Roberts Recorders

Califone • Rheem

reel to reel tape recorders

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Roberts 400X reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com - Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection
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Manufacturer Profiles

This is a list of information we have gathered from a variety of sources on some of the major analog reel to reel tape recorder manufacturers. Please note the source "credits' on this page.  While we have strived to provide the best information available to us, there will be corrections and additions.  We include personal stories about the companies when they are provided to us.  We always invite input on corrections and updates. Thank you!

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Roberts Recorders • Califone

On December 11, 2012, Chris & Martin Theophilus, Directors for the Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording, interviewed 95 year old Robert G. Metzner in his home in Beverly Hills, California.  His son, Dr. Richard Metzner facilitated the interview and Robert Metzner's wife of 72 years, Esther Metzner joined in the interview and hosted lunch.  We provide links to video clips from the interview on this and the Stories page.

        Roberts Recorders quality control review prior to sales - photo in the Reel2ReelTexas.com collection - Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording

Roberts reel to reel tape recorders were built in Japan by Akai according to Robert Metzner's specs. Roberts Recorders' staff performed quality control checks on every unit when it arrived in California, prior to being sent to distributors.

Robert G. Metzner founded several companies including:

• Pacific Sound Equipment Company International, Inc.
• Califone (which became Rheem Califone)
• Roberts Recorders (which became Rheem Roberts)
• Hyricon and
• Hear, See, Now, Inc.

 

 

View his Son Richard's page about his DadMOMSR's Stories section on Roberts Recorders

 

Robert G. Metzner 1938 CalTechFounding Donor of the Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording

The Metzner Family - Esther Metzner, Robert Metzner & Richard MetznerRichard Metzner's comments • Beverly Hills, CA

 

February 17,1917 - December 21, 2014

We were saddened to learn about the passing of Robert G. Metzner on December 21, 2014.

Robert G. Metzner built his first crystal radio set at age 9.  He got his ham radio license and later he acquired his First Class Radio Telephone license at age 16.  VIDEO

Robert G. Metzner at Caltech in 1938Robert G. Metzner (pictured in Caltech's 1938 annual) majored in electrical engineering at Caltech. He worked his way through university going to class in the morning and then working for the Hadley Transformer Company in the afternoons.  He then was hired by Allied Phonograph and Records. 

He founded Pacific Sound Equipment Company and provided portable 16 inch transcription turntable players to salesmen who marketed their 16 inch discs to the film industry.  When WW II began his company provided transcription turntables and other A/V products to the US military during WW II.  The company ceased to exist when the war ended.   VIDEO

 

After the war, Pacific Sound Equipment Company held such a large inventory of military style turntables that the company had to go into receivership. 

Robert Metzner's Pacific Sound Equipment Company's military transcription turntable in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collectionRobert Metzner's Pacific Sound Equipment Company's military transcription turntable in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collectionRobert Metzner's Pacific Sound Equipment Company's military transcription turntable in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection


Roberts Recorders' founder Robert G. Metzner in the 1940'sMetzner Founds CalifoneCalifone seal March 21, 1947

On March 21, 1947 with backing from his mother and a friend, Bill Maas, Robert Metzner  (pictured left in the 1940's) founded Califone Corporation which later became the educational products division of Roberts Recorders.   VIDEO

Califone is still in business today and manufactures state-of-the-art consumer audio components and, was the first U.S. company to offer a reel-to-reel tape recorder and solid state radio tuners to the general public.  Metzner's Califone company provided transcription turntables. VIDEOTurntable varible speed control patented by Robert G. MetznerSquare Dancer with Califone equipment

 

To help Square Dancing groups popular at the time, Robert G. Metzner in 1953 invented and patented (right) a variable speed control for the turntables. VIDEO

 

 

 

Here are some photos from the early Califone factory from Califone International. 

  Califone factory - photos Califone International Califone factory - photos Califone International  Califone factory - photos Califone International Califone factory - photos Califone International Califone factory - photos Califone International  Califone factory - photos Califone International  Metzner's Califone turntable assembly 

photos - Califone International

Students using Califone reel tape recorders in learning center    1955 photo of kids using the Califone product  Califone turntable  Metzner's Califone turntable

Califone products in use VIDEO


Roberts Electronics, Inc.

