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Old 04-26-2010, 09:17 PM
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Smile Pioneer RT-1020H

In 1973, Pioneer was on a roll. They had decided to be the major player in the home audio market. No other manufacturer (to my knowledge) had a more complete line of audio equipment. From integrated amplifiers to receivers, turntables, cassette decks, reel to reel decks, speaker systems, headphones and other components such as reverberation units and stereo display units complete with oscilloscope, meters and audio oscillator. They also sold accessories such as NAB reel adapters, 7" and 10" take-up reels, connector cords, plug-in head assemblies, headphone junction boxes and extension cords.

They also sold a mixing amplifier as well as a full line of 4-channel components.

Whatever your need was, Pioneer was ready to provide you with a choice! Many people had a complete Pioneer system consisting of a Pioneer integrated amplifier and tuner, or receiver, a Pioneer turntable, a Pioneer tape deck (cassette or open-reel), a pair of Pioneer speakers and even a pair of Pioneer headphones!

At the time, I had a Pioneer SA-9100 integrated amplifier and a Pioneer TX-9100 tuner. I was using a different brand of turntable and was enjoying a pair of JBL L-100 Century speakers. I still have all of this gear, and all of it is in excellent condition.

When it came time to obtain an open-reel deck, I had several good choices available to me such as Akai, Sony, Pioneer and Teac. I really wanted a Crown SX824, but they cost over $1800 at the time! As much as I liked several of the Teac models, my choice was the Pioneer RT-1020. I loved the styling and build quality of the units, and as an audio salesman, I was eligible to purchase one directly from Pioneer as part of their "Direct to the salesman" program that provided me the opportunity to purchase at 50% of list price.

Pioneer produced the RT-1020L in 1973, which was a 10.5" reel machine that ran at 3.75 and 7.5 ips. They further complicated my decision in 1974 when they produced the RT-1020H and the RT-1050. The RT-1020H was essentially the same deck, but ran at 7.5 and 15 ips. Both the RT-1020L and RT-1020H recorded in 2-channel stereo, but had 4-channel playback capability. The stated specs for the RT-1020L was a frequency response of 40-20,000 Hz, wow and flutter of 0.08% and S/N ratio of 55 db (@ 7.5 ips). The RT-1020H specs were better due to the increased tape speed of 15 ips which produced a frequency response of 30-22,000 Hz, wow and flutter of 0.04% and S/N ratio of 55 db (@ 15 ips).

The decision was made even more difficult by the availability of the RT-1050. This deck was oriented more toward the enthusiast that was interested in "live recording". The two RT-1020 decks were 1/4 track units, whereas the RT-1050 was supplied as a half-track unit. The RT-1050 was available only as a 7.5 / 15 ips unit and came with a removable front cover and a folding carrying handle. A 1/4 track head assembly was available for the RT-1050 as an accessory. The RT-1020 units had wooden end panels whereas the RT-1050 cabinet was finished in black. There were a few other differences as well, but I will go into that in a separate, upcoming post about the RT-1050.

There was also a RT-1011 unit that was intended to be a lower cost option that offered fewer features at a reduced list price.

This is a scan of the portion of the brochure that shows the open-reel decks that were available in 1974.





Here are the scans of the brochure for the RT-1020L.




















As you can see from the brochure, the build quality of the unit is excellent and the cast aluminum frame is impressive. One of the features that proved to be very useful was that the transport functions were controlled by mechanically-latched pushbuttons that actuate solenoids. The advantage of this design was that the unit could be operated via an outboard timer. Whereas a mechanical control such as the lever operation of some Akai and Sony units would place the pinch roller in contact with the capstan continuously which could result in a "flat spot" on the pinch roller, or unlike the pushbuttons on some Teac units that are active only when the unit is powered, the mechanically latched buttons were held in place and would actuate the solenoid operation only when the unit was powered. Once the unit was unpowered, the solenoids would deactivate and stop the transport and prevent the pinch roller from staying in contact with the capstan. This feature was very handy for timer recording and allowed me to use the unit as part of my high fidelity "clock radio" for waking me up each morning. There were many mornings that I awoke to the sound of Miss Linda Ronstadt singing Rock me on the water.

I have had the unit since 1974, and it saw quite a bit of use up until 1983. It was packed away until 1985 and used until about 1986, when it was once again packed away in the original carton and stored properly. It was unpacked again last year and placed back into service again. It was the deck that my 10.5" tapes were recorded on and those tapes are receiving play on the RT-1020H as well as my two Crown SX824 decks.

Here is a picture of the RT-1020H taken today. Perhaps it will be selected at some point for the Tapeheads homepage photo!





I have a very good selection of original Pioneer sales brochures from the 70's, but unfortunately, the brochure for the RT-1020H is not one of them!

