I'd definately go with a Nak. If price is not an issue, get a Dragon. If price is an issue, get a BX-300.
Keep in mind that either will probably need to be serviced, cleaned, demagnetized, aligned, etc. before being up to the task.
i wonder why nak's are thought to be significantly better than other cassette decks. i have a harmon kardon 492 with fine-bias controls and an actual freq.response graph that came in the box- a/b tests are very close to the cd, although the soundstage is mostly gone, but the music is 95% intact. i also have a tascam 122 which has to be hand-biased for each type of tape you use, an autolocator, bal and unbal i/o's etc. bought it as a refurb. from musician's friend. they went pretty quick (about $600!). nak's have azimuth adjustments, which are nice, no question, but other than that, i would want a pro-audio person to show me test bench results as well as explain where the electronics are a higher grade than the competition as well. i'm a bit biased, since i had a very nice nak in my car but it had to be fixed after only 2 yrs (they gave me a refurb to replace it, but it was BROKEN, not just a part or two)
Nakamichi CR-7A. The Dragon is the top of the line and the CR-7A is the next one "down" however>> there are those (like myself :~) who prefer the CR-7A over the Dragon because the Dragon plays in both directions, which I feel can present head alignment problems due to additional mechanics.
What mainly sets Naks apart, across all models I'm pretty sure, is that their record and playback heads have the narrowest magnetic gap(s) in the business (best high frequency response.)
As for your particular requirements: the better Naks (i.e. Dragon and CR-7A for sure, and maybe a couple other models) have electronic head-azimuth adjustment on-the-fly. This allows you to adjust the playback head azimuth to match that of the machine on which the tape was recorded thus optimizing the playback response -- a huge advantage when (I presume) you'll be transferring tapes recorded on a variety of machines.
I owned a Naka Dragon.
It was the best sounding cassette deck I ever used, it was very close to my Revox PR 99 Mk III.
Really good. Sad to see these things go replaced from inferior but modern designs.
Can't beat a Nakamichi. They are great at recording and you'll hear the difference.
I have two Nakamich 582 three head deck. The 582 was the workhorse of the radio's stations. Both in great condition.
Either one, your choice $200 plus shipping.
I can sent photo's
My TEAC 8030S sounds different from my Nak Deck 1.5. Not better, I think. Equally good, but different. With Dolby S, the TEAC makes quieter recordings with slightly superior dynamics. The Nak's bias and level were not as easy to set, the cueing was not as simple, and there was no remote, but it sounded great, very open and natural, and that's the one the robbers got.
Unless you made all of the tapes on the same deck, or at least with the same azimuth, it is going to be difficult to get the most from your tapes without spending quite a lot of money (say $1k or so).
I suggest you visit the Electronic Services Labs (in CT)website, and check-out their Nakamichi pages. This will put my comments into perspective. This would be your high-cost alternative.
If your tapes are from a variety of sources, including pre-recorded, I would e-pay a low mileage Nakamichi deck, have it serviced for playback only, and have at it. This is the low cost alternative.
Nakamichi hit its pinnacle in terms of best parts and high-tech by the LX series. Many compromises were made by the bean counters as Nakamichi began to compete in the mid-fi arena. I submit a properly aligned and serviced LX-3 would do the job, unless of course you want azimuth adjustment, in which case the price goes up even if the overall quality is _slighlty_ compromised (effecting longevity).
Second the vote for the C7A. it is one of the few decks that allows azimuth adjustment for playback. Most high end cassette decks had all sorts of adjustments for recording but playback adjustments were not found other than the usual tape type selection and dolby B or C.
I have to say Nak , also . Ive had two , and I have had various other Pioneer ( ct1000 , ct9191 ), Teac , Yamaha , decks . A cd taped on a Nak is almost identical . Tandberg and Revox would be my other options .
Tandberg 3014 is the best. Dragon is good but not dependable.
no way, go to pionner elite ct-93 the only cass. review for the absolute sound magazine. state of the art.
Elite is not in the same class.