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Old 02-05-2017, 03:54 PM
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macman007 macman007 is offline
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A Review: The Sony TC-K677ES, 25 years later. Long..

Those if you who read the cassette threads have likely seen my other post on this deck regarding a necessary adjustment of the supply pinch roller ramp guide, or adjuster nut H. Now that the deck has been playing for almost a week I'm ready to do a review of the deck for those of you interested in what a genuine NOS deck of this type, model, and age in this price range is all about.

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Music search in both directions, HX-Pro, Dolby B and C on or off. MPX filter, front panel Bias, Record level, and input level. Phones volume, selectable input for CD direct and line in. Record mute, motorized load and eject, cassette stabilization. 3 heads, closed loop dual capstan drive, 3 motor 3 belt transport. Laser Amorphous heads, real time counter, tape and source selectable monitor. Tape time memory function, wireless remote control transport functions. Auto select tape type with 3 tape type-capable 1, 2 and 4. Record and play timer, Gold plated input and outputs as well as head phone output. Captured power cord with polarity direction type power plug, 3 display modes for full display of functions with meters, transport, real time and other functions displayed, transport real time only, or all off for dead quiet recording with no display interference from the display.. Record/Play Meters equipped with Dolby B-C record level positions, and maximum record level indicated positions for all 3 different tape types.


I had been looking for a spare cassette deck for several years. My original cassette deck, the same model as this one, was getting long in the tooth. It had some 200 hours and 20 plus years on it. Easy years but years just the same. Since analog was getting popular, cassette decks as well as open reel were starting to increase in prices. They were also getting hard to find in excellent shape, cosmetic as well as internal. To say I needed another cassettes deck would be a lie. I had my original Sony 677ES, plus a newer-old edition to the flock, a Teac V-5RX 35$ in 2012. It had lived in a CAT house, that smelled of pee, tobacco smoke and mold, mildew. It needed belts, idlers and a lot of cleaning, but the thing was all there with very low hours and close to non existent wear inside and out. So I picked it up brought it home then cleaned it inside and out. Aired it out so it didn't stink, replaced the belts with a kit from Marrs and today it sits still. My original Sony's belts gave up the ghost as well as transport lube. I had 2 decks that didn't work needing service.

I figured pretty much all of the decks out there would be getting to that point, it would be a great time to pick up a spare twin for my Sony. I loved that deck, it had been faithful and true, needing nothing along the way, making and playing great, hell,.. fantastic tapes for 20 years plus.

I looked for a few years, over 2 actually before I found another 677ES, of course on eBay. I was hesitant, and broke. We didn't have much money to live yet alone buy cassette decks. This one was too inexpensive to pass up, 20$ BIN and actual shipping, another 19$ For under 40 bucks delivered with a catch. It was my Christmas present for 2014. The owner was quick to communicate the reason the deck had been cheap was due to a a loud noise inside when powered up and no transport functions. He was also quick to add the deck was bought new along with one just like it and for whatever reason never used. EVER. I was skeptical, it didn't have the original box and packaging, but did have the OM, warranty card and other pedigree stuff, including a copy of the receipt indicating the serial # and purchase quantity of 2 of them@ 499.00$ discounted to 449.00$ because of the fact 2 were being bought, as well as other gear.

So I bought it, had it shipped, full well knowing it would likely be a parts unit at best going by the story and it's age.

It came packed in foam, sealed in a clear plastic bag, WITH a Sony box, just not the right one. The packing foam WAS the right stuff for it. I guess the original fell apart , was used otherwise, got lost, whatever. But despite it all it arrived in perfect shape from the cross country trip. Things were looking up, after the amazing un-boxing, tearing open the bag, from the outside it was minty, no scratches, gouges, missing finish, scratched screws indicating it had been opened up. Phono connection in rear no sign of ANY use, same allied to the headphone jack, no scratches or wear on any front panel controls, cassette door scratches, perfect.

Plugging it in and power up, yep there it was, one motor of the 3 was loud, screaming loud, like it was giving up the ghost, no transport functions, save for the power door opening and closing on cue. The display did work and was mint ( I don't like to throw that word around, but it truly is), all the knobs lit up on the corresponding display. CD direct and input worked, MPX, Dolby B/C, Phono level worked. Transport functions responded as much as possible by remote just like the other 677ES I had, ( though curiously these decks didn't come with any remote ) and the tape types lit the corresponding Dolby and tape type indicators in the display.

