” and “Reproduce," then press Play on your source material.


When you are done recording, undo the above steps in reverse order:

  1. Press “Safe” (This will stop the Dubber from recording)
  2. Turn the top right knob from “Forward” to “Off”
  3. Turn the bottom right knob from “Hold” to “Off”
  4. Turn the top left knob to “A Wind” to “Off”


Once the machine has stopped, make a mark with a Sharpie at the end of your recording and cut it with a pair of scissors. Rewind your mag on a rewind table. DO NOT rewind your mag on the dubber as it can damage your tape! 


Remember: the mag is already technically on a take up reel, so just pull it (top-to-top) back to an empty split reel! 


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