The greatest consumer cassette tape deck ever produced?*

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Cowboy Kim, Feb 3, 2017.

  1. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Harman Kardon model CD-491 was light years better. Best deck HK ever made.

    In a shootout with Revox & Studder's best and the Dragon the CD-491 came out on top.

    I had one for several years until it died, amazing deck.
     
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  2. Blue Cactus

    Blue Cactus Forum Resident

    Location:
    Illinois
    How did some of these top of the line cassette decks compare with the Sony Elcaset?

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Bill Lettang

    Bill Lettang Well-Known Member

    I don't know why....but there's something beautiful about cassette and reel to reel tape machines....
     
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  4. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Yeah, that was one alright.
     
  5. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Short answer: they couldn't touch its frequency response:

    Sony EL-7 - Manual - Stereo Elcaset Deck - HiFi Engine

    15Hz to 27(!!!)kHz with chrome tape. God only knows what that would have been like if Elcaset had survived 'till metal tape rolled around. The Nakamichi Dragon could only manage 20Hz to 22kHz with metal tape.

    Nakamichi Dragon - Manual - Three Head Auto Reverse Cassette Deck - HiFi Engine

    The Elcaset had a SNR of 67dB with Dolby B. The Dragon bested it (72dB), but only with Dolby C, which had its own issues. Again, if the Elcaset had survived until Dolby C and HX Pro arrived, I'm sure you'd have been looking at SNRs in the 75-80dB range, which is approaching CD in real world use.

    Wow & flutter on the Sony was 0.04% and THD was 0.8%. For the Dragon the wow & flutter was 0.04% as well, and the THD was the same as the Sony (0.8%), too.

    Keep in mind though, the Sony came out waaaaay back in '76. The Dragon didn't arrive until '82.

    I've always thought it was too bad Elcaset didn't make it - it stomped vinyl in many regards and allowed for recording. With metal tape, Dolby C and HX Pro I think a properly-duplicated Elcaset would have rivaled the best-mastered CDs on high-end players on most home stereo systems (crazy audiophiles with $10,000+ systems need not apply).

    If Elcaset had taken off though, would the CD have ever been invented? And would it have been successful?
     
  6. Blue Cactus

    Blue Cactus Forum Resident

    Location:
    Illinois
    Thank you for the response. Lots of good information there.

    Also the Elcaset ran at 3 3/4 ips vs. the 1 7/8 ips of cassette decks.

    I remember BIC did introduce a 2 speed cassette deck but it never really took off.
     
  7. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    The Dragon was an over engineered deck with far from amazing performance, it's high end was significantly rolled off.
    "Nakamichi Dragon could only manage 20Hz to 22kHz with metal tape."

    It's time for a dose of reality about the Dragon's frequency response, the only way that thing could even come close to 20k was at down 20DB.

    Fact is at 0DB it's it's frequency response started falling off by 1kz and was down 15DB at 20KHZ with metal tape!

    [​IMG]



    The Pioneer Elite CT93 could hit 20kz at 0DB with HX PRO Dolby S and metal tape, note the 4th uppermost top trace, darn near flat to 20kz at 0DB with metal tape Dolby S & HX PRO:

    [​IMG]
     
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  8. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Interesting. Well I thought it was telling there was no +/- dB figure for the Dragon's specs. 22kHz rolled off by 20dB or whatever doesn't really count!

    Anyhow, Elcaset even with Dolby B probably stomped most Dolby C/metal tape cassette decks from the '80s into the ground in real world performance. I'd imagine that's especially true if you paired the Elcaset deck with an external DBX encoder, which apparently a few allowed for.

    I'd guess it wasn't until the arrival of Dolby S that the lowly cassette could finally fully rival Elcaset's performance, using metal tape in a great three-head deck. But by that point there were better options either available or on the immediate horizon (MD and to a lesser degree DCC for convenience and decent performance, recordable CDs for source-quality performance and convenience).
     
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  9. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Maybe on sound quality, not on build quality, not on reliability, not on long term stability. DD and die cast deck plate beats lesser build quality. Specs alone don't tell you the whole story. I like the HK CD line machines a lot.
     
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  10. JBStephens

    JBStephens I am not a "peep", thank you very much.

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    So did Marantz. I had one, it was a very nice machine.
     
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  11. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I think DAT machines were already taking away high end cassette deck sales by the time Dolby S came out, I loved Dolby S, I bought a Sony deck with it in the early nineties, but if DAT tapes had been cheaper I may not have bothered, £6 for a DAT tape, under £1 for a TDK SA and a little more for a Maxell XLII, plus I had a ton of chrome loaded duplication cassettes that cost me almost nothing, blank media costs is the only reason I didn't switch entirely to recording on DAT, with hindsight at least the cassettes have survived without any DAT type issues.
     
