More recently, it seemed that cassette decks, enjoying record popularity in the 80s and 90s of the last century, have almost become history. However, many are now showing interest in this technique. The thematic forums actively discuss the characteristics and ratings of the best vintage models, as well as the possibility of their acquisition.
The history of cassette decks began back in 1964. One of the key events was the release by Aiwa of the first tape recorder. After only a few years, the advanced technology at that time was spreading at a record pace almost all over the world. By the way, in 1980 Aiwa presented to the general public the best device by the standards of that time.
One of the highlights of the 20th century music industry was Philips' first compact cassette release. It is worth noting that the developer did not impose any restrictions on the use of his invention. As a result, both the carriers themselves and tape recorders-consoles, which quickly conquered the market, were widely used.
One of the most popular steel models manufactured by Akai Electric Company Ltd. This Japanese company was founded in the summer of 1929 by Masukishi Akai. High-quality decks equipped with three heads were particularly in demand, namely, the Akai GX-90, GX-F91, GX-F95 and GX-R99 models. The production of such tape recorders ceased more than 3 decades ago. Despite this, interest in them has not completely faded away, but has even grown recently.
Another legendary brand in the history of cassette decks was Pioneer. The brand's predecessor was Fukuin Shokai Denki Seisakusho, founded in Tokyo in 1938. After 9 years, Fukuin Denki was registered, which in 1961 was renamed the Pioneer Electronic Corporation. Decks of this brand literally conquered the market at one time and were widely known.
In the USSR, as in the West, portable tape recorders were ahead of stationary models. The pioneers in the field of creating domestic tape recorders-set-top boxes were specialists of the Vilma plant.
It is worth noting that at that time it was about attempts to create analogues of imported equipment.
Most of the mechanics of the cassette deck are concentrated in the site of the tape drive mechanism, which includes motors and rollers. The main function of the CVL is the film feed with a stable speed to the head. At the same time, the tape is moved from the feeding coil to the receiving one, with the prevention of distortions.
The simplest mechanism consisted of one rotating shaft (capstan) and a rubber roller pressed to it. Between these two elements is a cassette tape that stretches in front of the reproducing head. In more advanced models, the developers used 2 tunnels, which allowed to create 2 separate pairs (supply and receive).
Such devices were equipped with two or three motors and, as a rule, had Dual Capstain on the case.
Most of the devices in question had a recording function, therefore, at least 2 heads. One of them was responsible for erasing records, and the second was universal (recording and reproducing). A similar arrangement was called Two Heads. However, the more expensive and high-quality decks were equipped with three heads:
It is worth noting that the last two heads could be made in the form of a sandwich, that is, they had one body. Models with discrete heads were also produced. Special attention should be paid to devices having the so-called through channel, made according to a completely separate scheme.
In such models, all heads are spaced along the path.
For those who planned or plan to record sound on their own, one of the important functions will be the ability to calibrate taking into account the type of film used. The IEC organization that existed at that time was responsible for standardizing all types of cassette tapes. However, for some objective reasons, it was necessary to set the bias current, the recording level, and a number of other parameters. Based on this, industry leaders equipped their equipment with generators of various frequencies.
During the dawn of the cassette industry, models with and without playback amplifiers were introduced to the market. In addition, some potential buyers drew attention to the presence of such an option as "Autoreverse". By the way, the attitude to this function was ambiguous. On the one hand, it provided comfortable operation of the equipment, since the need to turn the cassette over was eliminated. At the same time, the rotary mechanisms with the heads mounted on them wore out quickly enough, which negatively affected the playback quality.
Given the development of modern technology and the widespread use of new generation media, the release of the described devices has ceased. But judging by the increasing interest, cassette decks may well be in fashion again in many countries of the world. It is worth noting that at the moment, many users are interested in reviews and the opportunity to purchase new equipment. At the same time, both cheap budget and top-end models of the highest class become objects of search .
Today it is quite possible to find non-portable tape recorders in Russia and other countries. And we are talking about both simple entry-level devices, and more complex dual-cassette models. Given the growing popularity of technology on many thematic resources, you can find ratings of the most popular models in their time.
Among all the variety available at that time, the following product samples of leading manufacturers can be distinguished.
- Model DX-57 from the company Akai. Today, this brand is well known to modern musicians as a manufacturer of electronic instruments. However, at one time the company specialized in the production of more than a wide range of tape recorders, including cassette. The DX-57 is equipped with three heads and has a bias current regulator.
This model became available to the consumer in the late 90s of the last century.
- Denon DR-M24HX is a cassette deck that was born in the late 80s. She received from developers 3 magnetic heads, a stabilized drive mechanism, as well as a manual adjustment system for all key parameters. The device at one time won an army of fans. And the manufacturing company itself later became famous for the release of high-quality stereo amplifiers.
Another feature of the DR-M24HX is an effective noise reduction system that eliminates the characteristic hiss accompanying the playback of sound recorded on audio tapes.
- The DRS-810 is a later deck model of the same Denon company. Outwardly, it is somewhat similar to CD players, which at that time had already begun to conquer the market. One of the design features of the deck was the horizontal loading of cassettes. Because of this, the ability to track the process of playing and moving the film from one reel to another was lost. It is worth noting that these devices were equipped with remote controls. However, it’s quite difficult now to find a working deck with a remote control.
