Mara Machines is a company which fully restores and refurbishes vintage multi-track analog tape machines and makes them available for home recording venues, and commercial recording studio and mastering facilities. It is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and is the brainchild of the brilliant engineer and entrepreneur, Chris Mara. The company offers a full line of analog tape machines and backs them with impeccable customer service, technical support and comprehensive educational programs for all of their clients around the globe.
Pictured-- the VU meters of a JH-24, a 24-track analog tape machine from Mara Machines. Image courtesy-- Mara Machines.
In just the past few years, there has been a renaissance occurring in the music recording industry. It has been characterized by a renewed interest in analog technologies. From the reissuing of classical analog gear to the reemergence of vinyl records, there has been an interest in recapturing the warmth and viability of analog as a medium for both recording and marketing popular music. One company has been in the vanguard of this movement— long before it even started. In 2008, Mara Machines opened its doors to customers for the first time, offering the ability to actually provide the crucial element to keep analog alive as a viable format for the process of music recording— multitrack tape machines. Now for more than a decade, Mara Machines has provided customers from all over the world in home recording studios, large-scale recording studio venues, and mastering labs, the ability to purchase super and robust analog tape machines at great prices.Their machines are fully restored and refurbished MCI analog tape machines and the company offers a variety of machines that can fit the needs of any recording studio or mastering facility. The company also offers a full range of product services and educational programs to assist their customers. Mara Machines has carved an important niche for itself in the music recording industry— a company which offers access to the beauty of analog recording and puts it within the reach of music production facilities around the world.
Mara Machines is the brainchild of the brilliant engineer and entrepreneur, Chris Mara. Image courtesy-- Mara Machines.
Chris Mara was born and raised in northern Wisconsin. He worked with live bands and caught the recording studio bug at an early age. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and found a job as assistant engineer, first at Seventeen Grand Recording Studios, and later, as a freelancer. His calling card was that not only did he know how to help an engineer create fantastic sounds in the recording studio, but he also developed a passion for how the equipment— particularly, the analog tape machines which were one of the main recording formats at the time— worked from the inside out. Eventually, he would parlay his immense skills as both an engineer and a superb technician into becoming an entrepreneur. He started a small studio, so that he could record the bands that he wanted to work with and promote. For the new venture, he restored an MCI two-inch analog tape machine. As his new studio venture started to have some press, other studio owners started inquiring about his tape machine. They would ask questions, like— “Where did you get your tape machine? Who restored it?“ For Chris Mara, it was the start of a new venture— restoring and refurbishing analog tape machines for sale to those who were interested in having the vintage sound of analog in their recording studio facility.
At first, he sold only a few machines to a small number of customers, and used the profits to continue outfitting his recording studio venture. But, it was not long before the orders for more analog tape machines began to grow to the point that it took on a life of its own. In 2008, it became a business and in a few short years with so many orders coming in from all over the world for the machines that he was restoring and refurbishing, he needed someone to come in and help with the process. Enter into the picture, fellow Wisconsin native, Peter Tissot, who just like Chris, had started out in a career working with live bands and became interested in working in the business of music recording. In 2008, Peter, made his way to the University of Texas at Austin where he earned a degree in music recording and eventually became an instructor. By 2013, Peter had become interested in bringing his vast engineering and technical skills to Nashville. He landed a job with Chris Mara at Mara Machines, and with orders for analog tape machines now filtering into the company from all over the world— brought his immense talents and great work ethic to become the chief technical specialist of the team. Today, Chris, Peter, and the team at Mara Machines have a wonderful global business and their company prides itself not only in creating amazing and robust analog tape machines, but also on their fantastic educational programs for the recording studio community, as well.
A Mara Machine is an authentic analog tape machine that at its core is actually a vintage machine that has been made anew. Each Mara Machine is a vintage MCI analog tape machine. MCI made some of the greatest and most reliable analog tape machines from the early 1970s to the 1990s, and the company made thousands of them— many of which are still in service. The machines featured a modular design that had redundant components— cards, and switches, which made them easier to repair and to keep in service over the course of long periods of prolonged use in the studio. This design has also made it easier to find components— some of which can be located in your favorite local hardware store— to be able to make repairs even to this day. For Chris Mara and his team, it made MCI machines the logical choice to work with compared to machines that were made by other manufacturers such as Ampex, Studer, or Otari, whose machines tended to include components that were specifically made for their machines and are not always easy to locate if a repair is necessary to be made for it. In essence, Mara Machines are vintage MCI machines, but there is a painstaking process that each will go through before it reaches the doorstep of your recording studio facility.
A Mara Machine is a classical MCI analog multi-track tape machine that has been fully restored and refurbished. Image courtesy-- Mara Machines.
Each Mara Machine undergoes a rigorous restoration process before it meets the impeccable standards set by the engineering team at Mara Machines. Image courtesy-- Mara Machines.
