Thinking about adding a cassette deck to my set-up

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by malagacoolers, Aug 7, 2020.

  1. malagacoolers

    malagacoolers Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    Call it nostalgia, call it wannabe retro, whatever, but I’m contemplating adding a cassette deck to my home stereo set-up. I don’t want to spend $3,000 on vintage equipment but I do want something of quality. What are some solid “bang for your buck” recommendations if I decide to pursue this? Thanks!
     
  2. Bruno Primas

    Bruno Primas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    I suggest a good, quality, 2 head that is in full working order. Technics from the 80's are plentiful and the belts seem to last much better than some other brands. If the head is aligned and clean, they can be very good performing decks. Affordable as well.

    You might want to stay away from any auto-reverse deck. Those can be more troublesome and if you're not used to servicing a deck, and can be a pain.
     
    BrentB, rcsrich, TheKevster and 2 others like this.
  3. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    Are any companies still manufacturing them ?
     
  4. Wally Swift

    Wally Swift Yo-Yoing where I will...

    Location:
    Brooklyn New York
    80's Onkyo decks are good quality and fly under the radar. About 7 years ago I got a nostalgia itch for my TA-2026 I had in the 80's. Found a working one on eBay for about $60 shipped. Only thing I had to do with it is last year I replaced one rubber tire that moves the take up hub. I actually bought a 50 cent washer at Home Dept, filed it down just a bit and it works perfectly now.
     
  5. Tony21

    Tony21 Active Member

    Location:
    Us
    No new ones made today that i know of that i would buy.I have a jvc kd-v6 from the early 80s.Good deck and you can find them for about 100$ on ebay.
     
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  6. nosliw

    nosliw Azunyan! にゃーーー!

    Location:
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    There's a Chinese OEM company that still manufacture tape decks but without Dolby NR. New tape decks and portable types from ION, Crosley, and even Tandberg are built with very inferior specs and build quality. In other words, new tape players are to be avoided with prejudice.
     
  7. jbmcb

    jbmcb Forum Resident

    Location:
    Troy, MI, USA
    More to the point, there is one Chinese company making *all* the current tape transports, and they are all, more or less, the same.

    Are you going to be recording or playing back existing tapes? If you mostly want it for playback, it's going to be much easier getting a quality deck, as most of the features that crank up the price of a deck are recording related.
     
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  8. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    Not $3000, that's fine but it is a bit vague. I have had my good share of decks, what would you like?

    1) Digital or needle vu-meters?
    2) Does it need to record and play with good quality or is good playing Q sufficient?
    3) Black, silver?
    4) Three heads?
    5) Do piano keys matter
    6) Metal bias?
    7) Auto bias? I mean self calibration not just detection.
    8) Dolby B sufficient? Those are the ones I could suggest more as I had few with C.
     
  9. SSoundLtd

    SSoundLtd Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Utah
    I have purchased 6 cassette decks in the last year (for the same reason, to tinker and nostalgia) for a grand total of $62. 2 JVC, 1 Technics, 1 Kenwood, 1 Sony and a Realistic.
    Some sound better than others but all are very listenable. I'm not too hung up on getting the ultimate in sound quality...they're cassettes, they never were unless you wanted to spend a lot. If one breaks I'll probably try and fix it and if I can't, no big deal, it cost less than a trip to In N Out Burger! What I usually look for are decks from the 80s and 90s that look clean (as in not used in a wood shop) and preferably made in Japan. The thrift stores I've bought them at have testing stations so I'll usually just grab a cassette and try it out. If it works I take it home and do a thorough cleaning on it. Then I do more testing with cassesttes that have no value in case they get eaten. If all looks good I hook it up and enjoy! It's been a lot of fun playing old cassettes and even making a few new ones.
     
  10. radioalien

    radioalien Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Washington
    My modest little collection from the thrift scene, go for it, they are cassette tapes so don't go crazy, I've had good results with that Yamaha, the problem is that a lot of decks are now showing their age and need maintenance.

    That Indiana Jones and Last Crusade Soundtrack sounds amazing, as does the Miles Davis, I recently sold my other deck, had I known!

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    Last edited: Aug 7, 2020
  11. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Tascam 122 series makes sense for audio, quality, and maintenance issues. They are widely available and can be fixed and improved with readily found parts and technology. The Mk 1's go for around $150 and the Mk 2's are preferred but go way up -- 6 or 700. Check them out on eBay.
    Have a 122, have done basic service on it, and it sounds superb.
    BTW, cassettes are not a mediocre medium at all. The better tapes will surpass vinyl on a very good deck. They just suffer from poor duplication and an ill deserved bad rep -- as well as the lack of good decks now available.
     
  12. fmuakkassa

    fmuakkassa Dr. M

    Location:
    Ohio
    Go to tapeheads.net
    Ask questions and recommendations. I got a ton of information there when I overhauled my Nakamichi CR-7A tape deck.
     
