Vintage Cassettes: Direct Drive, 3 Heads: Sendust

Hey folks...I am leaning towards 3 head Denon or Harman Kardon decks with DD innards...I don't want to monkey with belts, etc...and yes NAK are quality decks but the majority of my taping was not on a NAK deck to begin with...I am looking for reliability, features, and decent sound. Others: Onkyo, Yamaha, Sony ES. These would be 80s\90s offerins primarily.
Direct drive motors in cassette decks have some assurance of lack of some belts but not all. Most dual capstan direct drive decks have a belt driven off the direct drive motor driving the second capstan. Often these are not too hard to replace if need be. But decks all have other belts or drive concerns . The belt that drives the tape counter digital or analogue and many decks use an idler tire to operate FF and REW. These can be PIA at times.

All vintage decks are going to be a chance buy, that's the price of old age. Most may operate fine but many will need service. I've been into cassette decks for some time now. Many bought cheap at thrifts but worked just fine others including higher end brands/models not so. If it's a deck that you like, love or coveted then it's possibly wort paying for a technician to fix or adjust for better performance.

The best era for better to TOTL deck was from oh about 1979-80 to oh maybe 1992-94.

Most of the better Made In Japan brands had good 3 head decks and would make very high quality tapes if in good working order and if used/operated properly.
Sold the HK and Sony lines back in the day. HK gear all sounded great but was very spotty on quality and their Sendust heads fractured when cleaned with Blue Shower (a common cleaner back then). Sony TCK777 was a bullet-proof tank, but a bit flat even when biased correctly for the tape. Never cared for Denon; overpriced under-performers with fragile switchgear and cosmetics. Onkyo and Yamaha had excellent build quality but like Sony, a bit more appliance-like in sound. Onkyo was price-competitive with Sony back then and Yamaha wasn't.

Caveat emptor on all of these because parts are next to nonexistent. I'd have to put Sony first, Onkyo then Yamaha. If you really want to go into this world and are serious about the sound, don't neglect looking into Nakamichi 582, 700ii or Tandberg TCD440a. Pricey, tweaky, expensive to operate and maintain, but oh-so worth it. Tandbergs are available refurbished to an as-new condition from Soundsmith. The Naks have all the same problems as the other Japanese stuff, but they also have a dedicated and loving fan base the others never enjoyed so some support remains available.

Good luck & happy listening!
Thanks guys...I'm not willing to go the Nak Dragon route...there are a plethora of vintage 3 head decks out there that offer superb performance, reliability, and value...Denon DRM 740 is one of them to name a few...and a fave amongst deadheads when trading was popular...not going to impress any serious Audiophiles tho...JVC with their SA head decks always sounded great...any thoughts?
Among the very best sounding cassette decks ever made were the briefly produced JVC "Super"-Digifine series (NOT "Digifine") 3-head models (I had the TD-711, the next one down from the top of the line). From my inquiries with some repair techs, they were more reliable than the Naks, even though they did not have direct drive. These machines were designed in the twilight years of the cassette format and were intended to compete with the newly arriving CD players in the early 80's. Can't recall whether the heads were amorphous or not, but the signal path to and from the heads had been revamped and JVC was able to get a bass response down all the way down to 15hz (-3db) - unprecedented, or at least I don't recall ever seeing anything like that anywhere else. I asked a tech about that once and he told me that there was really no technical reason why that implementation couldn't have been done by any other maker from the beginning. I always thought it was a shame that it took the introduction of digital, the death knell of cassette, to actually light a fire underneath any of them to get around to trying something like...and even then only one company at if the notion that their customers might have found something like that desirable just never occurred to them... Whatever. The 711 was the best sounding deck I ever heard (always considered mine a 'Nak killer' since it was better sounding than any of them that I had heard), but I dunno how hard it would be to find one. Regards. John
Found a HK CD later
Phase...the CD491 is an excellent cassette deck! I recently found a really nice CD391 and am loving it.

I also was a HK dealer back in the day and the CD491 was as good as anything out at that time.

Nice!...what tapes do you use with your HK unit? And where do you find them?...Tdk/Maxell still produce Studio/Pro grade Chrome tapes? a line on a NAD 6100 with remote for a good price...should I bite?...Believe its belt drive...and a later NAD product...which some have issues with. 2 header.
IMHO, I would take the HK CD491 any day over the NAD, IF the HK is working properly and in good shape.

I was very fortunate in that when I closed one of my stores I took all of the blank tape we sold with me.

I have cases of TDK, Maxell, Fuji, BASF, Triad, Sony that will probably last me a lifetime. Not sure if any of the majors sell high quality tape anymore. I'm sure you can find some on E-Bay.

The JVC, TD-V711 was direct drive. A belt drives the second capstan. Heads are Amorphous for Record and Sen Alloy for Playback. All in all a nice JVC from 1989. I owned one for a while.
Les, thanks, that does begin to jog my memory ;)
Cleaning house and have an older Nakamichi LX-5 sitting in a closet if anyone is interested. I'm the second owner. Had it serviced upon purchase; appears to play/record fine. I'm just not into cassettes anymore. Probably grades as a 7/10 due to age and cosmetic condition. If interested, let me know; I'll entertain any offers. Will drop off my sack of assorted 60+ cassettes at Goodwill in the next couple of weeks.