Cassette Decks in 2019


In the last few years a bunch of experimental/fringe music has been increasingly been put out on cassette. I can stream these on Apple Music and Prime and such but would rather buy it and support the artists.

So on a whim I've been looking at decks. Nakamichi comes out often but HOLD CRAP look at the prices for machines. No thanks. So I see some from TEACTascam and Marantz that are being produced now and wonder if any of these are decent enough soundwise.

Thoughts?
gochurchgo
Late last year I purchased the Tascam deck you linked to, for $500 at B&H Photo Video. I commented about it as follows on 11-18-2018 in this thread:

Given the mention of cassette decks in many of the responses, I’d thought I’d mention a currently produced deck some may wish to consider if and when their vintage deck develops a problem that isn’t worth fixing, or can’t be fixed.

The ca. 1980 Tandberg 3004 I purchased in the mid-1990s recently developed some problems, and given the expense that would be involved in getting it repaired (the SoundSmith website indicates a "maximum estimate" of $2250 for an overhaul of that very complex deck) I decided to purchase a pro-oriented dual well deck Tascam introduced just a few months ago, the 202MkVII, costing $500.

And I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with its sonics, not to mention that I expect it to provide much better reliability over the long term than the Tandberg would have if I were to get it repaired. Compared to the Tandberg (when it was working properly) there is some loss of definition in the highs, that is particularly evident on classical piano music. But that is pretty much the only significant negative I can cite regarding its sonics.

And on the other hand, I’ve just listened on the Tascam to a Connoisseur In Sync cassette I purchased in the 1980s featuring violinist Wanda Wilkomirska performing the famous Bach Chaconne and various pieces by other composers, the original recording having been made in 1974. Totally fantastic, musically and sonically! Most or all of the many cassettes that were issued on that label, btw, were duplicated in real time and on CrO2 tapes.

Also, btw, the deck provides a USB output, making it possible to do digital transfers to a computer.

Considering this deck’s combination of sonic quality, presumably much greater likelihood than the vintage decks of providing long-term reliability (it’s perhaps noteworthy that as a Tascam product it is aimed at the pro audio market), and very modest price (certainly compared to most of the upper tier vintage units if found in top condition), I would recommend the Tascam highly.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

Thanks! I’m sold. I appreciate your input. Truly.
Hmm.
Now just WHY do you think all those Nakamichi decks are commanding great prices?
Maybe because they were the best cassette deck made available to the general public?
I have tried numerous Japan decks over the years, not one of them got close to my lowly 582.
Two decks I bought in rapid succession nosed out the 582, being a 660zx and then a zx7.
You really do have to hear the zx7 to appreciate how good cassette replay can sound.

Now I admit I have not heard the Tascam model that Almarg references but I believe him when he says it is good.

Would be interesting to pit one against my zx7......
@uberwaltz I have no doubt they are good but I’m not spending that much for cassette playback. I’m investing in bands and labels with analog media rather than streaming it.

if a $500 Tascam is a pretty good player for playback on not well recorded music then it’s enough for me. I’m a vinyl guy first and foremost but want to support these labels even if cassette is all they can afford.  Understand too we are talking about Japanese power noise. It’s not cello
sonatas and the like. So it has to be pretty good but not amazing. 😊
Totally understand OP!

With how many pre recorded and home recorded tapes I have I just wanted the best reproduction possible.
And for me that is now my zx7,but yes you have to pay to play.

You can get good working 582 for 300, 682 for 600 and zx7 for 1k.
Figure a full service for 500 to 700.
So yes it can get Spendy.
Please let me know how the Tascam works out if you go that route!
I hate to be the 900 lb gorilla in the room, but why would one even consider cassette media would be worth listening too. Hiss ,dust ,maintenance and not to mention being a
Sorry about my last post I accidentally hit post. But lack of parts or repair for this equipment is non-existent. Don't get me wrong I have heard some jaw dropping reel to reel recordings but that is a different animal.
I don't do vinyl I'm currently content with my CEC TL2 and my Lumin D2 
Happy Listening
Mark
Markum
Truly you need to hear my zx7 playing a great tape say on TDK SA formulation.
Or some of the really good pre recorded tapes issued on chrome tape.

It would blow your mind and radically alter your perception of " inferior medium".

Sorry to bang on but I own and play hundreds of tapes and my level of replay right now is simply stunning and close to my Pioneer rt707 R2R playback.
And that has been completely restored and recapped with Nichicon parts.

And as for lack of parts or repair?
Not sure where you get that information from. Sure it can be spendy but there are people out there working on them very successfully.
uberwaltz 
Do you have audible hiss?
Not in the slightest, never have on any of my Nak decks.

My 582 was a great deck, the 660zx that followed it was better still but my present zx7 is in another dimension.

