FISHER CR-9070: Silent Hunter

Submitted on: 14 Jun 23

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Category: Analog recorders/players

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Somehow it seems to me that the Fisher company was never appreciated as much as it actually deserved. That’s why I will include a bit of history in my text: Fisher Electronics was originally called “The Fisher” after its founder Avery Fisher, and was founded way back in 1945, during the pioneer days of audio reproduction. Originally American, around 1975, it was bought by the Japanese Sanyo corporation and the production itself was moved to the Land of the Rising Sun.

I always found Fisher’s logo charming – the bird carrying a musical note in its beak. So romantically designed.

Today, there are still products under the name of this brand, but I haven’t determined their origin. I think there’s some Chinese company behind it that bought only the name and trademark. A real shame, as with Nakamichi and many others who have left an indelible mark on audio history.

I remember Fisher devices being exhibited during the eighties in Belgrade, in the “Fontana” on Knez Mihailova Street, on the right side of the pedestrian zone when you head towards Kalemegdan. As a kid, I often went to see them and admire them, although I couldn’t afford them. In the same store, Revox with its program was exhibited, I could only dream about it at that time. The most my family could afford was a Sharp music column – Sharp’s representation was just a little closer to the beginning of the street, on the first or second floor of the department store.

Years later, I encountered Fisher devices and rarely was I disappointed. Although they were commercial components, they were decently made. For example, cheaper Fisher devices in the price range of my Sharp music column had far better cassette mechanisms; Sharp saved wherever it could, but Fisher didn’t.

I also owned a Fisher Walkman, at the time one of their two top models. Today, enthusiasts talk about Sony, Panasonic, and Aiwa. But in reality, the battle for the market of small portable players was fierce: many manufacturers had great, expensive models that are hard to find today, which were excellent. Toshiba, JVC, Sharp, Fisher… are just some of them. The mentioned Fisher Walkman had a cassette that was inserted and served as an FM receiver (I think Toshiba was the first to release that), as well as mechanical servo commands (better known as soft touch or mechanical logic commands) and auto-reverse, and even a small speaker in the door. The sound was exceptional, and the little guy cost not so sweet 300 DEM at the time.

I found it for sale in classified ads and thought it would be nice to buy it and take a picture… and here it is:

The particular unit isn’t in great condition, but it’s complete and, of course, very interesting.

Fisher also made some high-end ventures, among which the MT-Z1 turntable is known to me, although it seems the company didn’t find it profitable to invest in the development of such components, as the mentioned one was a rebranded C.E.C. ST-930.

After boring you a bit, let’s now get back to the story about the CR-9070 cassette deck.

Fisher’s model CR-9070 appeared as a representative of the “Preference” series in 1992, towards the end of these devices. The mentioned “Preference” series was the manufacturer’s attempt to introduce components of higher quality than average to the market. However, the price of the CR-9070, 700 DEM (350 EUR), indicates that it is a mid-range cassette deck, not some expensive high-end device.

But, dear followers of my website, you may ask why did I choose it at all? I bought it faulty, perhaps spending more money on it than it’s worth, took a risk, and… why? That’s a valid question, I would say.

The answer is: I was drawn to this deck because it has some charming features that didn’t belong to its price category and the sum of all the qualities that make it seem like it should cost more. Let me list them:

