Soundcraft Magnetics was founded in 1977 by Alex Nicholas of Brenell and John Eustace of Richardson Electronics,
with the aim of developing from a clean sheet, truly professional multi-track studio tape recorders. Alex's expertise
lay in the transport deck while John's was in the advanced electronics - after all he had developed for Brenell the Mini-8
Magnetics was formed as a subsidiary of Soundcraft Electronics, a major competitor to Allen & Heath - they too
saw the potential of a mixer-tape deck portfolio.
Their first deck was a "portable" 1", 8-track, called the '381' (right). This spawned a series of 1"
and 2", 8,16 and 24-track models. Each comprised a deck, control unit, 8-channel amplifier unit and an optional power
unit within a simple modular space frame allowing upgrade to 16 or 24 track formats. The deck was an instant success and helped
bring about the demise of the out-classed A&H-B Mini-8. However the 380 series was at its limit on 2" tape and an
upgraded model was called for.
Developed from the 380 series for the more demanding 2" tapes, the 760 series retained the modular construction and was
primarily for 16 or 24-track operations. Seen here (left) in its final form as 24-track Mk.III, with its
advanced remote control - there was even a short lived 32 track option. The 760 series was now a serious competitor
to the market leaders, Otari, Ampex, Sony-MCI and Studer. It proved to be a best seller for Soundcraft Magnetics selling in
its hundreds to producers and studios world wide.
But of greatest interest was their highly advanced, world class "Saturn", which encompassed and honed
cutting edge computer controlled transport and analogue audio recording technologies. In their wisdom, however, their parent
company, Soundcraft Electronics, wanted to add a 1/4" Stereo mastering deck to their portfolio; this was not in keeping
with Magnetic's philosophy, but never the less the Stereo deck, later known as the S20 (right), went
ahead and served as the working prototype for the truly advanced "Saturn".
The S20 was designed
for 1/4" or 1/2" tapes on up to 14" spools; the format was easily changed by swapping head blocks. The computer
software automatically sensed the new format and selected pre-set criteria. It was a stunning machine, but riddled with
technical gliches. In the end, it was considered too expensive for its intended market and the project was scrapped.
The "Saturn", (left), was an astonishingly advanced deck which caught their competitors on the hop;
it was the first British deck to challenge Otari's dominance of the studio market. Unfortunately, the Saturn's development coincided with
a serious financial crisis at their parent company. Its launch also came as analogue tape was being ousted
by digital recording. When it was finally launched in late 1986, it received great praise, but events prevented the Saturn
achieving its well deserved sales potential when in March 1988, Soundcraft Magnetics was declared technically insolvent and
Their parent company, Soundcraft Electronics, was sold to the Harman International group.
As Soundcraft Magnetics was being wound down, the selective assets and rights to the Saturn were bought by a mangement
team who formed Saturn Research, and the stocks of remaining 760s and Saturns were assembled
by the new company. They went on to build further decks as the 'Saturn 824' (24 track) (right) and
brought out a budget '624', but the company lacked the extensive technical knowledge and R&D facilities of Magnetics.
They survived in the face of digital technology until 1992. Their decks were used at the Barcelona Olympics.
The Saturn was the last British studio tape deck, bringing to a very sad end 50 years of Brenell's heritage.
The full story is told in "Brenell - True to life performance"