When Sony released Billy Joel's "52nd Street" CD to launch the digital revolution, not everyone was pleased. Doug Sax, renowned audiophile producer and president of Sheffield Labs, actively campaigned against it with the slogan "Stop digital madness" (see stereophile.com). The harsh and sterile sound of early digital recordings is much less of a problem today but some audiophiles still treasure their cassette collections. They look back fondly on the mid-80s when cassette tapes eclipsed record sales and some legendary tape decks were produced. These decks are still leaders in Hi-Fi cassette performance.
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Tandberg TCD 910
When Tandberg announced their 910 Master Recorder in 1985 they had already been working with magnetic tapes for more than half a century. Tandberg's goal in designing the 910 was to replace reel to reel decks in recording studios without sacrificing performance. The result is a professional grade cassette deck with audio characteristics that exceed broadcasting standards. The TCD 910 mechanically locks cassettes into position and uses four microprocessor controlled servo motors to run its transport mechanism. High-end polypropylene capacitors and metal film resistors are used throughout and critical components are engineered to a one per cent tolerance. The TCD 910 also has Tandberg's patented DYNEQ headroom extension system to maximise frequency response and an advanced ACTILINEAR II amplifier for maximum bandwidth. Dolby B and C noise reduction also are included, along with a sophisticated tape calibration system.
Nakamichi has always been a leader in cassette deck performance. The company manufactured the ZX-9 from 1982 to 1985 when they were at the top of their game. When a good chrome or metal cassette is recorded and played back on a properly calibrated ZX-9 the dynamic range and clarity are almost identical to a CD. The only real difference is the added warmth provided by the ZX-9's analogue format. It takes advanced engineering to get these result; the ZX-9 delivers with more than a dozen tape calibration controls and a Super Linear Direct Drive motor that eliminates wow and flutter (speed changes).
Revox built its reputation by selling bulletproof reel to reel units to the recording industry. When the popularity of cassette tapes peaked, they capitalised on public demand by introducing their top-of-the-line B215 tape deck. This three-head deck automatically adjusts to any tape brand or type. The B215 minimises hiss and distortion by combining Dolby B and C with a Dolby HX Pro circuit. Its dual-capstan, four direct drive motor transport mechanism is mounted on a heavy alloy chassis to eliminate wow and flutter and is controlled by a microprocessor.
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