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A Nakamichi in good working order is the best cassette deck you can find. I own a Dragon and its playback is flawless. Tandberg and Tascam also make nice decks. There are differences in playback between machines of the same manufacturer. I would look for a 3 head deck over a 2 head. In a 3 head configuration both the playback and record heads are separately optimized with respect to their alignment.
I've always heard Naks are the best but let me relate an experience I had. While living in Champagne. Il. during the early 90s a Nak rep came to a local high end shop to promote his product. He offered a free test and tune up for any cassette users. I took my Teac V800X deck for the offer. The rep seemed truly shocked at the test results of my deck, and so was I. The spec sheet he printed out showed a flat and extended frequency response much better than expected. I have to say that in direct comparison it was difficult to tell the difference between source and tape.
I sold the deck a few years ago but it was still working great when it left me.
I agree that Naks rule, but as mentioned above Teac and Tandberg, especially Tandberg, made some really sweet decks. If you're going to get a Nak get something older, the newer decks were still nice, but they didn't have that "magic" sound quality of the truly great Naks. Besides with used prices being what they are, it's easy to get a great deck cheap.
Nakamichi was the king of analog decks. There were other nice decks but in total performance others usually paled.
I still have a ZX-7 that sounds great. IMHO it is the top of the heap with manual azimuth alignment on the record head, manual bias and sensitivity controls for each channel (L & R). It's a tweakers dream machine. It was the last of the belt drive systems and I found it quieter and more timbre correct than the direct drive systems that followed (ie. ZX-9, etc). The Dragons have azimuth alignment on the playback head if Im not mistaken and do not achieve the same high level of recording capability but are none the less popular because they play any tape back well. Take your pick on what you find of most importance. Just a little reality check; a spotless ZX-7 went for $255.00USD on ebay last week. Not a bad price to pay considering that in the production years between 1981-5 the deck grabbed $1350.00.
Fleeceba about the MR2 that you have an interest in I can not speak but most Naks in their class will out perform the rest. Happy Listening!
I worked for a Nakamich dealer for a few years while in school until 1984, and I owned and loved a Nakamichi 250 (in my car), a Dragon and and LX5, not to mention the time I spent at work with all of their models, tinkering and recommending them to my customers.
I would agree that the "Naks" were legendary decks, and I would recommend them for their style and their functionality as well as the quality of their recordings.
Not sure, but my sense is that the MR2 was built during the early days of Nakamichi's decline, when they started to build more mass marketed gear including some very mediocre receivers and CD players. So to me, it would not deserve a place in their hall of fame.
I think if you found a "mint" and/or perfectly restored Nakamichi 680 ZX, 700 ZXL, Dragon, CR7 or other of that era, you would have more fun with a classic machine that would better hold its value.
As others have pointed out there are also many good cassette decks which will make surprisingly good sounding tapes. Tandberg was never my cup of tea, but yes they too made high end decks.
Believe it or not, my other favourite tape decks were circa 1979 Pioneers - check out the CTF 900, 950 and 1250.
All of these machines have cultish followers so you should be able to get parts and service.
Good luck and have fun.
I would say, yes, the Dragon was the flagship model in that it was their top of the line model at the end of the Nakamichi's reign as king of cassette deck manufacturers.
However, you could argue that two earlier machine were even more exotic:
700 ZXL and
The 1000 ZXL was also made in an extremely limited edition, gold plated series and is prized by Nak collectors.
The specs on the Dragon may have been a bit better, and the Dragon also offered auto reverse.
My personal favorite would be the 700 ZXL with the outboard Dolby processor.
Re prices, not sure and they will probably vary considerably based on condition.
I still have a CR-3A from years ago and sounds real good and have friends with higher end models that sound even better than mine. The thing is when folks say the tape sounds just like source, they are comparing it with the vinyl and the tables of the day. Put these decks up against a good digital front end and that comparison gets a bit difficult. I also have an open reel deck and I wouldn’t say the recording is better with either format but they definitely sound more organic and analog. Better, not necessarily but warmer and more sweet, may be.
It really doesn't matter if the dealer is "trustworthy" - if the deck hasn't been restored, it's not going to play to spec. Find a deck with a solid reputation (from anywhere, working or not) and someone who can restore that brand / model. I just got my cosmetically-pristine Dragon back from Willy, and it is now an amazing performer. Yes, it cost about $700 to restore (and the same to procure it), but these mechanical beasts are 30-ish years old. Please note, these services are in high demand, and you should be prepared to sit in a 6 to 9-month queue.
A few really good decks mentioned here. I also have some that I have collected over the years, namely the BX150, BX300, LX5, Cassette Deck 1.5, and the original 1000 Tri-tracer. Of these I like the sound ( in order of preference) of the 1000, LX5, then the BX300 and CD 1.5. If you like the 70's retro look, then the sound (to my ears) of the 1000 Tri-tracer is hard to beat. It's a real heavy-weight and a tweeker's heaven.
nrchy is correct. I have owned many Nak decks: CR-7A, Dragon, RX-505, ZX-9. I sold all but the RX-505, and still regret selling any of them. They are getting hard to find in good condition, and the prices reflect that. Willy Hermann went through each of the decks and they sound better than CD, to my ears!
just got my deck from bdp24....
true naks play best stuff recorded on them
most of my needle drop tapes were made on a Tandberg 440a
but they sound very good
and it has been a blast going thru my long dormant 80’s tape collection, even found the LiL Feat tape I made for my future wife before first date....
your results may vary....
thank you Eric.....
I was in a very cordial email conversation with a gent from Russia who was selling his Nakamichi 1000zxl. I almost bought a Dragon from Slovakia due to the voltage similarities Eu and Aust. have but pulled out from a not right feeling.
The Russian seller agreed that the 1000zxl was a better machine, but by not so much. The 1000zx was a bigger more formidable unit. Unfortunately, I was bought out overnight, and I was ready to fork out the big dollars for it. Such is the time difference between us.
The next day, ruing the loss, I rationalised why I was ready to spent so much on what would have been an isolated unit in my Audio setup. I binned my complete cassette (and my Wife's), 8 months ago. What was my incentive? To own a historic museum piece. And that was it.
I play a lot of vinyl and own 5 TT's, including a Nakamichi Dragon CT. Not the TX1000 darn, but a great player all the same. :}
Still very happy with my 582 which I bought mainly to play my old collection of tapes AND because it was so freaking cheap it would have been criminal not to buy it! Have it hooked up with a pair of Nordost White Lightning interconnect to my main system.
On many tapes the sq is very close to a vinyl version of same album.