Akai AA-1010

AKAI AA-1010, fresh on the bench!

On the same town’s trip that I picked up the rather terrible Teleton, I picked up this considerably more awesome Akai. One channel didn’t fire when the seller so kindly demonstrated it, but that’s never stopped me before. The problem proved to be very simple once I got it into the shop: The speaker terminals had jammed open. Some contact spray cleared that right up!

Aside from some hard smudges, it's in quite good shape. Let the cleaning commence.

Nasty.

An hour of my standard faceplate cleaning techniques didn’t work on this dirt, so I decided to let this guy be the test subject for something I’ve never done before: Silver polish. To the words of warning not to use it on textured silver, I paid no heed. And . . .

Silver polish. It works.

The result was above all expectations. It took a fair bit of rubbing to get the polish residue out of the brushed aluminium, but it was very much a worthwhile endeavour. The faceplate looks like new.

The knobs cleaned up fine with only AJAX, alcohol and lots'a rubbin'.

That's the shine of a keeper.

The radio is fantastic in this thing. It picks up all channels that it should, and it does it noiselessly and in stereo!

I also took the time to do an RMAA run of it, since I was curious as to how it compares to my Pioneer SX-424, a receiver in the same class.

Fairly predictable results. 14WPC into an 8-ohm dummy load. Stereo separation improves drastically under 10WPC (>52dB).

The results are roughly what I’ve come to expect from cap-coupled receivers in this class, although I do wonder if that low-end bulge is intentional or not. Smart marketing if it is, shoddy engineering or out-of-spec components if it isn’t. I might take the time to re-cap this receiver some time in the future to see which it is.

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Teleton hifi ta500

Teleton hifi ta500 - fresh into the shop.

I picked up this Teleton hifi ta500 for cheap the other day since Teleton was a to me unknown brand. Despite the very European sounding name (and oh-so 70’s German looks), the unit is made in Japan. It features such utterly lovely Japanese features such as exterior grid fuses under the same cover as the speaker fuses, and voltage selection by inserting fuses into different sockets. Indeed, the previous owners had gotten them confused, causing the unit to flip my breaker when I first plugged it in!

My unit missed the fuse cover as well, so it was quite fortunate that I got my hands on it before someone got seriously hurt. Unfortunately, the fuse designations must be printed on that cover, as my fuses were completely unlabelled. As aforementioned, voltage selection for the unit is set by inserting fuses in different sockets rather than by a switch. Experimentation revealed that the order is:

Speaker, speaker, 230V, 120V(?), 110V/100V(?)

Inserting fuses into all three “voltage selection” sockets will directly short-circuit the plug.

The relatively large transformer aside, the inside is quite generic.

There is absolutely nothing remarkable about the inside of this unit. It’s a bog standard STK461 based amplifier with tone control and a radio. I suppose it’s a good thing, as it’s very hard to screw such a design up. It runs on a fairly high voltage for the STK461, about +/-30V. The transformer is relatively big for a 20WPC amp – the 4700µF caps are not. The tuner is absolutely horrific, and would barely pick up any channels at all where all other units I own will.

The unit is otherwise fairly sturdily built and I can see it taking a lot of physical abuse without failing. Mine cleaned up quite nicely, but it’s not a keeper for that.

It took a lot of fiddling to get that stereo LED to light. I'll probably never replace the broken bulbs in it.

Tape decks? In 2012?

AKAI GX-95

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 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.

-Gasp-

-Poof-

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.

Mmmmmm.

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.