Recorders

Recorders.

No, not those wooden flute-like things that are used as instruments of torture on teachers and parents. This is a thread about recorders used in a hifi context; analogue tape, whether cassette, reel or cartridge; or digital, whether on tape, disc or digital file.

The inspiration for this thread was my recent trip down to Worthing to drop off my Nakamichi ZX-9 for a much needed service.  I was somewhat taken aback to learn that the turn around time is currently 15+ weeks.  It seems that audio tape in all forms is undergoing something of a rennaisance and Bowers & Wilkins Nakamichi service department has seen a big upswing in demand for their services. So it would seem that analogue tape recorders are making a bit of a comeback.  Or are they..?

With the Nak gone I've been dusting off some of my old cassette decks, renewing belts, pinch rollers etc.. and digging out old cassettes for some taping fun.  From the excellent Denon DR-M44HX and Aiwa AD-F770 still two of the best sounding decks outside of the Nakamichi stable, to some wonderful oldies like the monster Nakamichi 700, to one of the earliest cassette players, the Philips EL3302.  And I haven't even mentioned the R2Rs yet.. 

However, I find that while tape recording is fun, it's more of a diversion.  Fact is I do very little serious recording on the many tape machines I have.  Mostly they are used for playback - the reel to reel decks in particular. Most of my recording these days is done from analogue to digital and so I have contributed a fair bit to a few threads in recent months asking about transcribing cherished vinyl and the like to digital.  Keen to take computers out of the music room, this has coincided with my own testing of a number of stand alone digital recorders.

In the last month I have been testing a Marantz PMD661 MkII recorder and in many respects it is the best yet for the intended role of digital recorder within the main system. You'll recall I didn't really get on with the Korg MR-2, even with 24/192 and DSD, much preferring the sound quality from the Sony PCM-M10 and PCM-D50.  The M10 offers SQ that at 24bit 96kHz via the line inputs is within an ace of the D50 but in a smaller package, with amazing battery life, and for anyone needing a pocketable stealth recorder for recording in the field at very high quality, it's probably in a league of one.  However, the Marantz, while much bigger than the Sony, has proved itself to not only perform superbly at 24/96 but also it's much nicer to use in the system.  The first advantage it has is the display - it's a lovely OLED display that is easily read in any light. The SONYs are LCD and need backlighting to read properly, which is a real pain, particularly on the M10. There's also a supplemental LED record level display at the bottom of the Marantz recorder, just like tape decks of old. What's more, the Marantz has adjustable L+R record level, a proper quarter inch headphone jack, a proper RCA phono line out (although line in is only a 3.5mm jack if you need a single ended input), and a coaxial digital input.  With the latter it would have been nice to have an output too, as on the bigger PMD671, or perhaps a switch to allow either.  The Marantz has an air of a proper professional bit of kit - it even says so on the case!  The Sonys are, well, Sonys...  They embody what Sony seems to do best; lovely little jewels of miniature electronics, nicely built and superbly finished. But sat next to the Marantz they look a bit like toys.

It's early days and I need to process the 24/96 recordings and then play them back through the big DAC, but the Marantz may well be a keeper here.  It has definitely tempered my hankering for the Sony PCM-D100.  Do I really need 24/192 or DSD..??

Here are some pics;

Interestingly, the PMD661 isn't that much smaller than the first compact cassette recorder...

Original Post

Hi Richard, I've used that Marantz whilst filming in remote parts of  isub-Saharan Africa and Asia ( (via directional mic) and it uniformly gave great  sound and was bullet-proof in a tough environment. Unless fed by batteries bought from local markets, which is clearly not its fault.

 

 

yeti42 posted:

I too had one of those Philips cassette recorders with the slider you had to hold in place to rewind or fast forward, It was forever chewing tapes too; I don't miss it one bit.

It's more a "historical artefact" than something that is put to regular use.  It barely qualifies for lo-fi, let alone hi-fi, but it's fun and it seemed an interesting comparison size-wise with the Marantz.

This evening I've dug out my old Pioneer CT-A9 and am giving it a belt service.  It was a superb deck but hasn't rolled in anger for quite a few years now. The metering on the A9 has never been bettered.  I just hope it all still works OK.  

Elbow posted:

A couple of old pics, but they're still in service

 

Very nice, Elbow.  I no longer have my WM-D6C - It never lived up to the good rep, in my opinion. Sony replaced it too but there was always detectable wow on piano notes that should not have been there and unacceptable tape path wander on anything longer than a C-60.  It still have my DC2 and D3 though but rarely use them these days. 

