Top 10 vintage cassette decks

Howdy folks!

Would like to add an excellent vintage cassette deck to my setup. Luxman PD444  and Victor TT-101 make up my vintage vinyl setup. It would be cool to include a badass old timer cassette deck don't ya think. Also researching 70's, 80's R2R's. There's another thread on that one. Anyway, I appreciate your knowledge and experience with a killer top ten vintage cassette deck. Bam!


you should be looking for a Nachamichi.   I had a 1000ii,  Should have kept it.

I always used top tier Teac 3 head units. I made all my own tapes for the car and they always sounded great...of course using good tapes IE Maxell. The darker the color of the tape the better. TDK was also good

Just like R2R's find a good teck to go over what ever you end up with.


If 1 of your considerations for a cassette player is vintage quality

and a little out of the ordinary there's this Technics available 

rare 2 peace model.. 

*less 33% since its in Canadian funds.


I had Nakamichi BX-150 back in the day. I currently have a Denon DRM-800A cassette deck. Both are awesome decks.

Harmon Kardon was in the mix back in the day. I have a HK 2000 in a box in my basement. I've been thinking of breaking it out. You may have given me some motivation. 

I've owned various decks, but aside from an Akai and an Aiwa (sp?) the others were Nakamichi.

Of the Nak's (250/350/550/600/700ZXE) the 700ZXE was by far the best (think the 250 was payback only as I used it in my car).

This said, I also made extremely good recordings with VHS (3-head) and Sony Betamax decks.

I assume that parts for the Nakamichi's would be more readily available.



I’ve owned a great many of these (including DATs and Elcasettes(!). I currently have (and strongly recommend) the Revox B710MKII (not MKI), the Tascam 122MKII (not a MkI or MKIII) and the Studer A810. You cannot go wrong with these IF they are properly maintained. Importantly, most parts are available for these. Parts availability means problems for many SONY units and the Technics RS1500 decks. The Nakamichis are great, BUT they use a different EQ curve than all the others so forget about swapping tapes between friends. If you are buying used, you should expect some sort of repair bill no matter what the previous owner tells you - unless they can show proof of recent service. For R2R, I’m obviously partial to the Studer A810, but you should also consider a PR99 MKII or MKIV. A “sleeper” would be the Fostex E2 – if the heads are in good shape. I can suggest a few good recorder techs if interested.

100% on any Nachamichi. When they and cassettes were at their height, they blew everything away. I sold most of the major brands back in the 80-90's and Nachamichi's always sounded best. But it is really important to have any deck checked or purchased from a reliable source as these are mechanical machines and many things can wear out, or at the least need a good cleaning, demag and oiling.

I still have a shoe box full of cassettes but I haven't had a machine to play them on in at least a decade.. In any event, way back when I went through a number of cassette player brands including Nak, and ended up enjoying my Denon the most.

I bought an NAD 6300 monitor series when they first came out. Many of my friends had NAKS and others mentioned here. Anyone that listened to tapes made with or mass produced tepes played on this rig were extremely impressed with the reproduction. I still have mine and it still works well. The only deck I would consider trading it for would be a Dragon. 

Nakamichi 1000 was the king as far as I'm concerned, if you can find one in survivor or reconditioned shape.  Much cheaper but still quality: Tandberg TD310 (controls non-solenoid and a bit clunky); TD330 (solenoid controls, much better aesthetics for not much more $$ used).

Post removed 

Nak, Revox or Tandberg….but the Tand not all that reliable ( my opinion based on selling and servicing hundreds ….i know there are unicorns…. but let’s face it, NAK and Revox, the aint… Sonics on all 3 excellent. You got great advice on budgeting for a great tape tech to go thru your purchase.

Have fun, I have a 2 head Nak in the garage and greatly enjoy listening to tapes in made in the 70’s…. i guess, i am ancient…

Would like to add an excellent vintage cassette deck to my setup. Luxman PD444  and Victor TT-101 make up my vintage vinyl setup. It would be cool to include a badass old timer cassette deck don't ya think

Even the famous Swiss cassette recorder company moved onto digital.
Mostly they were reel-to reel rather than cassette.

Have you considered just digitising the vinyl?

Gotta be Nakamichi.   But any left will need a full service before use.   It still won't sound nearly as good as a decent record player though.

+1 @holmz    A badass B Series Revox reel to reel running 1/4 inch tape at 7.5 ips will sound an awful lot better.

I owned a Nakamichi 600, and it was exceptionally well-designed. Not the highest performance of the Nak line, but a beautiful piece of gear.

Just under the Aiwa f990, are  both the f770 and f660 models.  I’ve had the f770 for 38 years now, still going....the f660bis my back up. excellent 3 head decks. I sold my f990 a few years ago for top money, I was broke...these Aiwa decks could give nakamichi a run for their money and were way ahead of their time. Very futuristic looking decks. 

I use a JVC KD-A77 3 head deck it made great sounding tapes that I still listen to just put new belts still works great .

Nak CR-7A, out performed everything else in its class. Bought one new, and still have it. Every now and then I pop in a tape I made 25 years ago and still sounds great. Glad I never got rid of all my cassettes, have 100's

Many companies produced great cassette decks, most claimed big Nak killers, few did it though, some of the top ones came out late when cassette was dying and sported Dolby S. Many also never made it outside Japan so not well known, all were amazing piece of engineering and could demonstrate what the cassette was capable of, you cannot go wrong with any of these,

Nakamichi-ZX9, CR7, Dragon

Luxman/Alpine-K05/AL95 (same deck)

Revox-B215, B710

Pioneer-CT95, CT-A1






Regret selling my TCK990ES (K555ES in Japan).