I am likely the largest and most vociferous proponent of cassette on these forums ... Lol.

You have to pay to play in the big boys sandbox no doubt about it though.

I also have on old CEC belt drive CD transport that is a permanent fixture here too.
... why would one even consider cassette media would be worth listening too.

Mark, to add to Uberwaltz’ comments I would feel safe in saying that if, as I did, during the 1970s and 1980s you had purchased a considerable number of cassettes that were issued on the Connoisseur Society In Sync label you would not have asked this question.

That series of cassettes presented classical music performed by highly distinguished artists of the past such as pianists Ivan Moravec and Ruth Laredo and violinist Wanda Wilkomirska, among many others.

And regarding sound quality, as I mentioned earlier these cassettes were duplicated on chrome tape in real time. Meaning that every cassette sold was copied from a master tape at normal playback speed, rather than being duplicated at high speed as was usually done by other labels. The resulting sonics, as in the example I cited in my earlier post, were often spectacular.

Regards,
-- Al


Post removed 
Al.
Agreed on the CSIS label, I have a couple although not my normal taste in music but when you find them in charity shop at 50 cents you just have to buy them!
Now on the flipside there are some equally terrible later pre recorded tapes , some so bad I have tossed them and kept the case which had more value!

I also suspect the tapes the OP is referring to may well fall into this latter category in places and yes a $1000+ Nak deck would make ZERO sense.

After all old saying.....

Garbage in, garbage out.
Have been a fan of cassette decks since childhood. I used to own a Nakamichi BX-300, which was sonically excellent. The ZX-7 is/was amazing, but always out of my price range.

I currently own a Nakamichi BX-125. It's a two head unit, but it was restored by a pro and total cost was <$300. It is a 2 head deck, but far superior to the TASCAM. 

I also own two Yamaha 3 head cassette decks, which perform amazingly well. K-1000 and a K-1020. The K-1000 is direct drive, so no belts. It has Dolby B and DBX and has a frequency response of 20-21,000Hz with Metal, 20-20,000 with Chrome. The K-1020 was, IMO, Yamaha's best deck with Dolby B, C, DBX. It has frequency response of 20-23,000Hz with metal and 20-20,000Hz with chrome. I paid $50 for the K-2000, $100 for service. I paid $300 for the K-1020 professionally serviced to like new condition. 

I'd take a look at a good quality, refurbished vintage deck before spending $500 on something made in China which costs that much only due to low production volume. It's no better than a $100 dual well cassette deck from the 80's, not nearly as good as some decent upper level ones that were produced like Sony ES, Yamaha, Technics or Pioneer.
Smkerry, can you describe your experience with the specific Tascam model that has been discussed (the 202MkVII), upon which your comments are based? For example, have you listened to it in your own system with tapes you are familiar with?

Regards,
-- Al

Al, I was pretty active with cassettes in the '70s and '80s.  Not all at one time but I owned several decks -- HK (2), Tandberg, Nak (480, not impressed), Aiwa, Pioneer, etc.  I was always disappointed by commercial pre-recorded tapes.  But I never heard any of the Advent or CSIS products.  For the others I expect it was the high speed duplication that was their undoing.

However I found making my own recordings, mainly from LPs, with careful attention to tape quality, bias, clean sources, etc. gave very listenable results.  I think some who were disenchanted with cassettes either heard poor quality pre-recorded examples or poorly done home made.
Of course, I can't. So technically, my comments are conjecture. I wouldn't buy the Tascam, as superior vintage models can be acquired for less. 

Let me start by saying that I am a former broadcast professional and have extensive experience with Tascam equipment, from the excellent analog 112 & 122 units to both 2 track and multi-track reel-to-reel machines and onwards to Tascam DAT machines. I am a fan of Tascam.

I firmly believe that the Tascamm 202 MkVii is the best new cassette deck money can by. Zero doubt. However, looks good and sounds decent is okay for a $50 100 purchase, but $500? Even discounted to $400? 

Unless someone wanted a USB port, I cannot offer any compelling reason to invest that kind of money in a machine that doesn't perform to the level of price it commands. 

If money is no object, by all means. But $500 will get you a hell of a nice restored vintage 3-head, closed-loop, dual capstan high performance machine from the likes of Nakamichi, Yamaha, Teac OR a real Tascam, Sony ES, Denon, Akai, Pioneer etc. 

Sorry of I happened to offend anyone. Just an old fart who is passionate about old-school analogue recording. It can still be done well for a reasonable cost.

YMMV


Pryso,

You and I are in the same boat. I never cared for mass produced commercial cassettes.

I forgot to mention Aiwa too. I owned an AD-F770 and just adored that machine. Have owned Nakamichi BX-300, Akai GX-9, Teac V900X, Yamaha: KX-1200, K720 & KX-500.