  • Triple head deck (this is okay for 700 DEM).
  • Amorphous heads – excellent in the mentioned price range.
  • High bias of 210 kHz for tape erasure (normally it ranges from 85-100 kHz); high bias was favored by Pioneer (as far as I remember, 160 kHz) and JVC (210 kHz), probably among others.
  • Electronic recording level control – via a sliding encoder, this allows very precise control of balance and linearity of amplification for both channels, as well as the option for fader and similar functions. Similar features were introduced by Technics with the RS-AZ series around the same time.
  • A brilliant and by no means cheap custom-made display, with peaks having 16 segments per channel – far above the price class, while the display itself is extremely clear regarding recording levels. Some markings are small, but they are of secondary importance. It simultaneously shows the selected recording level.
  • Auto calibration that activates a special part of the display and shows the entire process including the adjustment of sensitivity and bias parameters relative to the reference value – nice to watch, and also to check how much a cassette deviates from the predefined central value and eventually recalibrate the deck if this is a common occurrence with different types of cassettes.
  • Automatic recording level adjustment (AILC – Auto Input Level Computer Control) – nicely and smartly done.
  • Options for manual adjustment of recording levels (CCPL – Computer Control Peak Level Shift), I don’t have the manual, but one is used to display and hold the peak level achieved, and the other is used to shift the same peak value left/right to place it in the optimal range. Similar features were also found in Technics decks (RS-B965/765) and, for example, Akai DX-49.
  • Fader – for muting and amplifying the recording.
  • HX Pro system can be disabled.
  • At that time, the most modern Sony Dolby circuitry CXA1330S was used, which was also used in prestigious Sony decks, for example.

Of course, some corners were cut: the mechanism is a classic ALPS and I would really like to see a more robust one, although this one does the job. The front panel is made of plastic, which isn’t terrible; Harman/Kardon used a plastic front panel on its top model TD4800, which cost 2,800 DEM… but I would like to see either metal or anti-resonant plastic here.

However, considering all this, it seems to me that someone really put in effort with this deck. It is literally packed with rare options. These aren’t just cosmetic additions; it’s modern technology of that time serving the old cassette.

The crucial question is: does all the accompanying electronics, besides helping, at the same time clearly deteriorate the sound quality?

To begin with, here are some data from the catalog:

However, the service manual provides different frequency range data according to a standard (+/-3 dB), which is stricter than the DIN standard. We will see if the measurement will indicate which of the two data should be considered. Usually, the data from the service manual are more authoritative.

You will notice that the signal-to-noise ratio is quite poor – 58 dB, although at that time, the standard value for three-head decks was around 60 dB.

Considering the limited offering of Fisher decks in the catalog, it was common at that time that even if there was a cheaper three-head cassette deck, it was not particularly remarkable but rather a slight upgrade from more modest two-head models. We will see if this is the case here.


The design of the CR-9070 reminds me somewhat of the Philips FC-950, the three-headed flagship model of the 9xx series deck, albeit Philips is of a slightly more extravagant design. Both practically use the same transport mechanism, but Fisher was 100 DEM more expensive, and furthermore, it is packed with options far more than the FC-950.

The layout of controls on the CR-9070 is good, with the Open/Close, Play, and Stop buttons being large and easily accessible, while the others are somewhat small and could have been larger, especially the Rec Mute (or Space Pause as Fisher calls it) button, which is quite small, like what you’d expect for a less important function.

The rest is not much better: a bunch of relatively small buttons of the same shape, so until you learn where everything is, reading the labels is necessary. For example, they could have somehow separated and enlarged the Monitor button.

The automatic recording level control indicator is emphasized, unlike the others, which tells me that they wanted to make this function more accessible to everyday users.

The deck doesn’t have a light inside the cassette compartment, which is a real shame. Interestingly, the mechanism cover is metal – many would have used it as a plastic part of the front mask, and it’s coated in piano black lacquer – not very visible but such an elegant touch.

The front panel, to the left of the cassette holder cover, has a part made of dark, but seemingly transparent plastic. It resembles a remote control sensor cover, but behind it, there is actually nothing. In the case of the more modest model, the CR-9030 (mind you, they never made the CR-9050, strange…), this part is covered with the classic opaque plastic, which leads me to believe that there might have been an idea to include a remote control with the CR-9070 or that the system’s remote could have served that purpose.

The cassette holder is made of plastic but is of solid quality and has anti-vibration measures in terms of damping the cassette holder with the same material used by Sony in their ES decks (I forgot the material type, and I couldn’t find it in the documentation…).

However, the mechanism itself is noisy, not only when it’s turned on due to the actuators (electromagnets) in the mechanism, similar to how Technics decks with the same mechanism sound, but also the gears of the winding and rewinding system are noisy. Lubrication partially helps.