To business, I opened the cassette door and removed the lid. Inside was like new again. No wear, dirt, oxide on the capstan shafts or the pinch rollers. Nothing on any of the 3 heads, the matte finish in the TU capstan was perfect, as was the supply capstan, shiny no scratches or wear, same as the supply PR guide. This was getting better and better.

I dove in, removed the cover..., tight , really tight, like it had never been pulled since it was built tight, despite the fact the screws were correctly tightened to the correct tension, no marks on the Phillps heads, ANYWHERE on the deck, the sides, back, or bottom. Inside was amazing, perfectly clean, everything in place, immaculate. The belts were slack, the white marks on both drive belts still therewith no wear or dirt, perfect but aged and stretched, not melted at all.

Well it probably needed a motor, new oil likely wouldn't do it,. I could get by with lubing everything, but that motor I thought was toast. This was 2014, before all the world fell apart for us then turned upside and exploded for our family, as those of you know know me are aware. Back into the box for about 3 years, flash forward to 2017.

Nando had been looking for people in the US or North America to join in on the traveling BASF tape. So I joined up, and am waiting for it to come to my door as I type this.

I wanted to use a good deck. Those guys don't mess around with cassette decks, especially Nando,.. they have some of the best tapes and Cassette decks out there. Not wanting to be left behind or drag the show down, I pulled out this 677ES,.. the other twin is at my dad's in Long Island,.. and my 909ES a parts deck, well beyond repair and waiting for a decent cheap 909ES that needs parts so I can have at least one good 909ES, a bucket list deck.

That left me with the Teac V-5RX, or the 677ES, that needed work. I didn't want to let the guys doing the BASF traveling mix tape down, or sandbag the project, even though the V-5RX is more than capable. sSo having all the belts I set sail to bring this genuine zero hour NOS 677ES back to life. Most of that story is in the other thread about this deck and it's minimal needs. It was ridiculously easy to bring this thing back to life to 100% or beyond it's when-new capability. The capstan motor it turns out only needed oiling, the front bearing was dry. All the motors were lubed, as did the capstan bearings, dry Teflon lube on the nylon transport gears edges, where applicable, Lubriplate lithium grease in the other places. New belts were installed. None of the controls or pots needed DeOxit, the deck was in a sealed bad with desiccate, and never used, so they were quiet and still had that like-new 'feel' these controls are supposed to have.

A quick dusting and polish inside and out, I began listening to it and checking the calibration. Other than the pinch roller supply guide needing a small tweak, everything was perfect, well inside the SM specs, and any tape I throw at it is faithfully reproduced, recorded or both. Stuff I recorded decades ago still sounds amazing, especially the stuff I recorded on my original 677ES back from the early 90's to about 2000. Then I only used cassette decks infrequently, until I started hanging around this place in the late 2000's and finally joined up after lurking a while.

Older store bought tapes sound really really good, though not all of them that are DOLBY B encoded sound 100% right, as the odd Dolby B tape will 'warble' when using Dolby B on playback. Most of them do sound really good , especially tapes that weren't worn to death or subjected to long life in cars and trucks from the late 70's up to the present day. Between 1991 and 2001 , all my car and truck systems had either a high end shaft mount or pull out type cassette-AM/FM unit with amps crossovers and top shelf speakers. These tapes saw a lot of play, yet still sounded unbelievably good. most of the time I never needed Dolby B or C on the road, too many DB's of road noise and so on to hear any real difference in hiss. That was always my issue with Dolby B tapes that were store bought. They never sound the same in any 2 machines and in the car, it just was not needed. In other cases, such as at home listening, the sound quality from Dolby B on store bought cassettes, ranged from really good to unacceptable. Those tapes get played with reduced treble settings and Dolby off. Other tapes, and all the ones I make myself, seem as if they are all quite good to excellent no matter what machines or environment I play them in.

The recordings I have been making with type 1 and 2 tapes are nothing short of amazing. Indistinguishable from the original sources, especially on late 90's early 90's Maxell and TDK Type 2's and too close to call on the Maxell Super Ferric type I tested, I have no TDK Super ferric's, and only the new red UD Maxells and Sonys HF's for normal Ferric type 1's. I never bought them, I was a type 2 type guy.. Never had many BASF type 2's they didn't sound good in the older decks I had in the 80's. I never bought or used them at all. If I knew then what I know now, I would have bought as many as I could find in the 90's, along with the type 4 metal tapes. I have none of them either. Never used one ever. Never even heard one on any of my decks.

