Audiocassette decks--which model should I use?

I’m about to start converting my precious audiocassettes to digital files. I recently acquired two decks: a Nakamichi CR-1A and a Teac W-660R. I also own an Onkyo TA-R301. Which of these three decks likely will reproduce the sound on my cassettes most accurately? Thanks. Alex

The one that corresponds to the standards under which the tapes were made. Audio cassettes were produced under three different tape layer types and any number of noise reduction and equalization standards. Pick the deck with the most options.

How are you going to get the music into your computer? If you have a Mac, then we’re done. If you have anything else, we need to talk.


Thanks, Koz. Most of the tapes were recorded on the Onkyo, so I guess I should go with that deck. My only concern is that the heads are a little shot, and flutter seems to have increased with age. I keep reading that Nakamichi made the best decks back in the day, so I may try the Nak and do some sound comparisons.

I don’t have a Mac, but I’m covered on the digital conversion front. I get excellent results on my PC with my Xitel INport hardware and LP Recorder/Ripper software.


That should do it :slight_smile:

If you have successfully used it with audacity, feel free to take a few minutes of your time and add your review on xintel inport here:

Thanks again, Koz. If you don’t mind, I have another question. I’m also about to start converting my LPs to digital files. I own a Yamaha YP-B2 belt-drive turntable with a Shure V15 RS cartridge, and I recently acquired a JVC QL-A2 direct-drive turntable with an Ortofon FF15XE MK II cartridge. I have (or shortly will have) new styli for both. Which combination of turntable and cart likely will reproduce the sound on my LPs most accurately for digital conversion? Thanks again. Alex


Nak certainly did make excellent decks, I run a Nak BX-2 and it has always produced excellent results (on TDK-SA tape which it was set up for, emphasizing Koz’ points there). Before I used it for my transcriptions I did have it professionally serviced, as like you I had a fair few irreplaceable precious tapes.

I don’t know your paticular Nak , from the piccies I can see from it on t’interweb it appears to have a lot of bells-and-whistles to let you adjust for tape type and recording settings as Koz suggested (looks nice and well built, as all Nak’s were). So I would probably go for using the Nak, if as you say the heads on the Onkyo are shot. Teac also used to make some good decks too, but I note the model you have has auto-reverse and a double cassette mech. (too much stuff IMHO - this means that the manufacturer probably compromised in other areas on the machine).

Whichever deck you use if you do not have it serviced I would recommend giving a “home service”: clean the heads and the transport mech. (idler wheel and pinch roller) and note that old belts (if any) may have become brittle and/or stretched and may need replacing.

And before playing any of the tapes for capture I would recommend rewinding from end to end and back again to even out the tension in the tape. My Nak has an elegant EOT detection system so it brakes and slows gracefully, avoing possible damage to the cassette - if the deck you end up using doesn’t have such a feature I would consider doing the wind/rewind at play speed.


For this you will probably have to use your ears and run some listening tests with the two decks.

If you go with the belt drive Yam - then my advice above about rubber belts (possible replacement) applies here too.

I note from t’interweb that the JVC is “fully automatic” - this could count against it as there will be a lot of unnecessary motors and gearing for the automation.

I used to run a Shure V15-III for many years (it was a benchmark cartridge in its day) - I only chopped it in (actually I still have it in its box) when the man in the shop sold me a modern superior Shure cartridge for less than the price of the V15’s replacement stylus!

I’m assuming from your posting that you already realize that you will need to run the signal through a pre-amp/amp before feeding it to you soundcard/computer (but just in case not, I though I’d mention it here).

Have fun with your transcription project.


Thanks again, Koz and WC! Alex

Once you get beyond the basic high-end turntables, attention should be paid to the accuracy and noise level of the RIAA preamplfier and cleaning the records and playing in a slightly high humidity room (static electric problems).

We would all like to think we can wave our software wands and banish all the sound problems, but the less trickery the better. What are the opinions about capturing at a Very High data rate and downsampling to a Music CD if needed. 44100, 16-bit, Stereo is just OK, not excellent.

I agree, I would wonder about “automation” messing up the arm tracking. The turntable has to sense the arm and if they didn’t pay attention, it could affect playback.

I have a very old Empire turntable with belt drive and a table that weighs as much as a Volkswagen. The arm is a Shure SME – the one with the ropes for tracking. I have a 3009.

The cartridge is a Grado Gold. The odd thing about the cartridge is it sounds terrific, but may or may not be particularly accurate. You have to examine your goals.


There are lots of opinions on this on the various audiophile sites on t’interweb. Most serious archivists work at much higher quality than the CD standard (44.1kHz 16-bit). Actual settings they use tend to vary a bit - but always higher than CD standard. ou can can easily while away an entertaining afternoon or two browsinfg the web for such stuff. For my own aging ears, and working from worn LPs and singles, I’m happy to settle for CD standard.

A thing of beauty and superb engineering as well as a very good arm - I also have an “SME 3009/S2 Improved”, it’s worked faultlessly for around 35 years or so now.

Easily done when you live in Manchester, UK - not so easy in LA :slight_smile:


It depends on the equipment. With very high quality equipment (vinyl + turntable + tone arm + cartridge + stylus + pre-amp + sound card) and suitable care in setting it all up, recording at 96/24 will give the best copy that technology can provide. With below par equipment anywhere in the chain the benefits diminish extremely rapidly.

The computer is probably the least critical of the recording system components - it needs to be “good enough”. As long as it can accurately save the data from the sound card, then all you need. You can probably pick up a suitable base unit from a car-boot/garage sale for $10 or less, but there’s no harm in using something better.

Many budget sound cards produce worse quality recordings at high sample rates than at 44.1 or 48.

Modern, high quality D/A, A/D converts can accurately convert frequencies up to about 45% of the sample rate, which gives you an audio bandwidth greater than 19 kHz with a sample rate of 44100 Hz and at 48 kHz sample rate takes it above the full 20-20k audio range.

There are however some practical implementation issues involved in high frequency conversion, such as “pre-ringing”, that justify using sampling rates that are substantially above 40 kHz, provided that the equipment is of sufficiently high quality that the benefits are not outweighed by reduced conversion accuracy and increased noise. There are no theoretical or practical engineering benefits to using sample rates above 96 kHz for recording or playing audio. There is a very good paper on this issue, and I keep losing the link, so I’ll post it here:

If you have one of these in your recording set-up and the rest of your set-up matches in terms of quality, then definitely go for 96 kHz sampling rate recording and convert down to 44.1 to burn to CD.

but if you’ve got one of these, then you’re probably better sticking to 44.1 kHz