Donkeyhaute posted:

Hi Richard, I've used that Marantz whilst filming in remote parts of  isub-Saharan Africa and Asia ( (via directional mic) and it uniformly gave great  sound and was bullet-proof in a tough environment. Unless fed by batteries bought from local markets, which is clearly not its fault.

 

 

A fresh set of Panasonic Eneloops are holding up well - I haven't had to recharge them yet.

Recently got my 1993 vintage SONY TC-K890ES repaired - belts and pinch rollers.  Why on earth does a "Direct Drive" tape deck have belts???  The independent repair facility that did the work said the performance was amazing (F/R, S/N, W/F, etc).  Certainly, aside from a little hiss, the recordings are very close the source material if a good blank tape is used.  My biggest issue is getting quality media without paying a fortune.

Elbow nice pics of your ZX 9 and Walkman Pro.

I would love to have a ZX 9 the ultimate Nak on sound.Had my CR 7 E fully serviced by B@W a couple of years back and it sounds marvelous.Great Company to deal with.

Seeing pics from your Walkman Pro made me remember the first one I got.

I was sat on the Tube after buying it at the Cornflake Shop and had a 45 mins trip back to Richmond.I unpacked it and set it up, Walkman in case,strap over shoulder etc.Got the batteries in, favourite tape on....Sounded amazing.Getting off at Richmond something wasn't fully fastened on the case properly and it separated landing on the platform.There was a bad dent on one side.Getting home it did work in kind with a couple of cocktail sticks shoved in it.An absolute disaster.Never mind I got another one 3 months later and I use it occasionally.

Richard as always loved reading your latest tape experience.Theres something enchanting about Cassettes - maybe it's nostalgia of our teenage years.Mix tapes,Radio show tapeing.....Album tapeing.......Still recording off Radio 3 and The Blues programme on Radio 2 on Monday night off my NAT 01.

Got an itch to get an Aiwa a 770 or 990. Always liked the sound of a bottom of the range one I had in 1982.I loved the meter LEDs on it.Green - Yellow - Red..... Gourgous to my eyes !

Cheers Ian

As a recorder player, of the flute variety, I  feel insulted by Mr Dane's comments about them being instruments of torture! They can be played quite beautifully in the right hands.

How about picking on screechy violins, deafening trumpets, very loud drums or the piano chopsticks curse!

 

I realise that no insult was intended.

The Italian for recorder is 'Flauto Dolce' which means 'sweet flute'.  'Naim' is a Middle Eastern name which I believe translates as 'sweet'

Therefore it is perfectly natural as a recorder player that I have used a Naim amplifier for over thirty years, (Nait 1 then Nait XS).

Tabby cat posted:

Got an itch to get an Aiwa a 770 or 990. Always liked the sound of a bottom of the range one I had in 1982.I loved the meter LEDs on it.Green - Yellow - Red..... Gourgous to my eyes !

Cheers Ian

Ian, the AD-F660 or AD-F770 would be my choice. Both are very similar with an excellent closed loop dual capstan transport and three heads for off tape monitoring.  The 770 adds an effective auto tape tuning facility (the 660 offers only variable bias on Type I and II tapes) and a nice FL display, but the 660 has the multi-coloured LED meters you like.  The 990 is nice but harder to find and not really worth a premium over the 770 in my opinion - with its auto record level, it tried to be a bit too clever for its own good.  I have a 770 and recently restored a 660 - both sound very similar, and very good.

Richard Dane posted:
Tabby cat posted:

Got an itch to get an Aiwa a 770 or 990. Always liked the sound of a bottom of the range one I had in 1982.I loved the meter LEDs on it.Green - Yellow - Red..... Gourgous to my eyes !

Cheers Ian

Ian, the AD-F660 or AD-F770 would be my choice. Both are very similar with an excellent closed loop dual capstan transport and three heads for off tape monitoring.  The 770 adds an effective auto tape tuning facility (the 660 offers only variable bias on Type I and II tapes) and a nice FL display, but the 660 has the multi-coloured LED meters you like.  The 990 is nice but harder to find and not really worth a premium over the 770 in my opinion - with its auto record level, it tried to be a bit too clever for its own good.  I have a 770 and recently restored a 660 - both sound very similar, and very good.

Ooooooo I remember lusting after those Aiwa tape decks in the mid-to-late 80's too - I keep looking on eBay at them (and Nakamichi's too) but just can't bring myself to buy one ... just like old computer hardware and Mk2 Escorts I'm sure it's "rose tinted spectacles" for me.