The Dolby circuitry all seems to be set correctly, when encoded and decoded on playback with both types, B and C,.. there is no warble, pumping, or wash out to the sound. Bass is well placed, solid, and punchy without being either bloated or over bearing. In the vocal areas, mid range instruments and vocals come across 3 dimensional, with a large sound stage that is wide and deep, over all sounding quite alive, without being annoying, sloppy, or gimmicky. Higher frequency instruments, especially cymbals, the ping of the ride, splash of the hi-hats and explosion of the rock-crash is crisp and controlled without sounding over managed, taut or rolled off.

I use Queensryche's 'Empire' as my testing source. Aside from being a favorite title of mine, I believe it offers a fairly rugged and difficult terrain of test tracks for the Sony to record then reproduce. Essentially the dynamics of this selection are huge wide swings, not suffering or plagued by the over compression many similar titles did at that time and still do,.. more than ever today.

Along with it's detail, punch and 'live' equalization, S's and T's that tend to be sibilant or washed out on a less than capable deck and tape (and many more-than capable decks, as well) 'Empire' is an excellent challenging set songs that if not recorded well quickly descend into an overly sibilant and fatiguing experience the listener can find annoying after 5-10 minutes.

Overall, the sound of the songs recorded on this deck to a Maxell UDXL II from 1987, then played back with or without encoding in Dolby ( depending on whether or not it was encoded while being recorded) are neither overbearing or curt in presentation. The best parts of the source selections comes shining thru, without any of the digital 'sheen' or harshness the digital source tends to present. I had really forgotten just how good these mid level Sony ES cassette decks sound, and just how capable they are. At 499$, the MSRP on the original owners receipt from 1991, today comes off as a bargain, maybe even at twice the price, even if someone could reproduce a deck as good and capable in today s audio market, not from China or Chinese sourced parts.

I have no type 4 tapes which to test with, I have never used them, not even one. They were more than I was willing to spend 30-40 years ago, the type 2 doped ferric's whetted my appetite sufficiently and beyond for the 2-3 dollars each I was paying for Maxell and TDK. One day I want to try one, but it's not in the budget today and may never be, those suckers go for big bucks today.

Then again, I have pre-recorded ferric tapes so old they had no DOLBY on them HX-Pro or otherwise. So far, as it was in 1991 when I bought my other 677ES brand new, I have nothing to complain about with this little deck. Better store bought tapes, such as the XDR and similar releases on Chrome tape using normal 120u EQ sound nearly as good as a tape I recorded myself. Conversely, I really have a lot to brag about with this deck. You would be hard pressed to find anything to complain about on this deck I was lucky to find it, let alone for what I payed, with a little work, 10$ in belts, lube, 4 hours of my time, this sucker really sounds good.

For those of you who are looking for a great cassette deck that withstands the test of time, I think the 677ES is a ticket to the show, a front row ticket. Try as I may, I cant find anything I can say bad about this deck, just like back in 1991. The difference is I wasn't as hyper aware of analog or cassette decks back in the day, not near as aware as we all have become all these years later. You never know what you have until it is gone. If there weren't so many great cassette decks around back in the late 80's and 90's, the 677ES would have made a big splash in the analog pool. Today if a deck this good were to come to new market, I have no doubt that analog addicts would be all over it, even at twice the price

Is it a Nak? (looks better than many of them though) No, would the least expensive Nak out-shine it? Maybe, maybe not,... Until that day comes where I own a Nak, and then can make a meaningful side by side comparison, not just one from my memory of how a Nak sounds, I will enjoy these more than capable Sony ES units as I find them.

Last edited by macman007; 02-05-2017 at 05:19 PM.
  #2  
Old 02-05-2017, 04:22 PM
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Elite-ist Elite-ist is online now
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Phil: It's always a pleasure reading one of your posts. I appreciate reading the history behind the component, as much as what is experienced once it is in use.

I won't deny there is a somewhat competitive culture forming among many of the members, here, who have been cranking out mix tapes for mix tape exchanges with each other, or who have been involved in Travelling Tapes. That is not a bad thing. I give much more credit to those members who get involved in such projects with all sorts of decks, than those who like to claim how good their decks are, yet never seem to want to sign on to a TT project. I, rarely, record a mix tape for myself (I do for Geri to play in her car), but I love to record music for other members. It's a much more satisfying hobby, when you can share with others.