1958 announcement of the Metzner Starlight reel to reel tape deck  in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection1958 ad for the Metzner Starlight reel to reel tape deck in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection  1958 ad for the Metzner Starlight reel to reel tape deck and the metzner Starlight turntable in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection    1957 High Fidelity magazine ad for Robert Metzner's Starlight hi end turntable ad in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1958 ad for Roberts Recorders using the double "R" logo in the Museum of Magnetic Sound recording

Roberts Recorder logo in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collectionRollsLogoRobert G. Metzner and Robert Craig founded Roberts Electronics, Inc.  Robert Craig's farther Talton Craig was Robert G. Metzner's Califone distributer.  Talton Craig enabled Robert Metzner to acquire a wide distribution network for Califone & Roberts.  VIDEO   When Robert G. Metzner and Robert Craig began building Roberts Recorders, their first logo was double "Rs" and British solicitors/attorneys contacted them due to the similarity to the Rolls Royce logo.  (1958 Roberts Electronics ad - right) VIDEO

 

 

 

Roberts contracts with Akai as their supplier and retains exclusive North American sales

Akai logoRobert Metzner's relationship with Akai first started around 1953 with a turntable that was brought in for repair to Califone. Robert's brother-in-law, who was working for him at the time said there was a very unusual motor in the player. Robert  Metzner noted the numbers of the motor and found they were registered to Saburo Akai.  Mr. Metzner contacted Akai and said he would like to know if they were making these motors and if not, could he have the tooling to make them.  If they were making them, could he get their distributorship. Akai sent Robert Metzner a brochure about the motors they were manufacturing. A relationship developed and Akai provided motors for some of the Califone products.

When Akai first sent tape recorder demos to Roberts Electronics, Metzner said they were of very poor quality and he recommended they aspire for the quality of Ampex.  He sent an Ampex 600 to Akai and they actually copied the basic design.  The early Akai and Roberts Recorders had the similar look, however not the electronics and mechanics of Ampex.  VIDEO

1970 ad sponsored by Rheem Roberts to win a trip to the 1970 Japan Expo in the Museum of MAgnetic Sound RecordingAkai, Roberts & Ampex comparison in the Museum of MAgnetic Sound Recording

Roberts Electronics, Inc. negotiated an arrangement with Akai wherein Akai would build the machines to Roberts specs, they would be shipped from Japan to the US where Roberts would inspect every unit before it went out to sales.  Further, Robert Metzner negotiated a contract that enabled Roberts Electronics to be the sole North American distributor for the recorders.  Akai sold the same, or similar models to the rest of the world under the Akai name and paid royalties to Metzner.  This lasted until 1972 when Akai entered the US market.  Robert Metzner learned the Japanese language and made 12 trips to Japan beginning in 1958, forming a strong relationship with Saburo Akai (who founded Akai in 1929) until Saburo Akai's death in 1973. VIDEO 1 VIDEO 2 


Akai 345Roberts 400

     

Roberts 4000X   1965 $795    •    Akai X-355

'65 Directory

   Roberts 400X with remote    

 

Roberts 333X 1970 - 1973 $549.95

   Roberts 333 reel, cassette and 8 track unit 

Roberts 333 reel, cassette and 8 track unit. Movie of Roberts 333X working  - RealPlayer  Ad  71 catalog listing

Akai X-2000SD version of Roberts 333XAkai X-2000SD  $549.95

'72 ad

1973 catalog listing On sale $495

1973 directory listing

Here's the Akai version of the Roberts 333X

 

Not in collection


Roberts celebrity endorsements

In the 1960's Roberts Recorder ads displayed a high number of significant celebrities endorsing the brand.  Robert Metzner said that as they were based in Hollywood, it would be good to profile their recorders with known stars.  His first indorsement came from Rudy ValleeVIDEO

