Yamaha KX-800U Cassette Deck - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 16 Old 01-31-2017, 01:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Yamaha KX-800U Cassette Deck

It sbeen a slow day today so I went hunting on the internet to see what price people are asking for a Yamaha KX-800U. I picked up my unit last fall for $50 Cdn and in great clean shape. I see it listed for around $250. I played with its recording capability. The source was a CD and I used the DBX noise reduction in record and playback. Color me impressed. Although the CD was ultimately better, I could not believe how close to the source this deck got in capturing the music. One wouldn't know it was a cassette playing the music if one didn't see the VU meters flashing.
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post #2 of 16 Old 02-01-2017, 08:48 PM
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It is a shame dbx didn't catch on but I guess Dolby noise reduction already had their foot in the door. Although it renders the recording unlistenable in machines that lack dbx decoding, when played back at home (where you have the dbx decoding on hand) the sound quality approaches the very low noise floor of digital. This graphic nicely illustrates how much stronger dbx is than Dolby B and C in lowering the noise floor:
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In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".
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post #3 of 16 Old 02-02-2017, 04:12 PM
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Yup, those old 3-head decks were awesome machines. Pricey stuff to for the time – that Yamaha listed for $569 in 1987, which is the equivalent of $1800 today! Basically, all 3-head decks were expensive – the cheapest one I ever found was a Realistic model from Radio Shack that listed for $400, still a pretty healthy hunk of change. With an adjustable bias control like this one has, you could pretty much make an exact duplicate of a record or CD. Back then I would record my albums to tape immediately, to preserve the vinyl.

I don’t think we really appreciate how inexpensive decent audio/video gear can be today. Back in the mid ‘90s I had three high-end S-VHS machines from JVC worth maybe $1500 ($2300 in today’s dollars). That’s what it took if you wanted to record two TV shows and watch another one that was pre-recorded at the same time. Today, a $100 TIVO DVR will do the same thing. In the mid 80’s I paid $125 for a top-of-the-line Shure V15 Type V-MR cartridge for my turntable. Nearly $275 today, and that was just for the cartridge, not the turntable! Today people choke at paying that much for a blu-ray player.

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post #4 of 16 Old 02-27-2017, 04:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne A. Pflughaupt View Post

Yup, those old 3-head decks were awesome machines. Pricey stuff to for the time – that Yamaha listed for $569 in 1987, which is the equivalent of $1800 today! Basically, all 3-head decks were expensive – the cheapest one I ever found was a Realistic model from Radio Shack that listed for $400, still a pretty healthy hunk of change. With an adjustable bias control like this one has, you could pretty much make an exact duplicate of a record or CD. Back then I would record my albums to tape immediately, to preserve the vinyl.

I don’t think we really appreciate how inexpensive decent audio/video gear can be today. Back in the mid ‘90s I had three high-end S-VHS machines from JVC worth maybe $1500 ($2300 in today’s dollars). That’s what it took if you wanted to record two TV shows and watch another one that was pre-recorded at the same time. Today, a $100 TIVO DVR will do the same thing. In the mid 80’s I paid $125 for a top-of-the-line Shure V15 Type V-MR cartridge for my turntable. Nearly $275 today, and that was just for the cartridge, not the turntable! Today people choke at paying that much for a blu-ray player.

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I had a Nakamichi 3-head cassette tape deck in the 1980s; it cost $799 then (i guess that equates to around $4000 now).

The tape guides and heads, which are the critical things for maintaining perfect tape alignment over time, were made of ultra-hard materials and were quite resistant to wear.

They were also machined with precision to close tolerances.

I don't think any other machine even came close in precision or durability. It made some very good recordings.

It must be said, however, that the cassette, with its thin narrow tape, was never intended to be a high-fidelity medium, and only became a semi-serious medium due to Dolby EQ. It originally was only considered suitable for voice recording in office machines that were monaural and had very limited frequency response.

Even with Dolby, though, the headroom, dynamic range, and signal-to-noise ratio were extremely limited, even with the best tape formulations.

98% of the decks were not made anything like the Nakamichis, however, and their performance deteriorated terribly as the tape guides and heads wore out. That is why the medium died out. Machines that would last a long time were terribly expensive precision devices.

