the ultimate deck

trasferring my most loved vinyl on a mobile carrier not loosing quality was one of the challenges I was confronted with in the last months. You may copy records on digital microSD by using DSD 5.6 which I do. It really sounds good! Nevertheless I was considering if there is a way without using a digital transformation thus keeping the original analog signal. Regarding mobile usage there is only one way you may reach a somehow satisfying result: looking for one of the best Compact Cassette record players ever built.

Cassettes seem to be a relict of forgotten times (like vinyl years ago). In some minds they still have an image of a more unreliable technology with limited sound quality. I still have a Nakamichi RX505E deck which is very well serviced and adjusted. From time to time I am enjoying listening to a cassette in my second system. Honestly I do use the Naka very rarely. It is a fine machine and the rotating cassette in the outside hanging plastic window box always excites me.

As a R2R and tape user I know what it means when going for a very small recording tape as the cassette deck comes with. Only to mention adjusting the correct bias and azimuth when changing to different cassette types, chromdioxid II or metal tapes. The muddy sound results cassette users sometimes claim about are usually a result of misalignment. Cassette technology is not a plug and play technology at all. Still interested? Oh yes, now the challenge starts. Is there any other deck besides of the world famous Nakamichi Dragon and its even bigger and and more sophisticated & complex 1000ZXL (the golden one of course) and some other high rated derivates like CR-7A or ZX-9?

I remember that Studer, ASC and Eumig built excellent compact cassette decks too. I know the fine but unreliable image of the Tandberg R2R machines but I wasn’t really aware that the Norwegian engineers developed some of the finest cassette decks of their time, TCD 3014, 3014A, 910, 911. It is a lot of fun getting to see inside a piece of gear and seeing what its all about. The Tandberg impressed me the second I saw the layout. Mr Tandberg seemed to have been a perfectionist and despite what the others were doing he would not follow trends. He even used his own programming for the logic chipsets, not standard off the shelf. So maybe a niche player but really the best of the best (!😉)?

Tandberg 2
Looking out for a 3014 I found a Canadian technician restoring cassette and tape decks (darkmatteraudio on ebay). He exchanged the old caps with original Elna Simic II, Nichichon KW and VR series in the mains power supply and did some other refinements. In the end I received a state of the art TCD 3014 in excellent condition. And I had a lot of nice and insight related exchanges with Davor. I put in a new power cord and set the voltage to 240V. Now ready to start that kind of adventure? Would the Tandberg fullfil my expectations?

In the meantime I got aquainted with the 3014. My first recording results where not overwhelming. I did some preparations when discovering that the black plastic tab at the Azimuth knob is glued on the metal shaft, so you cannot take it off which I wanted getting more leverage. I put away the top plastic notch being now able moving the knob more to the left and right. I also studied the recording head how it moved by turning the Azimuth knob via the orange plastic bridge belt.

Tandberg 1

Tandberg glass

Tandberg 5

Then I adjusted the bias at 315 Hz and in the next step the Azimuth at 15Khz. I always needed moving the lever between chrom II and metal up and down. It looks like it wasn’t used very often in the last years, it produced sometimes wrong information. Finally I adjusted the recording bias by 315 Hz.
In the end I reached good information on the signal peaks really knowing all is calibrated in the best possible way. I tested the calibration with chrom II and metal tapes. Let me say the metal tapes are a revelation. You really can hear the good sound with chrom II and the very good sound with metal used.
Overall I got a much better sound!!!


Tandberg 3


The next step will be building in a remote control board so that I can use my remote control…


Tandberg remote

Tandberg pre last

Working with the 3014 is so much pleasure. It is really a masterpiece of recording technology. The haptics are great – very important for me! You may compare the layout and implementation of the Nakamichi or others with the Tandberg and you easily know what the difference is all about. Ha, I know there will be other arguments. The 3014 produces a fine sound on a high quality level. It is absolutely satisfying! Now for me it’s the time going on a search for the Tandberg’s mobile partner…

tandberg pre last

tandberg front



19 thoughts on “the ultimate deck

  1. Eckart,
    I agree that it is necessary to calibrate ones machine for optimum results. You mentioned to me previously that you were not using Dolby noise reduction. I have found that excellent results can be obtained by calibrating Dolby for your favorite tapes. I am not familiar with the Tandberg, but I am sure that it has this feature as is found on nearly all high end machines. So, if you are not using Dolby, how are you controlling tape hiss? With reel to reel this is not a problem, but with cassette one has to record at such a level as to not over load the tape with signal, and yet have the signal high enough that tape hiss isn’t noticeable. (very difficult to do, and that is why I use Dolby)


  2. Norman,
    I do not have real hiss on my tapes when not using Dolby. Having found the SWEET SPOT at the Azimuth alignment and calibrating the bias in the best way possible my high sensitive system doesn`t transport noticable background noise.
    Also when using a very good mobile unit the sound is absolutely clear, natural and warm, the high frequences are reached, no cut at 12000 Hz. Dolby is not needed, with state of the art electronics it should be almost black background. I never use it. It robs so much information and sounds like a drum compressor for studio.

    Yes this deck is amazing when you take the time and get to know its little fine adjustments which I think almost no one does. Most put a cassette in and play, but then complain it sounds flat and muddy with no treble. With cassette there is very little room for error, the track width is so small compared to 1/4 inch. Can you imagine how perfect the transport design and parts machining and mating would have to be to get a cassette to line up every single time? I am pretty sure you can!


  3. Hello Eckart and Norman,

    I acquired a Nakamichi 1000 II in the mid/late 70’s…and still have it!
    The Tandberg TCD 300-series always interested me.

