Chime in.What's the Best Cassette Recorder ever ?

I just recently purchased a used Teac V-900X from a local
used Hi Fi shop and was amazed at the specs of the machine,But more amazed at the sound coming from this unit. I had my CD of Ray Sings Basie Swings and dubbed it onto my Teac cassette recorder with DBX fully engaged on the machine and levels kept at 0 DB or -4 on peaks with my Maxell New XLS Type 2 tape. All I could say was WOW, WOW.
The tape copy had lower noise then the CD and more dynamic punch. I used my old Mit 330 Cable as a dubbing cable from my Toshiba DVD SD 2705 to the Teac. I know thats not much of a front end for playback, But I do not have hardly any Cd's in my collection just tapes and reel to reel live recordings along with a huge collection of live Dat recordings as well .
I did some research on the net and came upon the specs of the Nakamichi 1000ZKL. The freq. response is better then the Teac, But the Teac is no slouch either.
The owners manual on the Teac V-900x state Freq. response 30 to 21k + or - 3 DB. Signal to noise 92 DB(dbx in at 1K,
dynamic range 110 DB DBX IN, 1KHZ PEAK LEVEL. I opened the lid to the machine and I noticed it only has one belt in it not the typical 8 or 9 belts seen in others. The machine has 3 motors 1 DC FG SERVO DD capstan motor,1 DC REEL MOTOR,1 mechanism control motor.Now all I need to do is snap up as many virgin Sealed Metal Tapes I can get my hands on and then have some real fun. I will be recording live on the Teac V 900x next week with a small symphonic community group and will report my findings to all of you on how it holds up to a live recording which I am sure will be a challenge to keep the meters at 0DB.
In the past I have heard the Nakamichi machines most all of them along with the Revox decks as well and I cannot recall the noise levels down as much as this machine can do along with the dynamic range as well.
Waiting for your comments
Luxman K-05!!!
Wollensak 4765 (w/ Dolby FM!)
Dear Don: You already posted: Nakamichi 1000 and I add the 700ZXL.

The subject it is not only on the specs but the Nakamichi unique ( to these two models ) " Auto alibration computer function " where adjust ( in automatic way ): azymuth alignment, adjustment of bias, level/sensitivity and recoding equalization to achieve a " perfect " frequency response from 20hz to 20kh in ANY TAPE!!!!!

Additional both Nakamichi models have many other " unique " functions that along the Auto Calibration put IMHO these Nakamichi machines in a stand alone " league " between a cassette tape recoders out there including yours.

Regards and enjoy the music.
NAD 6300
I addition to the Nak 700 ZXL the Dragon and Baby Dragon (680ZX) are excellent. A sleeper is the Tandbeg A440.

Now if you really want to go out there try locating a really good DAT recorder/player. I've been listening to mine of late and the sound is quite good. Very quiet and dynamic, especially on some of the master concert recordings where I was able to compare masters I using both my Sony D-5 and Tascam DP-1 portable recorders.
In the past I have heard the Nakamichi machines most all of them along with the Revox decks as well and I cannot recall the noise levels down as much as this machine can do along with the dynamic range as well.
A big, big part of this is the dbx noise reduction system, which unfortuneately never really took off . . . it's main disadvantage is that dbx tapes are pretty much unlistenable without a dbx decoder, in contrast to Dolby B . . . making dbx unsuitable for pre-recorded tapes. The dbx system can also be prone to "pumping" artifacts when used on poor-performing machines. But when it's set up correctly . . . it kicks butt - similar dynamic range to a DAT machine, and virtually no noise floor to speak of.

