Nakamichi Dragon- Wow!

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Raylinds, Feb 16, 2020.

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  1. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer Thread Starter

    When I was in high school I used to love to make mix tapes. About 15 years or so ago I decided I wanted to do so again so got an Otari MX5050 reel-to-reel, some tapes and equipment to calibrate it. To make a long story short, I never could get it sounding right. I had the heads checked and they were fine. I'm sure paying a professional to calibrate it would have made it sound great, but decided it was just a big money pit and ended up selling it.

    About 10 years ago, I ran across a decent deal on a Nakamichi Dragon and bought it. The tapes sounded good, but still not that close to the records.

    A few months ago, I decided to send it to Willy Hermann for a complete restoration after seeing his restored decks going for big money on fleabay.

    I got it back and the other day. I carefully calibrated the level and eq as per the instruction manual and started recording on some metal tapes. I used no noise reduction. The results were astounding! I could not hear any tape hiss and it sounded just like the record. My wife, neighbors and I could not believe we were listening to a cassette deck.

    Now I'm sure it can be bested by a good, properly calibrated RTR, but I couldn't be happier with this machine. My original plan was to use it to make mix tapes to play on my living room system and sell it, but I don't think I can part with this thing.
  2. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Can we expect the mix tapes to contain some J-Lo and Shakira? :D
    WvL, timind, Nephrodoc and 4 others like this.
  3. vinylkid58

    vinylkid58 Senior Member

    Victoria, B.C.
    This is why some of us spent big money back in the day for a Nak. Even my 680 was flat out to 20khz.

    That's like saying you can keep up with your neighbors corvette in your old F150.:laugh:

    Scratcha, nosliw and The FRiNgE like this.
  4. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer Thread Starter

    This made me laugh out loud! The answer is no. Somehow their less interesting when you can't see them.
    WapatoWolf, Dave Mac, SirMarc and 9 others like this.
  5. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer Thread Starter

    Coincidentally, my neighbor has a Corvette ZR-1.
    Duke Fame likes this.
  6. cdash99

    cdash99 Senior Member

    How long did the entire process take between when you sent it out and got the deck back? There is another thread that mentions a months long back up.
  7. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer Thread Starter

    I was on a waiting list for about a year. He emailed me when he was ready to do the work and I shipped it. It came back about 2 weeks later.
    Ken Clark, timind, uzn007 and 5 others like this.
  8. FalseMetal666

    FalseMetal666 Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    I love it when shops are organized enough to do things this way.
    Ken Clark, Clucking, cnolanh and 13 others like this.
  9. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Welcome to the world of Nakamichi. I have a modest 480 two head refurbed and lined up (original belt that's thin and did not need replacement... do not replace if it's good as the aftermarket belts are thicker and do not meet wow/flutter spec) Yes, it's nothing short of amazing on metal and type II. I have owned reel to reel decks that also performed and were indistinguishable from the source on the ill fated Ampex 456 (Revox PR-99 and a Pioneer RT-1050) Here's what's more amazing... my original band tapes on Ampex 456 do not play without baking them, my back up cassette metal tapes play flawlessly.
    TarnishedEars, timind and Shak Cohen like this.
  10. rnranimal

    rnranimal Senior Member

    I have a BX-300 and I could basically get it to recorded/playback to sound just like the source. But every time I pull the thing out to transfer something to digital (every year or two), I need to replace the idler tire (luckily I bought a bunch of them years ago). Then it works great until I finish the project. Then back in the closet until the next time I get it out and without fail, it will start stopping after during playback. Replace the tire and it's good to go.

    Congrats on the deck. I've always wanted a Dragon but don't have the use to justify it. I've also considered having my BX-300 tuned up but it sounds/works great and my rare usage didn't justify the costs.
    Classic Car Guy, Dave and Raylinds like this.
  11. sberger

    sberger Dream Baby Dream

    Never had a Dragon, but had several other Naks. My current ZX-7 was overhauled by Willy a few years back and has been bullet proof and sounding fantastic ever since. I mostly only play prerecored indy tapes on it, but have made several recordings and they sound terrific.

