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Vintage Tape (Audio), Cassette, Wire and Magnetic Disc Recorders and Players Open-reel tape recorders, cassette recorders, 8-track players etc.

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Old 22nd Nov 2020, 10:25 am   #41
electronicskip
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

Tescos actually sell a Walkman style cassette player so there must be some volume producer able to supply large quantities to them , no idea of the quality though.
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Old 22nd Nov 2020, 11:13 am   #42
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

It might be interesting to look at the head in one.

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Old 22nd Nov 2020, 4:17 pm   #43
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

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Dolby aren't issuing licences any more, so any new deck can't be equipped with noise reduction.
Dolby's patents will have expired long ago. Feel free to copy the Dolby technology. They don't issue licences because no one would need to buy them. The technology is public domain now.

What still exists is the registered trade mark, so you'd have to call your version something different.

Also, Dolby's literature will still be in copyright, so you can't scan or photograph it, but you can re-draw it. There is a huge imbalance between the periods of protection of patents and of copyright.

A company like Dolby would see the end coming of their exclusive control (=> profit!), so they would want to bring out an enhanced version good enough for everyone to want in preference to the original, and different enough to be patented all over again. A bit like a plate-spinning act.

But I agree, no-one is making cassette type oxide, but that's a milling and screening job after mixing the ingredients, It could still be done. I'm more worried about the tape heads.

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Dolby moved away from noise reduction and got into surround sound .

One could also buy standalone companders , DBX comes to mind , which were sold as noise reduction units for open reel machines and came in various flavours .
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Old 23rd Nov 2020, 11:15 am   #44
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

This is an interesting thread and it got me wondering...

For someone like me who has recently accepted tape as a fun and interesting format having shied away from it for years, what is the best bet for getting a tape deck that will stand the test of time? I ask as it seems that a brand new deck is not the answer.

I recently bought a nice little 8 track player and am having fun with that listening to pre-recorded tapes. I know that pre-recorded tapes aren't highly regarded, but I don't mind too much.

What I'd be interested in is a "hifi" deck on which I could play tapes and also make recordings from time to time. Sound quality is important but most important would be longevity - so nothing too taxing to service/ replace or suspect parts (I've heard of some gears being prone to crumbling).

I foolishly gave away a nice Sony deck a few years ago to someone on the forum on the basis that I had no interest in cassettes. Oh how times change...
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Old 23rd Nov 2020, 2:24 pm   #45
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

Go for a Nak 2, a late model Yamaha or Sony. Teac can look the part but sometimes can dissappoint.
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Old 23rd Nov 2020, 7:29 pm   #46
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

You may not want hear this if it's the tapes themselves you want to play with. I have a great many compact tapes, but some were in dodgy condition, mostly the mechanisms, rather than the tape material. So, I bought a DigitalLife Portable Walkman Cassette Audio Tape Player - less than 30 off Amaz... - converts all old compact tapes into MP3 - far more robust, and the recording quality is excellent. Outputs to earphones, flash drive, computer. Now I can play all my old comedy tapes on a little card in the car.
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Old 23rd Nov 2020, 8:14 pm   #47
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

It's hard to advise on a used deck unless its been recently well refurbished. Generally "two motor" decks have a more reliable mechanism.Reversing decks are convenient but tend to give more problems.
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 8:27 pm   #48
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

+1 on the Nakamichi Cassette Deck 2.....if it's working...and especially if it has been serviced in the last five years.

Any big brand name deck will be 20+ years old now, often 30+ years but the better made ones are long lived. Belts often need replacing and that can be anything from a 5 minute job to disassembling the mechanism. It might be worth googling models you are thinking of buying to see if there are known issues.

Generally the more bells and whistles, the less reliable. Two motor decks are often more robust. Auto reverse decks and/or decks with lots of flashing lights and features are often less reliable. That said, I've never owned a two motor cassette deck and have four working 90s decks in my possession as well as a walkman.

Some of the most reliable are early 80s "piano key" decks. Often they just need a new belt and off you go...maybe not even requiring a new belt if they've been in use down the years.

Watch out for "it was working when I packed it up in the loft 20 years ago". Mechanical devices need some use.

The newest decks will be the early 21st century Yamahas and possibly Sony were still in the game at the turn of this century. But the late 90s and early 2000's Sony ES decks will fetch a lot of money, as will any Nak which has been serviced.
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 11:26 pm   #49
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

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It's also often easier to make home recordings on cassette than on some digital device or a PC. I still record from FM radio and found that the convenience of just recording to cassette (or occasionally reel) beats any digital solution.
If there's ever a revival of high-quality cassette recording, I'm sure that ease of use will be the impetus behind it. We'll also get the usual analog versus digital bumf, of course.
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Old 26th Nov 2020, 1:59 am   #50
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

I just revived about half a dozen hifi cassette decks (vintages: late 1970s to late 1990s) for a little sound art project. I was considering doing a write up of one or two but instead will put some reflections here.

