The spirit of radio

5:24 pm : Saturday, 27 October 2018  |  , , ,

Another item joins the music system, and this time it is a good old-fashioned FM/AM tuner. The model is a Denon TU260L, and dates back to 1993. Originally selling for £120, the tuner can still sell on eBay for £30-45. I bought mine for £12. Cannot be beat. Near immaculate in condition, and working as you would expect - given that there is little to go wrong with a radio tuner.

Unlike London, analogue radio isn't exactly plentiful here in Northamptonshire. On the FM band we have BBC Radios 1 to 4, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Classic FM and Heart FM. That totals all of seven! On medium wave (or AM as our American compadres will call it) there is BBC 5 Live, talkSPORT, Smooth Radio and BBC Asian Network. Long wave gives us BBC Radio 4, and whatever now broadcasts on 252KHz - formerly the home of Atlantic 252.

So why an analogue tuner and not a DAB one? Well, domestic DAB tuners are few and far between, can cost a lot, and do tend to look somewhat ugly in comparison. One somewhat affordable model here by a brand called Tibo does not tend to get many good reviews. One niggle is that everytime you switch it off, the volume defaults to zero. This begs the question - why have a volume control on a tuner? Isn't that what the amplifier is for?

Given that we tend to be Radio 2 listeners, we are catered for. Saturday afternoon with Liza Tarbuck is always a delight. She has such a soothing, mumsy voice, and I can just imagine her stroking my hair as she talks!

With a bit of luck I may have a minidisc deck coming shortly. There was a format that I loved. While it did not succeed in replacing the analogue cassette, it was tremendous, and there is just enough space in the cabinet for it.

Rewind and try again

12:46 am : Thursday, 11 October 2018  |  , ,

The assembly of our audio system continues, though only because I was able to perform a successful repair.

A month ago I purchased a Sony TC-KE300 cassette deck, and was delighted when it turned up the very next day. The seller was certainly keen to do well, and he succeeded. Happiness soon turned to profound dismay when I realised the deck was in fact faulty. Yes it was 20 years old and originally installed in a pub or club environment, but remained in a very good condition. Trouble was - pressing play, forward or rewind would result in the forward spool winding backwards and emitting a mechanical rasp.

If there is one thing that goes wrong in an audio product, it is belts. Through the years, rubber belts can stretch, harden, lose their shape, or even melt into a very unpleasant goo. Both belts in this deck were intact and appeared in good state, and it was sadly a mechanical, cog-based issue. A cog that exists deep within the tape transport. Sensing defeat, I contacted the seller who arranged a prompt refund without any argument. A great shame, as I merely desired a working deck.

Weeks passed, and because of illness keeping me in, the cassette deck remained on its side in the spare room. I consulted many online forums and watched many videos that I hoped would be able to shed some light on this specific issue. Last night I landed on a Polish language site dedicated to cassette decks, which contained a page dedicated to this very deck. The problem is apparently very common on many Sony decks. In this case, a cog situated on the spool motor spindle would ride itself up that very spindle, thus preventing the tape transport from performing its play and wind manoeuvres. All I had to do was open the frighteningly intricate sandwich that is the entire tape transport, glue that cog back in place, pin the two belts in place and then pray that they both successfully drop into place once I close that sandwich!

My delight when the deck started to operate as intended was immense! I walked into the bedroom where Hannah was in bed, going: "Wa-heee! I repaired that deck!" I am only disappointed that I did not spot the errant cog when I first had it all open four weeks ago. But in all fairness, I had yet to happen upon the following sound advice:

Deck spotkała typowa przypadłość nękająca ten typ mechanizmu Sony. Pękł trybik w zespole odpowiedzialnym za zwijanie i przewijanie taśmy. Jest on chyba na ciepło osadzany na oś silnika i po latach pewnie na skutek zmęczenia materiału pęka i albo zsuwa się z ośki albo zaczyna się na niej obracać. Skutkuje to awarią przewijania i zwijania taśmy oraz hałasem generowanym przez mechanizm. Naprawa polega na wklejeniu trybiku w odpowiednim miejscu na osi silnika przewijania. Dostęp do mechanizmu łatwy, likwidacja usterki jest szybka.

I mean, how can you possibly fail with advice like that? Just beautiful! I owe that guy a Tyskie.

And as for tape cassettes themselves, here in the UK we can still buy a 5-pack of Maxell UR tapes for £4 in Wilko. Yes they are just plain old bog-standard ferrics, but using cassettes was always about wallowing in tape hiss, so we just have to smoke it and shut it. Type IV metal cassettes that used to sell for £4-8 each are now being sold on the net for £85 each, but hey, it's your money!