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A leap of faith with an old tape deck

Wharfedale Evo 4.2

Jayant_S

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Since the early 2000s my primary sources for music have been CDs and records with reasonably decent playback chains for both formats.
In all these years I've resisted getting rid of my tape collection (a mix of about 300-350 pre-recorded and mix tapes) in the pig headed belief that one day I will get a tape deck again and bring them to life....that day is here!

Sadly I didn't buy a Nak - I just couldn't convince myself to spend 30k + for nostalgia.
I knew after being spoilt by the sound quality of vinyl and CD, any tape deck would be more about the unbounded joy of playing childhood tapes and less about perfect sound quality.
I've finally taken the plunge and am sharing my experience for the benefit of other FMs who are also looking to buy but are wary like I have been about buying old tape decks.
The hunt took a lot of patience and luck.
I'm not a DIY guy by any means and needed to find a trusted source who would also take care of repairs. Buying an old tape deck, you'll have to accept that sooner or later parts will wear out and need replacement.

I heard about Deepak (http://www.mussiclovers.com) via word of mouth and friends who are happy customers. My biggest worry is repairs since he's not in Bangalore. He's said "send it back to me anytime and I'll do repairs" - let's see when I get there!
He has a wide range of vintage decks and I bought a Pioneer CT-S620 for 15k, including the shipping.
The packaging was good enough to withstand an earthquake!

3B10B5A0-3084-4D0E-B7AC-357D9A3A8CBC.jpeg
8D7E7AF5-FDA2-4F3A-8AB6-CCD48917C849.jpeg
342D07EF-2EB5-4A84-9466-BF96A100EB55.jpeg

058AC76A-D66F-4045-BF0B-A76C257EF75F.jpeg
The deck has been connected for a few days and sounds as good as I expected it to be - fingers crossed. I'm dusting off boxes of tapes and throwing all my old mix tapes at it. All being handled admirably.

BA629535-0B85-4886-AC2B-BBF6CE258235.jpeg

So my tapes are alive again, albeit on borrowed time. I'm happy with this trip to my childhood, however long it lasts :)
 

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SachinChavan

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Feb 10, 2011
Messages
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Location
Thane, Mumbai
Since the early 2000s my primary sources for music have been CDs and records with reasonably decent playback chains for both formats.
In all these years I've resisted getting rid of my tape collection (a mix of about 300-350 pre-recorded and mix tapes) in the pig headed belief that one day I will get a tape deck again and bring them to life....that day is here!

Sadly I didn't buy a Nak - I just couldn't convince myself to spend 30k + for nostalgia.
I knew after being spoilt by the sound quality of vinyl and CD, any tape deck would be more about the unbounded joy of playing childhood tapes and less about perfect sound quality.
I've finally taken the plunge and am sharing my experience for the benefit of other FMs who are also looking to buy but are wary like I have been about buying old tape decks.
The hunt took a lot of patience and luck.
I'm not a DIY guy by any means and needed to find a trusted source who would also take care of repairs. Buying an old tape deck, you'll have to accept that sooner or later parts will wear out and need replacement.

I heard about Deepak (http://www.mussiclovers.com) via word of mouth and friends who are happy customers. My biggest worry is repairs since he's not in Bangalore. He's said "send it back to me anytime and I'll do repairs" - let's see when I get there!
He has a wide range of vintage decks and I bought a Pioneer CT-S620 for 15k, including the shipping.
The packaging was good enough to withstand an earthquake!

View attachment 42548
View attachment 42550
View attachment 42549

View attachment 42551
The deck has been connected for a few days and sounds as good as I expected it to be - fingers crossed. I'm dusting off boxes of tapes and throwing all my old mix tapes at it. All being handled admirably.

View attachment 42552

So my tapes are alive again, albeit on borrowed time. I'm happy with this trip to my childhood, however long it lasts :)
Was expecting to read a detailed review - the post kind of ended abruptly. Keep listening and playing your impressions in the thread. How’s the sound? How does it compare with CD listening, especially if you have cassette and CD copies of same album?