    Analog tape…there is no substitute! 😉



  4. Eckart,

    Nice article for this confirmed Tapehead with good images. You’ll have to record a cassette for me, doesn’t have to be a TDK MA-XG/MA-R as I’m quite prepared to accept a Sony Super Metal Master, Maxell Metal Vertex or That’s Suono…
    All joshing aside, does the Tandberg’s transport exceed the capability of Nakamichi Dragon’s NAAC technology on playback?



    • Stuart,
      there is a lot of discussion on between the Nakamichis and other contenders. The ovations you give depend in which camp you are standing. I have not compared the Dragon with the 3014, so cannot give a statement. I do only record for my mobile usage. Enjoy the tape topic.


  5. I have serviced many Naks for many people, as well as myself, in addition to many Revox decks and 2 3014s. My 3014s also be fitted from complete overhauls of the transport and replacement of all audio caps. I am a huge Nakamichi fan, with in depth experience in testing and comparing Dragons, ZX-9/7s, RX 505s, the entire CR, DR, 68x and 58x series, etc. The 3014 is the only deck that I have come across (not saying there aren’t others, but who can test them all!) that records and plays back on par with them, except for W&F, sonically. They take quite a bit of practice to get the most out of, as their levels do not compare compatibility with other makes.


  6. Sorry, this deck lives from his expensive reputation only, The people who praised it, never heard and knowing many different TOTL decks, for example a NAD6300, the most sophisticated deck ever created. Or just take the german ASC 3001, its THE deck BASF using for tape research in the last decades, its eating the 3014 for breakfast….


  7. Perry,

    Having read many of Tapeheads posts about subjects related to the 3014, you admit that the 3014 is a deck that you very little experience with. In fact I believe the first one you did was only within the last year? Its also obvious that you are a very dedicated Nak enthusiast. You also from what I have gathered do not have a state of the art or even anything that would be considered a high end system as Eckart does. Probably out of the majority of listeners, many have never heard all of the top decks to compare with. An audiophile such as Eckart has either heard, owned or currently owns some of the best gear ever made. I think having this sort of experience his ears can tell you what a true analog sound stage should sound like.

    Having a reference system to evaluate gear with is a real must as many pieces of gear made were “made for the average consumer” and therefore was over equalized. Sounds good on the average system but on the high end you quickly see where the strengths and weaknesses are, and most importantly what sounds the closest to a reel to reel tape machine.

    I have owned all of the best decks and one thing has been consistent, every single one has had to compromise one aspect or another. The Tandberg TCD-3014 to me simply had the best combination of things I look for in a true reference piece. And despite not having the best W&F as compared to the Dragon, it still sounds more analog and closest to a reel to reel.



  8. The ASC is no doubt a good deck, but better than the 3014 or Dragon?
    No I dont think so. The transport isn’t capable of the same precision
    as the Studer A721 – A710. No one made a
    decent transport except Studer, Tandberg and Nak. The Eumig was not bad too.
    Just because BASF used ASC machines doesn’t make it the best. That isn’t
    my logic?
    I wouldn’t put the NAD on the same level despite they used Dynaq and HX pro.
    you may run the 3014 against a NAD in a good system. You will hear the difference.


  9. The best cassette deck that I ever owned was the ReVox B215. Excellent transport and superb electronics. It did have it’s short comings (constant LCD bleed and a thermal problem with the light tape sensor burning up tapes), but the transport wasn’t one of them. Even in my modest system, it clearly was better than my Nak 1000, and Pioneer CTF 1250. (the machines I had at the time)
    I would agree that the NAD is no were near this calibre of machine. I have experience with the Tandberg 340 and it’s build quality was amazing, so I would reason this to be quite a bit better.
    Having followed Eckart and Tim for a few years now, and learning of their systems and the quality they strive for, I would have to defer to them when they class something as the ‘ultimate’. I would never believe that Eckart would think something is the Ultimate because he owns it, only because he has heard it to be so!



  10. Reblogged this on Liquid Audio and commented:
    I love this piece on the Tandberg 3014, one of the great cassette decks from back in the day. Lovely pics and description of calibration work!


  11. Hi.
    Im a cassette lover, and for the car, my recomendation is a top line Alpine from 1986 to 1990. The HLTAC and HLTAC II heads is the best you can take in car players. Searching for a 7385, 7390, 7618… Adjust the head to your recording, and enjoy the sound. For the pure sound, te best choice is the Alpine with the treble / bass analog ALPS pots (like the 7385)
    Also you can enjoy the Nakamichi TD-500 or the TD-700. This units have a manual azimuth adjustment. I have one years ago, but Im from Spain and the FM frequency steps is for the american market. But the Dolby section and azimuth manual aligment is te best way for enjoy tapes recorderd from different recorders.
    And finally, the sound of the high end Blaupunkt SQR 45, 46,48 BREMEN, TORONTO… Is a pure and rich sound, in tape and radio sections. No SMD components. And the DNL dynamic noise limiter, works well with all tapes and radio too.


  12. Hi Eckart – My name is Randi, and I am the photo editor of IEEE Spectrum Magazine. We are going to be including the Tandberg 3014 in our upcoming Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame. I wondered if we might have permission to use some of these photographs with the piece? Thank you!


  13. Hi Randi,
    Thanks for asking. Yes you may use my fotographs regarding the 3014. please let me know about the final product.



    • Wonderful. Thank you! It will be a few months, I will send you the link! Should the photo credits be “AudioCirc” with a link to this page?


Leave a Reply to Stuart Cameron Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.