The following information was shared with the museum by John Stephens' brother Rod Stephens (left) and is provided here with his permission.
1974 Stephens Electronics ads
The following photos provided to the Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording with permission from Roderick Stephens, John Stephens' brother.
Sales Records 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
I came across this Stephens 16 track while in Salinas, CA in 2010. It belonged to Leo deGar Kulka. I'd just bought an Ampex 200A and an Ampex 300 from Kulka's estate and was shown this unit as well. Martin Theophilus
1974 Stephens Electronics 811D 2" 24 Track Tape Recorder
Please note that the Stephens recorder described here is no longer for sale.
"...extremely rare, and portable (100 lbs) Stephens Electronics 811D 2" 24 track, prewired for 32 tracks with the QIIA autolocator.
This is by far the nicest Stephens I've ever seen, used or owned - in a beautifully crafted wood case, with the QIIA autolocator. This 811D machine is fully restored and is truly one of the nicest sounding 2" decks ever made. The 811D does not use fet switching like the later 821B's and with the simpler design it is considered to have a the best sound. The 811D is fully discrete using 618/620 preamps for the record/playback circuits. This 811D, serial number 1006 was hand-built for Rick Ruggieri for The Mix Room in 1974, and later updated with the QIIA auto-locator in 1981. Rick Ruggieri was credited with many records in the 1970's/1980's including Elvis Presley "Today", Neil Diamond "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"/"September Morn", and albums by Van Dyke Parks, Oingo Boingo, John Klemmer, Frankie Valli, Steve Miller Band, Kenny Rogers, and many others. With a price tag of about $30,000 in the 1970's for a 24 track (prewired for 32 tracks - a "basic" 24 track was $24,500) and $3270 for the QII autolocator in 1981, this 811D was almost certainly used on important sessions. The last owner used this deck in the late 90's on a number of well known records including Elliot Smith's "XO". John Stephens was a genius and American pioneer - running a small company in the 1970's with just a few employees and hand making recorders that exceeded the specifications of almost all of his competitors.
This 811D has been carefully and thoughtfully restored, while not tampering with John Stephens original design in any way. The audio/transport electronics have all been completely recapped, I rebuilt the power supply, aligned the sensors, and everything works perfectly. The heads have extremely low wear - which is typical for a Stephens deck which was designed for gentle tape handling and optimal head life. Since there is a lot to say about Stephens machines and this one in particular. The Stephens 811D decks were used on early Steely Dan/Grateful Dead recordings (to name a few) and very few ever come up for sale. I absolutely love using Stephens decks as the transport is incredibly gentle on tape and all recording/monitoring is done off the record head the workflow is much quicker than other decks of the same era. Stephens machines need owners willing to understand how they are built - they were not made for hobbyists tinkering with tape. Since not many technicians are familiar with the Stephens design I would only recommend this machine to someone with technical capabilities or the financial means to hire someone capable of maintaining their equipment. That said, as long as you treat your machine appropriately the transports/audio electronics are extremely reliable due to the lack of deteriorating moving parts. The only moving parts on a Stephens transport other than the motors are the tape lifters and reverse idler - unlike other decks with rubber pinch rollers, capstans, etc.. The 103A transport runs exceptionally smooth, extremely quiet (there are no fans), and the motors pull tape as if they are new. The locator works perfectly. As you can see from the photos it's an exceptional looking deck that also sounds fantastic. The deck is currently biased for Scotch 206 tape and a playback/record alignment was also done a few weeks ago (just before I transferred all my tapes).
Additional photos sent to the museum