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  12. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    DAT was pretty much horrible all things considered.
     
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  13. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Yeah, DAT seemed like a good idea at the time, but the complex spinning drum, mini-VCR construction meant they never became as portable as cassette could be. It was really a home-only format for the most part.

    Sony might have been better off slapping A/D and D/A converters into all of their Betamax decks by default instead, and selling them as both video recorders and to audiophiles as a replacement for your cassette or open reel deck...
     
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  14. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    It had it's issues, even at the time, but sound quality wasn't one of them, it beat cassette, mini disc, CD-R and anything less that really well recorded open reel, it was also relatively cheap which meant that along with Cubase, samplers, etc., a ton of people could actually afford to record their music to a reasonable standard and release it, being able to clone tapes was great, frame by frame editing not fun, random glitches, easily damaged and unreliable tapes and over complicated unreliable machines are what killed it, not poor sound. I don't work with DAT masters too often these days, but the really well recorded ones still sound fantastic and a lot of 1990s music in particular wouldn't exist without DAT machines having been marketed for a few hundred instead of the four figure sums even a half decent reel to reel cost back then, what's really scary is that now I can spend £100 and get a recorder that will do 24/96 and make DAT, mini disc and cassette all seem like primitive toys and very expensive ones at that.
     
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  15. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    But I think that was about the same for all cassette decks. Tape saturation at 1 7/8 does that, the physics of it, not an inherently bad head or circuit. Dolby S and HX PRO were tricks to get around it.
     
  16. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    To a point yes, but I've seen non HX PRO non Dolby S machines with significantly better upper range frequency response than the Dragon, my HK CD491 was one of them and heck even some of Naks less expensive ones. The Dragon had a significantly rolled off high end starting at 1Kz, I think that's why folks gravitated to it, it's warm sound, not it's accuracy.
     
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  17. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I've not seen the Pioneer Elite CT 93 mentioned yet, that easily is in the top of the best ever cassette decks. Simply stunning sound and performance out of a tour de force built unit with Dolby S HX PRO and very good auto bias.
    [​IMG]


    The older Onkyo TA-2090 was an amazing performing machine too.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
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  18. Mike Rivera

    Mike Rivera Active Member

    As a 30+ year Nakamichi owner (I still have a CR-1 in my main 2-channel system to play my old mix tapes), I vote for the CR-7.
     
  19. rbp

    rbp Forum Resident

    I still have a black Nakamichi 480 cassette deck that I purchased when first released - haven't used it in over 30 years.
     
  20. Audioshot

    Audioshot Member

    Location:
    Boston
    I have a Sony TC-R503 with the Dolby S HX Pro in storage. It sounds very good but not as reliable like my Nakamichi's. The auto-reverse (and a few other features) had to be repaired a few times. Ironically, I have a Sony TC-R303 that looks like the same drive components as the TC-R503 but without all the bells and whistles. That was my "go-to" workhorse cassette deck for years and never had any failures.
     
  21. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I always avoided auto reverse decks like the plague.
     
  22. Jeffczar

    Jeffczar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    The Naks were definitely a cut above anything at the time. Not just in frequency response but most importantly stability, wow and flutter and just overall smoothness. Until they came out with the lower priced decks in the mid 80s like the BX1 and onward. They were nothing close to the earlier 582/682 era. Steve is right though, nothing comes close to an open reel. I saved up for a year in the early 80s when I was a teenager and bought a Teac x3R which even at 3 3/4 ips destroyed any cassette deck, and that's only a consumer level machine. I later played around with some consumer Ampex machines which were kind of like classic English sports cars, when they worked they were oh so sweet. I've never used a pro level machine though so I can't comment on how much better they must be, like an Ampex 350 or Studer. It was my dream as a kid to be a mastering engineer, my father in all his wisdom told me to forget such childish dreams like doing what is your passion, so I went to college and got an economics degree LOL.
     
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  23. Jack Flannery

    Jack Flannery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Houston, TX
    I had mad lust for one of those.
     
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  24. DangerousKitchen

    DangerousKitchen Forum Resident

    I saw one of these in gold plated finish back in 1981 at the CES in Toronto!
     
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  25. Jimi Floyd

    Jimi Floyd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Italy
    me too! unfortunately, at that time I was very young and that wonder costed an arm and a leg.
     

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