Quite the history on your 677ES. Sounds like the BASF TT was the incentive you needed to get it all in order before the TT arrived. You might have to pop up a photo once you are ready to record your contribution.

Nando.
  #3  
Old 02-05-2017, 05:14 PM
john from seattle john from seattle is online now
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Excellent write up Phil,

I'm sitting here playing an old, old tape an ex BIL made for me on the Rad Shack Supertape Gold C90 cassette of the Beatles from his vinyl set back in 1979 on what was the then relatively current CT-F series Pioneer deck, I think one of the CT-F x1x1 models, but not the basic 2121 though on the Nak I just got running again, the BX100 I got yesterday.

It's a tired old tape, but still enjoyable nonetheless and it's the inspiration for my Beatles Tape project whereby I recreate this series again, and can now do it on TAPE, cassette no less once I get some decent type II blanks, preferably NOS ones.

Love hearing stories about people's history with decks and audio gear and this deck you have looks to be a nice one. Mine even though it's a Nak, it's a basic deck with the Sankyo transport.
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my system Kenwood KD12-RB turntable, SHURE M97xE cart, Muffsy PP3 phono pre, Receiver: Sherwood RX4030R, TEAC A4300SX R2R, Denon DCM-370 CD changer, Speakers: sansui SP1700 and in testing/restoration phase, Sansui SP-3000, eMachines PC for multimedia use and recently got a Nakamichi BX100 cassette deck
  #4  
Old 02-05-2017, 05:29 PM
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macman007 macman007 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elite-ist View Post
Phil: It's always a pleasure reading one of your posts. I appreciate reading the history behind the component, as much as what is experienced once it is in use.

I won't deny there is a somewhat competitive culture forming among many of the members, here, who have been cranking out mix tapes for mix tape exchanges with each other, or who have been involved in Travelling Tapes. That is not a bad thing. I give much more credit to those members who get involved in such projects with all sorts of decks, than those who like to claim how good their decks are, yet never seem to want to sign on to a TT project. I, rarely, record a mix tape for myself (I do for Geri to play in her car), but I love to record music for other members. It's a much more satisfying hobby, when you can share with others.

Quite the history on your 677ES. Sounds like the BASF TT was the incentive you needed to get it all in order before the TT arrived. You might have to pop up a photo once you are ready to record your contribution.

Nando.

Thank you for the kind words and encouragement Nando. You are 100% right, the BASF challenge was the incentive behind this. I needed the incentive, I had the belts a long while and never got to it. I will be making mix tapes for Jessie, she likes the ones I play, especially the big long ones I have on 10" reels that are 3 hours long. Once the BASF tape gets here' I'll post a photo or 2 with the 677ES and BASF tape going thru the process of laying down tracks. I have my eyes open looking every day looking for that tape to get here.

I went back and cleaned up some of my 'review' , I'm glad you enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them. This deck is really special, and sounds far better than it has a right to Hopefully others do as well, I'd hate to think no one reads them! Next one I do will be with some tapes NAC sent me to write a review on. The 677ES is now the perfect deck to do that review of the 3 tapes they sent me.

Last edited by macman007; 02-05-2017 at 05:31 PM.
  #5  
Old 02-06-2017, 08:02 AM
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Elite-ist Elite-ist is online now
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I found my Sony TC-K677ES two years ago in the local mini flea market for $20. I hadn't realized how good a deck it was, as not many other members spoke about them - with the exception of yourself, Phil.

The playback of pre-recorded cassettes with Dolby B, was one reason I used it for a different Challenge initiated by John (jaetee) where contributors had to dub from pre-recorded cassette to the Travelling Tape.

Here is the partial track list for the TT and photos I took during my recording:







A sample playback of Eric Clapton on pre-recorded cassette.

Click on image to play video:



Nando.
  #6  
Old 02-06-2017, 09:49 AM
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Miracle Mile Miracle Mile is offline
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High Five

