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14 reviews written by BiggieTembo

Technics SL-QD33

Technics SL-QD33

By: BiggieTembo
"Technics SL-QD33 review"
4 out of 5 12th March 2014
I love the Danes! Why? Well... what's not to love about these people... They kind-of re-invented themselves after WW2, created a great welfare state which still continues today (argue this point with the natives); they enjoy the outside life (barbeques, winter walks, nude bathing in a frozen lake, invading the North and Eastern parts of England and Normandy, way back when...); they are at rest within themselves (sparking up a conversation on a bus or train doesn't happen automatically, like in America or England, but depends on the individual, or how many units of alcohol have been consumed - and sometimes this openness can be quite rewarding); they are tolerant of others and will never forbid any opposing opinions in the public forum - but they'll also tell you directly if they don't agree with the bullshit that coming out of your brain; and most of all they love the design of things - because, let's face it - if you've got to gawp at a gargantuan set of Stonehenge-like speakers in your living room every time you're on the sofa - well, they might as well look nice, aye.

This attention to design and detail has been the blessing of Danish interiors since... well... since the beginning of the "minimalist" way of living. Out went all the clutter, the frills and tassels on the ends of pieces of cloth; the intricate carved elements finishing corner-pieces; the wild-feathery hat-stands. In came white, blank spaces, no handles, push-magnetic open/close/sliding doors, graphic art, clean lines... all of which soothed the Danish mind-set. With the addition of huge windows, the idea was to let as much of the light in as possible (it's pretty grey in autumn and winter), along with open-plan inner spaces and candles on the dark, winter evenings - the Danish life is one of simplicity and inner (mental) peace.

The Danish attention to design and aesthetic living standards has also been a curse: When something new appeared, or when something had been "superseded" by newer technology, a newer design, or public attitudes to fashion; or when something broke - they chucked the perfectly-functioning lamp, TV set, bike, kitchen knife, tool, bed, cupboard, cassette deck, food mixer, etc. into the "big rubbish" - a collection-point for larger, unwanted objects that were put out for the garbage collectors one day every month. They then replaced the old "out-dated" objects with brand new sparkling versions of what they already had before, which, to all intents and purposes, would have worked fine with a spot of oil, a spray or two of switch-cleaner, a little screw-tightening here or there, or just a simple cleaning.

These "big rubbish" objects were usually recycled (read: burned, to provide "district heating") or sorted and sold off by the garbage company - for tons of cash ("where there's muck, there's brass", as the old saying goes...). If we concentrate solely on electronic objects - these were usually shipped to "recycling places" by shipping companies - and ended up in what once was a green valley teeming with natural life, for example, in Ghana (read: one of the world's most burgeoning toxic dumps). To be fair, many other countries in the wealthy world have done the same, in other dump-areas of our planet.

Mmm... I hesitate to go into the socio-economic-ecological-historical effect all this has had on the areas involved, so where am I going with this, you say?

Well - the resulting backlash to this kind of irresponsible off-loading of boom-time wealth-fashion-taste waste, has led to returning ideas of recycling and re-using making a comeback into many people's lives, especially throughout this so-called, much-reminded Financial Crisis we're living through right now. Many people have begun to go back to principles of recycling and repair (for the most to save money) - and most important of all, deciding what they REALLY need, as opposed to what they really WANT (or brain-washed by mass-marketing-media consumerism to want).

Consequently, many are taking responsibility for their actions concerning waste-generation (for example, asking themselves: What will happen to my waste when I throw it away? Can I fix it? Could someone else use this, even though I don't want it anymore? Why don't I research on the internet about how I can repair this bike, etc.). This is all great stuff - even more so for the hi-fi fan ;-)

Which is where I come in: I found this turntable (and so many other truly great stereo units, older and more modern) in one of the "big rubbish" locations in Copenhagen, in 2012; thrown out by someone who, I presume, had gone over to mp3's or I-phone play-opportunites or whatever now the modern way of listening to music entails. The unit was totally in 100% working order and unblemished, so I nabbed it straight away ;-) Thank you, man! You and me -we saved the world (and me lots of cash)!

This is a great turntable - a sleek, late 90s (I presume, by the style) black design, which carries forward the earlier metal-grey-styled turntables design-format: hinged lid, front panel with function buttons/sliders, tone-arm weighted and anti-skated (it's worth noting here that the anti-skate function had been "factory-set" which may be a little inflexible if the cartridge will ever need to be changed). The cartridge, by the way, was a Technics P30 (which differs from the quoted cartridge number on the back of the turntable), and stuck out proudly like the prow of a ship. The needle was spotless, and the records, played through a grand old Technics SA-5150 sounded sublime.

The functions include start/stop, cuing, repeat, 2 speeds (33/45) and power on/off, and they respond well, are smooth and with a very tolerant but slight delay, and function perfectly. They are not clunky or "mechanical" like some of the earlier Technics turntables. It's direct drive, has a "mechanical" size-detector (a little gizmo-lever on the turntable that gets pushed down when a 7" is placed on it) and plays like a dream. There is a strobe speed indicator, which I presume can be adjusted by a small screwdriver somewhere in the guts of the unit, but so far it hasn't needed it. I miss, though, for the chance to be able to do this myself: The SL-220 had two plus-minus speed adjusters on the front panel - one for 33 and one for 45. (OK, the SL-220 was a belt-driven machine, and the strobe plus-minus adjusters were great for lengthening the life of the belt if it stated to become a little slack). But in the spirit of user-friendliness, a feature similar to this could have been added here.