In the late 1990s, shortly before a move abroad, I bought two single direction decks (Dolby B & C, logic control, 2 head, but variable bias). They were used briefly then stored for about 20 years! One Sansui and an Aiwa. When I opened them up a couple of weeks back, both had melted Philips style belts. The Aiwa also had a problem with the rec level pot, which I suspect may have taken a knock. It only passes a signal one one channel unless the knob is pushed in! Apart from a couple of connection problems they revived okay. Belt change was okay, fiddly but do-able in under 30 mins; say 6/10.

I also repaired a Thomson (also sold as Triumph 400) and a Fisher with powered mechanisms. Vintage 1980-ish. On one, the main flat belt kept falling off, on the other it was, unbelievably, still usable. The counter/motion sense belts were past it and the decks kept shutting off. I also needed to lubricate the motor on the Thomson as it seized up after a few hours' use. I think the powered mechs take a bit of a toll on those motors. Belt change a little more awkward, 5/10.

The oldest ones were a Rotel and a Uher. Both piano keys. The Rotel needed considerable work: belts, switch contacts, idler tyres and more disassembly was needed. The Uher had an absurd gearing arrangement which had problems involving split plastic and loose pins. I was going to scrap it but persevered! Both had decent motors. Mech work difficulty rating 3/10 due to added complexity.

There were a few more but will write about those later.

All in all, I would say that:
-The electronics posed few if any problems across the various eras of deck. As anyone who has worked on VCRs will know, most faults are mechanical.
-Although one thinks of the piano key decks as simple, repair is not actually that easy or quick. Motor and capstan bearing lubrication seems to be essential. An array of belts idlers and linkages soon makes for lengthy and complicated work. The 90s models were simpler in this regard but build quality was far below the older ones. Time will tell.

My favourite deck in daily use is an Aiwa F660, vintage circa 1984. New belts and pinch rollers a few years back, and on she goes without a murmur, despite being dual capstan, which can be a nightmare.

To return to the modern day decks mentioned in the thread, as has been said they seem to have those Tanashin mechanisms one usually found in sub-50 pound radio-cassette portables. They fall far short of even the 1990s entry level hi-fi decks I mentioned above, that I bought at under 100 pounds in the late 90s (and even they have small-ish transformers, small Mabuchi motors and lots of plastic in them).

I think the key is someone reviving one of the mechs from a major manufacturer, 90s era which would be a balance between minimum quality /w&F specs, yet more cost-effective than the older designs. Logic control makes for safer tape handling and possiblity of remote control. If demand keeps increasing someone may do it -after all cassettes seem to be selling more year on year. We shall see.
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Old 26th Nov 2020, 7:50 am   #51
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

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I think the key is someone reviving one of the mechs from a major manufacturer, 90s era which would be a balance between minimum quality /w&F specs, yet more cost-effective than the older designs. Logic control makes for safer tape handling and possiblity of remote control. If demand keeps increasing someone may do it -after all cassettes seem to be selling more year on year. We shall see.
The choice is a tricky one - most mechanisms, including Nakamichi, use those plastic gear trains and associated bits, the Revox uses straightforward solenoids and castings, but is correspondingly expensive, the Tascam is tougher than most Japanese mechs but still uses gear trains, although its and the Revoxes' direct drive motors are elegant and effective. Perhaps somebody will come up with a modern version of the Wollensak, which was a bit clunky but robust and of good quality - until those elegantly mounted rollers turned to goo.
The elephant in the room, though, as David has pointed out, is heads - even Revox bought theirs in from Sony, and a lot of the specific plant and knowledge will have to be re-created. One thing I would like to see is the combination of proper tension control and the Nakamichi pad lifter to take that variable out of the equation.
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Old 26th Nov 2020, 12:15 pm   #52
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

At times I've thought about what would be - or would have been - the ideal cassette deck, taking the best ideas from various high end decks.

Yes the pressure pad over time was always brutal on heads and is a primitive way of maintaining accurate tape to head contact. The Nak dual capstan and pad lifter combination seems like a no brainer if more complicated mechanically.

Speaking of scarce tape heads, samples which still have some life left in them I never throw out. I used to service Tascam 122 MkIII 3 head decks in a studio recording situation where with long daily use the heads regularly wore down. Or at least the record heads did as they took the full brunt of the pressure pad's force. The repro heads by comparison always had a lot less wear. You could only purchase the combination head unit. It seemed a pity to throw out the still good repro heads so I kept them thinking that one day the high spec repro heads might be valuable for "playback only" digitising, which they may prove to be.