What’s important is that the display is really excellent, with 16 large segments per channel and two-color peaks with hold. It’s truly a joy to watch and use. Above the peak meter is also a display of the maximum recommended level for the specific type of cassette currently in the deck – again, just like with Sony devices.

The counter operates in pseudo-real-time, with no tape length adjustment. The display even shows an icon of a cassette when the cassette itself is inserted, just like with VCRs – it’s visible in the upper right corner of the picture.

The device, by the way, remembers all settings: from the counter (which, unfortunately, doesn’t reset automatically when you insert the next cassette) to level settings, auto-calibration, and the like (be careful, auto-calibration doesn’t reset when you change the cassette, and I don’t know if there are separate memories for each type of tape – normal, chrome, and metal).

The feel on the recording level encoder is light; I would have liked the button to be just a bit bigger. There’s no play (“play”) because instead of just nuts to fasten the encoder to the plate, a roller was used which acts as both a nut and a holder – it holds the encoder and represents the channel through which the external button of the encoder is connected to the axis and cannot move. A brilliant solution, they really didn’t skimp on this.

The feel on the headphone and balance potentiometers is excellent – just try how poor the one for headphones is on Pioneer top decks from the same era, for example.

I didn’t like that the balance potentiometer practically has a small range – it’s very sensitive and quickly silences the channel it’s supposed to decrease.

Another interesting thing is: the display is a VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display) type, but the deck has bulbs inside. I’ve never seen this before, except for VU and LCD indicators, and I didn’t understand what it’s for. It turned out that two bulbs light up to illuminate the plastic transparent mask in front of the display and the red line at its bottom. Incredible effort for something so small. Do I need that? No. Could they have invested the money in something smarter? Yes. But it looks nice, really. Again, that effort I’m talking about.

Here they are in the picture, I marked them with a red rectangle.

The transport originates from the Japanese APLS and is similar to those installed in Technics, Teac, Yamaha, Grundig, and many other lower and middle-range decks. Unfortunately, there’s no direct drive, it uses a belt and a small flywheel on which I’ve seen up to five tracks of additional dynamic balancing.

The ideal solution for such a deck would be a system with a direct drive motor and a dual capstan. But, obviously, saving here has taken its toll. Otherwise, the mechanism itself is three-motor, but one motor controls the opening and closing of the door, while the other two are responsible for transport: the main one and the one for rewinding/fast-forwarding, as well as the electromagnetic actuator for moving the roller which, via the main flywheel, receives the torque and raises or lowers the heads.

What’s good is that with the CR-9070, the main motor doesn’t turn on together with the deck but only during recording or playback. This greatly saves the flywheel bearings and the wear of the motor itself (bearings, brushes, commutators).

The recording and playback head block has a cast base (like on Technics decks, for example) and something else: a nice sub-chassis on which the head is located with screws for adjusting azimuth and other parameters – for this category of mechanism and the deck itself, it’s very decently made.

I didn’t find any information about the country of origin on the device itself, but it seems to me that it was made in Japan, which, of course, I can’t say for sure.


Today it’s difficult and quite risky to buy a cassette deck and trust that it’s functional at least in the basic sense. It’s even harder to achieve this if you’re purchasing a faulty device.

So, I bought this CR-9070 unit for 50 EUR. The seller told me that the CR-9070 came from abroad and that the rubber bands had melted. What struck me as odd was that he mentioned 4 rubber bands, some large parts, and a long belt, but I knew that the deck had a simple ALPS mechanism or at least I inferred that from the service manual.

Anyway, this model has only one belt and one rubber band: it’s intended for the motorized door opening/closing system. And it was melted. Cleaning melted rubber bands is a tedious task because they disintegrate into butter-like pieces that melt at touch. Additionally, rubber bits are scattered around and can easily spread to all possible surfaces, often not visible at first glance, and all you notice are black traces of melted rubber on your fingers. Anyone who has cleaned melted rubber bands once knows what I’m talking about. Fortunately, the one on the Fisher was small and caused only a minor mess.

