Other tape formats (split off from "When did you first hear about DCC")

I’m kinda doing the same thing [looking into other tape formats – Jac] on a smaller scale. I even got the oldest way to record yourself Wax Cylinder machines…do you have machines like the Playtape, Wire, RCA Victor tape cartridge, Sanyo Micropack 35, and the 3M Revere tape cartridge? I’m only collecting items available in the US because it’s expensive to import something like a Sabamobil inside the US. I still need an Elcaset, DAT, and pocket rocker machine for my vintage audio collection.

EDIT I am also an owner of a Phillips CD burner CDR775. I believe these were probably the successor to DCC machines? But they take those CD-R music type discs. And tape decks are easier to work with than CD burner decks.

I also had Playtape. I let most obscure formats go to concentrate on DCC.

Well all I needed was one good working one and you made that happen!

Now I need to find a repair guy that specializes in 3M Revere cartridge machines!


Oh, man… you’re going to have all kinds of fun finding anyone to work on one of those! I’m afraid to even think about how many belts and pulleys there must be in that auto-changer mechanism…

Dedicated CD-Audio recording decks like the CDR775 started hitting the market around 1997-1998, as I recall, so I suppose they could be considered a “successor” in that sense, since Philips had begun discontinuing DCC by then. On the other hand, Philips also had a hand in CD technology to begin with, so CD-Audio decks might have found their way to market a couple of years earlier if they (and Sony) hadn’t had to waste so much time and effort placating the RIAA with copy-protection schemes and the royalty payments for those silly “Music CD-R” blanks…

Oh yes it a complicated mechanism. Just like with My DCC machine, it’s better to keep the work into the hands of a professional. These machines are rarer than DCC Machines are!


Electronics work doesn’t faze me – I’ve re-capped a whole lot of devices, including my DCC900, with bad or suspect electrolytic capacitors – but complex clockwork mechanics like that is definitely not my forte. :slight_smile: If I had one of those beasts, I’d hand it off to a professional, too!

Back on the subject of DCC – I reckon I first heard about it when the Optimus DCT-2000 made its debut in the 1994 Radio Shack catalog, actually. I do remember checking one out at the local Radio Shack, as well, though I didn’t actually buy it; not only was the Optimus a really expensive bit ot gear at the time, but none of the local music stores seemed to have any albums on DCC, so I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to do with the Optimus that I couldn’t already do with my rather nice Pioneer cassette deck --especially since no one seemed to be carrying portables or car-stereo units around me, either.

(That “lack of ecosystem” issue is what caused me to get into MiniDisc a year or two later, instead; not only were several local stores carrying prerecorded MDs as well as blank discs, but Best Buy had a “bundle” package that included both a full-sized Sony deck and a portable unit, and the car-stereo shop down the street from them had in-dash car-stereo MD units. Who knows, maybe if the situation had been reversed and DCC had been more widely available…)

I acquired my current DCC900 deck and a modest collection of tapes from an estate sale sometime in the early 2000s, I believe, and I’ve been slowly adding to the collection of tapes as I come across them. I’ve occasionally resorted to eBay, but it’s more fun to hunt them down at record-collectors’ conventions, “antiques malls”, estate sales, small-town record stores run by eccentric 80-year-old hippies… :grin: They’re not common finds, to be sure, but every once in a blue moon they do turn up in the most unexpected places!

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I split the original thread because it was going off-topic.

The subject of the latest posts is still interesting so I split off the answers that were about other formats and posted them here.

@The_Nth_Doctor you may want to edit your last post here and add a new answer to the original thread at When did you first hear about DCC?.

Thanks and sorry for the confusion, everyone. By all means, keep posting to both threads if you want. I think this is interesting stuff; I’m very interested in old media as well as all your stories.


Interestingly, I worked at Philips Hasselt in 1996, just before the demise of DCC. And as a matter of fact, I not only met some engineers who had worked on the first and second generation of DCC recorders there (who told me among other things that they had tested DCC with TDK SA-X cassettes), I also know there was another group working there on the CDR-765, the first audio CD recorder by Philips (the 775 is its successor with a player and recorder). A friend of mine who I’ve known for a long time, wrote or co-wrote the front panel software for the CDR-765.

So yes I think you’re probably right that Philips saw the audio CD-R as the next step for audio. Philips wasn’t doing so well in those days: Widescreen TV and computer monitors were doing great and CD-R was starting to get cheap enough for prosumers. I bought a CDR-3610 CD rewriter for my computer (also built in Hasselt) through the employees store in those days too. But they had canceled CD-i and were going to cancel DCC.

