The greatest consumer cassette tape deck ever produced?*

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

  1. Rachael Bee

    Rachael Bee Miembra muy loca

    If you're only gonna listen to prerecorded tapes, I would not spend much on a deck. I mostly made my own tapes but the few prerecorded tapes I had didn't benefit much from the way above average decks I had. They might have sounded even worse on a mediocre deck. I would suggest looking for a single well deck under the presumption that most of the double decks have one or two (both) lousy tape mechanisms. Your odds of getting one good mechanisms are likely better with a single well deck. You don't need a 3 head deck. Their advantages are strictly for recording. If you find a deck with dual capstans (tape rollers), it will probably give you better playback and less chance of a tape fouling during playback.
     
  2. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    In 1971. Modern 3 head cassette decks have better frequency response and signal to noise ratio. No Dolby C or S on this. Too old for that. The Dragon was 20 - 22 000 hz +-3 db. The old 1000 couldn't achieve those specs. I suppose the electronics could be superior. And modern 3 head Naks have the automatic azimuth adjustment. That means every tape will sound just as good as if you were playing it back on the deck it was recorded on. Nah! Tape technology was primitive back in 1971. The Nak 1000 is famous for one reason only: It was the first cassette deck ever to achieve 20 - 20 000 hz +-3 db with Type 2 tape. But any good 3 head machine can pull that off. And every VHS / Beta / S-VHS HI-FI VCR did it in it's sleep.

    But quite and achievement for 1971.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  3. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    Location:
    CT, USA
    But metal tapes were not available until the 1980's ...
     
  4. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    We still have two at the studio. Uncle Jack used to make copies of the master with them. He purchased two Dragons back in the late 80's. He claims his Metal cassette copies are better than the high definition files available for download.
    Of some albums out now.

    I would take this claim with a grain of salt.....
     
  5. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Incorrect. My Nak 581 (made in 1979) had settings for Metal tape. But I think you are close. I didn't get the unit until 1980 but it had a 1979 year sticker on it. And it came with me 15 min. Metal tape. And I afraid that trumps anything Wikimedia might say on the subject.
     
  6. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    You are right. My mistake of course. Full flat frequency response with Type 2 which is pretty good for 1990 let alone 1971.
     
  7. Lownotes

    Lownotes Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO
    I had an Aiwa for years and it worked and sounded great.

    But it's hard to beat the auto-azimuth adjustment of my Dragon. :)
     
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  8. XiaoDe

    XiaoDe Member

    Location:
    Germany
    Thanks a lot for the feedback. Then I might overthink my approach and look into other options, maybe start with recording - everything I have on tape is also available digitally or I even have it stored as FLAC. If I read between your lines and record that on tape with a proper machine, sound quality should be much better?

    Kind regards
     
  9. jusbe

    jusbe Modern Melomaniac

    Location:
    North Yorkshire
    In your shoes, I'd look for a NAD deck from the 80s. Two or three heads. Simple looking. Unfeasibly good sound. 6325, 6340 or, if you can, 6300. Even the 616 dual deck is built well in a stealthy way (decent transports).
     
  10. Hayden :)

    Hayden :) Member

    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Hello everyone,

    I'm a new kid on the block here. This is an amazing thread for cassette deck discussions. I'm not quite sure where to post this question. But, I'm sure someone here can help me with my questions.

    I recently got an H/K CD491 cassette deck from eBay. Overall, the sound is crystal clear! It does not seem to have azimuth alignment problem (?).

    However, it has a tendency to chew up some of my new metal MX-S and CrO2 XLII tapes! I cleaned the machine with isopropyl alcohol multiple times. Everything is so clean and sparkly now. The capstans seem to spin quite well even when I apply quite a bit of force on them with the cleaning swaps. Fwd/Rew reels both spin the tape at full speed. What can be the usual suspect for this issue? I just can't afford to feed it new tapes and it's making me so nervous now.

    Lastly, it seems to need ~15 minutes of warm up before the playback sound is nice and clear. It also seem to chew on tapes less when it's warmed up. Thank you very much for your help.
     
