Author Topic: What to look for in a cassette deck ?  (Read 547 times)

Offline Zuidersma

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What to look for in a cassette deck ?
« on: January 13, 2019, 09:58:07 AM »
Is there a clear advantage to a 3 head cassette deck over a 2 head one ?

I have a budget off about R600 for a cassette deck in good working order.

What brands to look for ? NAD, Technics, Pioneer ?

Offline Dubya Jay Dee

Re: What to look for in a cassette deck ?
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2019, 12:15:39 PM »
My vote would be for 3 heads dual capstan deck..

Interesting discussion here:

Separate recording and playback heads are optimized better for their roles - dual capstan ensures better tape stability in a well implemented deck.

Offline Steerpike

Re: What to look for in a cassette deck ?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2019, 08:13:07 PM »
Dual capstans are theoretically better; but the common situation is that most of the better machines are now 30 years old or more, and need work. A dual capstan system requires more maintenance and has more to go wrong. In the R600 zone, a fully refurbished machine is not likely.

Technics beyond 1990 I would not want - they started using cheap stamped-metal OEM mechanisms, and they are not of the same quality as the Technics machines of the 1980s.

Sony and Teac (=Tascam) had some well made models.

Front panel bias trim, or full auto-alignment, are a very worthwhile feature.
Dolby HX or HX-Pro (not the same thing) are also a nice bonus if you make recordings (they don't operate in playback).

Anything with two cassette mechanisms (double deck) will always be inferior.
And auto reverse is always inferior to single-direction rec/play.
Avoid such machines if best sound quality is your primary goal.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2019, 08:15:22 PM by Steerpike »

Offline JonnyP

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Re: What to look for in a cassette deck ?
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2019, 06:49:13 PM »
The Dragon was auto reverse
The Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways.  The point, however, is to change it.

Offline thenoizeguy

Re: What to look for in a cassette deck ?
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2019, 02:20:06 PM »
I have bought a lot of 80's and 90's cassette decks over the years, and 90% have had issues.

These things really need to be used often to keep them going properly. There are too many variables at play too. They might work okay with a "loose" prerecorded cassette, but when you insert a decent one, the take up reel cannot cope with the extra drag.

Due to the take up reel never running at the same speed in rec/playback, there is constant wear on its friction clutch ( if that's what it's called ), so they are eventually going to wear out.

Belts develop a memory too when inactive, and eventually rot or snap.

Good luck.

Expensive cables come in fancy silk lined wooden boxes to make you feel better about spending a fortune on them.

Offline Marc Hugo

Re: What to look for in a cassette deck ?
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2019, 07:53:06 PM »
Thenoiseguy and Steerpike all made valid points. Cassette recording can be incredibly absorbing and just sheer fun when you get into it. But R600 was and is a tall order for a 3 head dual cap deck. SA never was a very discerning market for decks or tape from the way I saw it. I have gathered a decent collection over the years and many of my best I bought new and elsewhere. There's no substitute for an originally owned machine. A high precision single capstan three head machine can be excellent too and I would get that on UK eBay and have it bought across by FedEx. Forget post. Its fine there. Here it's a corrupt dump that makes a sloth look like a greyhound. Look for late 80s machines like a Pioneer CT-S610 or a Technics RS-BX828. If you can get a "new-old-stock" unit you might be lucky. The Yamaha KX-580SE is single cap 2 head but the GF37 head is a revelation. It has Dolby S too and those big luminous green Nichicon caps make for a sweet sounding, explicit sounding deck. Very steady, well built and you'll likely find new belts, heads and pinch rollers around. But them and vacuum pack them. Previously owned cassette decks and cassettes have not dropped one iota in price on FleaBay in 20 years.