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elite-ist View Post
I give much more credit to those members who get involved in such projects with all sorts of decks, than those who like to claim how good their decks are, yet never seem to want to sign on to a TT project. I, rarely, record a mix tape for myself, but I love to record music for other members. It's a much more satisfying hobby, when you can share with others.
Let's shake hands..
  #7  
Old 02-06-2017, 09:57 AM
john from seattle john from seattle is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elite-ist View Post
I give much more credit to those members who get involved in such projects with all sorts of decks, than those who like to claim how good their decks are, yet never seem to want to sign on to a TT project. I, rarely, record a mix tape for myself (I do for Geri to play in her car), but I love to record music for other members. It's a much more satisfying hobby, when you can share with others.
Nando.
I completely agree with this statement as well and hope to be able to participate now that I have a working cassette deck, though it may be too late for this one, but perhaps another one when it comes along but first I should order fresh belts for the Nak but it's singing it's little heart out currently as I'm home as I ended up with a snow day due to snow in the south end (at my house even) and freezing rain up north.
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my system Kenwood KD12-RB turntable, SHURE M97xE cart, Muffsy PP3 phono pre, Receiver: Sherwood RX4030R, TEAC A4300SX R2R, Denon DCM-370 CD changer, Speakers: sansui SP1700 and in testing/restoration phase, Sansui SP-3000, eMachines PC for multimedia use and recently got a Nakamichi BX100 cassette deck
  #8  
Old 02-06-2017, 01:31 PM
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macman007 macman007 is offline
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I'm happy to participate, cassette decks are one area I know most folks have me beat, but I can't say that either or my 677's are slouches and fight well above their price point, with great usable features, specs, and sound quality far beyond that which the inventors of Compact Cassette ever dreamed of. For whatever reason this little deck sounds much bigger and expensive than it has any right to.

@ Nando,...>>

Do you still have you 677ES or did you sell it and move on? I may acquire better decks, but I'll never sell mine, it really is a sleeper among the 3 heads. For those of you out there looking for a solid performer I would definitely endorse the 677ES, if you can find one, they tend to be a little rare, well really rare actually, as I have only seen a handful if that the last decade and 1/2, I have looked for another like my first one I bought brand new in 1991.
  #9  
Old 02-06-2017, 02:44 PM
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Sawtooth Sawtooth is offline
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Great story, Macman. TY.
  #10  
Old 02-06-2017, 02:51 PM
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macman007 macman007 is offline
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Thanks Sawtooth, really, thanks to everyone. It's always a pleasure to share.
  #11  
Old 02-06-2017, 07:45 PM
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Phil: I still have the TC-K677ES, but I do have my TC-K950ES up for consignment sale. Like you, I'm not planning to sell the 677ES. It seems to be a bit of an underdog in terms of value to performance. I haven't spent a cent on it besides the initial price of $20.



Another video of it playing a pre-recorded cassette.

Click on image to play video:



Nando.
  #12  
Old 02-06-2017, 07:56 PM
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braxus braxus is offline
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Nando- I'm starting to think Sony is your next favorite brand next to Pioneer. You have almost as much Sony gear as Pioneer it seems.
  #13  
Old 02-06-2017, 08:37 PM
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You are right in that respect, Scott. Looking back, my first portable AM/FM radios, when I had a paper route at age 12-13, were Sonys. The Vancouver Sun was the daily newspaper I used to deliver. I earned a credit for each new customer I gained. A certain numbers of credits could be used for buying products from the company's catalog. I bought radios with the first bunch of credits I earned.

Nando.
  #14  
Old 02-06-2017, 09:01 PM
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Sawtooth Sawtooth is offline
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Wow, that takes me back to being a kid in the 80's and the first time I heard a Sony Walk-Man. I remember my cousin just popping them on my head..those comfy foam on ear headphone and the rich stereo sound being directly pumped into my hungry ears was truly nothing short of amazing. I knew then, and right then, I'd do just about anything to scrape together some cash to get one! And then came Van Halen 1984 and wow, mind blown!
  #15  
Old 02-07-2017, 12:08 PM
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Hamiltonaccie Hamiltonaccie is offline
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Excellent review

Everyone who loves tape should get the opportunity to try a metal/type iv tape.

Please PM me your mailing address so I can send you one.
  #16  
Old 02-10-2017, 09:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by braxus View Post
Nando- I'm starting to think Sony is your next favorite brand next to Pioneer. You have almost as much Sony gear as Pioneer it seems.
I should modify my avatar to ElitESt. I do have plenty of ES gear, some which I haven't shown before:



Nando.
  #17  
Old 02-10-2017, 09:57 AM
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LesX55 LesX55 is online now
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Now I'm seriously jealous...... wanted a 630 es back in the day and even now I have the occasional look on the bay!!
How does it sound??
The Dac at the back was very well received in the day
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  #18  
Old 02-10-2017, 10:34 AM
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Exceptional integrated amplifier, Les.

Nando.
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