  11. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    Location:
    CT, USA
    IIRC, this was the best cassette deck ever made by HK with FR 20 - 24KHz. I was given one by a friend and was warned the deck did have the habit of chewing up tapes here and there. It has been in storage for the past 15 years. Retirees often do not bother to service their legacy audio gears and I am no exceptions. Please share info if you manage to find a fix.
     
  12. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    Wikipedia actually says that type IV was introduced in 1979.
     
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  13. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    Maybe worn belts?
     
  14. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Tape munching is from lack of take-up tension, provided you have eliminated the obvious, like a degraded sticky rubber capstan roller. It is usually driven by either a rubber idler wheel or belt, if not direct-drive in the best decks.
     
  15. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    And the VHS Hi-Fi, Beta Hi-Fi, and S-VHS have that dbx like compander, which on some musical material is audible to a trained ear. And those cassette deck specs are quoted at -20 db (hardly real world operating level for most users). Dolby C is rarely ever aligned correctly from the factory, many machines got to include it which didn't meet sufficient mechanical, and electronic/electrical standards. Dolby S was rare., and too late to be out there in wide numbers. If Dolby S had been introduced instead of C, and Dolby Laboratories insisting machines be up to standard. and insisting on strict alignment and setup, this would have been a cassette revolution. For VCR audio, I preferred a Sony PCM-F1 and a non HQ VCR (preferably Beta).
     
  16. Hayden :)

    Hayden :) Member

    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Harman Kardon CD-491: Pinched Tape Problem


    Harman Kardon CD-491: Belt Replaced- In Depth Repair
    Harman Kardon CD-491: Belt Replaced- In Depth Repair

    "It started when the tapes I was playing began sounding funny. When investigated, there was snarling of the tape due to a misalignment of speeds caused by the belt loosening on the supply capstan. Replacing the belt is the solution...Now the machine is in top notch working order and no snarling occurs anymore."

    Looks like I'll have to roll up my sleeves and prepare for some serious "labor of love". This is not a quick project. Way too complicated to replace belts on this deck!!!

    And while I'm at it, I might as well replace the electrolytic caps (if necessary). Does anyone know where I can get good belts and capacitors? Thanks.
     
  17. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Ò
    Aligned at the factory? Huh? Ahh you mean the Dolby level. Not a problem if you have a three head cassette deck and then you SET BIAS AND DOLBY LEVEL YOURSELF. I had a Nak 581 back in 1980 and what ever went in came out perfect with no changes. You do understand why it's tested at - 20? Because the music level can and does drop to that level. It is easy to do 20 - 20 000 hz +-3db at 0 VU. At -20 it is a different story. This is why it is tested at this level. Frequency response nor signal to noise ratio gets worse with higher level. -20 is a real world level. So is - 10, - 5 and so on. The signal just doesn't hover between -5 and +2.

    What is there to missalign? Dolby level is set not aligned. Or do you mean playback height azuimth?

    Dolby S was not rare sir. It was on every three head cassette deck since 1993 I think.

    I have transferes several quarter, half, one and two inch tapes that were encoded with DBX Type-1 and 2 in our studio. The only time I ever heard side effects was on Type-2 tapes or tapes that had suffered drop outs. And as 3 to 1 noise commander every drop out became three times as loud.
    1 db = 3 db
    2 db = 6 db
    3 db = 9 db

    On one old 2 inch tape from 1972 we had 6 db drop out on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for 8 seconds. That means it was 18 db!
    DBX is great....When it's working.

    But sir DBX is more of a problem for cassette 2, 4 and 8 track because of it's slow speed and narrow width.
    You could never hear the pumping on Hi-Fi tracks for the simple reason that the switching noise was much louder than the artifacts of DBX. On 4 and 8 track cassettes it was horrible. Why didn't they use Dolby C?

    And remember all your experiences would have been with Type-2. Type-1 works a lot better. Maybe I am biased because 90% of our DBX material is Type-1.

    At 16 tracks over 2 inches running at 30 ips you don't hear any pumping. In fact they are several Rock releases that I know of where the multi-tracks were DBX Type-1 encoded. I used to know them by heart. Might be one Moody Blues release. (Not sure!).