Phil

Gavin,

no warehouse.  Just a modest dedicated storage room.  Not hundreds, just a few bits and bobs that I've hung on to over the years.  I try to rotate certain bits through the various systems at home and among family and friends. I do sell off bits and pieces from time to time to make space but I do also tend to get offered old kit from time to time, and while much is not of interest or beyond rescue, sometimes there's something really interesting and it's hard to say no. There was a time not so long ago when anything tape based was just being thrown away, so I felt better to offer a bit of money and save certain things from such a sad end. And like many others I enjoy taking mechanical things apart, seeing how they work and then putting them back together again and getting them working again - it's very satisfying, and good therapy every now and then.  Of course I do know my limitations, so I don't tackle electronics and for the old Naim kit. the Naks etc.. I let the professionals do any necessary work.

Phil, you'd be surprised by one of those Aiwas.  The trouble is that any deck bought from ebay can be a whole box of trouble.  Oh, and could well have come from a dubious studio dubbing source and totally worn out.  But, buy well, recently serviced with new good quality belts, and they're lovely things.  The last ones with the revised IEC alignments were probably the best all-round decks Aiwa made short of the top end Excelias. For Aiwa it was downhill from here on.

Thanks for starting this topic Richard.

I'd love to be able to 'rip' some of my LP's to digital if it could be done in a way that produced good sound quality. I still have hundreds of them, but no longer own a record player. Some of my LP's aren't available digitally and many of the earlier CD versions of LP's just don't sound good at all. Maybe a ripped LP would give me a better result on such discs.

In your view, do you think the Marantz would be able to do this and produce sound quality comparable to Unitiserve CD rips?

Of course, I'd then need to get very friendly with someone who still has a top notch Record Player..!

Kevin, the recordings made at 24bit 96kHz through the line-ins on either the Marantz or Sony recorders mentioned above are of excellent quality - quite remarkable really considering their small size. I haven't done any in depth comparison against my Terratec 24/192 USB ADC Toshiba Tecra solution, but in casual listening there's nothing obvious to indicate that they suffer by comparison.  The stand alone recorders are certainly a lot easier to use with much less faff - just press record and you're off. The limiting factor will be down to getting the record levels right (fairly easy - go as high as you dare but just don't record over 0dB) and ensuring that the source material and LP playback chain are as good as possible.  Get the source right (Both LP and replay chain) and yes, there are plenty of LP "rips" that will sound much nicer than rips of the equivalent CD.  

You then just need to import the file to something like Audacity to chop up the tracks and convert to individual WAV files, then scan or download some cover art and then use something like DBpoweramp to add metadata.  Stick to a folder structure and you should then have a 'digital album' that can be replayed via most servers without too many issues.

Red Kite posted:

I've had this for decades. bought it second hand. Its just started slipping, but i found a service kit on ebay so may have a go at it.

Deck

RK, the DR-2 is a good deck and well worth getting sorted.  I generally try to avoid servicing Naks myself - there are so many adjustments that have to be done and you need the specific alignment tools.  However, the later Sankyo transport decks like your DR-2 are perhaps the only ones I might dare tackle for simple jobs like belt changing, so you may be alright and not need to disassemble too much of the transport. I have the earlier equivalent to your deck, a CR-3, which needs a new capstan belt, so may well tackle that myself.  The only issue is that the quality of the capstan belt is critical - and the best ones are not at all cheap (from Marrs communications). 

sktn77a posted:

Recently got my 1993 vintage SONY TC-K890ES repaired - belts and pinch rollers.  Why on earth does a "Direct Drive" tape deck have belts???  The independent repair facility that did the work said the performance was amazing (F/R, S/N, W/F, etc).  Certainly, aside from a little hiss, the recordings are very close the source material if a good blank tape is used.  My biggest issue is getting quality media without paying a fortune.

The belts on a DD deck are usually for either the cam control and/or the reel tables, and on dual capstan decks, for the  jockey belt to the rear capstan.  The Direct Drive is usually only applied to the main capstan.  There are, of course, exceptions.  For example the Nakamichi Dragon is auto reverse and so needs DD on both capstans.  I believe that there are some Auto Reverse Pioneers like this too.  Technics DD decks often had DD motors for the reel idler too.

Sealed cassettes of good quality are getting expensive - ebay is one of the only sources.  However, it's mostly the older more collectible tapes that attract serious money from collectors.  If you're canny and steer away from the collectibles and the better known tapes like TDK SA, Maxell XLII etc.. then you can still get really good quality cassette tape without paying a fortune.  For example, I recently bought some boxes of 10 Fuji KI C90 cassettes for about a pound a tape.  This is a fantastic high quality cassette, fully competitive with TDK AD, Maxell XLI, and Sony HF-S.  On the best decks this is a tape that can give close to Metal performance.  However, not being a Type II it can be a little bit hissy, so you may prefer to use with Dolby B rather than without any NR.  I'd take a top Type I tape over most Type IIs any day.  Only with more gentle music would I defer to a quiet type II.