Dick Van Dyke, Marilyn King and Fred MacMurray endorsing Roberts Recorders in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection  Stan Kenton in Roberts ad in 1965  Glenn Ford in Robers ad  Gil Stratton TV Sportscaster  Janet Leigh endorsing Roberts Recorders  1963 ad for Roberts Recorders endorsed by Lawrence Welk   Roberts Tape recorder endorsed by Anna Maria Albergetti  Andre Previn endorsing Roberts Recorders  John(Johnny) Green endorsing Roberts Recorders 1962 ad for the Roberts 1057 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Jerry Lewis in Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage reel to reel tape recorder collection  Jerry Lewis with Rheem Roberts 1000 1/4" audio video recorder from 1969  1961 Roberts 990 reel to reel tape recorder ad featuring Doris Day and Percy Faith in the reel2reeltexas.com and Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection 1962 ad for the Roberts 990 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Doris Day and Percy Faith  in Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage reel to reel tape recorder collection1961 Roberts 990 reel to reel tape recorder ad featuring Julie London, John Ford and McDonald Carey in the reel2reeltexas.com and Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection 1961 Roberts 1040 reel to reel tape recorder ad featuring Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer in the reel2reeltexas.com and Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection 1961 Roberts 1040 reel to reel tape recorder ad featuring Sonny Burke in the reel2reeltexas.com and Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection    1962 ad for the Roberts 1057 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Dick Van Dyke and the Roberts 997 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Lucille Ball in Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage reel to reel tape recorder collection     1962 ad for the Roberts 1040 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Lawrence Welk  and the Roberts 440 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Janet Blair in Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage reel to reel tape recorder collection     1962 ad for the Roberts 1040 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Lucille Ball, Lawrence Welk and Stan Kenton in Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage reel to reel tape recorder collection  1962 ad for the Roberts 1040 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Lucille Ball in Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage reel to reel tape recorder collection    1962 ad for the Roberts 1040 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Lawrence WelkFred Astaire and Janet Blair in Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage reel to reel tape recorder collection    1962 ad for the Roberts 1057 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Dick Van Dyke and the Roberts 997 reel to reel tape recorder featuring Lucille Ball in Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage reel to reel tape recorder collection 


Rheem buys Califone and Roberts Recorders Roberts 610X name plate with Rheem logo

 In the late 1950's Congress allocated 4 billion dollars for educational resources in the US.  Rheem Manufacturing Company (started in 1927 by Rheem Manufaturing Company logobrothers Richard and Donald Rheem as a supplier of packaging to the petroleum industry and now manufacture of air conditioning, heating and water cooling products).  Rheem wanted to participate in supplying educational products and receive a portion of the funds.  In 1959, Jack Davis approached Robert Metzner about Rheem acquiring interest in Califone. Rheem acquired a substantial majority interest in Califone Corp., in 1959, and a minority interest in Roberts Electronics, Inc., in 1961, and formed the Rheem Califone-Roberts Division, selling tape recorders, teaching machines, sound systems and other related equipment for the home, schools and industry.  Robert G. Metzner was retained as a consultant and continued with Rheem/Califone/Roberts.  Robert Craig left and founded Craig Electronics.   VIDEO

 

Rheem Roberts recorder showing Jack Davis plaque  1967 comparison of the Akai, Rheem and Roberts recorder with the same configuration and different branding  1961 ad for Rheem Califone  in the Museum of Magnetic Sound recording

Rheem/Califone/Roberts 3100 photos donated by Bill Freund  reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com - Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vinyage recording collection

 Rheem/Roberts/Califone 3100 tape recoder photos
donated by Bill Freund

 

Jack Davis' signature (above left) appeared on a plaque on several of the Rheem Roberts tape recorders. Comparison of the same reel tape recorder branded by the three companies; Akai, Rheem Califone and Roberts

1965 ad for the Roberts 770 showing the Crossfield logo

Roberts tape recorders were also known for the Crossfield head indicated by the "X" on the various tape recorders. VIDEO

Rheem Califone Reel to reel tape recorder   Akai and Califone units


Roberts 1000 1/4" audio auto-reversing recorder with built in 1/4" black & white video recorder

   Roberts 1000 reel to reel with black and white video capability    the Roberts 1000 audio and black and white video recorder combination     the Roberts 1000 audio and black and white video recorder combination  1977 ad for Roberts 1000 stereo reel tape recorder with a built in B&W video recording capability in Phantom Productions' reel tape recorder collection

This is the incredible 4 track reversing audio recorder with a built-in black and white video recorder.

  Rheem Roberts B&W video camera and recorder 1050AV ad in Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage reel tape recording collection

Jerry Lewis pictured with Roberts 1000. '69 ad  •  Ad for Roberts 1050AW (note the Rheem Manufacturing address)

1969 ad for the Rheem Roberts combination stereo audio and b&w video recorder  Akai X-500VT  Akai X-500VT  Akai X-500VT  Akai X-500VT

Rheem Roberts and Akai also released the Rheem Roberts 1000 which was a 1/4 track stereo auto-reversing audio reel to reel tape recorder with a built in black & white video tape recorder.  It used the same 1/4" tape and when the tape was re-threaded would record and playback B&W video. Built by Akai, it was released under the Akai brand as the X-500VT


Robert G. Metzner Tape Mechanism Patents

Robert G. Metzner holds a total of 12 patents.  Included are the reverse dial mechanism on the Roberts 400X (right).  He also patented and licensed to Akai the Roberts 333X technology that combined reel to reel, cassette and 8-Track into one tape recorder (left)  VIDEO

