SONY TC-KA6ES: “The last of the breed” for Europe

Submitted on: 24 Jun 16

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Category: Analog recorders/players

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Sony made some great decks in the past, but, at least at Serbia they were never as popular as, say Technics, Akai or Aiwa. I remember how I was amazed while looking at beautiful TC-K950ES in Sony catalogue. Later I had several TC-K970ES, 990ES and 909ES, as well as TC-KA6ES.

The latter was made at the end of cassette deck era and is the last big Sony deck, made mostly for European market. USA customers saw TC-KA3ES, the same model but with amorphous instead of sendust heads and marginally better frequency response. There were TC-KA5ES (Japan only) and TC-KA7ES (possibly Japan only). So, poor TC-KA6ES was an orpan – different mark, different heads.

The build quality is nothing special as long as we are talking about housing: it is made of one piece metal sheet. The cover looks sturdier than contemporary Pioneer decks and is OK. Front panel and door are both very well for a deck. Sony TC-KA6ES looks more like some cheaper predexxx – 770, 870ES and the like. Old 9xx top machines were made like they were from 70’s but using electronics from the end of the 80’s. Beautifully, using just one word.

But the electronics is very well: some audiophile capacitors, xxx FE transistors etc. Are quite nice touch. This Sony uses much more compact Dolby S circuit so the boards are also smalled.

The mechanism is well known Sony TCM200D with direct driven capstan motor. It has several gears inside, to assure proper servo funcioning during heads actuation or other transport functions. The heart of this system is based around the third – ancillary DC motor. It uses some small belt which is pretty hard to replace when it bents over years. Other than this, TCD200M transport is easy to maintain. It uses closed loop double capstan model with direct driven motor and secondary capstan located in casted aluminium block.

Sony TC-KA6ES has many options, but they uses standard, pseudo realtime counter for generations and only a simple memory button. Track seek exests, but just for one track forward or reverse. But the display is good: very clear, not so large symbols (especially level marks during calibration process) but is quite easy to read and doesn’t collect large amounts of dust as some other decks do.

Monitor switch is simple button operation, better than the strange operating switch on TC-K950/970/990ES etc. Calibration is also improved: level, bias and recording equalization which can be continouosly adjusted, not just in three discrete steps as on older ES Sonys. It is simple and effective to use.

TC-KA6ES also use last version od Dolby NR systems: Dolby S, being the second ES deck to carry “S” mark, after TC-K909ES.

Just to mention, it is very interesting that German “Stereoplay” magazine put Sony TC-KA6ES in the class ahead Nakamichi Dragon and CR7, Revox B215 etc.

The Sound

Sony TC-KA6ES has a very good sound – much better, for example, than Teac V7000. Strong, soft bass and articulate, detailed sound put it pretty high on my list. HX Pro worked well and despite me don’t like it, I have to admit it did the job very good.

The 3D stage was excellent, clearly better than on Sansui D-570 and the instruments were not intrusive xxx proveriti but pretty relaxed. This deck is not neutral at all – it is emotional like most Nakamichi decks, but better description would be that it sounds pretty like big Sony ES players from the 90s: CDP-X779/707ES, 505ES and XA7ES although the latter is more gentle to my ears.

I liked the bass: it had energy, and dynamics. The mid bass was very well defined and had a true good sounding body. Instruments could be located during perdormance and I can say this KA6ES is a very good machine.

Is it good like The Dragon, 680ZX, ZX9, Beocord 9000 or B215? In my opinion no, it is not. It doesn’t have this fully relaxed but clear and transparent approach. It needs these microdetails and microdynamics that these decks have. There are two main problems: the first one is a slight compression of the recording, and thi

Sent with Good (

Recording process on this machine. It is very little, but does degrade the performance make it recognizable as a cassette deck recording. Of course, somebody has to have a good system to detect this during A/B/A and B/A/B tests.

The second thing is decay: top decks do this perfect, Sony TC-KA6ES does not. It is somhow crude xxx prov and spoils the picture.

So, I decided to play a little with it. I read some comments on TC-KA6ES from Alex Nikitin and understood that this deck

I also have to say that ten years ago I had both TC-K990ES and TC-KA6ES. Both were mine, in excellent condition and 990ES is, to my opinion, one of the best built Sony deck ever besides TC-KA7ES and, especially, TC-K777 (and variants) which is in it’s own class.

The result of comparing 990ES and 6ES was tie. They both sounded exactly the same on the same tapes. I recognize this as a plus for 6ES since 990ES looks like a tank and better built.


Although downsized from its older brothers, TC-KA6ES works and sounds great. The only problem I found with these decks is reliability which is not as good as it was few years ago before KA6ES hit the market. I addressed few different problems with TCM200D transport for which I blame possible cost cutting during manufacturing process.

Playing with OpAmps



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