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Best sounding/recording consumer cassette deck ever made?

Discussion in 'Tape' started by jamiecantar, Jun 15, 2018.

  1. jamiecantar

    jamiecantar Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    501
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Looking to get back into cassettes and looking for the best sounding deck, IYHO

    From some research i see the best decks have these characteristics in common.

    Type: 3-head, single compact cassette deck - NOT AUTO REVERSE
    Tape Speed: 4.8 cm/s
    Tape Type: type I (norm), CrO2, Metal
    Noise Reduction: B, C, S, HX Pro
    Frequency Response: 15Hz to 20kHz (Metal tape)
    Signal to Noise Ratio: 85dB (dolby S)
    Wow and Flutter: 0.024% (with dual capstan, keeps wow and flutter very low)
    Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.8%
    Calibration: Azimuth and/ or Bias auto or manual

    and believe it or not the Nakamichi dragon does not have these specs...but then again I've never heard a Nak Dragon...

    thoughts on the best ever ?
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018

     

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  2. FluxT

    FluxT Active Member

    Messages:
    103
    FWIW, my basic JVC KD110's a very nice, very "musical" sounding cassette deck. Certainly one of the better sounding ones I've heard, in comparison to the Pioneer, Fisher, and Technics decks I've owned/heard.
     
  3. pdm4606

    pdm4606 Super Member

    Messages:
    2,948
    Location:
    Las Cruces, NM
    I have both single capstan and dual capstan. Dual is supposed to be better and only on top of the line models but I really don't hear a difference.
    Just something else to go wrong.
     
  4. macster

    macster New Member

    Messages:
    39
    IMHO, this is impossible to answer. The "best" depends on what you like sonic wise. I own several "supposedly "high end" cassette decks and they each have their own sonic signature. So IMHO, it just depends on what you like.

    M~
     
  5. Max77

    Max77 AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    960
    Location:
    Chicago
    There is no one "best" deck. No Nakamichi deck has S or HX Pro, we can theorize about why, but Nak's heads were the best in the business. I rarely even use Dolby B. The Dragon does not use a typical auto-reverse mechanism, it doesn't rotate the head, it uses a 4-track head as opposed to 2-track. So it can't really be grouped in with a traditional auto-reverse deck IMO. The Dragon does have bias/level calibration, but only PB azimuth.

    For me the ultimate recording deck is the Nak ZX-9, full control of bias, level and record head azimuth though I find the latter to not be very important. If you play a lot of tapes made on other decks, a Dragon or CR-7 in the Nak world are excellent. Both are great recorders as well. There are decks from other manufacturers with these features. It really depends what you want and as mentioned your preferences.
     
  6. jamiecantar

    jamiecantar Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    501
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Its true, like other components you can't always judge by the spec's alone, although you think you should, right. Your ears are the best measure. Its fair to say that cheaper decks will produce more tape noise, and the whole game is getting as close to 20Hz-20kHz playback/rec as possible with the lowest amount of tape noise distortion and the better the deck, the quieter the playback/rec. So, when you get up to that level at the high end of each brand, then its listening between them to see which suits your ears the best...just thought some of you may have already heard a few different ones and could share your narrowed down experience... many top brands of reel to reel where Revox, Studer, Sony, Akai, Pioneer and Technics. You would think some of that quality engineering would have spilled over into their Cassette development...I know that cassette can never sound as good as R2R mainly because of the speed difference. I thought about investing in a R2R, but for what? machines are expensive, pre-recorded reels are expensive and rare, blank tapes are expensive and rare. At least with cassette you can get stuff cheaper and at least I can enjoy some old school analog cassette tapes in my car on my McIntosh CD/Tape deck.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018
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  7. Djcoolray

    Djcoolray Addicted Member

    Messages:
    6,442
    Location:
    A rocks throw from JBLM !!!!
    There are many good cassette decks....

    But having the ultimate cassette deck isn’t the defining point of making a great recording. If you can take a higher quality dual-well cassette deck with a single head and make a great recording....that says something about how a stereo system is functioning as a unit. Because irregardless of the quality of the deck, when recording it’s going to record all the noise generated by the circuits and cables that the signal goes through. There is no such thing as it’s only going to sound this good cause it’s a cassette. The quality of the tape being chrome, ultra quiet equipment, better cables and a clean head or heads along with clean rollers makes for a great recording. All the fancy buttons and switches for noise reduction compensates for a noisy stereo system....plus degrades the sound quality being recorded. I’ve got a friend who has a vintage Technics system with a Nakamichi Dragon cassette deck and I have a 90’s Pioneer AVR and a Pioneer dual-well cassette deck, then we both use BASF Chrome Extra tape and my recordings sound better than his. He has the best cassette deck....
     
  8. Djcoolray

    Djcoolray Addicted Member

    Messages:
    6,442
    Location:
    A rocks throw from JBLM !!!!
    Someone stated that R2R and cassette deck speeds are the same....
     
  9. Max77

    Max77 AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    960
    Location:
    Chicago
    Noise reduction isn't intended to "compensate for a noisy stereo system." It seems you don't understand the purpose.

    That someone is wrong. Cassette is 1 7/8 IPS. While I'm sure there are some reel to reels that go that low, 3.75 is the lowest commonly available speed.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018
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  10. jamiecantar

    jamiecantar Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    501
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    I think i know what your trying to say, that it depends on the front end of your system when recording tape and playback. I have a really good front end and I don't know which model Pioneer cassette deck you are using, and i don't know your friends Technics system, but I know the Nak Dragon was a really good cassette deck. Which model is the pioneer??? I know there was one deck made in the late 90's that was kind of their last attempt, but the popularity of CD's just killed the Cassette market...

