SONY TC-S7: Design Or Quality

Submitted on: 05 Jan 14

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Category: Analog recorders/players

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Sony Scenario was a design effort towards market for people without enough money or will to buy top ES models but wanted some ES quality and also get advanced industrial design devices in their home. Scenario line was made well but without technical advantages Sony put to it’s later Lissa line. And, unfortunately, Scenario was not a success, nor has been La Scala or Lissa, all high tech super design Sony products.

Here is the deck from Scenario series – TC-S7. Luckily, it is a real 3 head deck, not cheap auto reverse model.

It looks really nice, with large, clear display and is not overcrowded with buttons. Sony TC-S7 has cassette loader, like CD. Interestingly, people in Serbia don’t like this loader decks and they don’t buy it very often on a second hand market.

Of course, Sony thought that the owner will never clean the heads so no removable cover over them. Maybe they planned for user to use wet cassette cleaner… I really can’t tell.

The deck works very quiet while changing modes and especially while loading/unloading cassette, similar to some DAT machines. On the contrary, capstan motor is very loud, like a bad transformer and is always on.

The main thing that is missing is variable bias control, not to mention level/bias calibration feature, manual or automatic. I can’t imagine what the designers of TC-S7 thought about and why they put monitor feature without possibility to adjust anything except to monitor recording level in real time?

Removing the cover reveals standard basic 3 head deck. There is one nice thing, the cassette lock system which keeps cassette firmly in place. It should also be the part of some ant vibration measures but it is not manufactured in this way, like on Denon DRS-810. It is just a piece of bare metal over cassette housing.

The mechanism is off-the-stock single capstan 3 motor device, not bad but nothing to talk about. It is gear based and should last long enough, but I miss sophisticated two capstan system since the chassis supports it. For the price of the system, it would cost almost nothing to add this feature together with variable bias.

The sound and some conclusions

Sony TC-S7 is highly sensitive to tape type/quality. It was over biased even with Sony’s own UX-S tapes, although somebody may have played with bias trimmers before. It liked TDK SA but totally disliked Fuji DRII. Of course, everything could be calibrated using inner trimmers but this is not user friendly – these were 90s with all computing resources available to cassette decks technology.

The sound after calibration was a true middle class: not bad but also not so special, with defined bass but lacking proper weight from time to time. Upper frequency details were present and consistent but had a touch of artificial sound so well known in cheaper decks that extensively use HX Pro. The fine emotions put into the music by the performer were also not so much present. This is not a true complain: in the class TC-S7 belongs to it is rather rule than exception. So, the recording and playback could be used by someone who would like to remember old days and nothing more. I must admit I expected more – once again design won over engineering and the result is a mediocre device.

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