Which Nakamichi to choose?


I have the opportunity to get a very good Nak Cassettedeck 1 or a DR-2. Which one would you choose? And why?
Thanks for giving a newbie some valuable advice.
mickeyblu79
I had a Dragon years ago, but I’d never go back to that medium. Gilding a turd....
Comment noted. Fortunately you’re in the small minority.
"Gilding a turd"; I never thought about it like that, but it seems most appropriate.
The high cost of high quality tapes is sufficient reason to abandon this technology. Chalk it up to economics. 
I stopped using cassettes 20 years ago. But "turd"? I had the Nak 505 — and tapes, whether from CD or Vinyl or R2R, were indistinguishable from the original. Not only could I not tell which was which, nobody could, including musicians and sound engineers. They didn't even try, they knew they'd only guessing. I still have the 505 and never use it; what a waste, somebody out there would be on Cloud 9 if he had it...
If you ask me, ordinary 30 year cassettes played on a portable cassette player sound superior to many if not most CDs based strictly on musicality.  They’ve got danceability! 
And not only that but digitally remastered cassettes are definitely superior to their CD counterparts.
“Nobody could tell, including musicians and sound engineers.”

That’s no surprise. 😬


The test is value specific, not qualitative, in most cases: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Gilded%20Turd

💸💩💩💩⚰️🚽


Hats off to you!  You apparently know more about 💩 than anyone.
Thanks. Quite easy to spot, really. 
By the way, Geof, I wouldn’t sh*t you as you are my favorite turd. 👀👍
Back atcha, turd blossom. 🌹
The main difference between the two decks is the Deck 1 will let you adjust azimuth to fine tune the sound with each tape type. The DR-2 does not. Other than that they are pretty comparable decks the DR-2 being a bit newer has slightly better specs. I've owned and like the DR-2 never used the Deck-1 and I wouldn't pay much attention to the specs as regards sound quality.
If you're thinking about archiving precious records, don't think twice. Get a Nak. The medium is viable, the sound good, the build excellent. 

I have owned 5 Naks, and still own 3: an XR-7 and two CR-7a's. The XR-7 is used for a music reference in my lab, where vinyl is not practical. Don't let the digitizers put you off a good technology, well executed. 
If you're thinking about archiving precious records, don't think twice. Get a Nak. The medium is viable, the sound good, the build excellent.
What's the consensus these days on whether or not to use Dolby when recording?  Proper bias is of course very important, but would you archive vinyl using Dolby?


If both are in the same condition, the best choice would be the Cassettedeck 1. The DR-2 is newer, however the Deck 1 has the better transport. The Deck 1 has, what some techs call, the basic Dragon transport. It is cast metal and the DR-2's transport is stamped metal. Also, the Deck 1 has real time monitoring, not a feature on the DR-2. Here's a link for more info.

http://www.naks.com/


Calling a cassette deck (especially a Nakamichi deck) a “turd” is just wrong! Anyone who still listens to cassettes knows what I mean. The medium gets a bad rap as it only moves the tape at 1.75” per second. OK, it’s not reel-to-reel but it can sound really good with high quality commercial cassettes. The cassettes can still be found at thrift stores, sometimes in the original plastic wrappers, for a quarter. People who still own and use Nakamichi decks know what I mean.
@lowrider57 I would personally never record with Dolby Noise Reductions it kills the high frequencies.
Good info in here once you get past the turd stuff. I think some people don't understand that many of us old timers who grew up in the 80's have boxes and boxes of cassettes laying around and no way to listen to them. I have been shopping for a while, but the problem isn't finding a deck, it is finding the right deck.
-Geoff
@lowrider57 

I use Dolby B, but not Dolby C. With Dolby B, there's not much to choose between a hot-rodded Revox A77 half-track at 7.5ips and a hot-rodded CR-7a.

"Hot-rodded" means mainly cap and resistor improvements, not fundamental circuit changes.
@jond 

Not my experience with the CR-7a. The auto-alignment feature makes up for any limitation in what is basically a different compensation curve. 
@terry9 I have never been fortunate enough to use a CR-7a my decks were a DR-2 and a DR-10. I have no doubt a really high end deck would be a different experience.
@jond , I agree with you; I tried it and decided against using it. I think everybody back in the day tried it and came to the same conclusion.
  I still have tapes that I recorded with "Dolby On."
It's true that the many cassette decks suffered high frequency loss using Dolby Noise Reduction, however this was not an issue with the better Naks. I have owned a Dragon, CR-7a, 670ZX with NR-200 Dolby unit, RX-303, 581Z, and still have my original 582. None had a high frequency loss using Dolby.

@terry9 , the CR-7a must be like "studio quality," (I realise we're talking cassettes).