The servicing process was as follows:

  1. Disassembling the deck: The service manual doesn’t contain a procedure for dismantling the deck’s mechanics, so I had to figure it out myself. It seems that the device wasn’t designed with the idea of being serviced but rather to be easily assembled in production. Disassembling the mechanics involves removing the cover (6 screws), removing two horizontal screws from the mechanism, removing part of the bottom cover (6 screws), two feet of the deck, another 9 screws for the front panel, and two for the vertical processor board, removing the mentioned board from the socket, another screw related to the cross lever – mechanism holder, plus three more on the mechanism itself. So, by the time I could finally hold the transport in my hand, separated from the rest of the device, I had removed 31 screws, assuming I didn’t forget to count some more :). Additionally, there are zip ties (cutting) and connectors (about 8 connectors). Simply put, isn’t it? And I haven’t even started yet.

2. Replacing the main belt: to access it, the door opening servo motor must be removed, which is attached with two screws secured with lacquer. I cleaned the lacquer residues and didn’t put it back because, in the end, I don’t see the need. Then I lifted the connector PCB – only one of the flexible guards was really bent, I straightened it to free the PCB, and later I returned and bent both. This allowed me to access the screw below, plus two more. In fact, only one of the three screws securing the mechanics plate is accessible without additional disassembly; they could have done that better. Fortunately, I didn’t have to unsolder wires to the reel motor. Belt replacement is easy if you know a simple trick on how to position it at the beginning. I cleaned the pulleys beforehand and lubricated the main drive motor and door opening servo motor. In the end, I reassembled everything. I didn’t lubricate the head lifting servo mechanism as the grease was still in excellent condition, so I didn’t want to touch anything.

3. I also cleaned and later demagnetized the heads, and checked the roller: although it wasn’t used much, it started to get a shiny, plastic surface. Removing this surface while retaining the perfect shape of the roller isn’t easy or safe, so I replaced it, only I had to reduce the height of the new one by 0.1 mm to match the original (7.91-7.92 mm).

4. It turned out that a part connecting the door itself to the lever driven by the door opening mechanism was missing. The part of the service manual showing the transport itself is terrible, as is often the case, so I had to “clarify” it quite a bit. I checked the mechanism itself in the middle of the night, using a screw I found in my collection, to test the concept of whether such a solution would work. Besides, the mechanism lever was tilted – whether someone tilted it or its axis was poorly placed from the factory, I don’t know. When trying to straighten it, the axis lost its strength at the point where it was pressed and started to wobble (it was pressed into a metal plate), so I positioned it where it should be and secured it with super glue – this trick always helps, provided that the load on the lever isn’t too great. Now the lever was close to the door mechanism, as it should be, and I started looking for a suitable diameter and very short screw or axle. When I found it, I added a plastic sleeve so that the metal wouldn’t slide over the metal, i.e., the axle over the screw threads, but over the plastic. Additionally, I lubricated the movement path with silicone grease and some other parts of the mechanism (reel system gears because they are quite noisy, as well as another part of the door mechanism, but with graphite grease). Finally, I adjusted the position of the screw in the door mechanism and sealed it with lacquer – I could have used something stronger, but I think it’s unnecessary.

5. The mechanism was ready; I moved on to cleaning the front panel from the inside, metal plates, etc.

6. Then it was time for assembly and connecting connectors and testing basic functions.

7. After that, I hooked up the deck to the computer and checked and adjusted the level meters, playback, recording, bias, and autocalibration system.

Fortunately, this CR-9070 unit had been very little used, as the seller said, and hadn’t been tampered with, the basic elements remained intact, so it took me about 8 hours of work for everything, which is a rare occurrence – it usually takes two to three times more.


Some measurements

Frequency range measurement was particularly interesting to me – I found two different sets of specifications, so I turned to the service manual. For a cassette deck of this price, from a less popular manufacturer, it seemed strange to me that it could reach up to 20 kHz on chrome and even up to 22 kHz on metal cassettes.

So, I chose a new TDK D and my used TDK SA-X and TDK MA as a reference. I measured the range without the HX Pro system and autocalibration system and took the poorer values of the two channels (usually the left channel is poorer). It turned out that the bias was almost perfect for my selected tapes.

