Deck's Like the Wind

Perhaps impatience is my fatal flaw, the thing that keeps me forever this close to complete and undying happiness, but never quite there. I’m impatient. About certain things. I’m impatient, for instance, about acquiring a cassette deck. My cassette collection is growing large. My colorful cassettes sit on my little footstool, waiting to be played, looking at me like what the hell. What the hell?

My friends tell me to wait for a Nakamichi CD-1. It’s got that thing you need. And it’s really good. It’s, all things considered, the only deck to get. I almost had one, too. On a whim, I took a look on ebay, and there it was. It was perfect. The timing was perfect. Maybe too perfect. It was right around the time that I first became really interested in tapes. I put in a bid. I thought it was a good bid, but apparently it wasn’t. Someone else wanted it more. The asshole. I should have challenged him to a duel. But I let it go, tossed it up to fate, figured I’d get another chance. I mean, if this one was so readily available, then certainly there’d be another right around the bend. There are other decks in the sea.

But, no. Life isn’t like that. You get your chances and you have to make a move fast. You may never have another chance. The stars may not align. It’s like walking out of your room to find a perfect rainbow suspended directly above you, or stepping onto the station platform just as your train is arriving: You could’ve so easily missed it.

You might’ve never known it was there!

Anyway. Growing sick of waiting for another Nakamichi CD-1, I’ve started to look elsewhere. This guy won’t wait around forever. So: What reputable companies are manufacturing cassette decks now? I’ve found a few. Sony makes the TC-WE475 ($149.95); TEAC makes the W-600R ($149), as well as a couple of others; Onkyo has the TA-RW255 ($199); and Pioneer offers the CT-W208R ($194), at the bottom of a line which rises to the powerful-looking Elite CT-05D ($350).

I realize I can probably request review samples of all of these decks. I could take them home and set them up and compare and contrast and document my profound findings here. But I don’t know if anyone in the world, other than me and maybe my mom (and only because she loves me), would even be interested in that.

What do you think? Do you know of any other cassette decks being manufactured now?


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Dave Page's picture

Judging from the lack of comments, it seems you're right Steven -- no-one is interested :-)Having said that, there are a bunch of Nakamichi Dragons on Ebay at the moment (one for $13 (!): ), but having owned a Nak in the 1980s beware the ever-turning capstans. I didn't know these puppies constatntly revolved when not playing, and was suprised to find my expensive cassette deck motors worn-out in a year of little or no use.Anyway, here's to Ebay and out-of-fashion audio equipment -- I just picked up a Denon DVD-1600 DVD-A player with Burr-Brown DAC for $5.50 -- I'm one of those fruitcakes who listens to home-made, MLP'd, dual-layer DVD+R DLs with ~ 13 GB of uncompressed redbook audio on them (about 500 tracks per disc): DVD blanks $1.50 ea., DVD-A player $5.50.SweetDave

rudy yniguez's picture

Good luck finding a Nak.I've owned several, and every one of them needed repairs; and not just the decks or players (Nak 250s, Nak 600 and Nak 670ZX), but Nak's 430 FM tuner. Still have the 670ZX (it squeaks), one of the 250s (the fast forward doesn't work) and the 430 (not one decent radio station in California's Imperial Valley.)aAll have/had nice specs; I just wish I could get the 670ZX and 250 in better working order without spending ~$2,000 just for the 670ZX.In the mean time, my cassettes just sit there, waiting for attention.

Dave Page's picture

Er, there was meant to be a line break between 'Sweet' and 'Dave' -- I'm not actually called Sweet Dave (anymore)

Neil's picture

Hi Stephen.Patience is its own reward. Give it time, and you never know what may turn up. E-Bay can be like waiting for a bus, you miss one and three turn up next.I bought a Sony 5000F Tuner of a guy on an Audio forum, thinking one was unlikely to turn up on E-Bay...2 weeks later 2 turn up. One sold for more than I paid for mine, the other a lot less, but it was spares or repair. Nakamichi tape decks are common enough, but I would go for one that is still serviceable, CR5e or CR7e and both of those ahead of a Dragon. Great deck, but the CR7e is better and the CR5e isn't far behind the 7..only my opinion of course (I own a CR5e). As to modern cassette decks,I would pass-on-by, they are not up to much imho. Last good modern deck was the Yamaha 580Se, but I am not sure if its still made by Yamaha. However in saying that they are common on E-Bay...and sell for very little money, great features list for recording and playback. I wish you luck in your quest, but much of the fun is in the hunt.