The LP and CD are inherently better in almost every respect, which is precisely why they persisted and the cassette died.

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post #5 of 16 Old 03-01-2017, 12:56 PM
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Reading the posts in this thread makes think of my retired Sony TC-K670 3-head cassette deck (pictured below is from the 'net). I really need to take it out and rejuvenate it. I recorded so many radio dramas off of the local public radio station (using mostly Maxell UR-120 blank cassettes, all of which still play today) on it. Memories of unwrapping those Denon HD-8 blank cassettes. Ironically, I can see the corporate headquarter of Dolby Labs from the office window here.


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post #6 of 16 Old 09-29-2017, 10:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3db View Post
It sbeen a slow day today so I went hunting on the internet to see what price people are asking for a Yamaha KX-800U. I picked up my unit last fall for $50 Cdn and in great clean shape. I see it listed for around $250. I played with its recording capability. The source was a CD and I used the DBX noise reduction in record and playback. Color me impressed. Although the CD was ultimately better, I could not believe how close to the source this deck got in capturing the music. One wouldn't know it was a cassette playing the music if one didn't see the VU meters flashing.
I've had my KX-800U since purchasing it in 1988 brand new and it has served me well all these years. It requires some servicing now can anyone recommend a good online service center or one if you are familiar with the S Florida area?
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post #7 of 16 Old 09-29-2017, 12:04 PM
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If you’re going to box it up and ship it off somewhere, why not send it to Yamaha in California?

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post #8 of 16 Old 10-21-2017, 07:36 AM
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Hi, I hope you don't mind me adding on to this thread, but there seems to be a lot of knowledge about cassette decks here, and I have a question. I have two and need to get rid of one of them. My first is a JVC KD-85 and the second is an Akai GX-F66RC. They do sound different, and I could ultimately just choose based on my own opinion of which sounds better, but is one of them technically superior?

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post #9 of 16 Old 10-21-2017, 11:15 AM
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^By today's standards the sound quality of cassette technology is lacking, but if you need to play a cassette for some reason then you need a deck.

Although there are several problems with cassette tape technology its biggest issue is that of precise head alignment [and more specifically matching the recording deck]. It is necessary for proper high frequency playback [at least within the constraints of how the highs are reproduced in general]. There are several head alignment adjustments but the main one for this discussion is azimuth, the measure of how exactly parallel the head is to the tape path. There's usually a small screw which can be adjusted with a jeweler's screwdriver to set this and some advanced decks, including Nakamichi's I've owned [and was a longtime dealer for] which have a motorized or manual control of this adjustment so you can easily adjust it on the fly, per tape, without a screwdriver.

Although azimuth alignment can drift once set it often doesn't all that much, at least not for years. The key to best playback is to ensure that the playback head is in exact alignment to the head which recorded that tape. The easiest way to achieve this, on typical two head decks, is to always play the tape on the exact same deck which recorded it. This ensures that recording and playback azimuth match, providing the best possible high frequency response. So in a nutshell, the answer to your question is: keep whichever deck made the most, or most important recording in your collection.

Head azimuth alignment is usually done with a dual trace oscilloscope and a special test tape however winging it by ear is possible too, if you know what you are doing, but what really counts is setting it for the specific tape you are currently playing which may itself have been made on an out of alignment, or at least differently aligned deck.

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post #10 of 16 Old 04-08-2019, 04:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
^By today's standards the sound quality of cassette technology is lacking, but if you need to play a cassette for some reason then you need a deck.

With Dolby B and C, I woul dhave to agree with you. With dbx2, its very difficult to tell whether you rlistening to a CD or a cassette recording of that CD. It's come that close.

