RCA TR-5 Quad Recorder
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Mobile Tape Recorder TR-5

The TR-5 TV Tape Recorder "on wheels" is an RCA "New Look" equipment especially designed for recording of video tapes, color and monochrome, at various locations in the plant or in the field. It is small in size and mounted on casters for easy movement from one location to another. The recorder conforms to highest broadcast standards. Tapes recorded on it are fully compatible with all standard broadcast quadruplex recorders. For closed circuit applications it comprises a complete recording and playback facility. It may also be used for on-air playback by adding a signal processing amplifier.


The RCA Type TR-5 TV Tape Recorder is engineered to produce TV Tapes that faithfully reproduce the high quality monochrome and color pictures now provided by new, improved TV Cameras. It employs standard RCA transistorized, interchangeable modules. It accommodates cue record/playback and electronic splicer accessories.

Switchable Standards

The TR-5 is equipped for operation on international (switchable) or domestic standards. To change from one standard to another, an operator merely moves the standards selector switch to the desired position. This master circuitry provides instantaneous switchover from 525 to 625 to 405 TV line standard.

Built-In Two Speed Operation

Circuits to permit choice of operating speeds, 15 or 7 1/2 inches per second, are built into the TR-5. Recording time of up to 60 minutes at 15 IPS and 120 minutes at 7 1/2 IPS is possible with the 12 1/2 -inch tape reels.

Interchangeable Sub-Assemblies

The modular construction of the TR-5 mobile recorder means that many of the sub-assemblies are interchangeable with the TR-3/4 and TR-22 recorders. All modules are completely accessible and by means of a module extender it is possible to service the machine while in operation.

Transistorized for Reliability

Advanced transistorized modular circuits are used through the TR-5. These solid state circuits operate on lower voltages and require much less power and generate less heat. As a result power supplies are small, efficient units, and air conditioning requirements are reduced. Transistors have proved extremely reliable and stable. All TR-5 circuits are conservatively rated, and permit semi-automatic "pre-set" type of operation. Warm-up time is greatly reduced, practically eliminated, since no warm-up cycle is required.

Record/Playback Circuitry

The record circuitry of the TR-5 includes a standard modulator and four standard record amplifiers. Each of the amplifiers provide quadrature delay as well as FM level control. Color or monochrome video signals are recorded wi th amazing realism. The playback circuitry involved includes playback quadrature delay, four-channel equalization and head switching. Switchlock is also featured as part of the basic machine. For direct on-air broadcasts it is recommended that a signal processing amplifier be utilized. The equipment is designed with built-in audio playback for line drive as well as earphone level monitoring. Stable video playback of any properly recorded quadruplex tape is achieved. Com pact-Transportable

The Tape Recorder is contained in a small cabinet on casters measuring only 31 inches high (37 inches with casters), 33 inches wide and 24 inches deep. It weighs approximately 475 pounds. It may readily be moved from one studio to another or transported to remote locations.

Ease of Servicing

TR-5 modules can be easily removed for repair or replacement. They may also be checked without removing through use of module extenders supplied with the equipment. Spares can be inserted as fast as one can pull out the module and plug in another. This standardization of modular circuits permits interchange of many modules between various RCA models in multiple equipment installations. Furthermore, complete modular spares can be stocked for emergency use.

Horizontal Tape Transport

The low contour of the TR-5, so essential for ease of transportation to remote locations has been achieved not only by the compact transistorized circuitry, but also by a horizontally mounted tape transport. This transport has all the conveniences and fine performance qualities of the TR-3 and TR-4 Tape Recorders. Air lubricated guide posts provide long tape life, while tapered guide post flanges aid tape threading. The transport panel is hinged for complete access to components.

Finger Tip Controls

Push-button operating controls are conveniently located. They afford complete mode control of play, record, fast forward, fast reverse, and stop. In addition there is a two-speed indicator, local and remote switch, audio/mike switch and (tone wheel! switchlock) indicator. A switchable audio-video VU meter and metering facilities for control track phasing can also be used for measuring sync tip frequency. Three front panels provide complete access to mode control modules, the module bank, and the base of the equipment where power supply and air system are located.



tr5-1.jpg (778602 bytes)  tr5-2.jpg (1377199 bytes) 

tr5-3.jpg (1542375 bytes)  

tr5-4.jpg (1444957 bytes)   tr5-5.jpg (1960164 bytes)


tr4 hi band.jpg (771191 bytes)

Need this mod  kit  to convert tr-4  to hi band

tr5-mobile recording.jpg (1744609 bytes)


L to R -  Ed Sharpe  Archivist for SMECC  and Phil the previous owner!