I like the reel back tension system also used on the Tascam 122 MkIII and possibly others. It infers tape tension from the rotational speed of the supply hub and servo compensates. A pity Tascam didnt AFAIK also use it for the take up side as well. There seems no reason it couldnt have been fitted to both reels although at more expense.

Some decks used DD reel motors or used a DD capstan motor but not many that I know of used DD motors for all three functions. These avoided the weakness of the pendulum reel drive system with its felt clutch, gears or rubber tyre, all of which tended to fail eventually although the better ones were pretty reliable for many years.

Perhaps space limitations on DD motors were a factor earlier on. They seemed to be with the mid 70's Akai GXC 760D where the two DD reel motors were large enough to almost touch each other in the centre, leaving probably no room for a DD capstan motor. It had to be belt drive.

Some Otari high speed cassette duplicators I used to service eventually moved to all DD motors. By that time with the more powerful magnets available these DD motors were quite small and there was no problem fitting all three motors in the space limited by the Philips cassette dimensions.
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Old 26th Nov 2020, 5:07 pm   #53
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

Someone's clearly still manufacturing cassette-mechanisms in quantity.

https://www.gporetro.com/portable-ca...ers-recorders/

Pragmatically, I can appreciate the superficial ease-of-use benefits of compact cassettes for ad-hoc recording (along with the deeply-frustrating lack of a decent inbuilt track-labelling/fast-search facility) but can't really see the market for 'serious' cassette-decks returning.

Last 'serious' use I made of any kind of cassette-recorder was one of the little Olympus mini-cassette voice-recorders - and that was nearly 20 years ago!
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Old 26th Nov 2020, 8:14 pm   #54
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Yes and now most people carry around with them a usable voice recorder. One of the last uses of stereo cassette recorders was making copies of CD's to play in people's cars still only equipped with a cassette player. For a while I used to use cassette as backup for live recording gigs of bands I played in but the digital recordings proved reliable so I stopped the cassette backup practice.
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Old 26th Nov 2020, 8:16 pm   #55
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

Quote:
Originally Posted by ben View Post
I just revived about half a dozen hifi cassette decks (vintages: late 1970s to late 1990s) for a little sound art project. I was considering doing a write up of one or two but instead will put some reflections here.

In the late 1990s, shortly before a move abroad, I bought two single direction decks (Dolby B & C, logic control, 2 head, but variable bias). They were used briefly then stored for about 20 years! One Sansui and an Aiwa. When I opened them up a couple of weeks back, both had melted Philips style belts. The Aiwa also had a problem with the rec level pot, which I suspect may have taken a knock. It only passes a signal one one channel unless the knob is pushed in! Apart from a couple of connection problems they revived okay. Belt change was okay, fiddly but do-able in under 30 mins; say 6/10.

I also repaired a Thomson (also sold as Triumph 400) and a Fisher with powered mechanisms. Vintage 1980-ish. On one, the main flat belt kept falling off, on the other it was, unbelievably, still usable. The counter/motion sense belts were past it and the decks kept shutting off. I also needed to lubricate the motor on the Thomson as it seized up after a few hours' use. I think the powered mechs take a bit of a toll on those motors. Belt change a little more awkward, 5/10.

The oldest ones were a Rotel and a Uher. Both piano keys. The Rotel needed considerable work: belts, switch contacts, idler tyres and more disassembly was needed. The Uher had an absurd gearing arrangement which had problems involving split plastic and loose pins. I was going to scrap it but persevered! Both had decent motors. Mech work difficulty rating 3/10 due to added complexity.

There were a few more but will write about those later.

All in all, I would say that:
-The electronics posed few if any problems across the various eras of deck. As anyone who has worked on VCRs will know, most faults are mechanical.
-Although one thinks of the piano key decks as simple, repair is not actually that easy or quick. Motor and capstan bearing lubrication seems to be essential. An array of belts idlers and linkages soon makes for lengthy and complicated work. The 90s models were simpler in this regard but build quality was far below the older ones. Time will tell.

My favourite deck in daily use is an Aiwa F660, vintage circa 1984. New belts and pinch rollers a few years back, and on she goes without a murmur, despite being dual capstan, which can be a nightmare.

To return to the modern day decks mentioned in the thread, as has been said they seem to have those Tanashin mechanisms one usually found in sub-50 pound radio-cassette portables. They fall far short of even the 1990s entry level hi-fi decks I mentioned above, that I bought at under 100 pounds in the late 90s (and even they have small-ish transformers, small Mabuchi motors and lots of plastic in them).

I think the key is someone reviving one of the mechs from a major manufacturer, 90s era which would be a balance between minimum quality /w&F specs, yet more cost-effective than the older designs. Logic control makes for safer tape handling and possiblity of remote control. If demand keeps increasing someone may do it -after all cassettes seem to be selling more year on year. We shall see.
I too have a number of cassette decks in various states of repair and owned for various lengths of time .