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post #11 of 16 Old 04-08-2019, 06:47 AM
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In my garage I have "The shelf of obsolete toys"

A Pioneer LD player from the early 90's is the most entertaining--no kids, it is not a shiny record. Next to it sits a Tascam profession Mini-Disc machine from the mid 90's the ATRAC equipped before MP3 machine of greatness! Then there is the lowly 1988 Onkyo (had to google it) Onkyo dual cassette deck without auto-reverse so no head misalignment issues. When the kids ask, I tell them the tail of getting a bunch of friends together in the dorms, everyone combine their CD collections and I would make a mix tape in TDK metal then dub off copies in Maxell chrome for their cars (or for love making by the fire!) The metal tapes with CD masters were very, very good...but they were passed by the Hi-Fi 7 head VCRs then taken out by the mini-disc. I had a stack of S-VHS studio tapes that were mixed in 2 hour chunks for dorm parties--not exactly the easiest format to carry around but for 1990 about the longest play thing you could use when drinking. It was a bit tough to properly program the multi-CD player when consuming too many spirits. Never mind the music companies did not have consistent loudness levels so the S-VHS party tapes were king....for a few years.

I obsoleted cassette as a viable format in 1990, switched to S-VHS for my at home mix/party recordings but kept the cassette deck for car recordings. Mini-Disc took out S-VHS for a few years until downloads took out MD. The CD format is my last physical format standing--it was the master for cassettes, S-VHS and Minii-Dioc and computer files. When I get with old friends, we will laugh when we spent real money on electronics...then laugh hysterically at anyone messing with cassette decks. My older buddy (ex-boss from back in the day) he has a Nakamichi wazoo cassette deck with auto-bias calibration etc. and still has it sitting on his shelf. He, like me have no cassettes to even test the gear...good times but... you make the best of what was available. He also has some wazoo record player with an Ortofon cartridge, the anti-static guns, mats and isolation tables--he has not turned on the record player in over 30 years. He told me the only audio relic he still uses is his Pearl drum kit from the late 60's... his giant top of the line JBLs from 1980 sit in a storage room. The only records he has left where the ones he purchased when he lived in Japan in the late 70's--he does not play them though.

Cassettes, like records could create a very good sound when done properly. The issue is the equipment is old, my Onkyo still works after 31 years (kids play with it) but I know it is out of calibration. I was given some cassettes so I could make sure it works--nothing like Paula Abdul on cassette--beggers can't be choosers. Considering cassettes were never made to be a musical format, they were for dictation machines it was incredible how far the limited technology could be pushed. Since I got into audio in the 80's when CDs were around, cassettes were just a format used for recording and playing tunes in boomboxes/cars. I knew full well that cassettes and all analog was heading down the road to the history books so I did not spend a ton of cash on musical formats heading toward retirement.

I do find it endlessly entertaining that people would actually spend real money on cassettes--you should of converted the recordings to digital anc cleaned them up 20 years ago when the VHS was converted. The tape format degrades with time, you can't stop it and there are no real decks being made anymore--the war is lost before the first battle is fought. The decks have degraded although you can spend the big bucks to get all the caps replaced, get everything calibrated and so on--but it won't be as good as it was in the 1980's--no matter how much money you throw at it.

Thinking you can get true fidelity out of a 30 year old deck playing 40 year old tapes is akin to going to a rest home to hire adult movie actors--you should be happy it even works and never mind "performance". My tape deck is something that sits on the obsolete shelf--the 1993 CD player is in that pile. DVD players replaced CD players long ago... my BluRay plays CDs very well... amazing you can buy brand new machines that play a 37 year old format--I bet on the right horse with that one!

In summation, cassettes had their time in the sun and far exceeded their original purpose--but the sun has set long ago. I'm not complaining, better, smaller, higher performance, more features and faster at a much lower cost is the sign of human progress. Sure beats waiting 90 minutes to make a copy of your mix--I have no nostalgia pains for cassette by any means. The only old format I'd like to have is the victrola, a purely mechanical machine you use a hand crank, slap on a needle vibrating a ram's horn--now THAT is what I call cool technology.... the victory is when it makes sound--any kind of sound.

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post #12 of 16 Old 04-08-2019, 10:23 AM
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With Dolby B and C, I woul dhave to agree with you. With dbx2, its very difficult to tell whether you rlistening to a CD or a cassette recording of that CD. It's come that close.
I was a big proponent of dbx and used it quite often with my Nakamichi CR7 [using an outboard 224X] and found it to be overall quite good, but the incompatibility with 95% or more of other cassette decks for playback was an issue for me.

