The four speed, four-head Mk.5 is probably Brenell's most famous and
attractive model. In its original form it had a 'hammered gold' enamel deck plate and mushroom-beige 'Rexine'
covered plywood cabinet ( right ), and inherited a much improved version of the Mk.4 deck incorporating features
which were standard on the domestic 3-Star, such as a digital tape counter and on-demand three-speed selection, but retained
the 1/2" and 1" capstan sleeves making this a four speed machine. A new, separate, head block plate was now used
to speed up assembly and head alignment - the standard Mk.5 used a combined Brenell record/playback head. Only by placing
a Mk.4 and Mk.5 side by side, are the differences obvious - no lapsed time plate, speed selector on left, tape counter
on right, pull down non-locking pause control as standard. The Mk.5 also adopted new black plastic rhomboid shaped
control knobs, rather than the standard radio knobs, on both deck and pre-amplifier.
The Mk.5 was soon improved further by adopting the new alloy BT-H motors - it then dispensed
with the right hand tape tensions arm and brake. In its final form, it adopted the superior hysteresis synchronous Papst main
motor with BT-H spool motors - these are identified by black plastic head covers. It was a truly superb machine
and with its four speeds and optional fourth head, it soon became the envy of enthusiasts in the many competitive tape recorder
clubs which grew rapidly throughout the country as tape recording gained momentum. By varying the size of the capstan sleeves,
it was possible to create unique pitches and soon Brenells were being used in 'radiophonic' studios to create special effects.
In the summer of 1958 a special 4-head "staggered stereo" deck was offered, initially of
8-1/4" capacity, then 10-1/2" ( below left: photo copyright GC) mounted in a large
steel frame with twin pre-amplifiers. Incredibly, "full" stereo remained very much a domestic novelty for many years - professionals
preferred a full bodied mono, or for recording studios, coupled pairs of mono machines. Most of these Mk.5 stereos were sold
to industry and broadcasting companies; Daphne Oram, who pioneered the BBC's Radiophonics Workshop, used several Brenell Mk.5
mono and staggered stereo decks in her own workshop.
With the introduction in 1961 of the new Papst motored, 'grey' Mk.5M ('M' for monitor), the 'gold'
Mk.5 survived for year or so, mainly for professional use. It was joined by a 10-1/2" version, the Mk.510, usually finished
in a new blue-grey paint. This retained the same deck plate as the 8-1/4" model, by simply moving the motors further towards
the back! Spool turntables retained the DIN winged drive, but a three piece DIN/AEG/NAB centre was supplied to allow
DIN or NAB reels to be used in addition to the AEG centre 'pancake' open reels, much favoured on the continent.
The Mk.5M, seen here ( right ) in Series 3 form, used a
re-engineered Mk.5 deck finished in a blue-grey paint, but covered by a large removable leather-grain effect alloy masking
plate - a theme carried over to the remodelled pre-amplifier panel which now incorporated an off-tape monitoring facility
and a valve voltmeter peak recording level meter. This meter was now offered optionally on the 'gold' Mk.5. Unfortunately
access to the deck innards was hampered by having to remove all the control knobs and masking plate to gain
access to the deck screws! The tape recorder was fitted into a lower profile cabinet, trimmed
in a mid grey 'Rexine' elephant-hide effect material - also used by Land Rover for their seats!
Off-tape monitoring required separate record and play-back heads, so the Mk.5M came as a 3-head
machine with space for a fourth head. AEI spool motors and a Papst main motor were retained. In addition to the pause
control, there was a new pull down 'superimpose' button which eased the tape away from the erase head to allow over dubbing
- it was not perfect, but with the Mk.5M's additional ability to mix microphone and radio inputs, the Brenell's versatility
was greatly enhanced especially with the new Bogen heads. Curiously, though the deck plate is punched for a lockable pause
control, Brenell decided early into production that it was perhaps not a good idea if an errant user left the machine in that
state, so the masking plate blanked off the lockable 'dog-leg'.
The Mk.5M was soon joined by the new standard Mk.5 which shared the same
cabinet and 'grey' theme, but had a more basic 2-head configuration and simpler pre-amplifier with a central side-on 'magic
eye' level indicator. Like all previous Brenells, the pre-amplifier had an output stage for the internal speaker and with
its standard Lustaphone LFV59Z microphone could be used for public address! This new model became the Mk.5 Series 2 (
left ) and at that point, the Mk.5M became the Mk.5M Series 2 - likewise the 10-1/2" Mk.510s with their DIN spools.