My stereo system in my early teenage years included a Tandberg 3300X reel-to-reel, with an external dbx Type II noise-reduction system that I bought for $50 from the DAK catalog. I would take this rig over to a friend's house whose father owned a B&O Beogram 4000 with a MMC20CL cartridge. Most of my new record purchases were played their first time here, and recorded directly to tape . . . the results were pretty stunning. I still have many of these records . . . and they're definately nowhere near as quiet and dynamic as those tapes were.
Nakamichi Dragon
I agree with Kirkus. I think I found something very special with this machine. It is soooooo quiet and dynamically revealing in macro and natural dynamics.
I have played in our orchestra for the past almost 20 years
the Bass Trombone and I can recognize artificial artifacts
on most recordings and tape playback devices.The
DBX on this machine must have been calibrated with such precision and attention to detail.It is an utter joy to listen to. Previously I can recall in my younger years listening to the 3 Band DBX and not enjoying it at all with all that artificial pumping. I just can't hear it on this Teac at all. I have also downloaded the 72 page service manual and did notice some of the measurement adjustments they do take at the lower -7 DB on the scale from 0 DB. I notice the Teac does have its scale up to +7 DB which I did attempt to record to. Of course its sounded very distorted and ugly indeed. As long as I keep the levels down on this Teac something special really does occur and its to bad DBX never really did take off.
Tandberg 3014A. Case closed unless you are lucky or crazy enough to have one of the Tandberg 910's of which only 400 were made. Mike
I vote Dragon.

BTW 76Doublebass, you're confusing dbx's expanders (1bx, 3bx, 5bx, etc) with its companding noise reduction system for recording. The former were single ended and intended to enhance/restore dynamics to existing material. The latter were designed for tape noise reduction and used an encode function on record followed by a decode function on playback. They are entirely different classes of product.

dbx noise reduction used brute force 2:1 compression on the encode side followed by 1:2 expansion on playback. It is a constant slope system and did not really require calibration to the tape, unlike Dolby B,C, and S.

The Dolby NR schemes did little processing when the signal level on tape was above a predefined point (the Dolby level - look for the double D symbol on the cassette deck level meter), and performed most processing on signals below that level. That also meant that if playback levels did not match record levels exactly, the Dolby system would mistrack. This made pre-recording tape calibration and playback azimuth alignment especially critical.

dbx simply applied constant compression/expansion to the signal without regard to level. As others mentioned, that made the signal unlistenable without dbx decoding.
I'm sure it wasn't the best deck but my Teac V-800X was very good, especially with dolby C. Years ago I was living in Champaign IL and one of the local hi-end shops had a Nakamichi tech come in offering a free check and tun-up for any model. I took my Teac in and was amazed at its performance on the test bench. The guy did a very thorough check, he seemed to be a bit surprised himself. He recommended I keep it.
Not surprising the V-900X sounds as good as it does.
Wow! Interesting responces. I was going to sell my (basically unused) Dragon after watching Michael Fremer's "Guide to turntable setup" CD and look for a nice reel to reel, but now I think I might hold on to it.
Nakamichi Dragon, as well as the CR7A in the modern grouping.
DBX does often like higher levels. But even speaking to a gent from Dolby Labs in the 80's the reason that many didn't like nr is that they were recording at lower levels and killing the sound.
Your machine seems to be tweeked in some way as I've found your numbers to be a minimum for dolby with DBX being higher. Also, tape seems to be unable to record certain waves so it does change the sound. I found harsh CDs much more articulate when I would run it to tape Dolby C. but i used to record listening to the third head for the "sweet spot" or stereo center image after studying the music. I couldn't get a good recording going just by numbers. Also, warm up all gear before recording for that last little bit of definition.
Yamaha KX-1200. With DBX engaged, great for dubbing CD's.
NAK - see if you can find some NOS Nakamichi tapes, I found a box on ebay and WOW they are the best tapes ever tried (every micro detail, echos, spacial cues recorded - literally sounds just like the LP) in my life; I'd say you could not better a NAK dragon, CR-7 using NAK tapes
Today that's like asking "what was best buggy whip?"But it was Nak Dragon.The last upper line Naks were all nice the 1000,CR7 etc.But Rell to Reel like a Revox was way for pro to go before DA.Too bad the inherent maintenance costs of rotary head etc made DAT a pro format only.CD-R/VD-R stored perfectly will only last 5-10 years because unlike CD's/DVD's they are not with discs "punched in" but a crystalline metal which is recorded into a higher laser temperature doomed to fail.Tape if humidity and temperature controlled can last 20-50 years.Even with video tape is best for archives.But now everything is -R or HD discs both destined to fail.That's progress right?
Bang & Olufsen 9000 - simply stunning reproduction. Comes with Dolby HXPro and auto-calibrates to any tape you feed it. This and the Tandberg 3014 are the two best cassette decks I've ever heard.