    DBX like an other noise reduction circuit is not transparent. While Dolby "A" was designed for professionals DBX was not. And DBX was used for things like long distance phone lines. Most likely it's not any side effects of the circuit you are hearing but just the crappy sound of the circuit itself. Just running the signal through a DBX Type-1 encoder in the BYPASS mode radically changes the sound. Those circuits are not Hi-FI. Yes the DBX Type-1 578 unit ( 46 channels of DBX Type-1 ) was built for pros but the sound blows major chunks. No really it blows.

    But the VHS HI-FI VCR could make perfect copies of quarter inch reel to reels masters. While a Sony PCM 1600 doesn't. My Uncle did this test back in 1987.

    I have been working in the professional mastering/mixing field for almost 18 years now. DBX is like a dog. When the dog is good it's your best friend but when it's a bad dog IT'S A BAD DOGGY. I don't mind DBX on HI-FI soundtracks but I really don't want the thing on masters and less so on multi-track tapes.

    Thanks for your input on DBX.

    P.S. The Sony PCM F1 ran at the old 44.096 khz. The 3/4 inch tapes played through any other converter at 44.1 khz will run 1% fast. We occasional get this sample rate. That's why are 64 channel custom DAC has the 44.096 option. The old Sony DASH 3324 used to have the 44.096 option. I believe there is a fix for it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
  18. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    That makes sense. That is when the deck came out. I was 11. I hadn't even heard of Nackamichi before let alone Metal tape.
    While the other kids were reading comic books I was adjusting bias and Dolby level.
     
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  19. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario

    Buy a new cassette deck and makes sure the new machine has direct drive. And no Naks. It ain't 1988 anymore. The people who are claiming to be able to fix Nakamichis are full of it. 95% are not and have never be licensed Nak technicians. They are kids who have read manuals and watched Utube videos.. That is why we have morons claiming Dragons don't go beyond 10 khz. The persons fixed the automatic azimuth incorrectly and it ended up working in reverse. Stick to Sony, Denon and Nad.


    Parts are very hard to find. Are you sure the problem can be fixed just with a new belt? Sorry to be so hard. But the technology is so old now. I have a three head Denon DR-M3 (1983) but it will only play back tapes. And it does so beautifully. There is some channel imbalance thing in the record head. But I got it to transfer all my cassette tapes. Dolby B and C. Recording wasn't necessary.

    If you love analog any Native DSD professional recorder will do. In fact much better. Remember many of the CD's you have were made on primitive DACs like the: Sony PCM F1, 1600, 1610 and 1630 and yet many sound great. For example all those DCC and MFSL disks. And USB DAC will be much better than that.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
  20. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario

    Just a little foot note. A lot of people are confused about Bias and Dolby.

    For each tape Type and for each channel you set bias and Dolby Level. There is not a separate Dolby Level for B, C and S.
    Bias is set first then Dolby level. Settimg Dolby level is simple. You record at 15 000 hz tone on the tape and adjust both channels until they are both 0VU or what ever level the manual says. This is the same Dolby Level for B and C.

    Misaligned record or playback heads caused more problems..The playback height azimuth setting was an industry standard. In other words every cassette deck: consumer, professional and high speed dubbing loop bin duplicatirs all were set to this standard. But many consumer decks were set at the factory 0.5 - 1.5 db off. This would no doubt cause Dolby mistracking. And more so in C than in B since C boosted and cut more bands than Dolby B. Now if you add to that a Dolby level setting error at the factory of .5 db then you could have a total Dolby error of 1 - 2 db easy. This would make Dolby B sound bad and certainly Dolby C much worse.

    But only the heads height can be misaligned. Dolby just mistracks. But if there is a Dolby Level error it would effect Dolby S as well. But of course three head cassette decks did not have the problem you mention. As I have mentioned each Dolby circuit is the same..
    For three head users they set the bias and the Dolby Levels themselves. If they have set it properly they can be no error. Now if they play the Dolby C or B tape on another machine where the height azimuth of the playback head is off then you will have mistracking.