I will make a post at sometime in the future about the Pioneer RT-1050 complete with information about the differences between the RT-1020 units as well as a nice picture of my RT-1050.

I hope you enjoy this post and feel free to post your comments (be nice).

EMS
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Old 04-26-2010, 09:30 PM
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Hi Slim,

I just had to be the first to reply, even though, I plan to spend more time rereading the entire contents of your submission. If this was a book report I would be grading it an "A +". It's got all the right elements for a reference thread. You have my vote for your Pioneer RT-1020H to be featured in the IOTW! I'll be adding more comments, later. Thanks for such a grand effort.

Nando.
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Old 04-26-2010, 10:46 PM
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I have that deck,and for some odd reason,it sounds better than my RT-707?!? Rob
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Old 04-27-2010, 08:59 AM
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Thumbs up Pioneer RT-1020H

Thanks for sharing your personal experience with the Pioneer, this along with some very nice scans was quite enjoyable. Looking forward to more.
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:18 AM
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It is not unusual for permalloy head decks to sound a bit more natural than any of the succeeding head designs. One overlooked aspect, or spec if you will, it the 'shape' of the magnetic distortion found in any head, be it record or playback. I do not know whether we 'like' the sound of permalloy, or if it actually is more linear than harder head substances like ferrite.
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retrokeeper View Post
I have that deck,and for some odd reason,it sounds better than my RT-707?!? Rob
Hi Rob,

How about you cart that ol' Pioneer up to the Vintage Stereo Garage Sale on June 13th and I'll swap you a few components for it?

In the "Heads Up!" sub-forum, had you seen the RT-909 for sale on Seattle's craiglist?

Nando.
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:37 AM
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Hey Nando!! I seen the 909...I'm sure someone has snarfed it up by now,for that price it better be gone! I have a good reel-to-reel deck supply now,I plan to keep what I have,but still snoop around for a nicer deck every once in a while.I am looking forward to the garage sale at Innovative,I'm always interested in 15-50 watt receivers & amps....and cassette decks....and 8-tracks. Rob
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:59 AM
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Hi Slim,

Had it not been shown in your scanned brochure, of the backside innards of the RT-1020L, I had no idea it was this well engineered and built! I want one! The 4-channel capability is another big draw. Now, are there specific inputs for the "echo recording device" as I'm sure you could patch in a reverb unit in conventional fashion? I have the dwarf RT-707 and RT-909 and, although I love their looks, there's something quite appealing with the 1020 series. It sure makes for an impressive "clock radio", if there's a night stand large enough to hold it! Which tapes work well in recording with your RT-1020L?

Nando.
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Old 04-27-2010, 11:15 AM
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Great looking deck. And also thanks for the brochure. My first 10 1/2" RTR ever back in 1977 was the RT-1011. It's gone, stolen in 1984. Now I do have two RT1020L's... though only one works. I also did buy a RT-1011 shipped with one channel out that included a set of large hubs for $85 (keep in mind my sig only contains 100% working items I use regularly). Good performers and they usually are priced right....since the 707 and 909 seem to get all the attention.
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Last edited by Acoustic; 04-27-2010 at 11:16 AM. Reason: Added sig statement
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Old 04-27-2010, 04:25 PM
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Thanks for the Great picks and info I just Proccured a 1020-L ,, and the build quality appears to be first Class
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Old 04-27-2010, 08:25 PM
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Smile Another little-known feature about the RT-1020

An additional little-known feature of the Pioneer RT-1020 is the ability of the unit to play 1/2 track tapes, even though it is a 1/4 track deck.

Since it has a 4-channel playback head and 4 playback output channels, you can choose the appropriate 2 channels (one from the front and one from the rear) and play back 1/2 track tapes. I used my RT-1020H to do this before such time as I had my RT-1050!

In my opinion, these decks are considerably underpriced. Other than a main drive belt, a counter belt and dirty switches, they usually operate pretty well even after 35+ years unless they were abused or stored improperly. A real bonus when purchasing one of these decks is to get the large hub reel adapters and reel adjusting sheets, as well as the Pioneer take-up reel.

The belt kit is readily available and relatively easy to install, and properly applied DeOxit will cure the switches.

These decks sound really good when in good condition, and I got excellent results with my RT-1020H using BASF LP35LH, both on 7" and 10.5" reels. I also used Maxell and TDK, but was somewhat partial to the BASF, due in part somewhat to the very nice cases the 7" reels came in.

I have quite a few 10.5" reels of BASF, Maxell or TDK that were recorded between 1974 and 1977, and they still sound marvelous. I play them on my RT-1020H as well as my 2 Crown SX824 decks.