I heard the cassette player after decades only at @hari Iyer’s place. I instinctively took a liking to it. I would describe it as very fluid sound as compared to dynamic sound on LP and clear sound on CD. Not sure if it was about his particular cassette player or in general.Thw thoughtbof creating a cassette collection after throwing out my entire box some 15 years ago after years of unuse is an entry barrier to me - especially after having built a large collection of CDs in the past few years. But now that I think of it, Building and maintaining a cassette collection would be cheaper and easier than an LP collection and can be done for especially the 70s and 80s songs when cassettes were the primary mode.
 

Jayant_S

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Messages
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Location
Bangalore India
Yes Sachin I will update my impressions as and when I hear cassettes of albums I've got on both CD and vinyl. First few days I'm experiencing a heady feeling at just playing them :)
Will start paying more attention to the SQ once the excitement settles down :D
 

Amarendra

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Was expecting to read a detailed review - the post kind of ended abruptly. Keep listening and playing your impressions in the thread. How’s the sound? How does it compare with CD listening, especially if you have cassette and CD copies of same album?

I heard the cassette player after decades only at @hari Iyer’s place. I instinctively took a liking to it. I would describe it as very fluid sound as compared to dynamic sound on LP and clear sound on CD. Not sure if it was about his particular cassette player or in general.Thw thoughtbof creating a cassette collection after throwing out my entire box some 15 years ago after years of unuse is an entry barrier to me - especially after having built a large collection of CDs in the past few years. But now that I think of it, Building and maintaining a cassette collection would be cheaper and easier than an LP collection and can be done for especially the 70s and 80s songs when cassettes were the primary mode.
May not be a great idea to start a cassette collection. Most of us listen to cassettes just to revive old memories from old cassettes already lying around the house. As a format it's not superior to CD or LP. Without the childhood memory factor i wouldn't have bought a cassette deck in today's times.
 

SachinChavan

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May not be a great idea to start a cassette collection. Most of us listen to cassettes just to revive old memories from old cassettes already lying around the house. As a format it's not superior to CD or LP. Without the childhood memory factor i wouldn't have bought a cassette deck in today's times.
Hear you Amarendra. And would like to know why you don’t find cassette having an advantage over LP/CD? Isn’t being analog an advantage over CD, and manageability an advantage over LPs? Elaborating on my experience stated above at Hari’s place, where rest of the system (amplification and speakers) remained constant, I found the liquidity/smoothness in cassettes something I really liked - the music flowed beautifully. I wasn’t listening to details as I do with CDs, but just enjoying the music like a smooth wine or single malt. LP never feels like that - it’s more of the energy/dynamics that makes the LP music come alive.

I want to know if this in any way matches with your experience or that of other FMs.

Yes Sachin I will update my impressions as and when I hear cassettes of albums I've got on both CD and vinyl. First few days I'm experiencing a heady feeling at just playing them :)
Will start paying more attention to the SQ once the excitement settles down :D
Quite understand that, Jayant. See if you can share your feeling and pleasure with us in words. I for one, would like to read it.
 

Jayant_S

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Quite understand that, Jayant. See if you can share your feeling and pleasure with us in words. I for one, would like to read it.
Here goes Sachin...
If I'm totally objective about it, cassettes clearly suffer as a medium for SQ. Crackling sounds on some of them, random level dips and not so well defined stereo separation or staging.
But it's impossible to keep emotions out of a music listening experience. So let my try and write about them for all three media I now have. Entirely my emotional opinions so bear with my ramblings.

With CDs, everything is exact, precise and cold cut. Apart from badly mastered originals, cd listening is about laying bare every little detail of the performance under a microscope and dispassionately examining them. Imperfections have no place to hide.

Records are my favorite medium from the perspective of the whole listening experience. Again discounting poor mastering, music come alive, I feel like I'm pulled into the middle of the performance and am compelled to drop everything I'm doing, sit on the sweet listening spot of my couch and live the story being told by the artist. The occasional crackles and pops humanize the experience for me. Dynamism, presence and sound staging in spades.