Lazy Boy's picture

Nak 600 and 1000 were pretty good, with superior industrial design - especially the 1000 over the top gold plating...Technics RS-M85 was another object of lust. And why not the Sony TC-D5 - which are easy to find and have a je-ne-sais-quoi...Some UHER decks were also very, very good. I have one in storage that I keep for ... I don't know why.

Bomba's picture

Cassettes? Are you serious guy? Come on, the audiophile hobby already has a serious enough credibility issue on its hands - this doesn't help instill confidence. A format whose time has come and gone and need never be revived.

Doug Bowker's picture

In order of experience and preference I'd look to get: The Nak (obviously, but as the other poster said, really make sure it works), 2)NAD made some terrific models and if I recall, some not that long ago 3)Teac, but the quality was all over the place depending on model. SOME models were considered on par with Nak, but others were cheaply made and not worth it. Also, I should mention Denon, which I happily owned for quite some time and it sounded great. But like anything, you'll get a better product if it is a SINGLE cassette deck instead of dual. For all the usual reasons that purists go for separates, the same applies to cassette decks.

mrlowry's picture

Tandberg made some great cassette decks back in the day. Nakamichi decks have a reputation for needing repair, and it is deserved plus spare parts are in extremely short supply. That having been said the sound quality was high.

Seth G.'s picture

I think its interesting to see a resurgence in cassettes and I'm all for it. I also find it even more fascinating that so many small burgeoning artists are putting things out on cassette not on downloads or cds but cassettes. I'd rather listen to something on cassette than a crummy low bit rate MP3 or the like. It also flies in the face of where commercial labels are at as well in a lot of ways circumventing that whole culture.I think what we are seeing here is very much related to the resurgence of the LP with young people. Its part counter culture but also on a path of discovery in the audio world no they aren't jumping in with high res download but they are going through the same evolution the audio world went through over the years who knows where those youngsters will be on their journey in a few years, but I have a feeling they will be more interested in the quality of the sound along with the content (or well I'm hoping!)

Paul Luscusk's picture

mrlowry is right. I own a Tandberg 440A and I'll take it over any Nak. You might look for Awia's on E bay, The 770 is a super deck. Awia was Sony's(High End line) but did not like that to get around. You could Also look for old Advent , and look at TEAC's TASCAM line I think they are still a doing " Simi Pro " decks. Say away from the regular stuff.

Cliff's picture

I've had a Sony Walkman professional WM-D6C for 20 years. None of the several other decks I've had in addition matched it's build and recording capability. Once had it serviced for cleaning. That's all. I presently use it for transferring tapes to the computer. Stereophile recommended it as all you'll really needed. And I found it so.

Gabriel Bernasconi's picture

I owned a Nakamichi 581 Z for almost 10 years and it gave me continuous satisfactory musical experience.That was in the 80's. Other cassette decks had unsatisfactory sound, lacking in the highs and low S/N ratio. To revive cassette the Nak is the way to go. Probably you don't need a C1, other models will also do.

Salih Niper's picture

After reading your blog, I was almost buying a Teac V8030S on 31st December after reading numerous reviews etc. (at 200-USD with very mint condition). I was shaken up after my wife refused to place it (she said "what the hell, shall we be downgrading while life goes on so quick?") in living room and not having enough place in my listening room.

Justin's picture

I'm sad to say this, but I tend to agree with Bomba. I was as big of a cassette freak as anyone back in the day but compared to high-res files online, and SACD? Come on, folks. Let's be serious here about what reproduces our wonderful music with the most authenticity. I think some of the tape fans are enamored of a little plastic gadget that produces a sound and not really focused on their music. There. I said it.

Joe's picture

Hey Mejias, I have some Edison wax cylinders if you REALLY want to get back to "real" sound.Maybe you could use that LP Demaggy Thingy on them and they would surpass the sound quality of the looney tunes playing in your head. Cassettes? LMAO funny stuff dude.

Jorge's picture

Regarding "...Do you know of any other cassette decks being manufactured now?". You could consider the Tascam 202mkV, which is a studio unit. Looks well built, but pricier I think, than the units you referenced.Regards

Pete's picture

Look at; there they have many classics listed, amongst which the Lovely Arcam Delta 100; a real honey!Denons (Nippon Columbia)and NADs are very good as well.

GEORGE's picture

The downward spiral into nonsense continues. Let's discuss what other obsolete useless products? High end audio, yeah, this has become so filled with either overpriced shelf jewelery, or low end useless garbage. Each month it spirals down. Will any new AC cord bring up a 25 year old cassette deck to current digital standards? I bet someone will say so.