I've had excellent service from Technics M-95 deck since 1979. It has four independent bias settings including metal formulation. Lack of speed variation on this monster is also notable as is on-the-fly azimuth adjustment.
Thanks Ghostrider for clearing up the DBX issues with me.
Yes I do recall now the 3DBX had those neon flashing lights I think for 3 different bands and it did act like an expander,But more sopisticated then the old Pioneer Units. I just didn't care for that very much. So it appears I was not very exposed to a well made DBX Recorder at that time of my life until now, how odd indeed. Well I guess I got what I wished for in kinda a good sonic way with this particular machine.
I wonder if having a High End
Power Cord installed would make a difference.Many years ago I do recall using large MIT Speaker Cables and rolling it into a power cord on a JVC Cassette Recorder which did seem to improve the imaging and the bass response. I guess if its not broken leave things alone. That seems to be m y motto these days.
Well its off to symphony practice tonight on the bass trombone. Nothing like live music in your ear for 3 hours.
No personal comparison experience but according to a number of British Hi Fi mags the best sounding Nakamichi was the CR7, better than the Dragon according to contemporary reviews.
Nak Dragon
Nakamichi Dragon
Nakamichi ZX-9
TEAC Z-7000
TEAC V-8030S

just to name a few.
Nakamichi Dragon. I used it with the heavy Sony Super Metal Master Tape, it was a real good combination.
I nominate the Nakamichi ZX-9. Compared it head-to-head with a Dragon in the shop, using a Grado RS-1 headphone. Small difference, but to my ears the ZX-9 was a wee bit better.
Harmon Kardon CD491 ..
The Tandbergs were the best I recall.
Man, I think I have had them all! Nak 600, 1000mkII,Tandberg 310MkII, 420, Revox B215,Teac A103,109,450,V1050, Pioneer CTF 9191, 1000, 1250, Carver(forgot model number) Aiwa F990, and I am sure there are a few more. All of the above (except the Teac V1050) have died or required major repairs. So, I went back to and still use regularly my Advent 201A. It isn't fancy, but makes excellent recordings and is built to last, and last and last. The original Advent 201 is also a good machine. Same transport and bullet proof operation. I have been offered $500 for my 201A. I will never sell it.
Pioneer ctf 1250. I owned many including the dragon but always prefered the sound of the pioneer.
the Naks were wonderful

still have an LX5 (sitting in a box in the closet)
the ZX7 was my pick even over the dragon