And now tapes like these two gems I've dug out:
A73B2727-2B25-4181-AFAD-F7C800959B51.jpeg
Through all that I've heard so far, "warm fuzz" is what I could consistently feel. Imagine a cold evening, a warm blanket, sitting by the fire in the company of an old friend and drinking hot chocolate/your favorite beverage. You're entirely free to get up and go about what you want to do while the music keeps you company. Always there for you, imperfections, warts and all.
Don't buy cassettes and tape decks if you want an audiophile experience. Buy them for that long lost childhood friend who always had your back.
 

Gerry_the_Merry

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I get 95% reproduction in my nakamichi BX300. Whether recording LPs or CDs. It is calibrated to Sony. I am getting it reset to maxell XL ii. It should improve even from here.
 

Jayant_S

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I get 95% reproduction in my nakamichi BX300. Whether recording LPs or CDs. It is calibrated to Sony. I am getting it reset to maxell XL ii. It should improve even from here.
You're lucky to own a Nak :)
They're selling fat rates these days well beyond what I was willing to part with.
 

Gerry_the_Merry

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I also have a glass head akai. I am using it to slowly transfer old pre recorded tapes to digital - except that my Mac mini music server has conked off so I don't have anything temporarily to record the digital stuff into (painful to haul the laptop everytime to connect to the amp). That is a very good model too (GXC 39) and one can often find excellent condition ones selling for less than 10k. Almost as good as the nakamichi.
 

jmascreen

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The tapes should be in very good condition to get the best out of it. I have a Nak Deck 2, Technics RS-AZ6 and a poor Sony TC-S1 with dolby S, which beat out them. So any good deck will do the job
 

Gerry_the_Merry

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Yes- I agree - pre-recorded tapes often are not in great shape. But if you are serious about recording and have a top quality deck which is properly biased to one tape make (like Maxell) then it can be a beautiful experience. It is quite thrilling to record and get high quality reproduction.
 

Amarendra

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Hear you Amarendra. And would like to know why you don’t find cassette having an advantage over LP/CD? Isn’t being analog an advantage over CD, and manageability an advantage over LPs? Elaborating on my experience stated above at Hari’s place, where rest of the system (amplification and speakers) remained constant, I found the liquidity/smoothness in cassettes something I really liked - the music flowed beautifully. I wasn’t listening to details as I do with CDs, but just enjoying the music like a smooth wine or single malt. LP never feels like that - it’s more of the energy/dynamics that makes the LP music come alive.

I want to know if this in any way matches with your experience or that of other FMs.



Quite understand that, Jayant. See if you can share your feeling and pleasure with us in words. I for one, would like to read it.
Your cassette experience will only be as good as the condition of the cassettes which in most cases are in bad shape. Being in Mumbai they have been subject to fungus and oxidation. I wanted a deck to revive some old cassettes which i felt had some rare recordings which i couldn't find on Amazon music. My parents had also recorded my voice as a child on Sony cassettes which i wanted to share with my daughter. Besides this I feel that using a cassette is painful. Each time you run a bad cassette it will ruin your tape deck head. Then you need to clean the head patiently with alcohol. I did not find any special fluidity to cassettes vs CD's or LPs.
 

jmascreen

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Yes- I agree - pre-recorded tapes often are not in great shape. But if you are serious about recording and have a top quality deck which is properly biased to one tape make (like Maxell) then it can be a beautiful experience. It is quite thrilling to record and get high quality reproduction.
Technics & Sony has auto calibration, I did tried recording from LP/CD etc which sounded good to me
 

Sushant Sharma

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Jayant,
What a beautiful acquisition. Congratulations. The fact is you own cassettes that you collected. Mine (about 200 or so) after I left college in Bangalore were with an acquaintance who occupied my flat once I left and since i couldnt carry them with me, he probably gave then away. How I collected them from so many different stores across different cities over a period of 12 odd years.
I think I might have a bit of a hoarding mentality when it come to music equipment. Enjoy looking at the player and listening to it.
 