Trey's picture

I think some of the underground music is cassette only. You have the hardware, or you miss the tunes. It is not that the medium will ever be hifi, it is that there is music on the medium that is worth being heard.

Nick's picture

TAPE DECKS??? I love them too and my car has a cassette deck in it but why would one consider tapes when CD's offer better sound, not to mention SACD's and high rez downloads. Not sure I understand this. I see cassettes on sale at used stores but I fail to see the relevance of an older, inferior medium. Unless some bands are releasing music only on cassette? I have Luxman and Nak tape decks and love them but they barely get used.

Winston Cho's picture

Thanks for bringing back some memories! I remember lusting after the Dragon when I was a HS student and promising myself one day when I got a job and made some money I would own one of these beasts. Those dreams kind of fell by the wayside when my father purchased a brand new portable CD player for me and I became hooked on digital.

KBK's picture

I have a pioneer CT-A9 lying about that I might be able to fix up for you. It is definitely in the group that was known as 'the best'. Especially after I'm done with it....Look it up at 'The Vintage Knob' (TVK website)

Jonathan Cohen's picture

Why being so hard on tape? Christ I'm thinking about getting a Naka deck myself or any other good high-end model for a good price. Just go to the local flea market and tons and tons of tape on the cheap.

Stephen Mejias's picture

I appreciate all of the thoughtful, intelligent comments -- including the ones from those who don't share my point of view. You've given me lots to think about. Thank you. In earlier blog entries, linked to above, I have clearly stated my reasoning for wanting a tape deck. But I'll do so again, for those, such as "Joe" (Hey, Joe, I'm talking to you), who are too lazy or stupid to do the work themselves: There is music that I want to hear -- excellent music that is being released right now -- and it is available [i]only on cassette[/i]. End of story. No apologies necessary. My goal is to listen to that music on my hi-fi. The tool required is a cassette deck.

Jonathan Cohen's picture

Bingo. While I will admit that I'm 20 and new to "audiophile" sound I don't see noting wrong with tape. Then again there is no perfect format when it comes to audio so in my opinion saying one format sucks is just a moot point.Personally I can't wait for the AXPONA show, maybe I should buy a Naka deck and show it off in the show. Lets see how many heads that I turn. ;)

Nick's picture

Well there you have it Meijas needs the tape deck because there are bands out there coming out with music that is only on tape. Simple supply and demand; if you need one then go and get it. So here is my experience on this if you care to listen. I have bought a nak for 25.00 from ebay years ago that works beautifully, and came well packaged. I also picked up a beautiful rosewood k118 lux tape deck that did not work, buyer refunded me the money and told me to keep the player. I took it to a repair shop and they scratched it so sold it and got another beautiful k118 that had the same problem, took it apart and noticed that the mechanism had jammed. So much for technicians. The point being you can do very well from someone at ebay with 100% feedback and be very happy and if you are technically inclined can make a used player function like new. Love the older Lux & Tandbergs. Happy listening Meijas

PV's picture

Let's not forget Springsteen's Nebraska recorded on cassette!

DF's picture

I've been on and off looking for a deck too. I had a great Aiwa from back in the late 80's, but when I tried to fire it up after years of sitting on a shelf, it refused to budge. A inquiry suggested it's cheaper to get a new deck than revive an old one. Okay. Reasons? I have a wealth of great music on cassette, some of it completely irreplaceable in any format, that I would love to capture digitally and preserve. Hi Fi? Hell no. But it's the music that counts more than the sound here.

Doug K.'s picture

I've been picking up a few cassettes as well. I'm lucky enough to have to great shops near by that have a pretty good selection. Its a great way to roll the dice on something new(1-2 dollars). I'm using a Nak dr-3 ($30) and it would be hard to do better. Most of what Ive bought sounds really good. Good luck with your search.

John Parks's picture

Thanks for the great blogs, Stephen - I enjoy reading them and they help keep my sense of audio wonder in child-like awe, which is where it should remain (not old and stogy: "Vinyl is the only TRUE audio" and such. I have a boatload of old cassettes recorded from vinyl (and some CDs) and have been thinking about getting a deck to revel in nostalgia (ex-wife "sold" my LP collection without my knowing). The last deck I auditioned and bought was a Denon. I compared it to a Nak of the same price (nowhere near a Dragon!) and it won hands down. My studio? A 1988 Acura Integra with an after market deck, Carver amp and JBL Control 5 studio monitors on the parcel shelf. Sweet!

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