If they could make audio CD-R(W) the “next standard” in audio, they could keep selling existing gear such as car stereos without lots of new investments in newly developing technology. They could reuse what they already had. I bought a Philips CD player car stereo to replace my DCC car stereo, and took a rewriteable CD with me to pop into the car CD players that were on display to see if any of them played CD-RW. Most CD players didn’t support RW at the time so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that there was not just one car stereo that worked – all of them did!

Unfortunately as you said, the Audio CD-R tax was a problem (though easy to work around) and of course there was already a large number of people who liked MiniDisc, and CD-R(W) was never going to have the edit features that MD had, such as deleting a song and replacing it with another one. So it was pretty obvious that no-one was going to be interested.

Audio CD recorders were never in the least bit interesting to me: I could record perfectly fine audio CD-R(W)'s on my computer with a recorder that had been cheaper than the CDR-765 and without the need to pay extra for the special CD’s. And I could edit the audio in whatever way I liked before I committed the recording to CD. And I could record CD-ROM’s too. The audio CD recorder was a solution without a problem.


Yeah, I suspect for those of us who already had computers with CD burners in them, the “Music CD” recorders weren’t of all that much interest, since it really couldn’t do anything that we couldn’t already do with our computers (and, conversely, we could do quite a few extra things on a PC that the CD-Audio recorder units couldn’t do) – but I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that such units were entirely a solution without a problem, at least not at the time.

As with set-top DVD-R recorder units, there was a brief period of time where you did have a lot of people who wanted to record their own CDs or DVDs, but they either didn’t have a computer capable of doing it (as I recall, a lot of computers still shipped with a CD-ROM reader, if they had an optical drive built-in at all, but a burner was an extra-cost upgrade), or they had the hardware but didn’t understand how to use the software, or they didn’t have any way to connect the computer to the rest of their stereo gear because they were in different rooms, and so on. For them, the CD-Audio recorders offered a “drop-in” solution where they could hook it up to one of the “tape in/out” connections on their existing stereo receiver and treat it (mostly) the same as a tape deck.

But yeah, unfortunately, the limitations imposed by the Red Book standard (such as not being able to add on to the end of the recording after you finalized the disc, and not being able to play the disc in any “normal” CD player until you did finalize it) made making your own CDs more troublesome and complicated than people bargained for. I knew several non-techy friends who bought units like the CDR-775s (against my advice), then came back to me six months later asking me to teach them how to do it on the PC instead. So, it wasn’t so much that no one was interested in them, so much as they lost interest once they found out that it wasn’t nearly as much of a drop-in plug-and-play replacement for a cassette deck as the Circuit City salesman had promised. :grin:

I forgot to mention the larger version of the playtape/Smith-Corona mail call:

The Muntz 4 Track player!

Mine kinda works but the head needs alignment and I think the speakers that came with it are bad.

Exactly that. Never understood those devices.


And my guess is that most of the tech-savvier people who inhabit forums like this one, who would’ve researched the pros and cons of the different digital-recording solutions available (DCC, MiniDisc, DAT, “Music-CD” recorders, etc.) before buying, and who would’ve also not had too much trouble learning the quirky ins and outs of making CDs on our computers instead, probably felt the same way about the Music-CD units.

Butwe weren’t the target market for them. They were targeting the less technically-inclined consumer who was bewildered by the different digital-recording options, didn’t have a PC capable of making CDs (or they did, but they didn’t have the patience or aptitude to learn how to do it that way), and so on. The target market for the Music-CD recorders was the non-techie guy who’s attitude was “Look, my new car came with a CD player instead of a cassette, and I don’t want to screw around with dragging my PC into the living room and figuring out how to hook it up to the stereo and use all this complicated ‘burning’ stuff; I just want something that’s easy to hook up to the stereo and works like a tape recorder so I can copy all the custom mix-tapes I made for my previous car to ‘mix-CDs’, or whatever.”

Like I said above, I had several non-tech-savvy friends and acquaintances who bought into the Music-CD recorders at the time – against my advice, since I knew they weren’t nearly as simple as the Circuit City salesman made them out to be, but… well, like the Will Rogers quote says, some people just have to pee on the electric fence for themselves… :grin:

Your collection is a bit more extensive than mine. :slight_smile: I do have one of the RCA Victor tape-cartridge units, though, along with an Elcaset EL-7 deck. (Plus the usual reel-to-reel, cassette, and 8-track recorder, of course!)

If you ever do get your hands on an Elcaset, a word of caution: For some reason, Sony felt it necessary to lubricate the tape hubs where they contact the outer shell – and that “lubricant” has, over the years, turned into something more like a 30-year epoxy that will make the hubs “stick” and keep them from turning. Which, inevitably, leads to tapes getting eaten when the take-up reel is the one that sticks, which happens with alarming regularity. (What will often happen, especially in the EL-7, is that the drive mechanism will have enough torque to keep things moving initially, but as the take-up reel gets loaded down with more and more tape, eventually the motor can’t overcome both the weight of the tape and the resistance of the “sticky” lubricant. Single-motor models like the EL-5 and EL-4 often won’t even be able to start the tape at all; the belts will just slip.)