Jayant_S

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Yes- I agree - pre-recorded tapes often are not in great shape. But if you are serious about recording and have a top quality deck which is properly biased to one tape make (like Maxell) then it can be a beautiful experience. It is quite thrilling to record and get high quality reproduction.
Can attest to that about pre-recorded tapes I've been listening to all day. Very up and down in quality. The few mix tapes I threw in were consistently good
 

Jayant_S

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Jayant,
What a beautiful acquisition. Congratulations. The fact is you own cassettes that you collected. Mine (about 200 or so) after I left college in Bangalore were with an acquaintance who occupied my flat once I left and since i couldnt carry them with me, he probably gave then away. How I collected them from so many different stores across different cities over a period of 12 odd years.
I think I might have a bit of a hoarding mentality when it come to music equipment. Enjoy looking at the player and listening to it.
Thanks Sushant :) I hoarded my dad's cassettes as well as the ones I collected. Some are so old I'm terrified to even put them in the loading tray.
Every tape I collected or recorded has a memory for me and that's makes everything worthwhile :)
The spread of pre-recorded tapes. Mixes in another pile
DB63D468-DB99-47CC-8DC6-139958B2FCFA.jpeg
 

Sushant Sharma

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Thanks Sushant :) I hoarded my dad's cassettes as well as the ones I collected. Some are so old I'm terrified to even put them in the loading tray.
Every tape I collected or recorded has a memory for me and that's makes everything worthwhile :)
The spread of pre-recorded tapes. Mixes in another pile
View attachment 42560
Jayant,
Bet a flac or HD track on your computer can't replicate that however lifelike the megapixel resolution of the cover art that appears on your screen. Physical media as you very well know through your collection of LPs brings a different experience and add to that a personal story and they are a keeper for sure.. Like was said before me, "technacalities can take a walk". Hold on to them dearly. I so wish I had the sense and the wherewithal to save my cassette collection. I hope you enjoy this newfound old journey and it rekindles some good memories for you.
 
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sandeepmohan

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That is a nice cassette deck. Looks like it has come from someone who looks after his/her gear.

I tried getting back to tape and gave up. To start, the condition of my tape collection had deteriorated and I did not want to spend money on a quality tape deck only to put bad tapes into it. Then again, I go back and ask myself, did I really enjoy tape and the simple answer to that is I did not. The best memory of tapes for me is my Sony walkman. I have used, owned a few cassette decks from the likes of Tehnics, Sony and Akai. The format, for me, was never reliable enough. I do not blame the quality of the gear. They just wore out too soon with the high humidity conditions in Cochin. The tapes from the store were the worst quality ever to the point that I used to copy the tapes on to a BASF or TDK blanks soon after I bought them. Dolby B never impressed. Most of the time, it cut out so much of the high frequency that there was no point engaging the function. Pinch rollers acting up, constant head alignment, jammed or difficult to drive tape mechanisms, it was too much of a head ache.

A good tape deck can make a difference to how you enjoy your tape collection. Enjoy your new Hi Fi component.
 

Jayant_S

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Messages
278
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Location
Bangalore India
That is a nice cassette deck. Looks like it has come from someone who looks after his/her gear.

I tried getting back to tape and gave up. To start, the condition of my tape collection had deteriorated and I did not want to spend money on a quality tape deck only to put bad tapes into it. Then again, I go back and ask myself, did I really enjoy tape and the simple answer to that is I did not. The best memory of tapes for me is my Sony walkman. I have used, owned a few cassette decks from the likes of Tehnics, Sony and Akai. The format, for me, was never reliable enough. I do not blame the quality of the gear. They just wore out too soon with the high humidity conditions in Cochin. The tapes from the store were the worst quality ever to the point that I used to copy the tapes on to a BASF or TDK blanks soon after I bought them. Dolby B never impressed. Most of the time, it cut out so much of the high frequency that there was no point engaging the function. Pinch rollers acting up, constant head alignment, jammed or difficult to drive tape mechanisms, it was too much of a head ache.

A good tape deck can make a difference to how you enjoy your tape collection. Enjoy your new Hi Fi component.
Thanks Sandeep,
The deck came from Pune and does look very well maintained - fingers crossed.
I'll be selective about the tapes I play. Some of the store bought ones are too far gone and are worth only their memories.
I've never used Dolby B/C either.
 
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