CLASH OF TITANS: From Pioneer to Technics

Few days ago I unpacked some decks from my collection. I wanted to check some of them, others to sell.

I didn’t have more space to get some other devices, but here are five of them:

1. Pioneer CT95
2. Nakamichi BX300
3. Nakamichi CR4E
4. Tascam 122 Mk3
5. Technics RS-B905

 

 

So, the short story goes:

Pioneer CT95 is a top model from this manufacturer, considered by many as a true successor of Nakamichi Dragon. It uses well known Reference Master transport with 3 motors, advanced power supply section and some other tricks to help it work and sound better. There will be another test regarding this machine. The list price of CT95 was around 1.250-1.500 EUR.

Nakamichi BX300 arrived in 1984. and is well known in BX series as a top model. Nakamichi BX series was the cheap one, when Japanese manufacturer was trying to get hands on lower cost market. There is info about BX300 on my site… and I consider it as the best price/performance value of all Nakamichi decks. It has outstanding sound in a small package, also some flaws, but generally speaking is a good machine, made very clever. The list price of BX300 was around 850 EUR.

Nakamichi CR4E is from the second half of 80s and is a successor of BX300 (more than CR3E). It took many points of BX300 good design but also has some improvements. It was produced after famous CR5 and CR7 models and, although using the same transport, it is somewhat upgraded. Unfortunately, although it got very good reviews in audio magazines, it looks to me it never got glory like some others did. Nevertheless CR4E is a great, serious machine. List price was 1.000 EUR.

Tascam 122 Mk3 started it’s journey in the middle of 90s, and was made for about 12 years. You can also read about it on my site. It is a 3 motors single capstan machine, like it’s older brothers (122 and 122 Mk2), although with a new, different, transport. It is a beautifully looking machine from my point of view, with a decent sound, but not so appreciated as 122 Mk2. At the end of production, the list price for 122 Mk3 was pretty high 1.500 EUR, and even more on some markets.

Technics RS-B905 entered the market in 1987. as a top model with the list price of 650 EUR, so it is the cheapest deck in this group. It has 2 motors ALSP mechanism, brass capstans, full calibration feature but without internal oscillators (!!!). It is also described here, and is considered as one of the most musical cassette decks from Technics.

I used TDK SA, TDK Professional and Sony UX-S cassettes, and the music was various: from pop, rock and symphonies. The source was Sony HAP-Z1ES server and other components were Sony TA-A1ES and Elac FS210A as well as AKG K601 phones.

 

IMPRESSIONS:

CT95: Crystal clear but not sterile, great details, strong bass, great stage. Instruments are very well divided. The listener is dragged into the music, with emotional approach, much higher than pure high quality technical reproduction. In general, this is exceptional deck, comparing the best I have ever heard. The test was conducted without using HX Pro system.

Tascam 122 Mk3: Čista reprodukcija, solidan ali ne vrhunski bas,  dinamika smanjena u odnosu na CT95 i BX300, slika prilično homogena. Lak za slušanje, dosta muzikalan i prirodan. U području mikrodetalja nedostaju elementi, ali on to dobro krije. Suština je da je ovo dobar dek ali lošiji od modifikovanog BX300 i CT95 sa kojima gubi trku na prvu loptu. Dizajn mu je, za mene, čista desetka. Mislim da bi se nekim unapredjenjima napravio vrhunski dek, ali to bi moralo praktično da se proba.

Nakamichi BX300 (modifikovana sekcija reprodukcije): Modifikacija kola za reprodukciju pomaže da BX300 zvuči nešto čistije i dinamičnije tokom reprodukcije, ali ne da ode u hladnoću i isključivu analitiku. Na testu je pokazao odličnu dinamiku kao i odličan bas ali malo slabije definisan nego kod CT95. Izuzetni mikrodetalji i neočekivano dobra prostornost. Prirodan je i savladava komplikovanije deonice bez napora. Jasna reprodukcija je za svaku pohvalu, ali CT95 je malčice bolji. Sve u svemu sjajan rezultat za BX300, za mene delimično neočekivan.

Nakamichi CR4E: Koherentan zvuk, nijedan deo spektra ne iskače. Dinamičan i dosta brz, muzikalan ali manje od CT95. Čista prezentacija, ali opet ne kao CT95. Mikrodetalji dobri ali BX300 i CT95 su bolji, no Tascam je, na primer, lošiji. U nekim momentima sam želeo da je prirodniji. Sve u svemu vrlo korektan, odličan dek ali ne apsolutni vrh. BX300 i CT95 su i prirodniji i precizniji kod mikrodetalja. Ostaje da se odradi jednostavna modifikacija mase kod CR4E, pa da se posluša ponovo.
Nakon modifikacije: Promena zvuka je nežna, ali primetna – od malo bolje dinamike, boljih detalja gornjeg ekstrema, do nešto preciznijeg basa. Dek je postao i čistijeg zvuka. Kod BX300 je, po meni, veća promena (prema sećanju kako generalno BX300 zvuči), ali se i ovde ipak primeti pomak na bolje i ispeglaniji zvuk.

Technics RS-B905:  Prilično muzikalan i vrlo prirodan, ali najmanje čiste reprodukcije od svih na testu. Detaljnost je dobra, čak i bolja od očekivane a HX Pro dobro radi posao. Dinamika je, takodje, vise nego solidna. Na basu je “tanji” od ostatka grupe. Ne postiže lakoću obrade gornjih ekstrema kao Pioneer i Nakamichi dekovi ali je razlika iznenadjujuće mala. Na složenijim primerima glasa oseća se manja kompresija. Technics je solidan dek, sjajno odmeren za kategoriju kojoj je pripadao po ceni.

Ocena zvuka:

1. Pioneer CT95 – relativna ocena 10 (referentni dek u grupi prema oceni zvuka)
2. Nakamichi BX300 (modifikovan) – RO 9.5
3. Nakamichi CR4E – RO 9, posle modifikacije 9.5
4. Tascam 122 Mk3 – RO 7.5
5. Technics RS-B905 – RO 7

Šta reći na kraju: nisam očekivao da CT95 pobedi CR4E niti da CR4E i BX300 budu bolji od Tascama toliko koliko jesu. Za normalnog ljubitelja dekova svaka od ovih mašina je od odlične do izuzetne. Gornja lista ocena je za bolesne dekofile :).

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