I own the only dbx walkman ever made so my own playback when away from home is covered, including in my car, but hardly anyone else I knew owned dbx so exchanging tapes with friends was impossible. Unlike Dolby B and C a dbx encoded tape is pretty much unlistenble without decoding whereas B and C sound "off" but you can usually at least tolerate it for non-critical use.
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post #13 of 16 Old 04-09-2019, 08:36 AM - Thread Starter
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I was a big proponent of dbx and used it quite often with my Nakamichi CR7 [using an outboard 224X] and found it to be overall quite good, but the incompatibility with 95% or more of other cassette decks for playback was an issue for me.

I own the only dbx walkman ever made so my own playback when away from home is covered, including in my car, but hardly anyone else I knew owned dbx so exchanging tapes with friends was impossible. Unlike Dolby B and C a dbx encoded tape is pretty much unlistenble without decoding whereas B and C sound "off" but you can usually at least tolerate it for non-critical use.

Pioneer, Technics, AIWA, TEAC, and Yamaha all made dbx equipped decks. Not the biggest choice I know but these are all solid brands.

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post #14 of 16 Old 04-09-2019, 09:27 AM
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To the best of my knowledge there was never a pre-recorded cassette tape ever released with dbx. [Although there were a small selection dbx LPs, less than 1% (probably even less than .1%) of what was released]

Alpine, which was the "Lamborghini of car cassete decks", had only a few dbx units, in a few production years, and it was only a feature found on their priciest units.

Panasonic [which as I mentioned I own] was the only portable cassette deck ever made with dbx.

The brands of home decks which supported dbx were not for the entire line up but rather just for one or two in the line up over just a few years. It was not like Dolby B and C which were found on many if not most models of quality home decks for decades. Many major brands like Sony, Nakamichi, and Denon never had dbx on any unit, at any price, which is why in order to get the best sound I had to buy my dbx processor as an outboard box and add it to my Nak.

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post #15 of 16 Old 04-12-2019, 05:50 AM - Thread Starter
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The brands of home decks which supported dbx were not for the entire line up but rather just for one or two in the line up over just a few years. It was not like Dolby B and C which were found on many if not most models of quality home decks for decades. Many major brands like Sony, Nakamichi, and Denon never had dbx on any unit, at any price, which is why in order to get the best sound I had to buy my dbx processor as an outboard box and add it to my Nak.

DBX was usually associated with near or TOTL decks.



Yamaha started release dbx equipped decks in 1981 with the K-960, 1983 with the K1000, K2000, 1984 with the K1020/K-1x and K720, 1986 with the K640. 1987 with the KX1200U, 1988 with the KXR700, KX800, and C3 which was the last models to have dbx. On a side note, they also released two decks equipped with Dolby S, KX580 in 1994 and a KX690 in 1996.



Pioneer started in 1985 with the CTS88R and CTS66R, 1986 with the C2070R which was there last year. They adopted Dolby S in 1991 and stopped that in 1996


Teac started in 1979 with the A-550RX, 1980 with the C3X and C3RX, 1982 with 5 models, 1983 with 6 models. 1984 with 7 models, 1985 with 2 models, 1987 with 4 models, which was their last year.



Technics started in 1981 with RSM270X and RSM240X, 1982 with the RSM253X, 1983 with 4 models, 1984 with 4 models, 4 models in 1986, 2 models in 1987, 1 model in 1988, and the last model in 1990



Looks like TEAC and Technics by far and then Yamaha were big proponents of dbx.



Its interesting that they dropped dbx for dolby S.

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post #16 of 16 Old 04-21-2019, 07:08 AM
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I got quite hooked on dbx back in the day...

I've still got an old Technics 3-head deck that supports it. I also have a dbx 228 expander which I used with a Sony TC-K611S cassette deck. To my ears the dbx vinyl records sounded better than their equivalent CD release back in the day. And when you copied a CD onto dbx tape (which was very naughty), it was impossible to tell the difference.

Sadly though, dbx never grabbed that much attention. And neither did Dolby S, which my Sony deck offered.

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