Would Dolby B on a stock CR-7 effectively reduce noise w/o limiting sonics?
Thanks for that info, @tls49 . I still love analogue tape and have considered a used Nak to archive vinyl.

Was Dolby C of any use on the Naks?
mickeyblu79,

DR 2 is as good as you will ever want it to be. I have no experience with DR 1, though.

Practical difference between cast and stamped metal has probably evened out over the last 25 years. If they have survived, they have proven reliable enough, I would say.

If you are really a cassette novice, you should know that the medium is very inconvenient and novelty may wear off relatively soon. Otherwise, it does posses some magic. If you still have your own tapes from when you were what you are not anymore. It does bring a madeleine moment every time and many of us love it for that. Some admit, some do not. I have to admit that recording new tapes is not as exciting as it used to be, but playing old ones is unbeatable. It beats playing records.

There are tapes to be found, but you will have to learn which ones you really want. TDK SA from 1980-1988 seems to be indestructible. SA-X comes close. However, it will be a real luck to find them for 25 cents a piece. Same tape names from the 1990s, at least on my machines, have had different (less tight in some imaginary way) sound and were far from reliable.

Good luck.
lowrider57, don’t remember how to describe it, but Dolby C just never seem to sound exactly right, so never used it.

The CR-7a is an extremely nice deck, however not one of my favorites. It is a later model that used the stamped metal transport. The higher end models using the cast metal transport always seem to be just slightly better. A couple that I lusted after were the ZX-9 and the 682ZX. A certified Nak tech I know thinks the 682ZX was as good as anything they ever made.

"Practical difference between cast and stamped metal has probably evened out over the last 25 years. If they have survived, they have proven reliable enough, I would say."

Both transports were reliable. It’s just that the cast metal transport sounded better and it always will.

Either deck would likely give you good service, but as I previously said, as long as both decks are in the same condition, the better choice is the Cassettedeck 1.


tls49,

I have no experience in comparing those so I stand corrected. However, if someone starts a thread about the theory of that, I am afraid it would turn ugly.
@jond

My CR-7a with belts is marginally better than my CR-7a with gear train. High frequency was not an issue on Dolby B with either deck when stock. I found Dolby C to sound a little "processed", but not degraded to digital levels.

I suggest that you buy the best deck you can find. My father, a shipyard superintendent, with corresponding hearing damage, compared a high class Denon to a DR-1. His comment, "There’s really no comparison, is there?"

I thought about a ZX-9, but the automatic alignment feature on the CR-7a is really useful.

@tls49 

Thanks for the Nak link. I'd forgotten about that site!


@lowrider57 

Sorry, I mis-attributed the question to jond. See above. Yes, pretty close to studio quality, IMO.
Thanks, @terry9 . I still have my notes on the various Nak models when I was looking to buy.
I worked in studios and am very familiar with how quiet R-R and cassette can be. I'd like to try transferring CD's to a high-end cassette deck; I know analogue tape bestows a nice sonic quality to the recording.
While they certainly SOUNDED wonderful when compared to vinyl back in the day--a "hollow" sound was the most notable difference when compared A-B to vinyl--my personal experience when selling Nakamichi was that 100% of them came back broken within a few weeks.  They were sent off to be fixed and typically were OK after that--the 700 was particularly quirky--but the others were OK.  Dragon (II?), I think, was considered the best one at 3 heads, but the various versions of the 700 and 1000 had 3 heads as well as I remember. (Getting old!)

If you get one, be sure it has been serviced and listen to it A-B with another source--vinyl suggested--and you might be surprised how good it sounds when it works.  Regarding good tapes, I have lost track of that medium, but it is not an inherently bad one. I would guess people here know which ones are considered "best" today. Now DIGITAL...don't get me started on compression algorithms.  UGH!!
I researched cassette decks from ebay 3 years ago and found "best value" deals on Nak CR3, one of which I bought and tested for a friend. It beat out the SQ compared to my refurb Teac V770 (which I also recommend) and to a JVC 3-head deck TD-V621 (which I bought for myself as a backup; not bad but not as good as Teac or Nak). I thought that most of the Nak 3-head decks circa late 80s-early 90s all looked good, but some were going for a premium price. The decks I considered were CR3,CR4,CR5,DR1,DR2,DR10, and Nak "Cassette Deck 1". A full refurb on any of them would be good to consider IMO. PS the CR3 finally broke down after 3 years according to my friend. No repair shop nearby where we live...
lowrider57
Proper bias is of course very important, but would you archive vinyl using Dolby?
I wouldn't choose to archive anything on cassette. It's just not an archival medium.
Had a Naki 600 back in the day. Only 2 heads but was impressive none the less. Got stupid and sold it. Had a 680 ZX for a short while which was also a quality device. Sold that as well. Regret that simmered over the years resulted in my finding another one - a 600 - and buying it from a fellow in Canada. 
Still sounds remarkably good with a quality tape such as TDK SA, Nakamichi,  Maxell EXII, or Fuji. Of course it couldn't tranform a sonically-poor LP into something good, and care had to be taken to not 'over saturate' the tape when dubbing.
Still sounds great in my 1988 BMW's stock cassette deck based audio system.
@cleeds

Not an archival medium? Depends. Cheap stuff, 120 minutes, agreed. Metal Type 4, 60 minutes duration, absolutely disagree.

