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[AUDIOPHILES UNITE!] Need help with audio cassette setup

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Hello, OT community.

I’m looking to digitize some extremely rare audio cassette tapes with very valuable content on it with the best playback possible (particularly Dragon Ball Z stuff, long story).

Anyway, the common word on the street is that the Nakamichi Dragon is the premiere tape deck, and I have heard samples of its playback, and it is incredible, certainly for audio cassette playback.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX5hErEtG30

BUT! This Dutch guy argues that the Pioneer CT-95 is in fact the best.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylFeX8rkwQw

The sound on that one is great too, but which one is truly the surperior deck?

Also, is it true that if you play a non-Dolby tape on a Dolby player that the quality will decline? If so, is there any way that the Dolby can be switched off?

I almost forgot, let me know if there’s a deck other than these two that you think is the best.

I hope to hear from those of you who know your stuff or just have a strong opinion on this subject.

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I’d be hesitant to argue about relative quality of cassette decks. I’d say get something pretty good, but don’t spent crazy money on one.

I know you’re looking for the best transfer possible, but the fact of the matter is that old cassettes are not great sources for quality audio. They were convenient and cheap, but you didn’t buy them for how good they sounded.

In mp3 terms you are talking about 128kbps quality. That’s commercial recordings. If your tape is non-Dolby it was probably home recorded, so that number is much lower. Maybe half.

Dolby Noise Reduction helped with one of cassette tapes’ biggest weakness: tape hiss. Roughly speaking DNR tapes added a volume boost to the frequencies where tape hiss is strongest. On playback the DNR would then cut the volume of those high frequencies and you’d perceive a better signal to noise ratio than you would have without it.

Pretty much all reasonably good cassette decks should have DNR built in and a button for turning it on or off. So if your tape wasn’t recorded with it, you won’t lose those high frequencies as long as you disable it.

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Dr. M

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Don’t waste your money on the most high end dicks out there. As Doctor M stated above, cassettes don’t have the best quality. Even your “audiophile” decks will produce results of 128kbps, though if you’re like me and you listen to a lot of low-fidelity productions that were recorded in stoner’s garages, basements or shitty cheap recording studios in the 80’s then this is more than listenable. As someone who collects rare and obscure metal from the 80’s, let me be the first to tell you to always use a good Kenwood deck. You can still find them out in the wild for relatively cheap and in decent shape. I’ve never had a Kenwood eat my tapes. Hope this helps, good luck.

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Nakamichi were known to be the best tape deck in the world. Period.
If you can find out one at a good price, with the head not worned out, grab it!
If not (it is likely), I do remember that Teac did very good decks as well; aim for the higher models, of course.
If your tapes are original, they most probably have Dolby B; best 80s deck have also Dolby C, and even Dolby S (rarely DBX, too); they should be turned on only with tapes recorded with the same kind of noise reduction to get the best result, even if there was one that would be beneficial also with tapes recorded without NR - can’t remember which one, you must do your homeworks here! 😃

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