    4xoddic likes this.
  13. malagacoolers

    malagacoolers Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    I can’t answer any of these questions. I have zero experience with cassette decks. I want to buy the occasional cassette from my local shop and play it through a deck connected to my speakers. Being able to record/make a mixtape sounds fun, so maybe good quality when it comes to that. Everything else I’m absolutely clueless about.
     
    radioalien likes this.
  14. malagacoolers

    malagacoolers Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    Thanks for the tip!
     
  15. radioalien

    radioalien Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Washington
    I've found quality varies widely with tapes, but good post
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2020
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  16. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    You should still be able to answer how much you are prepared to pay because there is a big gap between $0 and $3000.

    You can't go wrong with something dirt cheap like a Sony TC-K2 or 1 as long as you find a working one, they are worth nothing $10-50 depending on condition and mechanical problems can be fixed just by anyone with minimum skills as long as they have the will to do it. Otherwise most decks working (or not) are likely in need of work will probably push you into a close to $100 repair bill and much more if it is a quality deck.

    You can get some deck that might be fine for several years to come but that is a bit of a lottery as most are getting old and the rubber bits would be going bad. Be careful about trusting seller's claims like "serviced" unless you are buying from a shop and get some warranty if not ask exactly what was included in the service.

    I'd say you should go for something cheap that works, if it fails it won't be the end of the world. Stick to main brands and avoid features like autoreverse which only ad to the list of problems you can have.
     
    SSoundLtd likes this.
  17. SSoundLtd

    SSoundLtd Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Utah
    One thing to be aware of is if you are buying vintage cassettes it can be a gamble whether they will play correctly. One of my best friends from high school gave me his entire cassette collection (it's been fun playing the same cassettes that we listened to while cruising). Anyway they range from unplayable to sounding incredible for 30 plus year old cassettes. The same goes for my cassettes from back then. I've been able to make some of the unplayable ones playable again but who knows for how long. My blank cassettes made from CDs though still play perfectly. There were a lot of well made blank tapes back then. Despite making it sound like cassettes are a hassle I find it enjoyable and encourage you to continue looking into it.
     
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  18. JohnQVD

    JohnQVD is adjusting to having a fully manual turntable

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    If you don’t have a local shop that sells used equipment, I’d recommend hitting the thrift stores and buying whatever comes in that’s from a major brand that isn’t beat to hell. Check it in the store to make sure it works. Look up how to clean the tape path, because you’re going to need to do that. That’s a basic bit of essential maintenance.

    The advice above about autoreverse is good because it’s just one more thing to break. But if it’s cheap enough, I wouldn’t worry about it too much if the deck is in working shape.
     
  19. radioalien

    radioalien Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Washington
    :laughup:Bring test tape too and headphones, sometimes you can just take a tape from the tape section and see what happens
     
  20. malagacoolers

    malagacoolers Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    I wouldn't want to spend more than $500 on a deck.
     
  21. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Purchased a Nakamichi MR-1 from a fellow SH member and it is the best $500 spent this year. The deck was in like-new condition and the MR-1, Nak's only balanced deck, sounds so good it compares with R2R tape.
    BTW, I go to thrift and used vinyl shops, buy pre-recorded cassettes in bunches for 50 cents to a couple of dollars a piece, take them home and listen to them. If they are poor, just throw them out. About 20% of them become keepers and are added to the 600 or so pre-recorded cassettes I still have from the 70s and 80s. Would rather listen to cassettes than vinyl because of the noise physical playing issues.
    And, yes, have well over 5k of CDs ripped into JRiver. They sound great and I listen to them whenever. But my preference for playback enjoyment is 1) cassettes, 2) vinyl, and 3) CDs. At this point we're all supposed to say "YMMV" but let's break that overused rule and just say "Yes, I'm right and you should do what I am doing." Works for me...
     
    timind likes this.
  22. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    I wouldn't pay 50 for something that sounds mediocre at best with prerecorded tapes.
     
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  23. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    Thanks for sharing.
     
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  24. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    :targettiphat: Not trying to be negative, but I've had my fair share of tape decks back in the day, and the only way to get decent sound from one was taping an lp or CD. Prerecorded tapes rarely sounded good.
     
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  25. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    I’ve bought many used prerecorded cassettes since I rediscovered cassettes in 2014. Over 200 prerecorded Beatles cassettes. Plus, a prerecorded cassette copy of all of my favorite albums. To me, they sound very good, in general. Admittedly, 10 to 20 percent I’ve had to transplant into new cassette shells with new felt pads. That fixed 80-90 percent of the flawed cassettes. I’ve thrown out a very small minority of flawed cassettes that still sounded bad after transplanting. Additionally, Scotch brand tape cleaner usually takes care of any cassette deck related issues. And the cassette cleaners with rotating brushes. Cassettes are my favorite but I realize they’re not for everyone.
     
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