Excellent though the performance of both the Mk.5 and STB2 were, with
their Papst motors and Bogen heads, Brenells were not rated sufficiently high by recording studios. It very much appears the
reason for their rejection was down to their somewhat 'flimsy' deck construction. Though the STB, with its steel cradle,
went some way towards overcoming that particular problem, the inability to be operated remotely was a major handicap.
Brenell were keen to enter the professional and studio
markets and in 1969 an entirely new direct drive, solenoid operated, 10-1/2" transport deck was developed. It was
specially designed to fit into a standard 19" studio frame and became known as the Type 19 ( right ).
Please note that my Type 19 (shown right) has a well worn deck pate and non-original illuminated push button controls; the
original machine has round non illuminated buttons
Though it is still yet to be confirmed, it is believed that Frank Underhill was primarily responsible for its development.
He had already done free-lance design work for other manufacturers; had designed the advanced Planet U1 and the TRD (Tape
Recorder Developments) deck before joining Brenell. If anyone knows more of Frank Underhill - please let me know!
Prima facie, the Type 19 met all the studio
requirements. The massive 2-speed direct drive Papst motor offered pairs of speeds from from 15/16" to 60 ips with excellent
wow and flutter performance. Heads were specified by the customer, or retro-fitted by them - Brenell offered a choice of professional
Bogen or Branch & Appleby heads from full track to 1/4 track mono and stereo, initially only in 1/4" format,
but eventually up to 1" 8-track. However it was soon discovered that the deck flexed too much for 1" operations
unless fitted with substantial bracing.
The Type 19 soon found a ready market in studio, specialist military and industrial applications including ultra-slow
speed seismographic data recording and high speed cassette tape duplicating machines using massive pancakes of 1/8" cassette
tapes! There was even an experimental 2" Type 19 (which would later lead Brenell to develop the Type 600 - below) and
a standard 4-speed version using a much modified Mk.6 idler drive and motor! As can be
seen, the Type 19 was an incredibly versatile, though flawed, platform which remained available to order until the very
By the early 1970s, Robert Hahn was looking to retire and discretely
sought new blood to continue Brenell's unrivalled success. It was also for Brenell a dangeous time, for the domestic market
was in serious decline. Fortunately, Alex Nicholas, a talented, visionary, young businessman and audio engineer, came to its
rescue and bought into the company. He had visions of developing the fledgling multi-track musician / home-recording
market and Brenell's expertise, highly skilled staff and excellent engineering facilties proved ideal. .
The Type 19 was an ideal platform on which to develop a 1", 8-track model, to which was
added a stack of eight modified Brenell mono pre-amplifiers. Thus was born one of the first British made 8-track decks (
above ) - one which caught the eye of a young, enterprising British mixer company, Allen & Heath, who were wishing
to expand their product range with an inexpensive, 'turn-key' studio console with associated tape deck.
Though the new 8-track suffered many development problems, requiring bracing of the
deck plate and more powerful motors, it lead to an entirely new purpose made 1" 8-track with minaturised plug-in pre-amplifier
modules. To Allen & Heath, the Brenell showed great potential especially as it had a respected pedigree and undercut Japanese
and American studio decks - added to which it was British. In the 1970s, 'Made in Britain' still held considerable appeal.
Thus begun a healthy working relationship between Brenell and Allen & Heath but by
1975, Brenell were in a serious cash flow crisis through a terminal decline in domestic sales. Allen &
Heath were keen to ensure development and continuity of supply of the 8-track deck and stepped it, buying the
Brenell company. They then concentrated on developing the promising new 1" 8-track 'Mini-8', and abandoned production of
Brenell's 1/4" models - the Type 19 however survived as an industrial, multi-pupose deck.
Of great value to Allen & Heath was Brenell's manufacturing facilities and by 1977, they
had moved production of A&H mixers into Brenell's Liverpool Road works. Many of the elderly production machines were
replaced by new CNC automated machinery. Many of the engineers, who had been there for most their working lives, took
early retirement taking with them a wealth of knowledge and skills, for there was no longer a place for old fashioned manufacturing
techniques. Many former in-house operations were now sub-contracted.