Roberts 333X the plays reel to reel, cassette and 8-Track tapes in one recorder in the Museum of magnetic Sound RecordingRobert G. Metzner's 1968 patent for reel, cassette & 8-track tape recorder  Robert G. Metzner's 1968 patent for reel, cassette & 8-track tape recorderRoberts 400X in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection  1965 manual for the roberts 400X reel tape recorder in Phantom Productions' reel tape recorder collection


Akai Begins US Sales

Akai reel to reel tape recorder ad in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collectionBillboard July 3, 1971 - "Akai America will introduce a full line of tape players Sunday (27) at the Consumer Electronics Show,  The Califone-Roberts division of Rheem Manufacturing Co. has entered into an agreement with Akai Electric Co., Ltd. of Japan that will allow certain tape products to be sold in the U.S. under both the Roberts and Akai brand names. 

Under terms of the agreement, Roberts will continue to market the major part of the Akai made products under the Roberts label on an exclusive basis. The last Roberts/Akai "twin" releases occurred in 1973

"The benefits to both parties this new agreement are numerous and mutually desired,." said Roberts president C.R.Phillips. From 1974 to 1985, Mr. Phillips was Executive Vice President and Director of Akai America, Ltd.,

The last Roberts reel tape recorder we found was sold in 1973.  It was the Roberts 5050X/XD.


Please view the complete Metzner Roberts Califone story at this link  • Downloads of Roberts 23 minute video available at this link


Roberts, Rheem & Califone reel to reel tape recorders in our collection

1960 Roberts Duet 191 reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1960 Roberts Duet 191-FT

1962 Roberts 192-FT reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1962 Roberts Duet 192-FT

1962 Roberts 1057 reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1963 Roberts Duet 1057

1962 Roberts 400 reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1963 Roberts 400

 

1976 Rheem Califone 72-X  reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1963 Rheem Califone 73-T

1964 Roberts 1055 reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1964 Roberts 1055

1962 Roberts 330 reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1964 Roberts 330

1964 Roberts 770A reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1964 Roberts 770A

 

1965 Roberts 400X reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1965 Roberts 400X

1965 Roberts 6000reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1965 Roberts 6000

1966 Roberts 770X reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1966 Roberts 770X

1969 Roberts 1000 reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1968 Roberts 1000

       

1970 Roberts 333X cassette, 8-track & reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1970 Roberts 333X

1970 Roberts 610X reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection

1970 Roberts 610X

 

   

  More Photos from our Roberts collection

  Roberts 5000X reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com & Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection  Roberts 5000X reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com & Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection Roberts 73-T reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com & Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection  Roberts 5000X reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com & Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection   Roberts 333X reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com & Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection  Roberts 770 reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com & Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection  Roberts 770 reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com & Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection Roberts reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com & Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection Roberts 770X reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com & Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection Roberts 400X reel to reel tape recorder in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection  Berant Concertone, Crown, Dokorder,Magnecord, Nagra, Newcomb and many more reel to reel tape recorders in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection  Roberts, ReVox, Sony and Ampex promo material in the Reel2ReelTexas.com and Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording vintage recording collection  Berant Concertone, Crown, Dokorder,Magnecord, Nagra, Newcomb and many more reel to reel tape recorders in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection  Berant Concertone, Crown, Dokorder,Magnecord, Nagra, Newcomb and many more reel to reel tape recorders in the Reel2ReelTexas.com vintage recording collection 

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Please help us create a permanent museum for this collection

Go to: • 3MAEG/MagnetophonAkaiAmplifier CorpAmpexAmproAstrocom/MarluxBang & OlufsenBellBell & HowellBell LabsBerlant ConcertoneBeyerdynamicBrüel & KjærBrenellBrushCetec GaussCraigCrown • DokorderEdisonEicoElectro VoiceEMI/GramophoneFerrographFostexGrundigHeathKitKLHLeevers RichLyrecMagnecordMarantzMCIMitsubishiNagraNakamichiNeumannNewcombNeveOkiOtariPentronPhilipsPioneerPrestoRangertoneRCARobertsRolaSansuiScullyShureSolid State LogicSonySoundcraftSpectoneStancil HoffmanStellavoxStephensStuder ReVoxTandbergTape-AthonTapesonicTeac/TascamTechnicsTelefunkenTolnai ToshibaUher VikingWebster Chicago/WebcorWebster ElectricWilcox-GayWollensak

 

 
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