DIY cassette deck

DIY cassette Deck


Just a few suggestions:

1. The head gap for the play and record heads are different. That means, that while you can still play your cassette through a head specifically meant for recording, you wont be getting the best.

2. Most deck mechanisms have a single head averaged for both playing and recording. Such deck mechanisms are not the best ones for HiFi.

3. Try to get a ceramic head specifically meant for play back with as high an impedance as possible -- this costs more, naturally.

4. Have you ever wondered why a car cassette player on a 12V battery sounds clean? That is because automobile cassette decks have heads that are designed specifically for playback. Try to get a decent car stereo deck and work up your circuitry.

5. While on this subject, I should remind of you LM1897 -- that would be an ideal tape head preamp for you.

good luck. let me know how your project is coming up


2002-01-07 6:02 pm
A second alternative would be to buy a good second hand cassette deck and just use the transport. Redo all the electronics and off you go. Best avoid anything with microcontrollers (unless you have expertise) as these can often control many aspects of the audio circuitry, and would create lots of unneccessary headaches trying to design around them. Otherwise tha audio is similar to a phono preamp, but with different EQ.

Good quality, reliable and well performing transports are nearly being given away at the moment.
Brett said:
A second alternative would be to buy a good second hand cassette deck and just use the transport. Redo all the electronics and off you go.


Good quality, reliable and well performing transports are nearly being given away at the moment.

Excellent advice! I found a lot of old decent cassete decks at ridiculous prices at pawn shops or electronics shops. Most of the times they had some minors repair to be done (unhooked casette door, etc).
Hmmmm, I agree to agree with MuFollower. Excellent commercial cassette decks (not THAT readily available nowadays) are available. Anyway, I have an AKAI GX-52 that keeps me smiling. How I wish for the NAKAMICHI DRAGON......... But with the popularity of CD Burners, cassettes may be going out the door........

hate to join the downtalk (you find me no fan of tuning a '65 Volkswagen Beetle to get fit for the Rallye Monte Carlo), but methinks you are better on with a second hand cassette tape deck.

A buddy of mine tried what you intend to try and just getting the tape EQ right for recording and playback drove him crazy.
Moreover, to get the heads properly aligned, you need calibration tapes which might be hard to find nowadays.

You put too much effort to get something working not worth the effort. If you want to take a swing to it, go with a reel2reel tape recorder. This is worth the pain!

A good reel2reel can outperform a vinyl TT. Not kidding, ya know, me vinyl person :)
I have the copy of JLH cassette deck articles ( 1976 wireless world and postcript article subsequently published in WW)and a set of 5 piece ( Mother board /daughter board construcion based on old Hart electronics kit of the same design) PCBs incase Vivek is interested as I am in Bangalore india - I think he lives here as well.

The PCB set is expansive due to seperate record / replay amps on a motherboard/ relay switching and unbeatable circuitry suited for most of the ferrite /permalloy type cassette heads. The beauty of this JLH project is that you can learn about magnetic recording process and head design /influence of materials and circuit on record replay cherecteristics. I have some of the transistors as well as the special erase head for a novel bias oscillator circuit. Anybody else is welcome eventhough the cassette format is dying.
I did not expect to get so many replies on this thread.
I think the best thing for me to do is to see if I can find a cheap transport or try to con someone into parting with his/her old cassette deck. I can then probably hook it on to a tape pre-amp.
The problem is that though I buy only CDs or get them burnt from a friend, I still have a huge load of tapes. I was looking to try and find something better than the commercially made deck I now have.
Shashidhar, what cassette deck do you have and do you have any idea what commercially made decks cost here?
Kayes, what kits do you sell?
Thanks to all for their comments.

P.S: Bernhard, nice looking tonearms.
Hey Kayes,

I have a JLH hood cassette deck you talk of but i cannot get any details on it would you be willing to give me a copy of the articles?

Vivek, I once build a cassette deck, the playback section I got a mechanism initially from the electronics souk, then I manage to purchase a brilliant mech from Hart Electronics in UK they do a single head and a twin head, with decent heads and solenoid operation.

I wouldn't bother with building a tape deck nowadays. I have at least ten of them (including 2 R2R) and I'm using none.;) The best way is to find a good bargain on a used equipment market.

I have Nakamichi 1000ZXL, which is considered one of the best cassette decks (the other one is Tandberg) with full service manual. I was thinking about modifing the circuits and adding Dolby S, but somehow after 4 years, still didn't do nothing about it.;)


Paid Member
2002-09-25 11:01 am
It depends on what you use it for and how much it costs.

I've built quite a few decks, and there are major problems with the playback quality of commercial designs currently available in India. I have access to schematics of NAB tape preamps, but they need to be well built (read: No veroboard) to keep noise down.

Therefore I generally recommend buyin a used deck. I personally use a Sharp deck with a replacement Ferrite head and overhauled mechanical transport (the really hard push button keys) that is working excellently. No Dolby, simple VU meters, etc, and the thing cost under 3000 Rupees. A great buy by my standards.

As to the comments on India, there are a few problems, let me clarify what Vivek must've been trying to say.

The most widely used format in India is the cassette tape. It is much more economical than CDs, which typically constitute (legally) about 5% of music sales. Also most of CDs in India cost about $10, and some about $5-&6. Cassettes typically cost $2.50 or so, and if you look at the average GDP of the country, cassettes make more sense for most of the population. This is of course not counting piracy and downloading from K*Z**.

If you now account for the fact that most new music hits the indian scene first through piracy (an Example: Riding with the King was relased in India almost 6 months after its international release) and in the form of cassettes, a tape deck makes a lot of sense in our context.

Of course the cassette being a listening format not extensively suited for high end listening, it does not make sense to spend mucho bucks behind it in the first place...
I have found the cheaper alternative to those expensive CDs available in the market. Many of my friends have CD writers. A blank CD costs about Rs 30. I get most of the albums I want (including Riding with the King) burnt at my friends' places. But again, I have some very good albums like ACDC, Guns and Roses on tape. I just do not have the heart to chuck them out.
By the way, where can I get one of those Sharp players you are talking about?