    Dolby SR was invented by Dolby Labs to compete with PCM DASH recorders of the 90's (like the DASH 3348HR. 48 tracks of 24/48 on 1/2 inch tape.) Even running at 30 IPS a analog Studer A800 with Dolby "A" would manage 80 db of signal to noise ratio. Where any digital multitrack was hitting 100 db with no NR and longer recording time. The engineer could always use DBX Type-1 but the circuit was far from transparent. And without any noise reduction circuit 72 db A weighted was the best you could hope for. But most engineers didn't run their 2 inch 24 tracks at 30 ips. For Rock and R&B 15 ips was the choice.

    Dolby SR ('S' was the consumer version)
    was designed to be an audiophile professional NR circuit. A NR system that had no side effects and was transparent.
    Even at 15 ips Dolby SR would push any 2 inch 24 track to 96 db and higher.

    Since Dolby S was an audiophile NR circuit Ray Dolby only wanted it on good cassette decks. There would be strict regulations. You wouldn't put expensive leather seats into a K car would you? Ray Dolby did not want his new baby on some cheap-o two head model. Dolby "S" would be audiophile all the way. The idea being that if you purchased a cassette deck or a 8 track cassette recorder with Dolby "S" then you knew it was the cream of the crop.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
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  21. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    We're talking about what a qualified technician would do accompanied by the service manual.
    Dolby alignment means that correct levels are recorded, and correct levels are played back through the Dolby compander.

    After setting the head gap and tilt, then one has to use a level calibration tape with a specific magnetization to set the output gain of the tape heads at test points, then a dolby test tone tape, then it is also a good idea see that this produces reference voltage at the Dolby chipset. Then there are also frequency response tilt equalization parameters using a frequency response test tape. Then after seeing that it can play properly, one needs to do the same for recording, verifying head drive levels, and verify the recording vs calibration tape that should be able to be reproduced by the deck.
     
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  22. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    I am referring to electronic alignment (Dolby levels included). P.S. VHS HiFi is not sufficiently reliable or consistent from machine to machine. Tape interchange sans picture is a problem. Perfect copies of a master, not quite. HiFi VCR is OK, but that mandatory DBX like compander to conceal the head switching can't be disabled, and it sometimes is audible on some musical material. DBX I hate with a vengeance. Agree with you highly on it in the studio. I need tapes to play on machines other than the one which recorded them too.
     
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  23. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Oh you mean from one VHS HI-FI to another. God! No argument there.

    I never understood that. Setting Dolby Levels is pretty simple. Where they picking their noses at the same time?
    Again. Not a problem with three head machines.

    You could make almost perfect video copies. You needed what was called a Time Base Corrector (TBC). All professional machines had it. That is why the pros could make excellent video copies and the average John and dick couldn't. They were a few consumer models with Time Base Corrector. There was that Go Video dubbing Deck. But it had no AFM sound. It was crippled deliberately because a consumer VHS dubbing deck with TBC made the industry nervous. I used to call it the Fisher Price VHS dubbing deck. Every tape is going to have HI-FI soundtracks. What good would is a dubbing video deck without it?

    If you switched off your DBX Type-2 in a Beta or VHS HI-FI VCR you have a signal to noise ratio of 55 db A weighted. All you would here is hissssssssssss.
    What I meant was that head switching noise was much louder than any DBX side effects.

    In the mid 90's JVC claimed they had invented a circuit that eliminated the switching noise. I purchased such a machine in the late 90's. It was a JVC editing (flying erase head) Super VHS HI-FI deck. And the switching noise was gone on the AFM tracks. Even the EP Mode was quiet. But then this was using S-VHS tape at $10 a pop. I heard no pumping.. But this was on popular music. Classical music does cause DBX to have a nervous breakdown. At least with Type-2 anyway.

    If you need a "trained ear" to ear DBX on HI-FI soundtracks then it can't be that much of a big deal. The harshness of early CD players was clear to all. I certainly didn't need a "trained ear" to ear it. Again I think the crappy sound of the circuit itself is more of problem than any encode/decode problem.
     
  24. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    And as you know DBX needs precise matching between the input and output. If it's off even by a db it's all over.
     
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  25. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    What he just said.....
     

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