too bad they are now like 'who builds the best typewriter"
Well I still like my Teac V-900X. I've been taking the machine through its paces and I'm becoming more acclimated to the built in DBX system. As long as I keep the levels down to -4 DB on recording I'm just fine. Any higher and the distortion starts coming in along with a cut in the high frequencies.The bass is really incredible. I ran a sample value on a Norah Jones cut Shoot The Moon and the left channel was -87.532DB and the left channel was at -84.728 DB.So the noise level is wwwwwwwwway way down.
On another track with just acoustic instruments playing single chords in each channel and nothing else going on u could not hear any background noise at all; absolutely nothing. I was utterly amazed at this and I had to be careful with extended headphone use your ears could hurt
because the tape hiss was simply non existant which in the past would give me a reference as to what sound level I could use.
I've been dubbing for about 6 hours since I have had the machine for 1 week and have become much more accustomed to the DBX. I will be doing a live recording tommorrow of a small community symphony and will report to u my findings and how everything went.
Cheers Talk To u Soon
Dragon, because the Dragon adjusts the azimuth for each tape, which maximizes the potential quality of playback; it literally cannot be any better. It is not an acacemic question, like "best typewriter". I have several thousand cassettes, many incredible bootlegs, masters I made myself. The clarity of a master tape exceeds anything commercially available in certain ways. It sounds "alive" in ways no studio or commerial release possibly can. Note, however, that the deck you made a tape on may be the best playback deck for that tape. - the azimuth will automatically be correct, unless it has changed for some reason. Note also that the eq curve for Naks was non-standard. Note also that the eq curve for Naks was non-standard, so there can be compatibility issues if the tape was made on a different deck. That said, I want a Tandberg 3014, because the are said to be more reliable that the complexity of a Dragon - occasional visits to the shop are to be expected.
So I'm a bit surprised about how long-lived this thread is, and got to thinking . . . what is the particular nostalgia that we have for our cassette decks?

The thing that I remember about cassettes was that it was a a way to share our pride and enthusiasm -- both as music lovers, and as audiophiles. As I look through my collection of CDs and LPs . . . I realize that a huge percentage of my taste in music was formed and expanded by exchanging cassettes with my friends. Most of those cassettes are long gone, but I still have the collection they inspired me to buy.

When I bought my first really good cassette deck . . . the motivation definately wasn't for listening to pre-recorded tapes . . . how stupid is that?? It wasn't even really for playing back the tapes that I got from my friends. It was so that the tapes I was RECORDING for my friends would sound absolutely as good as possible . . . and I could thereby share with them my love for audio in addition to my love of music.

It's kind of ironic that in this age of big-time lawsuits, legislation, and copy-protection schemes over the sharing of crappy MP3s . . . that home-recorded, top-quality cassettes can probably still fly totally under the radar. I for one might still be quite interested in sharing some cassettes . . .
Lloydc I have been been reading on the naktalk forum and the clear winner seems to be the Dragon with the Azimuth adjustments u just mentioned. This makes this machines ability to play all tapes from any recorded machine something very special indeed. The Tanberg I am told has many high end audio parts installed thus maybe making it expensive to maintain. I have never seen one for sale anywhere come to think of it on the entire worldwide web.
Now for those of u wondering how my live recording turned out? Well magnificant with a few anxious momements.
I wanted to use an old TDK MAX-G Metal tape for the live
event, But upon recording from the tape a few days before the concert I noticed a couple of bad drop outs on the tape so I abanded using the metal tape and used instead a freshly bought Maxell XL-2. The Maxell I am sure must be optimized for my machine. It handled +2 DB over zero just fine. On live recordings u almost will have large dynamic swings and I know I was pushing right at the edge of that envelope even with DBX fully engaged. The group was a small
community symphony with about 38 members. The church was somewhat small in size so I had to set up far in the back which ended up being a good choice as I rethink things through. The symphony more times then not were playing at p
and pp on several movements. The softer they played the better the machine responded to them. This was by far the quietest recording I ever made of a live group even compared to DAT. I was thinking of recording as low as 3 or 4 on my mic. levels for the Teac, But compromised at a 5 level due to most selections being played at very softly. . When the group did rise to high levels at the end of some pieces I simply very carefully lowered the signal maybe one notch for a brief second to avoid tape saturation at a +4 DB Level. Well as stated before I'm a very happy camper and now I don't need to lug my big Teac A 4010S Reel to Reel around anymore. So now I understand first hand why the casette format killed reel to reel machines. All of these great players that were made in 1984
put and end to the open reel. You had the great Tanberg machine as mentioned in the previous post and the Dragon along with the Nak. 1000ZKL and Revox B215 : so why haul around a 75 pound machine. Thanks for all of those who have posted your comments and answers. I wonder what other
cassette gem machines are still collecting dust; what a shame.
I find the Tandberg TCD 910 the best Cassette deck recorder ever.
And I believe the Tandberg TCD 911 to be the best Cassette deck player ever.

