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!


Nakamichi Dragon was nice, but I'd pick the ZX-9. The Dragon did everything automatically, where the ZX-9 allowed for manually fine tuning the heads, etc.. With (I think) Maxell CR02 tape I made the best sounding cassettes I ever heard. It did a better than excellent job on prerecorded tapes, too. Like most, I wish I'd never let mine go.

knolbrent, back in the '70s and '80s I owned a number of cassette decks.  They included Nak, Tandberg, Harman-Kardon, Aiwa, Pioneer, and Denon.  Because of the time interval my comments today must be only general terms.

First off, beware of prerecorded tapes you may find in used record stores and thrift shops.  Even brand new and undamaged I always found tapes I recorded myself were of better sonic quality.  A main reason was likely the high speed duplication necessary for volume production.  And at the time cassettes were the #1 sellers.

Nakamichi has become the standard "go to" brand and with good reason.  They were well designed and built.  But they were complex and are now old and the average electronic repair person may not be able to update them properly so be prepared to find a specialist if you buy one.  I owned a 480 and found it only "average" so I wouldn't pay for the name there.  Spend more and find something higher in the line.

The "sleeper" among those I owned was the Aiwa f990.  It was not so well known then but now I see substantial prices for refurbished examples.

I still have a good collection of tapes and a Pioneer CT-900.  That is also a very good deck but mine has a broken belt which is a pain to replace and not high on my task list.

Anyway, with proper selection of blank tape and careful recording procedures you may be surprised by the sonic quality you can enjoy. 

Excellent info @pryso I do like the Pioneer and the Aiwa a lot. I've decided to delay the purchase of a cassette and put my efforts toward a vintage R2R. Budget wise it makes better sense to me as a collection piece. Great information on this thread. I sure appreciate everyones effort to bring light to the subject. 

You gotta add the B&O Beocords! Especially the 8004 (?) with the self-adjusting azimuth.

In terms of WOW factor, it is hard to beat the Nakamichi deck that does auto reverse by actually flipping the tape over instead of simply playing in the opposite direction.  The flip happens with incredible speed so it is a lot of fun to see the deck in operation.  It is also a pretty good sounding deck.  The Dragon and ZX-9 are pricey machines that, when fully reconditioned sound very good.  I like the looks of all of the top end Nakamichi machines.

A lot of cassette fans think that the Tanberg 3014 is the best sounding machine offered on the consumer market.  It has been dubbed the Dragon-slayer, by those who think it is better than the top Nakamichi machines.  It does not, in my opinion, look as nice as the Nakamichi machines, but, it certain is a great sounding deck.