During my typical thrift shopping route, something immediately caught my eye in the electronics aisle. With it’s array of knobs and open door cassette deck, I knew I had come across a thrift store rarity, a 4-track cassette recorder. For only $8, this pickup was a no-brainer especially for the number of features it had and how great of a shape it was in.
I took it home and got straight to testing it. The mixer section worked beautifully, that is with a fairly high noise floor, which is expected with a piece of equipment like this. I’m sure with a full recap job that problem could be mostly dealt with.
Now, the problems started to occur as soon as I brought out a spare type II cassette. All functionality in the cassette deck was pretty much dead. The only function that still worked was fast rewind. That was a good sign since most tape machines of this size rely on one primary motor. I knew I’d need to replace the tape belts anyway, so it was about time to open this puppy up.
The internals were in great condition. Barely any dust to be found! Besides a bit of contact cleaner in the knobs, faders, and switches, we were pretty much done in the electronics department. By the way, there is a second board beneath the control board that handles most of the audio circuitry which is far more complex.
Beside a few hard soldered wires, the tape mechanism wasn’t too difficult to remove once the power board is removed. I think there were 6 screws in total (plus the 5 screws for the outer shell). After flipping the mechanism over to get a look at the main drive belts, it was immediately clear what kind of problem we were dealing with.
Eww!!! That is one gunked up piece of rubber! I’m not exactly sure why this belt got in the shape it is in, but it definitely needs to be dealt with. As you can see, the other belt connecting the motor to the rewinding spindle was still in tact, which is why rewinding still worked on the deck.
After some rigorous cleaning both shafts and the bottom of the shell that had come in contact with the belt with 91% isopropyl alcohol, it was finally time to put on the new belts. There were three in the back and one in the front for the counter. I used what spare belts I had laying around which I tried my best to fit, but I fear they might be a bit too tight.
After turning the machine on to test to make sure that everything was working properly, we were in good shape. Well, all but one small issue. The motor was making a louder noise that I was expecting. I hit the shaft with a small dab of WD-40, and that seemed to reduce the noise by roughly 60%.
Of course, the first thing you need to do to test one of these 4-tracks out is to put together a funky multi-tracked groove! Excuse the sloppy playing, but this was made very quickly just to prove that we’ve got a functional machine. Also, I recorded each track before cleaning the heads with a q-tip and alcohol. Because of this and some grounding issues, this is certainly not the best quality this machine has to offer.
I may have to do some more tinkering in order to improve the warble and noise. If I do so, I’ll make sure to add another update.