Back in the day I owned the Nak CX9. Could not afford the Dragon at the time. The Dragon was the ultimate deck. 

All Nak decks broke but were able to be fixed. The consensus "best" was the Dragon. Three heads, azimuth alignment are the keys to a good deck.

You can buy them used but you may have to have it serviced. Once it is working as intended, it was considered the best back then and still is.

Now, as for TAPES, well, good luck finding the best ones--metal as I remember.


Just chiming in that the Nakamichi Dragon is pretty easily the top. I made   thousands of tapes back in the day and could never afford the dragon. So I would always just spent as much as I could on another Nak model. I owned about 5 Nak decks over the years. The Naks always sounded best to my ears.  Then went DAT. 

Cassette decks are a double edged sword.  The best ones were (are) capable of astonishing performance, with a few of them in the list below even surpassing some R2R’s.

However these great “holy grail” machines cost a lot to purchase nowadays and will require a complete service (mechanical overhaul, and calibration) and in some cases at least a partial restoration in order to recover their legendary performance.

Here are some of these monumental machines to look at (in no particular order):

Nakamichi 1000ZXL, 700ZXE, ZX-9, ZX-7, Dragon, 682ZX.

Tandberg TCD-3014(A), TCD-911

Aiwa XK-009, AD-F990, XK-S9000

Revox B215S

Pioneer CT-A9X

Sony TC-K777 (ES)

The above machines are, in fully operational and calibrated states, capable of making subjectively indistinguishable copies from masters, making them all fantastic recorders.  The Nakamichi Dragon has the singular distinction of employing an elaborate automatic azimuth on the playback head, making it, combined with its overall excellent quality, the ultimate playback deck, though it is also a state of the art recorder.  However the ultimate recorder is the 1000ZXL, followed by the other above Naks and then the above Aiwa decks, in my experienced opinion.


Cassettes were a sh**ty medium so why waste your money on a over-engineered, difficult to maintain machine?  Just get any Nak 2 head single capstan deck with Sendust heads, metal biasing. Many to choose from. I have an MR2 pro version of BX2.  Another underrated winner in addition to those above…JVC portable with Sendust heads that outperformed the Sony.  Match your TT.

@spenav When I was first getting into audio the store local to me had one of those for sale, even back then it was out of my price range but I used to stop in just to ogle it.

The only cassettes I care about are those of my old bands either in performance or jamming, and me playing my musical instruments. No, we weren't very good, but it'd be great if I could hear how bad.

I having had Naka CR7E for home and TD700E for hi fi car for many years, the latter I sold last year with a new playhead spare.
Both had great sound better than all the home and car decks I’ve had.
However, there is a contender who aspires to leadership and has the name of Studer A721 or the brother for home use Revox B215S.
They will make the repairman happy in case of breakdown because the interior is in modules and is completely disassembled in less than 15 minutes for all maintenance unlike the Naka which have tangles of cables and curses to change the belts, idler or other.
Obviously the performance is state of the art.

another vote for Nakamichi Dragon.

I never owned one but a friend of a friend had one.  It's operation and performance seemed awesome compared to anything I had heard.  Other components in his system certainly contributed, but the Dragon, in my recollection, was the star.

Wow, that’s a lot of information folks. Thanks!!! My main intention is too have a vintage cassette and R2R that i can display and use when I choose. I’ve got two killer TT’s, now it’s time to add a couple more piece. My goal is to purchase the R2R first, then in 6 months or so, get a cassette. R2R is first. The time for research is now.  I appreciate the info so far, plenty to pick from.

Regarding cosmetics, 9/10 is what’s needed. A collector piece but not necessarily in price. My Luxman cost me minty fresh with two boards $1900. My Victor TT-101 drive cost $1500, redone by JP for $1750, original plinth with new Teak veneer $500 including 6 boards, $3750 for Victor which is legendary TT. I put my cassette budget at $3500 for my cosmetic requirements BUT 

Looks like I'll wait on the cassette and put the funds toward an R2R instead. Great info in this thread nonetheless. 

I like the Nakamichi decks- they are built quite nicely...


the three-head models are prone to failure of the 3rd (record) head. The head is very difficult to find and expensive when you do. You may pay as much for that head as you do for the entire machine. IMO its not worth it.

If this warning is insufficient let's put it this way: Check the machine before the purchase is final; beware of 'one channel out in record'. These days that likely means a bad record head.

I will chime in and say ANY three head Nakamichi will likely outperform other decks out there... I have restored many and currently run a CR3A in my main system. It is an outstanding performer.

For overall good looks, it is hard to beat a Pioneer CT-F1250 or Akai GX-8.

+1 for Nak CR7A. Bought one new and still have it. I probably haven’t used it for serious listening in 25 years but can’t bear to sell it. Recently recorded a Qobuz stream on a metal cassette and the sound was amazing.  Only serviced once for new belts.  Many think it’s better than the Dragon.  



Even though I use aligned and calibrated by a pro Nak 682ZX with Maxell Vertex tapes on an almost daily basis, I do not recommend spending a lot on any cassette deck, including relatively high cost of maintenance. I think, 682ZX and ZX-7 are audiophile best values. 1000ZXL is a masterpiece, ZX-9 is excellent.

Yes, some say that Tandberg 3014A was the very best of them all.

My Nak has served me well for over 20 years but I really take care of it.

Oh, and I use $2600 cables with it, by the way. Yeah, I tried everything starting with Nakamichi cables, then going up Purist Audio line to Neptune, and finally settled on Wywires Diamond. It did take 20 years. I use Diamonds with phono too.

Anyway, if you want great performance - go for two track R2R.