I parted with several of the Nakamichi TOTL decks and kept my Tandberg for the sound it reproduces.

Nak Dragon, ZX9 & ZX7
Nak 1000zxl,ZX-9, Dragon
Just a thought, I was to understand that one was to jack the level meters very high when using DBX. Pushing the levels to like +10db or more to make sure you extract all that DBX companding system offers.

As to best decks?

Nak Dragon, ZX-9 and ZX-7 would be three I would note. But one can look at others too, Studer-Revox top decks, top Denons, top Sony's and Pioneers. H/K had some killer top end decks too. Add the top JVC DD series decks. All of these from the 80's
Dear Don: I made several cassette recording copies ( mainly from LP ) through my Nak 700 ZXL ( that I still have ), I made it in different ways: with Dolby C, with DBX and with out any noise reduction system.

The best quality cassette performance were on that recorded cassettes where I don't use any noise reductio device.
The noise reduction system is a " heavy " signal proccess that makes a signal degradation. OF course that everything is on the trade-offs that we choose.

Like any audio device a cassette deck is a " whole " item: quality of the tape heads, quality of the cassette mechanism, quality of the electronic design, quality of the lay-out, quality of the electronic parts, quality of the execuion design, facilities ( like the auto-calibration on my machine and other Naks mahnes. ), etc, etc. As a fact IMHO the noise reduction is not the main/important subject on a cassette machine.

I achieve a " new "/high quality performance level when I buy the 700ZXL service manual and change ( mainly caps and resistors ) several passive parts where the signal pass through for better ones, IMHO it is worth to take the effort to do it.

In those times I heard several cassette decks including Tandeberg but not your specific Teac model and IMHO no one beats the original Naks due not only on its high/superb quality build/design but for the auto-calibration system too.
As almost always the quality is system dependent and " ears " dependent too.

Don, the important subject is that you are having great fun with your Teac, good!

Regards and enjoy the music.
Sometimes, when a lot of people a recommending Nakamichi decks over Tandbergs the best, I wonder how many of them ever heard the TCD 910 (400 build) or the TCD 911 (35-40 build) to reject those decks?

Sometimes I also wonder under what conditions people audition tape decks to make their decisions?

Anyway, when it comes to noise reduction systems, I recommend only to use the double ended ones when tape formulation is low quality and generating unbearable hiss.

Double ended noise reduction systems are e.g. Dolby B, C, S and dbx I, II.

Single ended Noise Reduction Systems such as DNL or HX-Pro (many would define some of them Headroom Expanders) are great in use on all tape formulations and all machines on which they appear. Never make a recording without them.

What you compromise, using Double ended NR systems, such as Dolby B, C or dbx I, II, are parameters like microdynamics, attack, room definition, air around instruments and precision.
These parameters are some of the same you compromise in the digital encoding process to acchieve the "black background" AKA noise free.
This is the reason for liking the analog tape.

In the best Tandberg machines were used technologies such as Dyneq and Actilinear.

Dyneq is dynamic equalization.
HX-Pro was a technology based on Dynamic Bias.
Both systems expand the headroom but as a side effect the better the dynamic range and the S/N ratio.

The Actilinear system is a technique ensuring constant power to the recording head. Circuities ensuring the constant power is not depending on frequencies, a kind of constant power generator where the output power is proportional with the input voltage and where the frequency correction is isolated in another circuit.
It gives better Slew Rate, less Intermodulation, less interferrans with the oscillator for the deleting head and up to 20dB better ability to saturate compared to the tape formulations ever produced.

All in all these were technologies that really had huge influence on the quality of recording.

Let's not forget the peak-reading meters that respond to the post-equalized signal, and a great innovation on the open-reel decks . . . the Cross-Field system, whereby the bias was injected by a separate head on the back side of the tape. The Tandberg approach to tape recording was unique and very innovative . . .

