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Sony Tapecorder 101 Review (Vintage Reel to Reel)

Rate this product:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 11 8.0%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 25 18.1%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 59 42.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 43 31.2%

  • Total voters
    138

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Sony Tapecorder Model 101 vintage Reel to Reel tape recorder. My brother found it for me at a Goodwill store. The 101 was released in 1959 and retailed for 29,800 Japanese Yen (today's conversion and adjusted for inflation: $2,377).
Sony Tapecorder Model 101 Reel to Reel tape deck review.jpg


I must stay it looks absolutely cute! It has a lid that covers it all. With it on, it would fit right in inside any fashion store. You can get a sense of that with a side shot:
Sony Tapecorder Model 101 Review Side View Vintage Reel to Reel.jpg


The thing weighs a ton by the way for its size. There is a fan on the back and cute little door which exposes the AC cord connection inside it.

I have been anxious to measure it but took me a long time to find a test tape. Eventually I found one that has an odd tone of 315 Hz.

EDIT: this was an April Fool's joke. The following measurement is NOT real.

Sony Tapecorder Model 101 Measurements

I must say, I was not prepared for this level of performance out of this slow running, ancient deck:

Sony Tape Recorder Model 101 Measurements Vintage Reel to Reel.png


OK, it is not a CD but compare it to my modern Otari Reel to Reel:

index.php


SINAD is just 4 dB lower! If I am not mistake, distortion is actually lower on the Sony than the Otari. I am just stunned by this. Were these vintage decks all this good???

Alas, I have no other test tones to show you more measurements. I will see if I can record some and post them later.

Conclusions
I don't usually get excited with testing vintage stuff as with some exceptions, performance is not there. And most look and smell old. Not here. The Sony 101 looks practically new and performs almost at the same level of a modern Reel to Reel deck. I see one advertised on ebay in worse shape for $70. If it works, it would be worth every dollar based on this testing.

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LTig

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Very nice. I think it's even older than the famous Uher Report series. Might be interesting how those measure.

Edit: @amirm - why is THD in% higher for the Sony although the individual harmonic components seem to be less and lower than those of the Otari?

Edit 2: which speed did you use for the dash board?
 
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GWolfman

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Interesting find!

Out of fun, what'd your brother pay at the Goodwill? $5?
 
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amirm

amirm

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Out of fun, what'd your brother pay at the Goodwill? $5?
Probably. He was moving and didn't want to take it with him and just gave it to me. Forgot to ask him how much he paid for it.
 
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amirm

amirm

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OH, the exchange rate must have been a lot different than what I used today (naturally). Using $99, it would make it almost $1,000 in today's pricing.
 

Blumlein 88

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You also seem to have gotten super lucky on the speed accuracy with it being about .2 %. Of course this could be because 60 hz is much more 60 hz on today's grid that it was in the past like in the 1960's.

Looking at old recorder reviews of similar machines shows they usually had a record/playback THD of 2-3%. SNR's of around 45 db give or take seem the norm.
 

MarcosCh

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Sorry for my ignorance, but what does "dual track monophonic" mean? Amir dashboard seems to show two channels, so I guess it has a "dual head" (don't know how it is called) and outputs two channels but is still monophonic??
 

voodooless

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OH, the exchange rate must have been a lot different than what I used today (naturally). Using $99, it would make it almost $1,000 in today's pricing.
I get at ~ $1400 if you go by the Yen price of 1959 converted to 2020 Yen, and then back to USD. The reason for the difference to the ~ $1000 is clear if you look at the inflation rates of the two countries:
1648798664419.png
 

fordiebianco

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Stupid question: how was the unit measured? Does it have RCA/DIN output or does it have a built in speaker that was measured?
 
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JSmith

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