    Luckily for Willy he only lives a few towns over so was able to bring it to his house and spend some time with him which was nice.
  12. james

    james Summon The Queen

    Does anyone else have a Cassette Deck 1/2/3?
    I’ve been listening to my 2 a lot recently and enjoy it, but all of my cassettes are a specific lo-fi-ish genre of music, so I can’t comment on its absolute fidelity. I’ve been having a great time with it. I’d love to hear a Dragon.
    timind, Classic Car Guy and cnolanh like this.
  13. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialist™

    Thanks for the reminder @rnranimal. I should pull my BX-300 out of storage and take it for drive as it's been a few years. Congrats on getting your Dragon Ray. :righton:
    Alan2, jusbe, Raylinds and 1 other person like this.
  14. ssmith3046

    ssmith3046 Senior Member

    Arizona desert
    I had a Willy Hermann serviced Dragon. It's the only piece of audio equipment that I've owned in the 47 years that I regret selling.
  15. Achn2b

    Achn2b Forum Resident

    N. Conway, NH
    The BX-300 is a fine deck. I bought a b-stock BX-125 years ago from Tweeter for a good price, although wanted a 300. Couple weeks later, they had b-stock BX-300s for sale, but I didn't have the funds.

    A few years later, I bought a CR-5a. Had both converted to gear drive once they began experiencing the idler wheel problems.
    Alan2, ssmith3046 and rnranimal like this.
  16. rnranimal

    rnranimal Senior Member

    Yeah, I considered having that done but for some reason when the deck was in regular use, the tires lasted quite a while. So I didn't feel it was worth the $$ if I could just change the tire every few years. But then once it started being stored most of the time, EVERY time I get it out, I have to change the tire. Seems weird more use would extend the life of the tire. So I don't know if it was just coincidental that the issue became worse at the same time I started storing it or if non-use really does cause the tire to go faster.
  17. rpd

    rpd Senior Member

    Willie is THE BEST!
    macster likes this.
  18. rpd

    rpd Senior Member

    The 300 is a fantastic deck. IMHO, all you really need to enjoy cassettes. Dragon is the pinnacle of course, but overkill says me....
    timind likes this.
  19. nosliw

    nosliw Fireflies are such magical creatures, aren't they?

    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    I've always been interested in trying out the higher-end Nakamichi tape decks with respect to sound quality comparison between differing decks, especially with pre-recorded cassettes. Has anyone ever done any formal audio comparisons between differing decks at all?
  20. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer Thread Starter

    I don't disagree at all. One could get great results with a much lower priced Nak deck. With the Dragon, you are paying for the name and its legendary status plus some of the tech like the auto reverse. Of course, that extra tech is one more thing that can break.

    When I was young I fell in love with the Dragon after seeing it in a Hi-Fi shop and lusted after it for years. When I was finally in a position to afford one, I couldn't resist.
    jusbe and Dave like this.
  21. Kevin j

    Kevin j The 5th 99

    Seattle Area
    I have a DR-3 that I picked up at goodwill for 20 bucks. I recently made a mix tape from vinyl, and taped over a maxell type II cassette that was 25 years old. I was astounded at the results...the damn tape sounded as good as the records, if not better (how is that even possible?)
    timind, Rodant Kapoor, jusbe and 2 others like this.
  22. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer Thread Starter

    I don't know for sure- just speculating, but maybe using it keeps the rubber from hardening up? I think the rubber on these things go bad by hardening up and cracking.
    rnranimal likes this.
  23. macster

    macster Forum Resident

    San Diego, Ca. USA

    Akin to the differences as you go up the line in a brand's phono cartridges.

    nosliw likes this.
  24. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer Thread Starter

    That's why I am rethinking my plan to sell it- I think I would regret it some day.
    timind, Alan2, jusbe and 2 others like this.
  25. rnranimal

    rnranimal Senior Member

    Yeah, that might be possible. My spares are in small ziplock bags. So I think either being sealed up keeps them fresher or they have been aging and that's why they don't last as long. If I used it more, I'd see about buying new tires. I've never actually had a tire look bad (cracked, obviously hard) before it started causing playback issues. But it's possible the surface deteriorates in anon visible way that causing the problem. I can never tell the difference visually between the one I take off and the one I put on, but it always fixes it.
    Alan2 likes this.
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