. . . but their pullers were the fussiest things under the sun, and it really is a shame. For the cassette decks, all of those brilliant electronic innovations were at the mercy of the little brushes and commutator in the takeup motor . . . if they weren't in tip-top condition then variations in takeup torque produce so much wow & flutter that who cares how much headroom you have?

But still, I have great admiration for Vebjorn Tandberg . . . whom I understand from those who met him and worked for him, was a brilliant, compassionate, and gracious persion . . . it's a shame that his life ended the way it did (a la James Lansing). May he rest in peace.
Pullers on a close loop double capstan tape transport will not affect wow & Flutter.

At worst it will show up jamming the tape.

If Tandberg machines are used regularly, there will be no maintenance issues.

I worked in a high end shop in SoCal in the mid-'70s. We carried tape decks by Nakamichi, Revox, Teac, Sony, Tandberg. I worked at another shop a little later that carried Hitachi and Dokorder. In-store we had a Nak 1000 (precursor to the Dragon), the 700, the 550, and some of the Tandberg cassette decks (TCD 310?). Tandberg is definitely my first choice. Their decks always had more body to the sound. As I remember things, Nakamichis always sounded like cassette decks; the Tandbergs didn't.
My re-collection of the sound of the Tandbergs is similar to Johhnyb53's. The Tandbergs sounded more full and robust, the least like cassette decks in general.

Aiwa also used to make pretty decent cassette decks back in the 70's. I couldnt afford the Tandberg and settled for the Aiwa for years until it finally died 10 years later. I replaced it with a mid-line Yamaha that I still have and use on rare occasion. It does fine for what I use it for which is on occasion playing old material I still have on cassette and occasionally re-record to CD when needed.
I used a Tandberg TCD-310 MkII and a Tandberg TCD440A since the early '80s and still own them. They were full of neat design tricks, sounded as good as anything out there at the time, rewound a cassette faster than anything ever made, and were built like tanks. But to maintain peak performance they were a bit tweaky, and things did get flakey after many years of service -- I can't remember how many hundreds of dollars my Tandberg repairman got over the years. The 440A was designed in the early days of metal tape so didn't take full advantage of that format. I finally gave up keeping them fully functional and rather than having them totally overhauled for even more bucks, bought a new Nak DR10 and a slightly used DR1, their final generation of decks.

This took me well into the '90s and presumably everything Nak had learned about making tape decks. The flutter spec is half of what Tandberg spec'd, and that gave me the biggest sonic improvement, a more focused soundstage -- even with tapes made on the Tandbergs. I can dial in any tape to sound perfect, but I do miss the Tandberg build quality, excellent mic inputs, rewind speed -- good as the Naks perform, they look and feel like any other Japanese mass-market electronics.

I would agree there were some excellent tour-de-force decks by several Japanese mfgs into the late '80s, but as a poster said, they'd by now benefit by going through and replacing some of the cheap caps and components to keep them at their prime. The NAD 6300 was also a great deck combining Dyneq and HX-pro, but let down by a cheap clunky transport. I haven't seriously heard the final generation of Tandbergs (3014, 910) but would bet they're as good as anything out there.

Finally why no mention of the Nak DR1? I suppose I could find out on, but despite lacking the auto-biasing and a couple features of the earlier-gen ZX9 and Dragon, it seems they retained the most useful features with newer electronics and transports of the '90s vs '80s to make a deck that should at least equal their previous generation models for a $930 msrp.
The first CD recorder ever made......then they just got better and better from there :)
TAndberg TCD 910 will make you stop lokking for any other cassette deck.
Zombie thread to eat your brains!
An oldie, but a goodie.
Nakamichi RX-505 Uni-Directional Auto Reserve. Without noise reduction, of course. AKAI GX-95 without noise reduction, superb level/bias calibration & peak value display ! Both have excellent sound quality.
Probably the Nackamici