Typical email Watkins Copicat question

23 April 2010


Hi John, I have a mk4 which lights up and the tape goes round, you can plug a guitar in and hear it through the amp does not seem to do much in the way of echo, just a slight warble at best, any ideas?

Cheers, Graham #######

The above question is a genuine and typical question I would get several times almost everyday, of every week, usually from someone who has recently bought a Copicat via eBay, a car boot sale or the local classifies etc. Many of which have been stored in a loft, garden shed or the garage for the past thirty years or more, the seller cashing in on the high prices these machines are now commanding.

Often they are sold as seen with a brief note to say was working well when last used.  Or it all lights up and the motor spins, needs a new tape so not able to test. Or I tried it this morning (a quick test) and surprise surprise after all these years it still works perfectly.  Fifteen to twenty minutes later it could well be a different story, with the echoes and sustain getting weaker all the time and probably fading to a whisper.

The truth is any electronic equipment that has suffered neglect even in the short term, is likely to give trouble when or soon after it has been returned to use. You may well pay £200 or more for your Copicat, or you may be lucky enough to pick one up for £30 - £50 which is about what a neglected machine is actually worth. But you can easily spend a further £200 or more to bring it back to spec. This is when I get bombarded with questions on how to make it work again.

When I first offered my free advice, it was aimed at Copicat owners wanting to keep their beloved Copicats running. Little did I expect to cater for the current surge in interest and eBay sales which now appear to have pulled all surviving machines out of the woodwork, not just in the UK but worldwide.

While it has always been my policy to answer every question personally, many involving considerable detail often escalating to a large number of emails being exchanged over a period of several days or even weeks. I can no longer sustain this personal service as I can spend entire days and all my evenings at the computer answering and advising involved technical details often to someone who has not a clue what I have been talking about.  A total waste of that person’s time and time I could have spent in the workshop doing a hands on repair which actually earns me money.

Whilst there are a few common faults that can occur, I have no magic wand, and there may be no easy answer to your questions as every machine will be different.

In the Copicat’s heyday they were extremely reliable and robust machines, everybody had one. Well almost everybody! But almost nobody ever maintained them because they were so reliable. They were used gig after gig rehearsal after rehearsal, year in year out with nothing more than a new tape when it broke, or sounded terrible.

Is it therefore any wonder that any surviving machines are usually well abused, neglected and most likely worn out and don't work too well.  Now in my sixty ninth year, I’m pretty much in the same worn out and knackered condition myself, the only difference is, that I'm way beyond repair!

I will continue to answer your questions for the time being, but in the coming months, will devise ready made answers to help with your problems. Basic F A Q and answers, which if of no help I will then offer personal advice. Providing you have a proper basic understanding of electronics, and are able to safely carry out simple test procedures with a basic multi-meter, possibly on a live chassis with several exposed 240 volt AC mains connections and DC voltages in excess of 300 volts on valve units. Can also understand and read a schematic diagram and know what I mean if I ask you to measure the V BE of Q 4

If you are not able to understand that, you probably would cause further damage to the Copicat, endanger yourself and possibly others by trying to do so, whilst I might as well be bashing my head against the wall, or spending the time in my workshop!

I once spent many hours over a dozen or more emails trying to help a guy adamant his machine was faulty, though the tape was running there was no output at all. I eventually discovered that in spite of me sending him a copy of the original instruction sheet and a schematic diagram, he had the Copicat output jack lead plugged in to his guitar, with his amplifier connected to one of the input sockets of his Copicat!

  Aghhhhhhhhhhhhh why am I doing this ?????????????  I’m off to the pub!  :-))

FAQ's & Answers to be added later.