As much as I love my Crown decks, I am quite fond of my 2 Pioneers and value them very highly! Quite frankly, I think they are very attractive as well.
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:39 PM
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These do look like one expects a reel deck to look. I never warmed up to the look of the 701/707/901/909 machines. They just have odd dimensions.

Having grown up wanting a Crown and later setting my sights on a Revox, I ended up working at a store that sold Tandberg and picked up a 10x so my idea of a RTR is tall, wide and not so deep. Now that I have added a recently acquired 909, it still hasn't grown on me.

Thanks for posting the brochure and your comments about the 1020H. Good read.
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Old 04-28-2010, 06:25 PM
robert1946 robert1946 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elite-ist View Post
Hi Slim,

Had it not been shown in your scanned brochure, of the backside innards of the RT-1020L, I had no idea it was this well engineered and built! I want one! The 4-channel capability is another big draw. Now, are there specific inputs for the "echo recording device" as I'm sure you could patch in a reverb unit in conventional fashion? I have the dwarf RT-707 and RT-909 and, although I love their looks, there's something quite appealing with the 1020 series. It sure makes for an impressive "clock radio", if there's a night stand large enough to hold it! Which tapes work well in recording with your RT-1020L?

Nando.

Hi Nando,

If your interested I have RT-1020L for sale. The best tapes seems to be Maxell UD. I also used Maxell LN and that works well with the deck.

Bob
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:00 PM
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What a great posting! I have the 1020L too. I bought mine used in college in 1977, and had it service a couple years ago. I even have tapes that I made on it in '77 that still sound terrific. I also have the 707 and 909, and for awhile I had a 2022. Also had the TEACS, and AKAIs. The 1020L held its own with all of them. I always wished I had the 1020H!
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert1946 View Post
Hi Nando,

If your interested I have RT-1020L for sale. The best tapes seems to be Maxell UD. I also used Maxell LN and that works well with the deck.

Bob
Hi Bob,

I just might be. Can you e-mail me details and more pictures, please? I would need Pioneer hubs and any other Pioneer accessories to go with the RT-1020L.

Nando.
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Old 04-28-2010, 10:22 PM
DolbySProject DolbySProject is offline
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Bella!

Quote:
Originally Posted by El Monte Slim View Post
Great post!
Sweet deck! (I thought I spied 7.5/15 ips.)
Cool picture!

I'll second any nomination for front page placement.

Tres bien, muy bueno, very good...
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Old 04-29-2010, 08:24 PM
Bob Boyer Bob Boyer is offline
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Thanks for the memories - that brochure is great. I realize now, having just posted in the meet-n-greet forum, that I had the 1011L in the mid to late 70s. I'm eagerly waiting to get things set up to listen and record on this 1050 I just picked up locally.

While I used some store credit from consignment sales last year to purchase this unit, you're right, they're either quite underpriced or everything else is just subject to highway robbery numbers. I can't believe what a decent ReVox will bring these days.

Have you felt the need or interest in recapping any of your units and if so, what's your impression of the change in sound? That's a long-range idea for me since this deck is so nice.

Nice writeup.
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Old 04-30-2010, 03:07 PM
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Smile Employee sale

I mentioned in my original post that Pioneer had a "Direct to Salesman" Sales Program at the time. Upon approval of the Pioneer District Representative, you could purchase one item from each category for your personal use. One receiver, or one amplifier and tuner, one pair of speakers, one turntable and one tape deck. This is how I purchased my SA-9100 / TX-9100 combo.

So of course I took advantage of this program to purchase my RT-1020H. Here is a copy of the invoice for that purchase. I have obfuscated my name and address as I am in the witness protection program.


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Old 05-01-2010, 07:35 AM
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Smile IOTW

Thanks for selecting the Pioneer RT-1020H as the Image of the Week.

I suspect that it will bring back great memories for many who have owned a Pioneer RT-1011, RT-1020L, RT-1020H or RT-1050 in the past!

As stated earlier, these are beautiful decks, wonderful performers and IMHO, still undervalued in the vintage gear market.
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Old 05-03-2010, 04:26 AM
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Hi!,

As many of you already know, I own RT-707, RT-909 and also a RT-1020H. I did a lot of repair work with this unit and after lot of hours over it, I think it's completly working well... except a misscontact that have while recording and/or playing and never found the problem. I resoldered all components of the amp, rec... borads, even did a complete recap on both.

As I really don't use this deck for record, just for playing back tapes, it's rare when it has any fail.

Here is a pic of my RT-1020H playing integrated in my 2nd system:



And if you want to watch it running doing a record/play test, here is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPVa5TwKtTE

Hope you enjoy!

PS: If you ever need it, I own the original SM for this machine.
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