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Measurements of Nakamichi Dragon Cassette Deck

maty

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So if you can't break the laws of physics you're incompetent?

I wrote:

A competent desing is without harmonics or, at least, lower. The technological limitations of the moment I suppose.
 

Jimster480

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This whole unit is before my time!
But I think that the keys here are being able to play back what you have created?
Is it not possible to use one of those car audio tapes to test this?

I mean otherwise you are at the mercy of the test tape, which may be worn out after all this time.
Also the fact that the unit is near 50 years old could lend to lower performance!
 
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amirm

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Is it not possible to use one of those car audio tapes to test this?
That would be like testing a car by putting it on a flatbed tow truck and testing that! :) The quality of these things is horrible (like the cheapest cassette deck you could get) and at any rate, they would eliminate tape recording and playback which is the main feature of what needs testing.
 
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amirm

amirm

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I mean otherwise you are at the mercy of the test tape, which may be worn out after all this time.
It is a weakness of all of these analog formats whether it is tape, or LP. Their performance is hard to scrutinize.
 
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amirm

amirm

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So you replayed ancient test tapes of unknown condition, test tapes suitable for resp. level, speed, and azimuth, and you put the blame on the deck?
These were reference calibration tapes with printed labels and such so I assume they were commercially produced to be accurate. I tested three different ones so hard to make a statement that a single tape was bad. All three produces remarkably poor results compared to modern standards.

As to blame, I noted the issue of tape fidelity in my review. It is what I had in my disposal and we now have data about how good or bad that setup is. Maybe in the future I get to test other samples.
 

JJB70

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I still have mine, even though I haven't used it for years. Seems like a betrayal to sell it but I should I suppose.

I wish I'd kept mine. I probably wouldn't use it (I'm afraid I'm an unashamed fan boy of digital) but it was a lovely thing and sometimes I wish I could still point to it when youngsters think I'm a complete crack pot for harping on about how hi-fi isn't made like it was in the old days (even if it sounds better, is more user friendly and offers functionality we couldn't have dreamed of when I was younger).
 

anmpr1

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I remember back when Mark "I never met a preamp that was too expensive" Levinson was hawking his Chinese sourced Red Rose products. Mark had an idea of selling refurbished Nak 1000 decks in his store, along with cassette copies of his own Studer A80 based recordings (using ML electronics). But he soon dropped that idea.

I personally never heard a cassette deck (Nakamichi, ReVox, Tandberg etc) that sounded very good. At least not better than mid-fi. Not as good as a mass market open reel Pioneer 701 @ 7ips. with no Dolby, no nothing. Certainly not as good as most Direct to Disc records. Cassettes were fine for cars of the day. Or copying a friends record.

To measure an old deck one would have to know the condition of the heads, and alignment, etc. In new condition, @ 20dB below 0VU, most decks had pretty good frequency response, but as you approached 0, FR dropped off badly and distortion increased significantly. Dolby S was supposed to help in the S/N department, but I never heard a deck using that process. By the time S arrived, digital was taking over. The best tapes were Type IV, metal, and sounded pretty good on a decent deck. If pretty good was good enough, a cassette deck was OK for what it was.
 

folzag

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These were reference calibration tapes with printed labels and such so I assume they were commercially produced to be accurate. I tested three different ones so hard to make a statement that a single tape was bad. All three produces remarkably poor results compared to modern standards.

As to blame, I noted the issue of tape fidelity in my review. It is what I had in my disposal and we now have data about how good or bad that setup is. Maybe in the future I get to test other samples.

It is assumed that cassette tape ages and degrades with time, yes?

If so, then a 30-40 yo reference cassette isn't entirely invalid, unless the people insisting it is were (heh, are?) also budgeting buying new recordings of their old studio cassettes every 8-12 years as well.
 

RayDunzl

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I think you missed my point.

There's something wrong with simply making an observation of how some dusty old antique unit performs?
 
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amirm

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I think you missed my point. How can you possibly draw any relevant conclusion by testing an un-calibrated, un-restored tape deck?
This was a well-loved, and cherished unit by its owner. There is no data that says it was uncalibrated, unrestored, etc. It is not like I bought one on ebay and tested that. Any owner that has that many calibrate tapes as this owner did, is likely into getting the best performance out of the unit.
 

hvbias

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An I can differentiate, with good recordings: MP3 320kbps vs FLAC 16/44. And between FLAC 16/44, 16/48, 16/96 and 16/192, 24/44, 24/96 and 24/192. I did not the test with 24/48. I have a thread with the files from a very good 24/192 file. Not in the open Internet, off course.

These sort of incredulous claims need to be done with blind testing. I don't mean to single you out, but there are no instances (not including that BS AES article) of people being able to distinguish hi-res from CD when the masterings are identical, under blind conditions.

Since you say you are a follower of archimago he even had a rather detailed listening survey showing as much.
 

Thomas savage

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When we test this retro gear we will have more unknown factors so as Iv already said the results fall into the ‘fun’ bracket. It would be nice to test another deck and indeed other vintage kit but maybe we will need to get those $800 a hour lawyers that amir keeps on retainer to write up a legal disclaimer for y’all.

No more format battles, it’s thoroughly pointless and reading through them takes my attention from better things, like my beer .
 

Wombat

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I like format comparisons. They can be educational.
It is the amount of mis-information that is steadfastly posted, even in the light of knowledgeable correction, that is the problem.
 

Don Hills

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Boy this thread has gotten hard to follow... ... One thing a lot of folk did not realize was that machine-to-machine alignment was generally not that great for consumer products, and that was one of the things Nak sought to solve. You could easily lose 10 dB by taking a recording made on one deck to another and just playing it back.

I had a Nakamichi 482 and a 482Z. I was able to achieve better then 1 dB tracking when exchanging tapes between the decks because (a) I had the tools and gauges to align the mechanisms and (b) Nakamichi provided RC networks on the circuit boards where you could solder jumpers in and out to tweak the frequency response. I also brought the internal level and bias pots out to the front panel (a row of 10 turn pots mounted behind the lower right corner of the front panel) and had a custom tape loop switchbox with 400 Hz and 14 KHz alignment tones.
 

Werner

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That's true. Wonder if they make fresh calibration tapes and if so, what equipment they use for it.

You can still buy NOS TEAC and ABEX test tapes. I have a few of these, and crossreferencing to more recent tapes with known levels confirms that they are still fine.
There are also a few places that make new test tapes. These are recorded full-track off-shell on a reel to reel, or with a full-track head on a modified cassette machine.

I am now half-way restoring a Nak CR-3 and I get a frequency response on Maxell XLII that is ruler flat out to ... 26kHz, with negligible channel imbalance.
 

Werner

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These were reference calibration tapes with printed labels and such so I assume they were commercially produced to be accurate. .

How old? How were they stored? How often were they used? All of this matters massively with alignment tapes. Also, none of the ones you tried were produced with low distortion or low noise as a target. That was simply not their purpose at all. Yes, they are/were accurate: for their specific task.

If you want to learn about distortion and noise then you do the right things to that Dragon, and then record-play on a decent tape sample.
 

Purité Audio

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I still have mine, even though I haven't used it for years. Seems like a betrayal to sell it but I should I suppose.
Frank, if you do ever decide to sell I would be interested, to add to the things I never use but like to look at from time to time.
BW Keith
 
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