The one I still use periodically, and I make a point of turning it on regularly and giving it a bit of use , just to keep it going , is my Sony TC-KA6 ES which was a fairly expensive 3 head machine I bought new . I bought it primarily to make tapes from vinyl and CD to play in the car , and still have two of the XR-C900RDS cassette head units which have Dolby B and C as well as being designed for type 4 cassettes . The home deck still works well but both car decks don’t and I replaced them with the CD-X910RDS CD head unit which is all but identical, apart from not having the twin diversity tuners .

The oldest , and first cassette deck I bought in the late 70’s when it was only a couple of years old , is a Technics RS 276 US . This is a top loading , solenoid controlled deck with a direct drive capstan and adjustable Dolby . It really is a very heavy and solid unit and the mechanism , any time I take it out , is faultless . The one issue with that deck , and a very common one with so many old cassette decks , is the record/play switch on the main board gives trouble . I have cleaned it with Servisol contact cleaner , resolderex it’s contacts but still it works intermittently , with one channel being in rec mode while the other remains in play - causing one of the VU meters to bury itself at fsd and a loud buzzing to be output . Switching rapidly from rec to play a few times usually clears this , but latterly it would only play on one channel , so when that happened I bought the Sony . There was also a 3 head version of this deck , the RS 279US but they are quite rare .

For a while I had two of their front loading decks , the RS 671 US and the RS 676 US , both bought cheaply secondhand and both were troublesome - I recently threw them out as part of my house move loft clearance - can’t keep everything.

Having come back to live in my late mum’s house , due to splitting with my partner, I unearthed her 1970s/80s hifi , which includes a Sony TC-209SD - currently in the process of reviving it . The counter is not running , hence play cuts out after a few seconds and FF does not work . The counter belt is present but may be too loose , or the counter may be seized as was the capstan before I freed it . This deck also has the rec/play switch issue .

I also have a couple of Tascams - a 112 I used to use for work - needs belts , not a big job , and also a 133 AV cassette deck which is a 3 channel deck for audio visual work ( I also do photography and have a number of Kodak S-AV 2050 and 2020 projectors with Electrosonic Eclipse and Apollo dissolve units , and an AVL Dove X , for which the 133 would record the sync track as well as stereo audio ) . Sadly , due to many years of standing idle this no longer works and needs an overhaul.

For a time , I also had five Revox open reel machines , and modified one by fitting the optional sync head for AV use , but never actually used it for anything . I also have the chance of getting a Tascam 34 four track deck but have never bothered about it .

Finally , and potentially the jewel in the crown , I have a Nakamichi Tri Tracer 700 . I was GIVEN this for nothing as it doesn’t work and it has sat in its box for some 30 years - I refuse to throw it out .

I always have too many things on the go at once ( also working on the Sony TA-88 as per another thread , and my Grundig Satellit 6001 but that’s another story ) .

Last edited by derekheeps; 26th Nov 2020 at 8:32 pm.
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Old 27th Nov 2020, 9:32 pm   #56
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Default Re: Are there any cassette machines in current production

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Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post
Someone's clearly still manufacturing cassette-mechanisms in quantity.

https://www.gporetro.com/portable-ca...ers-recorders/

Pragmatically, I can appreciate the superficial ease-of-use benefits of compact cassettes for ad-hoc recording (along with the deeply-frustrating lack of a decent inbuilt track-labelling/fast-search facility) but can't really see the market for 'serious' cassette-decks returning.

Last 'serious' use I made of any kind of cassette-recorder was one of the little Olympus mini-cassette voice-recorders - and that was nearly 20 years ago!
For me, it is far easier to record concerts and drama from FM radio onto cassette than into my PC for some sort of digital recording....whether I keep it on the HDD, burn a CD or transfer to my phone. It is a faff. Far more so than popping in a blank cassette, setting the levels and recording.

The lack of track/index really isn't an issue as I almost always listen all the way through. However I do feel I am unusual in this regard.

I even prefer to use a micro cassette recorder at work for certain tasks. When doing an audit of my chemical store or lab cupboards I prefer the micro cassette machine as the physical buttons are there and don't disappear after 60 seconds of inactivity...the machine doesn't suddenly decide I've finished and finalise the file. In those circumstances the linear nature of cassette recording is great....and I have audible fast search.

I do accept that for most people these "features" aren't relevant though. Very few people record cassettes to listen in the car these days. And sadly most people think cassettes sounded bad.

I've even found an advantage to using my walkman on my work commute...the volume isn't limited as it is on my phone. Really enjoying cassettes i made years ago.
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