Butoba logo

Finally there is a page on Butoba tape recorders on the web (namely, this one)! Many a time have I visited Google or Altavista, and entered "Butoba" as the search word, only to come up with a small list of very few pages, most of them just referring to Butoba in passing.

So what about Butoba then?

Butoba was the brand name for a small German tape recorder manufacturing company back in the 1950's and early 1960's. The actual name of the company was at first Josef Burger Söhne (Josef Burger Sons), later simply Burger. The name Butoba comes from from Burger Tonbandgerät, German for 'Burger Tape Recorder'. Back in those days it was not impossible for a company with no background in the field of audio to manufacture equipment of this type, and compete with the big brands like Philips or Grundig, although usually it was in a specialized area; in the case of Butoba, it was battery-operated tape recorders, an area into which the larger makes had not yet ventured. Early Butoba recorders used clockwork motors and battery tubes, with later models using electric motors and being transistorized. I've tried to place Butoba into the history of magnetic recording on my Butoba history page.

Butoba machines were renowned for their quality of sound; as a matter of fact, two of the about seven web pages coming up when doing a web search on Butoba mention that the recorder was used for taping nature sounds and voices of indigenous peoples. This is probably mostly true of the MT5, which had a massive brass flywheel to keep the speed constant. Oddly however, on the Butobas, the record bias frequency is quite low, just above 30 kHz, which doesn't usually result in a clear sound. Butoba tended to use their own record and playback equalization curves which might have added to the clarity of sound.

Butoba logo

What about the interest?

Well, when I was young, my father used to have a Butoba MT5. It is now sadly demised, taken to bits by an eager 10-year old who was not content to note that the alarm clock just ticked and rung occasionally. My fathers reason for getting a battery operated machine was unusual but simple: in the early 1960's he lived in Stockholm, Sweden, and while most of the country had AC mains at that time, he lived in an apartment block which actually had DC mains! Mains operated tape recorders always have a mains transformer, and in those days were always driven by asynchronous motors operating at the mains frequency, so a simple inverter to convert DC to AC would not have been feasible. Radios of that day were different; many tube radios were of an AC-DC design, with no mains transformer; the mains was simply rectified and used as a B+ voltage; the tube filaments being connected in series and connected to the mains. (This was also a standard design for tube televisions, where a mains transformer of the required power rating would have added significantly to the weight and cost of a television receiver).

At any rate, when I grew up, there was the Butoba. We sent tapes at Christmas time to my relatives in Canada - in those days, phoning across the Atlantic was not just a question of picking up the receiver (jeez, I'm sounding like an old man now :-), my mother recorded stories for me, my parents recorded my sister's and my own first words with it. From time to time, it was there, with it's 5" reels turning calmly at a tape speed of 3 3/4 ips.

Indicator tube?

A common feature of all Butobas is the DM71 indicator tube. It was used even on the transistorized models, in which the anode voltage of about 70 or 80 volts is generated by rectifying the output from a special winding on the bias/erase oscillator coil. Back in those days, an indicator tube was cheaper than a moving-coil meter, and had the added benifits of being intrinsically peak reading and having its own illumination.

DM71 indicator tube
DM71 indicator tube, showing 'no signal'

Unlike the larger indicator tubes used in mains operated recorders, the image shown on the DM71 is just a thin line and a dot. In the Butoba, the line is at its longest when there is no signal, a larger and larger signal causing the line to get shorter and shorter, with the line being completely extinguished at the point of tape overload. This is contrary to some applications where the line starts out at nothing and grows with the input signal level.

Butoba Tape Recorders

My own collection of Butobas is comprised of a couple of clockwork-driven machines and a couple of MT5's. Click on the thumbnails for more information and pictures!

(Clockwork motor, tube electronics, around 1955)

(Clockwork motor, transistorized, around 1959)

(Two electric motors, transistorized, around 1960)

Other Butoba machines

I have not been able to find very much info on any Butoba machines. Apart from the ones in my collection, I know of the following machines. You'll find pictures of some of them on my Butoba history page. If you have any info on any of these or other Butoba recorders, or have any experiences to share, or have a recorder you would like to sell or trade, or accessories (microphones, power supplies, manuals, Butoba brand reels etc), please drop me a line !

And a special thank you to all you who have already sent me pictures and other information on your Butoba machines; I really appreciate it!

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