Currently have a 2-head Nakamichi BX125 (gave to my son) and Yamaha K1000 & K1020 both 3-head. 

Taking a good 3-head deck with a good quality, properly calibrated cassette tape and making a recording from vinyl and even CD is pleasing. I enjoy the sound of a well recorded cassette. It's a natural sound and pleasing to my aging ears.

I lucked out last week and was able to purchase a stock of almost 150 brand new, sealed Maxell tapes. 20% type IV and 80% type II. That's enough to keep me happy indefinitely. 
Even mass produced SONY Walkman cassette players sound better than off the shelf CD players by a considerable margin. Please, no angry emails. Yes, I know CDs are perfect sound forever. 😛
As far as mass produced commercial tapes, sure there were some stinkers but to get an idea of a very well done tape try out;


Songs from the Big Chair by Tears for Fears

Then report back......
Smkerry, thanks for your response.

I should add to my previous comments about the Tascam 202MkVII that they pertain to playing pre-recorded tapes, which is what the OP has said he is interested in.  I have not done any recording with this deck.

Regards,
-- Al

One of the major strengths of a good nak deck is its recording ability.

Once you set it up precisely for the type of tape you are using your results will be outstanding.

Obviously this ability will be meaningless to the OP if all they desire is to playback some indie cassettes.
Al,

No worries. Didn't want my first post on Audiogon to come across as arrogant. I am just passionate about quality cassette decks and quality recording. I'm not necessarily and expert, and have no hands on experience with said Tascam. However, I do have extensive experience with Tascam professional tape decks of all varieties.

I can say without a SHRED of doubt that the 202MkVII is a shadow of former Tascam decks, and the price:value is abysmal. IMHO, it doesn't take hands on use to make this determination. If someone chooses the convenience of purchasing this deck new strictly to play back pre-recorded cassettes, they obviously are of means and don't need to worry about value.

Cheers -smkerry
There is nothing wrong with the TASCAM.  No, it isn’t built like the units based on the TEAC C-1, but I’ve seen and heard them and like it or not, they record and play well.

Vintage machines however can be purchased reasonably and serviced without much cost.  They will run for decades.
My Nakamichi 500 and 600 along with my ADVENT 201A still sound superb.  I have hundreds of cassettes made over the years that would certainly make those doubtful sit up and listen! 

Buy your TASCAM and enjoy.

 N.


Don’t know about Marantz  but other two are junk. Bought new Teac for 400. Just over one year right channel went out. Played lightly. Prices you see on Nachimichi are usually with completely overhaul by Willy Herman. You get a new deck with warranty. Expensive but worth it. Diff in daylight and dark in sound. It is top of line. It was then and still is   Worst every penny 
I just pulled out my Nachamichi RX-505!, absolutely no hiss!, haven't listened to this ole girl in a long time, needless to say, I was quite smitten listening to this machine mated with a klipsch powered subwoofer,  this machine was clear as a bell with slam,  no regrets about what this cost,  look at what it's worth,  up to $2,000.00 on eBay!, sounds like it's worth the price of admission,  good sound stage for cassette,  cheers gentleman 🍻🥂🍷🥃
I was very pleasantly surprised when I bought my newest cassette deck, a 3 head Sony TC-K570. With Maxell XL-IIS tapes and proper calibration, the sound quality is fantastic. Not reel to reel quality, but the best cassette experience I’ve ever had. 
I’ll definitely look into the Yamahas mentioned. As for the snark about the Tascam, I don’t know much about tape decks which I know means I should be banned forever, but that’s why forums have “experts”.

i had tons of tapes in the 80’s but didn’t have, nor was I interested in any of this obsessiveness. Just playing tapes to enjoy music (novel idea for sure). 

thanks for the suggestions, I’ll look more into those mentioned.
Try a Nak LX300.  I know of several that can be had for around $350.  I picked one up last spring, & even though ‘only’ a 2head deck, with the right tapes, sounds great-wonderful.  Even with many commercial tapes, the Nak has a smooth analogue presentation that is close to a good lp.  The ‘classic transport’ is dead quiet and is fun to listen too.  They, possess body, balls, and an organic propulsion with a touch of ‘richness’.  Top bands like 21 Pilots release on cassette & a Saturday morning blasting their latest (cassettes seem to encourage one to go up another notch or two) will remind u why u got into this crazy hobby in the first place.  A friend gave me a tape of ‘Stevie Ray’ made in the early nineties, that hadn’t been played in a very long time, and ‘Yikes’!  Flatly, the thing kicks ass.  Tape offers a fun and creative way to experience the Muse.  Highly recommended... (-;
Thanks @regismc 

I will search that out today.