The developers did not forget about the noise reduction system and the bias current regulator.
- TD-V662 from the famous company JVC. In this case, we are talking about one of the most worthy representatives of a huge family of cassette decks in the mid-90s. Due to its technical characteristics, the model, which was born in 1993, is equally capable of interacting with all existing types of cassette tapes. This feature was immediately appreciated by music lovers. The appearance of the model is given originality by the location of the cassette compartment in the central part of the device. In addition to the traditional headphone jack (1/4 inch) and Dolby B and C systems, as well as the HX Pro, the deck received a CD-Direct jack.
It should be recalled that at one time, JVC was recognized as one of the leaders in the video and audio industry. Today, it presents on the market a line of boomboxes, camcorders and headphones.
- The cassette deck ST-S740S is a vivid example of the quality of the company's products, which has become a real legend. Appearing on the market in the 70s of the last century, the model was able to compete with the cassette recorders of the eminent brand Nakamichi. By the way, the latter literally stood at the origins of the history of the industry and at that time produced equipment considered to be the standard of quality. The creators equipped the ST-S740S equipped with an advanced noise reduction system for that time, which was a real breakthrough for Pioneer specialists.
Now it’s hard enough to find this model in decent condition, however, with a certain tenacity you can achieve the desired result.
- Sony was initially unable to become one of the manufacturers of reliable and high-quality stationary tape recorders. However, the situation has somewhat changed with the advent of the TC-K611S in 1994. This was one of the successful attempts of the Japanese brand to declare itself in this market segment. However, the model was developed for cassettes with films based on metal powder and chromium dioxide. This means that the model will not be the best option for those who are looking for a device exclusively for high-quality sound reproduction. At the same time, it will be the best option for home recording enthusiasts.
The maximum quality in this case will be ensured by three magnetic heads and Dolby S.
- Of the lineup of the legendary Yamaha brand, it is worth highlighting the KX-300 cassette deck. Created in Japan in the era of the 80s, the model received magnetic heads made of amorphous metals. Such an approach allowed to maximize the quality of reproduced sound. When buying this deck, it should be borne in mind that due to its considerable age, most likely, replacement of the drive mechanism elements will be required. Fortunately, even today, as a rule, there are no problems with finding and buying everything you need. The KX-300 is equipped with two magnetic heads, a noise reduction system and a remote control.
At the same time, automatic calibration became the main feature of the model.
- The list of stationary cassette recorders popular at the time would not be complete without a representative of the Nakamichi family . One of the famous representatives of the model range of this brand was the BX-125E deck. It combined high quality and reliability, backed by the time-tested reputation of a true industry giant. Many owners in their reviews focused on the stylish design of the model. But with all the advantages in terms of a set of additional functions, it practically did not differ from its closest competitors.
In this case, we are talking about decks included in one price segment.
Of course, this is not a complete list of devices that were presented on the market in the heyday of the cassette industry. Given the record demand, a wide range of products from many manufacturers was then available to potential buyers.
Which one to choose?
Today, a vintage deck in good and even perfect condition can be found at popular online auctions. In this case, we are talking about both cheap models and the products of Denon, Nakamichi, Akai, Pioneer and other leaders of the once prosperous industry. Naturally, each purchase in this case is a “pig in a poke”, since the condition of the equipment can only be checked after receiving the order. At the same time, trusted sellers, as a rule, value their reputation and do not risk their image.
By the way, Amazon can be purchased with delivery to the Russian Federation modern models of ION and Pyle. This equipment can be connected to a PC or laptop via USB. However, these devices, stylized as real decks, are significantly inferior to the prototypes in terms of sound quality. When choosing a cassette deck, it should be borne in mind that high-quality models should have 2, and preferably 3 drive motors. Also, such models were equipped with three heads. Experienced owners pay attention to the fact that a two-cassette deck will not always be a good option for the following reasons.
- As a rule, with an increase in the number of parts, reliability and performance suffer.
- It is unlikely that anyone will need to rewrite songs from one tape to another. In other words, the key function of the device will remain unclaimed.
Another key point is brand selection. Products of domestic manufacturers will be far from the most successful option. An exception, provided that it is possible to find the device in perfect condition, may be "Electronics MP-204" and "Mayak-233."
It is important to keep in mind that the soundboard that was once released by one of the industry leaders may be in a “near-death” state. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that such purchases be treated with the utmost care. Naturally, first of all, you should check the status and performance of the CVL, which is the key node of any tape deck.
Another important point is the availability of a functioning noise reduction system. By the way, domestic “Lighthouses” had a similar option. If possible, it is worth focusing on models designed for using all four existing types of films, namely, Metal, Fe, FeCr and Cr.
At the moment, in the vast majority of cases, decks are purchased not for playing sound files, but as an original element of the interior. For this reason, when choosing, special attention should be paid to the appearance of the technique. According to statistics and reviews, tape recorders, which were produced in the early 80s of the last century, are in special demand.
You can watch the video review of the Sony TC-KA7ES cassette deck below.