It..... is here! Me at left and Phil who trucked it in.... what you do not see are the other 4 people it took to get it off the truck!

Photos below were shot by Phil before the unit was moved  to Glendale... I WISH we had nice tile floors like that in the facility!


My “custodianship” of this RCA TR-5 began in the year 2000.  I was quite fortunate to locate this quadruplex “portable” recorder in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, belonging at that time to a fellow who had purchased multiple RCA quad machines from – I believe – the Veterans Administration.  They had evidently purchased them new for the purpose of producing training materials.

The fellow from whom I made the purchase also had two of the larger, rack mount TR quad recorders (TR-4s as I recall), and a number of RCA studio color video cameras on large dollies.  He was evidently in a position at that time where he needed to divest himself of all such large equipment, and was ready to literally sell for scrap anything he was unable to sell, even at very low prices.

That was how I was able to obtain extra plug-in circuit cards and a spare rotating video head assembly with preamp.  He allowed me to remove these items from one of the still-functional TR-4s, as he was convinced he would be unable to find a buyer for it (having unsuccessfully advertised it for some time).  He had just sold the video cameras and (enormous!) tripod / dollies, and was in the process of crating them for shipment.  Even though I really didn’t have the room, I would have been tempted to purchase one of the video cameras had they not just been sold…

One outstanding feature of this fellow’s equipment was that it all appeared to not have been used very much.  Of course I have no way of knowing why the VA didn’t make better use of this very expensive, broadcast-quality gear, but it apparently just sat around for most of its tenure there.

My travel / work commitments prevented me from doing any restoration work on the TR-5 for several years.  While cosmetically it was still in near “mint” condition, and the seller stated it had been working fine when he acquired it about 10 to 15 years prior, he had not used it in a long time.  When I did briefly fire it up, it was obvious that rather extensive restoration would be needed, if perhaps only a function of age and having not been used for so long.

In 2008 I began the restoration process.  The first step was removal and rebuilding of the onboard vacuum / pressure system.  This involved removal of all components, cleaning and lubrication of all moving members, replacement of some tubing and fittings, and then subsequent re-assembly and test.  Built-in metering afforded the ability to ensure adequate vacuum production.

The transport functions had still been operational, but I removed the motors, provided lubrication as appropriate, and completely cleaned all tape path surface areas.

The electronics proved to be a greater challenge, as a video signal could not be passed from line input – through the record and play electronics – to the line level output, despite having removed all circuit boards and polishing the pc-finger connector contact surfaces.  Going from board to board, utilizing a “homebrew” card extender and oscilloscope, I discovered that many of the electrolytic capacitors had gone bad from aging.  Eventually, signals were able to be passed through the electronics chain, after having replaced a significant number of these capacitors and performing a number of alignment procedures.

At this point, personal events in my life caused me to have to abandon the restoration effort.  Thus I was not able to complete all restoration, but leaving, I believe, just the video head / preamp assemblies to be restored, along with some audio work and replacement of some top-panel lamps.  I had been able to procure an RCA quadrature alignment tape some years prior, and this of course will be needed as a final step to once again bring this magnificent studio-quality machine completely back to life.

I am quite happy with the experience I had while this TR-5 was in my “custody”, and I wish the subsequent custodians the best of experiences as well.


Philip Van Praag, June 2012





Bill tells us "At KLVX in Las Vegas it took two people to push it up a ramp into the truck. There is a picture of this operation in RCA Broadcast News in 1969."

Ed comments..."

BUT WAIT...      look at the direction the wheels are in ... ours at SMECC will NOT  do this it wants to run front to back only and will not roll side to side...  we have some  rooms  with only 30 inch doorframes.... so we snaked this  thing though the building   sitting on top of another dolly.   ours also  does not have wheel locks.  I noticed on one other RCA  photo the wheels in the back  seemed  to be free wheeling also.
What happened  here I wonder  with ours? Does anyone have an extra set of proper casters for this?

Bill Replies  "Both units I worked with had free wheels as the doorway fit was the main deal.  Only the front wheels had locks, but we still used some chocks to make sure it wouldn’t wander around during travel time!  The casters seemed to be standard fare you should be able to get at someplace like Grainger.  At KLVX we were blessed to have a good shop for the Schools maintenance and the metal workers were bikers too so a couple of modified motorcycle ramps and we were in business!"   Bill Spencer - NorthStar Studios, Inc.








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