There is a cure, but it involves disassembling the cassette entirely, and using 91% isopropyl alcohol and several Q-tips to thoroughly clean that wretched gunk out of the tape hubs and the crevices in the shell that they fit into. It’s such a common problem that nowadays, I just do this to any Elcaset tape I get my hands on, whether it seems to need it or not.

I just ordered this EL-5 Elcaset machine judging by the description, it seems to be in partially working order. I bought this one because just like how I now got a awesomely working DCC machine, I decided to go with a buying a cheap fixer upper because a restored deck goes for $1800 or more (granted they’re also the EL-7 model too) I’m going to replace the belts myself and if not have my repairman do it. I do not have any tapes for it yet and I read Ralf has some for sale?

Some photos and the description of issues this machine has.

Great find!

As luck would have it, I have an extra copy of the EL-5 service manual and some extra tapes I’d be willing to part with to help out a fellow collector. (I acquired several boxfuls of blank SLH LC-90s back in the day, so probably have more of them than I’m ever likely to use anyway. :slight_smile: ) Drop me a private message if you’re interested.

The slow turning is almost certainly the belts – although the whole mechanism probably needs cleaning and lubricating, really. One thing about the EL-5 is that it has a single motor driving everything, so it can’t bring as much torque to the supply and takeup reels as the EL-7 (which has separate motors). This, among other things, is why it’s doubly important to make sure you do the “de-crudding” process to the tapes themselves; that dried-out lubricant will stall the EL-5’s mechanism.

The bulb is an easy fix. Some people even replace them with LEDs.

The noisy left channel is probably either a bad transistor in the left-channel amplifier circuitry, or cracked solder joints somewhere. Fortunately, I don’t think any of those transistors are particularly difficult to obtain replacements for.

Thank you for your response. I probably have enough for a multiple motor machine but I promised my family to chill on my spending.

I’ll try and see if I can get belts first. As for the tapes, I wonder if they have to be “Baked” or dehydrated like an old open reel video tape? I’ll probably have to buy some silicone spray. But how does the silicone not clog heads up? I’m a little clueless with some things! :sweat_smile:

No, you don’t need to bake the tapes – this isn’t the notorious “sticky shed syndrome” where the binders on the tape stock turn gummy and clog up the heads and tape path. This is a different problem entirely. :slight_smile:

See my previous reply in this thread, about a month ago. The culprit isn’t the recording tape itself, its a thin layer of lubricant which Sony applied to the tape hubs at the point where they contact the inside of the plastic cassette shell. It’s purely a mechanical issue with the way Sony assembled the cassette shell, not a tape-stock problem.

Fortunately, it’s also relatively simple to fix; it just takes a couple of small screwdrivers to open the shell, some cotton swabs and 91% isopropyl alcohol, and a little patience. (Although there is a bit of a trick to getting the shells open due to the spring-loaded covers on each side – once you’ve done it a few times, it’s easy, but the first couple of times you try it, make sure you’re working in a place where you can easily find the little spring when it pings! off in some random direction when you’re not expecting it. :grin: )

I would call them “Jesus Springs” (as some electronics repair people on YouTube sometimes call C-clips “Jesus Clips!) :joy:

I got my deck and thankfully FedEx didn’t add extra damage!

I made a video showing the EL-5 operation without a tape since the tape and extra set of new belts I ordered for it haven’t shown in the mail yet.

I noticed when I pressed the rewind, and FF buttons only that one hub moves. Is it supposed to do that?

The belts are clearly in need of replacement there, since I can see just from that video that the take-up hub is turning erratically even though there’s no load on it. (So don’t put your tape in it to try it out until you’ve serviced the mechanism, or it will eat it.)

Keeping in mind that intricate mechanics isn’t my forte (which is why if my DCC130 portable ever needs repairs, I will likely send it to the Museum guys :grin: ) — given that the take-up hub continued to turn even when you put it in “pause”, that looks to me like the mechanism which determines which of the two hubs is driven by the drive wheel isn’t moving, so the take-up hub is always engaged by the drive motor.

According to the service manual, there are two solenoids which pull the drive wheel back and forth. PM2 pulls it against the takeup hub for forward modes; PM3 pulls it against the supply hub for rewind. If both are de-energized, then a spring should shift it to the center position where neither hub is engaged. So either the mechanism is stuck due to gummed/dried-up lubrication, one of those springs is missing, or the transistors which drive the solenoids aren’t switching properly. (Q734, Q735, and Q736 control PM2; Q737, Q738, and Q739 control PM3.)