Pioneer CT-979: A Step Ahead CT-959

Submitted on: 16 Jan 15

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Category: Analog recorders/players

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This one is continuing Pioneer 9xx series decks and is a younger relative to CT959. I won’t repeat some history facts about Pioneer and cassette deck line, so you can find it here.

CT-979 is based on the same Reference Master Mechanism as many Pioneers did. The button section is well laid out with commands easy to get along. The most obvious change is display: although similar in size with CT959, it has thicker marks which are easy to track during record/playback process.

CT-979 also includes this elegant door with so many marks about technology it is using:

The difference regarding CT-959 is that CT-979 has no copper shielded transformer, sensitive bias circuit and no copper plated chassis. Maybe this is not important but actually shows that company was trying to save some money. But everything else seems the same. CT-979 uses main record potentiometer connected by a long metal shaft to the front panel’s record level button. It is handcrafted in very precise way, with no space between the shaft and surrounding plastic. And there is a “Line direct” switch to override balance control. Pioneer CT-979 also uses few relays to change mode between tape and source etc. The display circuit and microcontroller are also shielded from the rest of audio electronics.

And the Reference Master Mechanism – one of the better transports in a cassette deck world:

The main difference is innovative Super Auto BLE system, which means Automatic Bias Level and Equalization calibration, which started in it’s first incarnation in CT-A1. The previous model, CT-959 did this manually, using two tones for level and bias, each on one channel. On the other side CT-979 uses automatic process with same tones on both channels and three frequencies: 333 Hz, 5 kHz and 15 kHz. It also has a manual adjustable bias by a little knob, which is good in some cases. The interesting thing is that this little knob is motorized and during the ABLE process, it turns left or right in order to get optimum bias setting. A little LED on the knob is blinking and this looks awesome!

The sound of Pioneer CT-979 was much of a surprise to me, especially bearing in mind that his ancestor CT-959 was very good and I was expecting just a little difference, if any. As always, I was interested in recording/playback capabilities, so I tested it on it’s own recordings.

Soundstage was beautifully shaped, more clear and defined than CT-959 did. It was also more three dimensional. But the main difference was in microdetails. Bass was also better: it had more slam and energy and upper part of the spectrum had very good and transparently shaped tones. It was, for sure, half class better than CT-959. Pioneer CT-979 had very good dynamic, something I have already seen in all 9xx series I had, but I also spotted that it had somehow dark sound which some may not like. On the other side it has almost perfect balance between clarity and softness, adding a little of it’s gentle soul. So, I really liked the sound of this machine.

Just to mention: recordings done without use of HX Pro system sounded damn good, beyond my expectations. Turning HX Pro didn’t spoil anything (as it did in JVC TD-V1050TN for instance) but just added a little sparkle and energy to the edge of the music at upper extreme, making these tones more obvious to the listener. Anyway, CT-979 works so good without HX Pro, even on cheap, used, normal type cassettes that you can live without HX Pro on it forever.

Is it one of the best decks ever made? Well, it doesn’t have so furious bass as Teac Z6000, or neutral sound like Revox B215, not to mention details recorded on tape using Nakamichi Dragon or such… But yes, this is an extremely good deck of the highest class, better than JVC that I mentioned or Akai GX95/75, most Sony decks and even Technics RSB-100. So, if You find some at the fair price, just grab it, as I did. One day I will put my hands on Pioneer CT93 and… You will be reading review about it, of course.

Just to mention: during servicing I completely washed this CT-979… don’t try this unless experienced 🙂

You can read about it here.


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