In 1963 a new Series 3 deck appeared. This was re-engineered to accomodate Papst spool motors
with rim brakes, heavier flywheel and improved Bogen Universal heads setting new professional standards in wow and flutter
and frequency response. These decks are immediately recogniseable by their large black plastic spool turntables and, on cabinet
fitted models, by two large chromed thumb screws which could now allow the deck to be raised on its rear hinges
without having to remove the masking plate and knobs!
Brenell had already started to produce a whole series of special purpose decks based on
the Mk.5, including a specially modified replay deck for use by patients in hospital, fitted with an extra long and easier
to operate play control lever (the photo (below left) shows it incorrectly fitted). This
allowed them to listen to "spoken books" from the Hospital Library Service. These machines used a non-standard tape width
and a unique playback speed to prevent unauthorised home recording! There was even an experimental two-way recording
deck as well as many data recording and tape-loop echo-production decks. However the most significant model appeared
in 1963 - the astonishingly versatile (and mind boggingly complex!) Brenell STB1 (below right).
For some time now, a Brenell had become the experimenter's machine
of choice, but Brenell still did not offer as standard, an off the shelf stereo model - the 3-Star and the rather industrial
Mk.5 stereo had long since been abandoned; but they now offered a stereo pre-amplifier with twin edge-on meters for the
enthusiast to use in conjunction with a Mk.5 fitted with the optional stereo heads. Brenell called this a 'Tape Link'
( bottom ) as it literally linked a stereo recorder to an external stereo amplifier! The 'Tape Link'
was developed from the stereo pre-amplifiier fitted to the STB1.
With demand for stereo growing, Brenell recognised that musicians were in urgent need of an affordable
stereo mastering deck with basic monitoring and mixing facilities - Brenell had for some time offered a basic microphone/radio
mixer. The Mk.5 was the ideal platform and in 1963, they launched their first professional deck using the Series 2 platform,
fitted with a rewind spool brake to ensure more consistent spooling with minimal tape-edge damage. It had a new polychromatic
metallic green enamelled finish and was called the STB1 ( right ), as if anticipating a Mk.2 ! It cost
£120, almost twice that of the basic Mk.5 but even at this price it was considerably cheaper than a studio model!
But of greater importance on the 2-track STB
was the fitting of a fourth head as standard, for 1/4 track replay - a slide switch selected either half
or quarter track replay. In conjunction with this, full frequency equalisation correction and four speeds, it was possible
to work with virtually any tape configuration. The new stereo pre-amplifier had full sound-on-sound, echo, track transfer
and mixing facilities. It was a truly awesome machine which came with its own health warning! There were enough knobs here
to impress even the most ethusiastic school-boy, but its mind boggling complexity required mastering and a very cool nerve
- especially as it was not easy, for instance, to set different recording levels for each track!
At the side of the cabinet was an aperture for the 1/4" input
and output jack plugs. The entire deck and pre-amplifier were fitted into a self contained
steel cage (below left) which could be console mounted or slid into the back of a specially modified Mk.5
cabinet/flight case. A 10-1/2" model was also available as was a 1/4 track model with 1/2 track replay.
In 1964, following Brenell's relocation to a new factory
in Liverpool Road, London, a much improved STB2 (see home page) appeared with the new Series 3,
all-Papst deck. This was even more awesome with extra mixing facilities and was now engineered to 600 Ohm studio standards
with each input and output capable of being configured for virtually every conceivable piece of equipment - but at least
it now had concentric track gain controls! It was also slightly longer than the STB1 to accommodate an optional stereo
valve output amplifier in the rear of the chassis and, with optional built in stereo speakers, it became a truly versatile
mini recording studio, prompting Brenell to expand further into the fledgling musician and home studio market.
The stereo 'Tape Link' pre-amplifier offered basic record and playback functions
with upper and lower track monitoring facilities. As with the STB, it was finished in a polychromatic metallic
green enamel with a substantial cadmium plated steel case designed for slotting into a standard Brenell cabinet or a