Generally I try to stay away from collecting hardware, but this vintage tape deck really appealed to me when we spotted it in a retro store recently. That such stuff should be in antique shops is kind of strange, I remember admiring this when it was new back in 1980/81. As is the way, Teac replaced it with a more sober design quite quickly so I assume it didn’t sell too well (they had planned a set of matching audio separates). Marketed (in the US at least) with the slogan ‘Teac’s new look in hearing aids’, in Japan it was called the Chameleon, here the Chromatograph and in America Spectrosound.
Basically it was a nice mid-price cassette deck ($400 US when new) which could handle Chrome, Metal and Normal tapes. Out went boring old illuminated needle level indicators and in came this very pretty colour coded recording level technology. As one vintage tape site put it, not as accurate, but much prettier to watch in the dark. Or as a translated Japanese collectors site has it “Mid-century atmosphere with excellent, favorite”. Exactly.
Naturally I demanded a six month warranty from the seller and parted with my £20 (well, £19.70 as it’s all the cash I had left on me and he wouldn’t take cards). Amazingly it does still work, and looks fantastic when playing. The illuminated blocks, which look like nice new squares of watercolour paint when switched off, light up in turn as the volume goes up. In theory you could have a full rainbow effect, except to get the really warm colours to appear you do have to record at a very high volume which would probably sound distorted!
I also loved the feather-touch controls, and the way the rather large V-9 plastic badge lifts off the reveal the microphone input sockets.
It looks like one of the squares needs a new bulb on mine, but as it’s been bought mostly for decoration, it’ll be a while before I see if anything can be done about this. The days when I dragged my prized but ageing BASF deck 170 miles down to London on the train and tube to have a missing bulb replaced are long gone – though to be fare the dealer did give good service, and even matched one of the missing felt and rubber feet!
I’ll add the vintage tape deck sites to the links page, let’s face it a webpage called The Vintage Knob has to be worth supporting! Especially as one of their features is a great collection of vintage pin-up hi-fi adverts.
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