Open Reel Forever!

Dokorder 7050

DESCRIPTION: Manufactured by Denki Onkyo (sic) of Japan, this is an absolutely massive recorder, even by open reel standards. Measuring 20" wide by 14" tall, it's almost as big as a televsion set! Despite this, it only takes 7" reels.  A fully loaded two speed transistorized machine,it features  fully automatic reversing play and record, with three heads for each direction- for a total of six heads. I don't know the date, but it looks more like late '60s.  The deck has built in amplifiers for external speakers, but does not have speakers of its own (there are two) phone sockets on the back for you to plug in your own speakers). There are many controls, including ones for auto reverse mode (shut off, reverse, repeat), sound on sound recording, external speaker  level, etc. Transport controls are by large, manually operated keys near the bottom front of the machine. Styling is slightly unusual in that the deck is oriented in the wide dimension, that is, most of the knobs and meters are oriented vertically along the right side of the front panel, with the reels, etc, taking up the left side. The faceplate is black with a wooden case all the way around and latching wooden cover.

COMMENTS: This deck was found in Parkersburg, West Virginia,  in the house of a radio engineer who had passed away. His widow was getting rid of all of  his old electronics material, and this deck ended up being a giveaway. It's definitely a quality piece, with nicely machined aluminum knobs, and a massive aluminum head cover embossed with the unique Dokorder logo. The most recent arrival to the collection, this one functions poorly, with dead channels and bad sound quality galore. I haven't had a chance to get into it yet, and it's going to take every bit of nerve I have to open it up- when the time comes, I'll update this area. (Note: I eventually did open it up, and had the heads relapped at JRF magnetics. It worked much better but I ended up selling it later as it was incredibly bulky for what it did.)

Pioneer RT-1011L          

DESCRIPTION: Another hit from the mid to late '70s, this is a typical mid range tape deck  featuring three heads, three motors,  two speeds, and solenoid transport controls with motion  sensing. The deck can take 10.5" reels.  The transport keys are rather stiff, and could almost be used for mechanical transports! The control knobs are black plastic. The styling is typical brushed aluminum/wood sides.

COMMENTS: This deck was found on a shipping pallet at the state surplus warehouse in Dunbar, West Virginia. The minimum bid on the deck was $25.00, which was what I ended up paying for it. It was very dirty, and one of the wooden side pieces had been damaged. One nice thing about the machine is the serviceability- taking off the wood side pieces let you gain access to almost everything one would need to get to. One  item kept it from working correctly: the arm which held the pinch roller and tape lifters in place had come loose from its pivot, causing the pinch roller to move around, messing up the alignment. Now, with the exception of a burned out VU meter light, the deck works perfectly.  A nice machine, I would rate it above the Teacs and below the Akais of the day. The motion sensing works well, but there's an awfully long pause between the time the reels stop and the next mode kicks in. Also,  while this may be the result of rough treatment, the  reel motors and spindles don't seem to be as nicely balanced as on other machines, the result being more vibration on fast forward and rewind, along with more problems of the tape scraping noisily on the reel flanges. The sound quality is excellent, and  there are quite a few out there, so this would make a solid, low cost addition to any stereo.
(A photo from the internet, mine didn't look this good.)

Sony TC-105A
DESCRIPTION: A late '60s machine, this is a three speed, one motor, two head monophonic deck. It has a speaker built into the front of the machine, and a latchable cover. The case is covered in  textured grey vinyl. There's nothing exceptional about the controls, except that is has the usual period-Sony "Instant Stop" lever which manually disengages the pinch roller without deactivating the playback electronics.

COMMENTS: This one was found in the snow outside after one of the auctions at the state surplus warehouse, another freebie. It's a very solid, basic little machine, but it has one big drawback: the fact that it's mono means that it doesn't play back stereo tapes very well at all. It would play one stereo channel very well, or get in between tracks and do very little. (It has a switch labeled "Track Exchange", with one side saying 1-4, and the other 2-3. The effect it seemed to have was that of moving the head gap to a different position vertically, I presume to work with stereo tapes. I could never get it to work satisfactorily, though. Mechanically, it's pretty basic, with the usual one motor idlers and belts, etc. The one thing to watch out for, though, is that Instant Stop lever. If its return spring is out of adjustment, it'll put too much pressure on the pinch roller and pressure pad, causing the tape to run slow. Alas, this one gave its life to help its bigger brothers in the collection.

Sony TC-200

DESCRIPTION: The second of the late '60s trio, this was a lower-level one motor, three speed, two head stereo deck with speakers which form part of the carrying case. It has the grey vinyl covering and the "Instant Stop" lever. It takes 7" reels, as do the rest of the Sonys listed.

COMMENTS: This deck was purchased through an ad in the local classifieds paper for $100.00 Cosmetically in excellent shape, this deck has had a very hard time with rubber idler wheel hardening, causing a slow running problem. I've taken it apart dozens of times and used rubber rejuvenator on the idlers, but it won't hold permanently. Apart from this problem, though, this unit has typically good sound quality, and a relatively compact design. This would be a good, low cost deck to listen to your old tapes on, as you can use the line out jacks to listen through a stereo, or you can use the built in speakers. (Note: these days I would go ahead and get the new rubber parts from Russel Industries/PRB Line, but back then I didn't have the patience.)

Sony TC-230

DESCRIPTION: The last of my '60s trio, this was the higher level stereo portable. It has the same one motor, two head, three speed design of the others.Unlike the 200, though, this deck uses much more metal in its construction, including nicely machined metal control knobs. It's bigger and more squared-off looking overall. This one also has the latchable speakers, but switching is provided so that a phonograph and tuner could be amplified through the decks electronics. Yes, it has the grey vinyl.

COMMENTS: A very nice machine, this one was given to me by a friend, who had recently had a friend of his pass away. I was told it was dead, because this gentleman in question had accidentally left it on all day one time, and it "burned out the motor". Upon inspection, I found that the motor wasn't dead, but it was extremely weak- running slow, and simply giving up in the fast wind modes. To make a long story short, I discovered that the run capacitor (1.5 f, 300V) had gone bad, making the motor run weakly and get very hot. The replacement cap made the deck run like new. A nice machine, this would also be good for listening to your old tapes (heck, it could be a nice apartment stereo- just add a CD player and a tuner!).

The Sony TC-200. Very typical of the '60s Sony models.