    Dolby was introduced to lower the tape hiss, sort of a compressor type effect...however the machine you play it back on must have the same Dolby in order to encode it properly...

    ANSR was another, also, dbx, HX Pro...

    I don't know who stated that R2R and cassette deck speeds are the same...but it wasn't me.

    Tape speeds:
    -----------------------------------
    - Cassettes play at 1⅞ ips and is ⅛ inch wide (some pro-studio stuff played multitrack machines and some dual-speed professional compact cassette tape decks played 3¾-ips)(like tascam)
    - Reel to reel plays at 1⅞ -ips, 3¾-ips,7 1⁄2 -ips, and some consumer one's play at 15-ips (Revox B77ll) and is ¼" inch wide...
    - 8-track cartridge plays at 3¾-ips and is ¼" inch wide...
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018
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  11. Djcoolray

    Djcoolray Addicted Member

    Messages:
    6,442
    Location:
    A rocks throw from JBLM !!!!
    My deck is a Pioneer CT-W84OR
     

     

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  12. Max77

    Max77 AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    960
    Location:
    Chicago
    If that Pioneer dual deck that doesn't even have bias adjust is making better tapes on BASF chromes than a Dragon, that Dragon needs serious work.
     
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  13. jamiecantar

    jamiecantar Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    501
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    I'll start with a list of high-end consumer cassette deck brands and models, feel free to add to it:

    Nakamichi BX300, Nakamichi Dragon, 1000ZXL
    Tandberg TCD-440A, TCD 3004, TCD 3014
    Revox B215
    Sony TC-K555 ES, TC-K777 ES, TC-KA1ESA ES
    Aiwa XK-S9000
    Teac C-2X, Tascam 122
    Pioneer Elite CT-93, CT-91 , CT-F1250, CT-A1(Phase Linear 7000) rare, CT-A9
    Luxman K-03
    Harman Kardon CD491
    Akai GXC-570D with GX glass heads
    JVC TD-V1010
    B&O beocord 9000
    Onkyo's TA-2090
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
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  14. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

    Messages:
    11,255
    Location:
    Norman OK
    I thought the 1000zxl was the best.

    However, I want an RX-505.

    Never used a Revox, not sure how their best compares with Nak, but those are the two brands I think of as tops for cassette.
     
  15. Max77

    Max77 AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    960
    Location:
    Chicago
    IMO the 505 is the best playback deck if you're doing recording on a properly aligned deck. Brilliant auto-reverse, classic Nak transport and blank skip. I use it more than any of my other decks. It's no slouch when recording onto tapes its calibrated too, either. I use it for taping radio shows on TDK Ds, you can hit the reverse button at the right minute for a quick side change.
     
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  16. jnicholson14

    jnicholson14 Wasted Years Subscriber

    Messages:
    777
    Location:
    Louisiana
    I have a Nak BX-300 and it sounds incredible.

    I'll also throw Denon decks in the mix. I've had several Denons that performed extremely well.
     

     

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  17. dr*audio

    dr*audio Fish fingers and custard! Subscriber

    Messages:
    18,741
    Location:
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Denon DR-M44HX needs to be on that list. TOTL from 1986, 3 heads, direct drive, closed loop dual capstan, auto biasing, HX Pro. Mine makes recordings that are indistinguishable from the source.
     
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  18. Blue Shadow

    Blue Shadow I gotta get me a new title

    Messages:
    21,237
    Location:
    SE PA
    The best tape machine in that lot is the Tandberg TD20A. It is so far ahead of the rest there is no comparison. This is because it is a reel to reel using considerably more tape (faster speeds and wider tape) and well Tandberg makes great sounding tape machines. It is my choice!!

    Now back on topic.
    Well Jamie was able to edit his post and replace the TD20a with TCD 3004 and TCD 3014. See Jamie, we do read what you write!! The 910 and 911 one is playback only are considered some absolutely first rate machines.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
  19. jdurbin1

    jdurbin1 Tandberg enthusiast Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,879
    Location:
    San Diego
    Yeah but just a bit out of place in a list of TOTL consumer cassette decks, wouldn't you say?

    John
     
  20. Djcoolray

    Djcoolray Addicted Member

    Messages:
    6,442
    Location:
    A rocks throw from JBLM !!!!
    My buddy thought the same thing, brought it to a good shop to get it checked out and nothing was found to be wrong with it. I do understand the stated concept of what most people think to be better. So what I am doing in most people’s minds just has to be obviously wrong or just a big story. But how can a single head dual-well early nineties cassette deck using an Onkyo C-7030 as a source and a BASF Chrome tape as the final product....ever be played in the factory cassette player of my 2001 ML320 in perfect detail, clarity and soundstage ???? I bought about twenty BASF’s off of duplication.ca, cleaned up the head on the player and popped in a CD....no reduction on the tape deck then hit play then record. The next week I’m driving with my buddy across town and he committed on how good the CD sounded, I told him it was a cassette I recorded and he said.....no freaking way !!!

    Just like you.....

    So of course I don’t think the quality of a recording has as much to do with the tape deck as it has to do with the system as a whole. I think too many people give too much credit to the contribution of one peice of equipment. Then I’m not saying that every almost top of the line dual-well tape deck will duplicate my experience either. My deck is from the last generation of Pioneer cassette decks and they have been known for their exceptional performance. Sears still sells replacement parts for them....

    So I understand your state of disbelief completely......

    So I think the best consumer deck is the CT-W84OR !!
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2018

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