I remember when... audio tape decks led the way (March 1984)
Anyone who's spent a rainy day meticulously compiling a mix tape will have fond memories of the audio cassette. After all, presenting your loved one with an iTunes playlist wouldn't go down quite so well on Valentine's Day, would it?
Of course, finding out a player had chewed up all your hard work was all too familiar – and it's hard to be too wistful for that dreaded tape hiss – but the class-leading cassette decks offered an audio performance that stands up even today.
For much of the 1980s, Nakamichi kept ahead of the competition. Although the Japanese company's Dragon was its most celebrated player, it was the 1984 launch of the RX series that created the biggest stir.
- The Nakamichi RX-505. The slick transport and precise engineering of the company's tape players set them apart. Indeed, our March 1984 issue sees us label Nakamichi 'the Rolls Royce of tape decks'.
An emerging feature on decks at the time was auto-reverse: by flipping the head mechanisms, both sides of the cassette could be played without ejecting. But over time the head alignments could slip, often resulting in top-end notes falling off.
Nakamichi's solution? UniDirectional Auto Reverse – a mechanical system that ejected, flipped and reloaded the tape in a couple of seconds, meaning the heads could stay firmly locked in position.
Some viewed UDAR as merely a gimmick, but it had the wow factor like no deck we'd ever seen: movie buffs may recall Mickey Rourke using his RX-505 to woo Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks.
While not quite matching the performance of the £1000 Dragon, the £799 RX-505 still excelled: audio was detailed and dynamic, with tape hiss barely noticeable thanks to Dolby Noise reduction.
Three decades on, it remains one of the most coveted items for the analogue-loving enthusiast.
- Alongside the cassette deck Supertest, our garish cover (purple!) promotes a four-way 'Top tuners' Group Test. The winner is Sony's ST-JX500L (£165), but our reviewer seems to spend most of his time battling with indoor aerials. Thank the lord for DAB.
- Any sonic limitations to the RX-505 were down to the tape used, so it paid to buy chrome or, even better, metal cassettes for recordings. This advert is for Maxell's MX90 – one of the elite Class 4 tapes on the market at the time.