I have tapes made 20 years ago that sound fine. I used the ceramic cartridge bodied cassettes for mixdowns from 15 ips master tapes. Just amateur stuff, but I made damn fine CD’s, if I do say so myself.

Without going into details, I think that cassettes are a perfect way to extend the life of precious vinyl. Tapes don’t degrade; vinyl does, at least on most real-world systems.
leoniruii
Had a 680 ZX for a short while which was also a quality device.
The 680 is an outstanding machine. I still have mine - it was expertly serviced last year by Soundsmith. I use it with a Nakamichi NR200 outboard Dolby B/C unit. When levels are properly aligned, the recording quality is amazing. I keep it on hand to play a few historic recordings that I have and the occasional old mixtape. But, as a practical matter, even the best cassette deck is obsolete. And a good reel-to-reel deck will walk all over it.
Seek out a Nak Dragon. It speaks for itself.....
terry9
Not an archival medium? Depends. Cheap stuff, 120 minutes, agreed. Metal Type 4, 60 minutes duration, absolutely disagree.
The facts speak for themselves. You can’t get flat frequency response to 20K on cassette at 0 dB - when cassette manufacturers cited FR specs, it was typically at -20dB.

I have tapes made 20 years ago that sound fine.
Me too!
Tapes don’t degrade; vinyl does, at least on most real-world systems.
Tape most certainly does degrade. For example, where do you think that gunk comes from that must be cleaned from your tape heads, capstan and tape guides? A well-cared for LP will last for generations. Of course, they have to be stored properly, and played properly - but the same is true of tape. I have some LPs that date to the early 60s, and they play like new.

In any event, if you want to be serious about analog tape, reel-to-reel is the way to go.
I'm a serious tapehead and with a good tape and a machine serviced with a good tech and you have nothing short of magic.
@cleeds 

"Tape most certainly does degrade."

Quite correct. What I should have said is that saving vinyl to tape, and playing tape until it degrades, gets you thousands of plays before degradation. Sorry to be inaccurate.

And I agree, half track at 15 ips is the standard - but it sure is expensive!
Great info, @cleeds . And the term archive is a misnomer. My plan was to make high quality copies of albums that can be listened to without the time and effort of playing vinyl.
  I agree that R-R is an amazing format even today, but requires money, time, and a relationship with a good tech for use in a home system. I enjoy the setup and recording process. Then comes the satisfaction of sitting back and listening to some outstanding music.   
   For me, there's no other format that sounds so pure and organic.


I use Nak 682ZX on a weekly basis and send it to Willy Hermann for service every five years. It also has custom transformer and $1500 interconnects to pass the signal to the amp.
No, it does not sound as good as Nottingham Spacedeck turntable. And I use only the best tape there is - Maxell Metal Vertex. But it does sound very very good. I used to use Dolby B from time to time but no longer - more disadvantages than advantages.
I suggest paying more and getting 680ZX, 682ZX or ZX-7. My preference would be 682ZX, but it is rare and more expensive.
I started another thread regarding tape some time ago. For me nothing sounds quite like tape. My Studer reel-to-reel project is on hold but I'll get there in time.
inna,

Thanks for mentioning Willy Hermann. Just enough info to link me to what I have been thinking about for years. Thanks again.
I think, he now does only overhauls if it is the first time that he works on your deck. His 'overhaul' is not at all ES Labs overhaul who literally completely disassemble and reassemble decks and claim to make them like new or better. But they charge thousands, so I told them to go to hell. Willy does what needs to be done and tests everything in the process. I paid something like $650 the first time and about $350 second and third times. The wait time is a few months, at least it was last year.
inna
... His 'overhaul' is not at all ES Labs overhaul who literally completely disassemble and reassemble decks and claim to make them like new or better. But they charge thousands, so I told them to go to hell.
Really? You tell people to go to hell if you don't like their price? I'd say ES Labs is fortunate to not have you as a customer.
If you have many cassettes like i do some are live recordings a Nak Deck is worth the investment.
Out of the decks mentioned i would go for the DR-1 simply because it has more adjustment options.
i have owned a Nak 550 battery powered portable.
It was a great deck and ahead of its time.
i made many live recordings of my band and they always came out great.
However in my opinion The Nak ZX9 was the best deck ever made.
It was very adjustable and built like a tank.
That would be my choice.