From the time you order it, until you receive it at your doorstep, each Mara Machine goes through a painstaking restoration and refurbishment process that takes on average about ten to twelve weeks. Each module, card, component, and switch is taken out, cleaned, and if necessary, fully repaired with brand new components, prior to being re-inserted. Not every portion of the machine is completely stripped down for the process, because that is rarely ever necessary for even a vintage MCI machine. However, each machine undergoes a very thorough and rigorous process before it even reaches the testing stages. Once it reaches the testing stages, it is in the greatest of hands for the process. As I mentioned earlier, Chris Mara also opened a recording studio facility. That recording studio facility is now Welcome to 1979, a full-service studio facility which offers both comprehensive vintage recording and mastering services for its clients. The facility is also a place where you can both see and hear the great machines that are produced by the company in action. In other words, while it may be true that you are buying a forty-year old vintage MCI analog tape machine, the truth is— as a customer you are purchasing a rock-solid machine, with brand new components, that also includes a lifetime warranty, comprehensive customer service, and educational programs that are available for you at no additional cost. It is a great deal that you can find nowhere else in the world.
And across the world, customers are purchasing Mara Machines for their recording studio facilities. A Mara Machine can be found in operation in recording studio facilities around the world on every continent with the exception of Africa and Antarctica. If you are a home recording studio facility, there is a Mara Machine that can fit your needs. There are Mara Machines that can have a perfect home in a mastering lab. And of course, a Mara Machine can be found in large-scale music recording studio facilities. The company offers JH-110 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch 2-track machines; 1/2-inch 4-track machines; 1-inch 2-track machines; and also, both high fidelity compact 1/4-inch tape machines and preview machines that can be utilized for vinyl mastering. The company offers JH-24 1-inch and 2-inch 8-track machines and 2-inch 16 and 24-track machines. If you want to check out their available machine offerings and their fantastic prices— I will place their website at the bottom of this article, so that you can shop for yourself and contact their friendly and knowledgeable staff if you have an inquiry. Just keep in mind that you will be purchasing a machine from a wonderful company that has been in this business for quite some time. And with analog gear making a resurgence in the recording studio marketplace, the need for Mara Machines and the importance of the role of this company has heightened, but it is a challenge that this incredibly dedicated and talented team is more than ready and willing to undertake— all in the name of helping each of us continue to make music that sounds fantastic with the warm sound of analog at its core.
Mara Machines offers a variety of machines for home recording venues, commercial studio facilities and mastering houses. Image courtesy-- Mara Machines.
During my interview with Chris Mara and his lead technician, Peter Tissot, one of the questions that I asked was, “Who are your customers?” The answer was quite interesting. A significant number of their customers are people who work in music recording, but are coming to them for their first experience in working with analog as a format for the process of doing their work. From just that statement alone, one can deduce a trend, that analog is being rediscovered by young engineers who are interested in having both the great sound and also, a workflow that only recording to tape could provide for their projects. For them, the great people at Mara Machines are not just providing a great machine for them to be able to use that is backed with great service, but they are giving them great educational resources that make learning the process so much easier for them to be able to incorporate it into their projects. In years past, when analog tape machines were the standard format for recording, the tape machine was the means to the end— now, it has become another incredibly valuable tool that a young engineer, or a new facility can have in their arsenal for recording great music with the sonic quality that only a great analog machine can provide for them. There is a hallmark to the work that is being done at Mara Machines— and it is rock solid reliability. In general, analog tape machines were built to be and were known as the workhorses of the music recording process and Mara Machines continues to build on that reputation. Though they are readily available for their customers, having a Mara Machine typically means that you will never have to call upon their vast knowledge and expertise because of their reliability.
Chris Mara saw a need. There was a need for the analog format to still be an important component of the process of recording great music. Across the spectrum of companies that are producing products for the music recording industry, there is an easily discernible pattern, and that is that older technologies still play an important role in the process of music recording. For example, no music recording studio facility is out there— even in this age of digital audio workstations and software plug-ins which can emulate almost any vintage microphone or piece of outboard gear— giving away their Neve 8068 console, their Neumann U67s, or their vintage 1176 compressor/limiters because they just sound so good and still work with such rock solid reliability. It is to be noted, too, that each of the aforementioned technologies is more than forty-five years old. In an era when a new cell phone becomes obsolete before it is even marketed and sold to a paying customer, music recording still relies on older technologies, or even emulations of it, to provide us with the great music that we each love and cherish to listen to. Chris Mara and his company have taken the initiative, now for more than a decade, to address one of the greatest needs that the music recording industry will continue to have well into the future— and that is the need to have a fantastic sounding, high-fidelity alternative to digital and or, a machine that can be used as a tool to provide a different workflow in the recording studio environment. The great music of the past still continues to both sell and inspire new audiences. What Chris Mara and his team at Mara Machines have done is provided us with an authentic vehicle for continuing to capture the great sounds of the past, so that they can be delivered to future generations of people who love and cherish popular music.
Pictured-- a JH-110, a 2-track analog tape machine from Mara Machines. Image courtesy-- Mara Machines.
Pictured-- a JH-24, a 24-track analog tape machine from Mara Machines. Image courtesy-- Mara Machines.
If you wish to purchase a Mara Machine, or if you are interested in one of their fantastic educational programs, please visit their website for further information at— www.maramachines.com.
Special Thanks and Acknowledgement
I want to take a moment to thank both Chris Mara and Peter Tissot for their generosity, time and support.