I don’t normally pick up tape decks unless they’re sold complementary with other gear. However, when the chance to purchase this 10-kilogram behemoth for the equivalent price of a few lunches appeared, I couldn’t resist.
The first encounter
The seller was nice enough to have the deck hooked up and running when I got there, an act to which I replied by whipping out my compact camera to saviour the moment.
I took the opportunity to try the controls right there, and when trying to rewind the non-existent tape, I noticed that it only made a grinding noise without turning the left reel more than sporadically. Something was obviously going to need a bit of attention before it’d be playing again, but for the price asked I felt no need to point it out. After all, the best part of this hobby is to see neglected old gear spring back to life after some screwdriver wizardry.
The first thing on the schedule upon arriving at my bench was a basic clean-up. While the unit really is quite well-kept, the years it’s spent tucked away has allowed for quite a bit of sticky dust build-up.
Those scratches are permanent . . .
. . . the gunk is not!
With that out of the way, finding the source of the grinding noise was on the agenda! I confirmed that it would indeed not play or rewind tapes; the capstans grabbed the tape fine and it would play for about a second, but the reel would not wind it up. As expected from a deck as expensive as this, the optical sensors on the reels would sense it and stop playback before tape-eating ensued.
The source of the problem
The source of the problem was the white wheel in the middle of the picture above, as well as the spring to the right that’s responsible for pressing it against the motor. In an act of typical Japanese over-engineering, one motor controls both the clutching for FF/Play/REV and reel rotation. To achieve this, the wheel is not allowed to rotate freely, but is rather pressed against a piece of felt that’s attached to the piece of plastic that the wheel is attached to:
Could it get any more stereotypically Japanese than this?
The problems themselves were simple: Replace the dried-up rubber ring that provides grip between the motor, wheel and reels, and flex the spring back a bit to counter twenty-five years of sitting.
This looks a lot easier than it is.
However, while the problems were simple in themselves, fixing them was not. At least not the way I did it.
Taking the wheel assembly apart was actually not at all necessary (at least not for anything but the cool photos above). Instead, the whole assembly including the piece of plastic that the wheel is mounted to in the pictures above is supposed to be removed in a ritual involving more steps than a Mayan pyramid.
Actually, that took about an hour. However, it was worth it as the deck sprung to life at the sound of my grandfather’s Barbara Streisand cassettes only moments later!
Makes me think about Van Der Graaf Generator's "The Final Reel". Finally, the reel spins!
Some more cleaning and one reassembly later, we’re left with a rather sweet-looking tape deck! The scratches on top are unfortunate, but I’m not complaining. It’s still a great deck for a great price. I just wish I had some fresh tapes to feed it with.
The first test with the (now properly cleaned) face on.
Only eye-candy. The worn corner is a downer.
Yes, it's been recording for 45 minutes. I put Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother on the only reasonably good tape I have.
The guts of this thing are quite impressive.
For all of the inside shots I took of it, look here.
A curious bit of trivia is that it (at the time of writing) is this very deck that is featured on the Vintagecassette.com page for the GX-95.