OPEN REEL DECKS: Akai GX-747, Philips N4520, Tandberg TD-20A, Technics RS-1500US, Technics RS-1800 and Teac 7300

These are notes I made for a letter to the editor of Hi-Fi World after a particularly interesting feature re Reel to Reel machines in the February 2008 issue. I didn’t get around to sending it.

Dear David.

The Neville Roberts feature “The Reel Thing” ( February 2008) was a joy to read. Not only was it well written, but suitably nostalgic without being overly sentimental. Well done! Moreover it caused me to shuffle through my own ‘Rolodex’ of memories regarding these mighty beasts.

I had a fascination for these fine machines in general, and certain models from Teac, Sony and Technics in particular. I must admit, in some instances it was the build, the functionality and the ‘aura’ of the machines that were attractive – over and above the sound quality.

I hope that in due course there might be a Part II feature. If so, might I suggest that commentary on the very rare Akai GX-747 machine, (10.5” reels) might be of interest to your readers. It was one of the first machines to incorporate florescent bar-graph meters. These looked very impressive, especially in a darkened room, but were somewhat inaccurate I seem to recall.

The Philips N4520 machine was very impressive – all 25kg of it. Very versatile being both 1/4 and 1/2 track. There were some comments at the time that the selection of the tape was highly influential with regard to the recording quality.

I had for a short while a very clean Tandberg TD-20A. It was a very logically configured machine that produced first-rate recordings and yet, well sad to admit, I never really took it seriously. It was the odd image of the makers that did it for me. I just couldn’t, despite evidence to the contrary, take Tandberg seriously as a R to R maker. Stupid I know, but …

The darkly mysterious Technics RS-1500US really took my fancy, but the then RRP was around 40% higher than the Sony TC766-2 and I looked for one on the used market and never found one. A great pity. I was told that even then new, set-up and reliability was an issue. However, what I REALLY wanted, and I don’t think it was ever imported was the mighty Technics RS-1800. This was I guess pitched somewhere between a serious audiophile and a studio-pro machine. It even had Quartz Synthesizer pitch control with digital display. Unique I think 25 years ago.

Finally, as far as I was concerned, and the good people at Practical Hi-Fi & Audio were concerned, the daddy of them all was the Teac 7300 in all its guises. This is today a cult classic in Germany and is featured occasionally in their specialist analogue audio magazines. Mint condition units are very highly prized and I guess rarely used.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I hope I haven’t bored you, or if this published, your readers either. Please keep up the Olde Worlde section. Any chance of expanding it?