Many thanks for a 100% useful reply Richard. Really kind and hopefully useful advice for others on the forum too.

Sounds like a very viable plan which I will pursue. As I say, I'll need to cosy up to someone with a top record player, which could of course be a bottleneck in the process possibly. I might have to invest in a Nitty Gritty machine or similar too!

 

Richard Dane posted:
Tabby cat posted:

Got an itch to get an Aiwa a 770 or 990. Always liked the sound of a bottom of the range one I had in 1982.I loved the meter LEDs on it.Green - Yellow - Red..... Gourgous to my eyes !

Cheers Ian

Ian, the AD-F660 or AD-F770 would be my choice. Both are very similar with an excellent closed loop dual capstan transport and three heads for off tape monitoring.  The 770 adds an effective auto tape tuning facility (the 660 offers only variable bias on Type I and II tapes) and a nice FL display, but the 660 has the multi-coloured LED meters you like.  The 990 is nice but harder to find and not really worth a premium over the 770 in my opinion - with its auto record level, it tried to be a bit too clever for its own good.  I have a 770 and recently restored a 660 - both sound very similar, and very good.

Thanks Richard.

Will try to get a good example of a 770.If I spot one on the Bay.

But as you say its a bit of a lottery.

Loving this thread.Its always encouraging the amount of Forum members with a recorder on the rack or in the cupboard

 

 

Richard Dane posted:

Kevin, the recordings made at 24bit 96kHz through the line-ins on either the Marantz or Sony recorders mentioned above are of excellent quality - quite remarkable really considering their small size. I haven't done any in depth comparison against my Terratec 24/192 USB ADC Toshiba Tecra solution, but in casual listening there's nothing obvious to indicate that they suffer by comparison.  

Perhaps someone should do a review, i for one would be interested to see the results. I am seriously thinking of getting one, but then my Pioneer PDR609 gives acceptable results anyway.

Always loved cassette as a format and still have hundreds I began to collect from the late 70s' onwards. 

Recently picked up this rather lovely mint Aiwa F-990 deck - one I lusted after as a teenager in the 80s. Yes, the styling is brash and v dated, but I love it! And it plays beautifully. 

 FullSizeRender-2

Richard Dane posted:

For TC and Phil, I took some pics for you of the Aiwas (AD-F660 and AD-F770) in action.  Spot the differences...

Thanks Richard.

Very nice cassette eye candy........Oh temptation !

Was that a TDK SA-X lurking in there ?

Going to be patient and try and get a good example off the bay but with a budjet no higher than £150.

Your previous posts on Aiwa that I have read eluded to a creamy sort of sound.Thats what I remember with the bottom of the range Aiwa I had as a teenager.Just something I liked about its sound.Smooth but good transients.

A Nak I really enjoy is my BX300 E.Its got a richer sound than my CR 7 but gets pretty close.Love the facia.Theres so much packed in there.Even pitch adjust.Also variable output is handy.

 

 

 

TC,

It's an '86 Vintage TDK SA.  However, from what you can see, it could just as easily be an SA-X.

Yes, these Aiwas have a kind of big-boned sound, like an R2R.  If you're up for a bit of belt changing you could get a non-runner and buy some quality belts and re-belt yourself. Plenty are sold as not working because the original belts would melt into black goo.  Some patience thoroughly cleaning off the goop from flywheels and motor and a little bit of time spent getting the belts on could well give you a deck that's working well within your budget.  Some basic setup tapes should be all you need to get the deck in good health. Only danger is if there are other faults.  They're pretty reliable overall - in spite of the rats nest of wiring inside - but the pinch roller arms can get stuck and that's a much trickier job that needs proper alignment tools.

The BX-300E is an excellent deck.  But I would be a little wary of buying one these days.  It was a popular deck for semi pro use, and many were studio workhorses. Too many are worn out and bounce back and forth on and off ebay. 

Richard Dane posted:
Phil Harris posted:

You don't have a 990?

Phil

No.

But... I do have another 770 in its box with stuck pinch roller arms that will eventually need attending to, and an 880 (Excelia XK-005) with remote control, which I recently brought back to life with new belts.

I always wondered about the ADF-880 - it is still a lovely looking deck (very restrained compared to the others) and looks very much like my old Denon DRM-14HX and I always wondered whether they were related...

Phil

The AD-F880 is a good deck. The wireless remote control s a nice feature too, It's not quite as nice as the earlier 660/770/990 though. The styling is conservative though and there a lot more plastic used. You get the feeling that Aiwa were really starting to get squeezed on their Japan made items. The following generations after the 880 were pared back too far and aren't that interesting. 

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