Concurrent with development of the new miniaturised 8-track was a new professional
deck, the Mk.7S ( right ). The prototype was developed in both 1/4" and 1" formats from which the Mini-8
deck evolved. This hy-brid model owed much to the Type 19 and though only a 1/4", 2-speed (15 - 7-1/2 ips) model with
advanced electronics, it was aimed at the professional user and as a 2-track mastering deck / studio monitor.
It was also designed to meet military and BBC specifications but customers could specify 1/4 track, mono or low speed versions
... in theory! ... for while it was launched ahead of the Mini-8 in 1976, only by virtue of production delays with the Mini-8's
pre-amplifier modules, the Mk.7S never reached full production status as Allen & Heath were more interested in the
lucrative multi-track market. Indeed more brochures were produced than machines! Those few that were built were given away
to selected clients as an incentive to buy the Mini-8 + A&H mixer console package.
Though the Mk.7S was launched prematurely, development work continued in the background with
a full logic control adapted from the Mini-8, but a policy decision taken by A&H lead to abandonment of all 1/4"
models, ending further work on this very promising and truly delightful deck.
Unfortunately for Brenell, the original Type 19 based 1" 8-track
was also underdeveloped when it was launched and they lost a considerable lead to the Japanese, especially to Otari and TASCAM,
as they worked towards the new purpose built Mini-8 which had a new, more rigid, cast alloy deck plate and indirect
motor drive to improve wow and flutter performance with the greater drag of a 1" tape. The delays in producing the new
minaturised pre-amplifier modules didn't help either!
When the Mini-8 was
eventually launched, it received critical acclaim - it was a revolutionary, compact design with a performance and
potential of a professional studio deck, but at a considerable saving over its competitors. It soon found many friends among musicians,
composers and aspiring pop groups. It was not without fault, and a much improved Mk.II version ( left )
soon followed complete with a new Brenell designed self centering NAB hubs, logic control and Vari-speed facility. It was now
marketed as an "Allen-Heath+Brenell" product with the accolade of "The greatest little eight-track in
the world" - which indeed it was - but it failed to penetrate the staunchly patriotic American market in which Allen
& Heath had already gained a significant market share with their mixers.
Encouraged by the success of the Mini-8, the Brenell engineers
sought to enter the professional 2", 24-track studio market as the only British manufacturer of multi-track decks. They
had already dabbled with the problematical 2" Type 19, but with much influence and experience from the Mk.7S/Mini-8, they
developed the 2" Type 600 (right), so called as it was 603mm wide. This had a new 1/2" thick cast
alloy deck plate, and hastily built demonstration model with Brenell's prototype pre-amps was built for the APRS.
It proved a troublesome machine in regards to motors, tape drag and electronics - only around 5 or 6 preproduction models
were built before abandoning the project for a new, technically advanced, state of the art, micro-processor controlled
capstan-less drive, 2", 24-track studio mastering deck in which the spool motors did all the work.
project engineer was now entering a new world of leading edge technology. His "Syncon M24" (Below)
was an undoubted technical success and received great praise in a trade magazine preview, along with the accolade of the most
beautiful tape recorder ever made. Brochures were produced and a trade show stand booked, but quite unexpectedly, Allen
& Heath abandoned the project days before the show and began winding down production of the Mini-8 before withdrawing
from tape deck technology to concentrate on their mixers at a new factory in Cornwall.
In January 1984, Brenell Engineering Ltd was formerly dissolved ... but that was not the end of either Brenell or British
studio tape deck technology and manufacture, for shortly before work had begun on the
Syncon M24, senior former Brenell directors and engineers had already left Allen-Heath+Brenell to establish a new business
designing and manufacturing truly advanced multi-track studio mastering decks, freed from the constraints imposed on
them by their Allen & Heath masters. Following the Syncon debacle, that project engineer rejoined his Brenell colleagues at
Designed and built around 1971/72 by Steve Wadey, of "Black is Black" pop-music fame, this 1" 8-track
used a modified, solenoid operated Brenell Mk.510 deck (I believe later models used a modified Mk.610 deck); it also used
Branch & Appleby heads, as fitted to the Type 19 and was operated remotely. Though Brenell chose not to get involved officially,
Frank Underhill worked closely with Steve on its development. It was, to put it diplomatically, a remarkably crudely
built machine and was even offered in kit form for home assembly! Yet by all accounts, it gave a very good account of itself
as an introduction to 1" 8-track recording. The greatly improved Cadey 2" model had better success.