With TDK D, the -3 dB intersection point was around 19.5 kHz on the left and well above 20 kHz (probably around 21 kHz or higher) on the right channel. TDK SA-X resulted in a range of up to 21.5 kHz, and TDK MA even up to 23.5 kHz. These are exceptional results.

But what amazed me was the linearity of the frequency range starting from the mid-level of, let’s say, 5 kHz all the way to the end of the curve. Extremely rare and seldom seen, for example, in Revox B215, Pioneer CT-A9, or Yamaha KX1200. This is completely inappropriate for a deck priced at 700 DEM.

Deck speed measurement, after slight adjustment (always necessary after belt replacement), showed that the value was locked at 3,000 Hz using a test tape, which by itself spoke of the good condition of the motor, roller, belt, and mechanism as a whole.

All this confirms my theory: in the early 90s, there were no more secrets in electronics for cassette deck designers – the range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz was no longer a secret of the chosen or wealthy few. End of the story. However, savings were made on mechanical components, mostly on transports because it was probably assumed that cassette mechanics had progressed and transports didn’t need to be better, just good enough for the human ear, with rare exceptions. What a shame.



The measurements themselves (frequency range, distortion, speed stability, flutter and wow, etc.) can provide general guidelines about the device’s condition and sound, but they cannot guarantee what you will actually hear – for example, in the case that the results are excellent, there is no guarantee that the sound itself will be good.

So, how does the Fisher CR-9070 sound? Let’s start with what is immediately noticeable: extremely clean sound, from bottom to top. Dynamic and very stable, with a wide stage and very precise tones, especially in the upper range. The headphone output is decent, but I noticed some problems with sibilants when using it, which wasn’t the case when using the line output.

The detail is excellent, almost unexpected, and the overall harmony and rhythm are good. The bass has both body and volume yet is very tight. The human voice is very clean.

Interestingly, I couldn’t hear any difference using the HX Pro system, so much so that I wondered if it was even working. I performed some measurements, and HX Pro definitely introduces some changes, but not in the standard way where it boosts the upper part of the range, i.e., it doesn’t smooth out the deficiencies of the device by artificially emphasizing high tones. There’s none of that here; Fisher’s electronics and heads are dangerously well done.

The sound of this deck requires getting used to: it’s so clean that many times I felt like I was listening to an older generation CD player. I’m used to the specific soft, maybe sometimes a bit muffled sound of decks, while the CR-9070 is almost digital in terms of details and precision. This isn’t always easy to listen to, but it could pretty well replicate vinyl records, without losing details.

Using TDK MA had all the previous characteristics, even a little more detail, but it seems to me also sharpness, and I didn’t like it in the sense that it was a bit tiresome, which wasn’t the case with normal tapes, for example. Maybe I’ll adjust it to be a bit softer.

All in all, the CR-9070 is very specific and one of the cassette decks of the cleanest sound I’ve encountered. It reminds me of some Yamaha devices, only a little more musical than them. Fisher CR-9070 doesn’t have the warmth of Nakamichi decks, doesn’t have the rhythm and transmission of emotions like some other top cassette players – its copy is almost 1:1, very, very precise and requires careful integration with the rest of the system – ideally softer, warmer but at the same time detailed and transparent.

What to say in the end? An excellent, well-designed machine that is rarely encountered, with an almost perfectly flat and decisive sound character. If you want a relaxed sound of a soft cassette deck, Fisher isn’t for you. If your aspirations are to forget that you’re listening to a small plastic cassette and think it’s actually some modern sound source, Fisher is for you. Made in the time of His Majesty the CD empire, for recording and playback of compact discs.

Did I personally like it? Yes, very much. I prefer the transparent Nakamichi BX-300, the seductiveness of the Dragon, the phenomenal neutrality of the Revox B215, or the exceptional sound formula of the Luxman 5K50M, but in the end, I can’t remember any deck that cost nearly as much as Fisher and could match it in all parameters. Hats off.

Of course, the cat immediately climbed onto the device when I started taking pictures of it – Becky must be a star :). So… here he is too:


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