The lid is the "slotted-in" variety, like so many of the other Technics turntables. These lid-couplings slotted into the hinges of the unit, and many Technics lid couplings that I've seen (including my great SL-220) have simply snapped off or broken, because the tension (or primitive springs) of the lid-hinges have presumably been too strongly set. It hasn't happened yet for this unit; the hinges are smooth and hold the lid up in whatever position it was last last lifted at (i.e. the lid doesn't reach some kind of weight vs. gravity, critical mass position, and then comes crashing down), and I can see there is a design change in that the support for the hinges on the unit go further down the back of the unit, ostensibly giving it more strength.

All in all, a great turntable, even more so because I found it for NOTHING :-) - 8 out of 10 (a very high 8).
2 people found this review helpful.
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Technics SU-610 pop

Technics SU-610

By: BiggieTembo
"Technics SU-610 review"
3 out of 5 7th March 2014
Mmm... Technics amps from the 90s... Why is there always something not quite right with them...? For a start - they weigh a bloody ton (feels like some chump at the factory slipped a brick into the unit for a joke)... and they also have these sharp edges and corners (thank you, sadomasochistic designer!)... the knobs are kind of tight and little and weird to turn, making you feel output-wise like you are doing nothing, but physically twisting hard on the way-too-tight dial... and the in-out buttons are kind of... clicky-springy and immediate and weird... and all those "Class A" and "Class AA" series were made in a sort of miserable-looking grey-green black colour... OK, OK, for all of you out there not as colour-tactile-sensitive as me... This is an OK amp, albeit a bit scary - the red light on the front reminds me of Maximilian's eye from the Disney sci-fi movie - "The Black Hole" - staring right at ya...

Inherited from a colleague in 2013 who had used it near-enough every day since he bought it new, the only things that didn't work were the Tape Monitor button - you had to hold it in, otherwise the whole sound would just cut out (any solutions out there to fix this, web-guys?) and the left speaker output - it was flaky, as if there were a loose connection somewhere (solutions are very much welcomed, hyperspace heads ;-)).

Nevertheless, again, as with all 90s Technics amps, it worked good enough (with a constant finger holding in the tape monitor button); it did however sound a little on the "flat" side - the bass and treble functions didn't really make the sound as rich in fidelity as, say, a Kenwood KA 3020SE, but hey, that's another kettle of fish. Adjusting the bass and treble is truly needed here, but the sound just doesn't seem to "jump out at ya" - it was as if you were watching "Avatar" in 2D. (God forbid if you pair this behemoth up with the Technics RS-B355 cassette deck [reviewed elsewhere on this site]... you'd have a sound flatter than a Dutch pancake that's been Steam-Rollered!).

But hey - if you inherit this brute, like I did, or find this monster for a few green folding ones, or in yer Auntie's attic - it would be a good "spare" if your slightly better amp finally gives up the ghost one day. A great substitute or temporary replacement.

Overall, it warrants a 3-score, but it's a very high 3 ;-)

16 people found this review helpful.
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Technics SA-5150

Technics SA-5150

By: BiggieTembo
"Technics SA-5150 review"
5 out of 5 7th March 2014
OK - grow some hefty sideburns, dig out your flares, your kipper tie, your pipe (Sherlock Holmes-type, I mean!), your wide-collared shirt (with designs that feature brown as the key colour), your platforms and your... erm... Spangles... and your Sony TC-199SD tape player and some home-made Speakers made from a kit recommended by Practical Wireless monthly... and that's all you'll need for a 70s revival party... Along with copious amounts of Watney's Red Barrel, Advocaat, loads of smelly cigarettes and Twiglets. With a bit of luck, after listening to The Carpenters, Jim Reeves, Military Marching Bands, Mario Lanza and Boney M... you'll be sick.

You may even be thankful that in 1977 Punk came along to destroy the above-mentioned leisure activities (but remember there were still Country & Western hits in the Top 10 at the height of Punk...), and to be honest - on a day-to-day level, and for those outside of London, life carried on just the same as it always did... But I digress...

I inherited this mother of all receivers in 2007 along with the aforementioned Sony cassette player, after I volunteered to clear a cellar room out for a colleague. "Take everything to the dump!" she told me, and I did. Except that I nabbed this, an example of the aforementioned Sony tape deck and a rather nice antique "Karl-kammerskab" - a Danish, or Swedish hand-made cupboard. I think, even after 5 years, they all still smell of unfiltered Woodbines (or the Danish equivalent - Cecil). Nevermind...! This receiver is simply a goddess!

Of course, after many years languishing in the cellar room of a 1960s block of flats, it needed a spruce-up. Switch-cleaner and a general damp cloth with a few spots of washing up liquid sorted that out, and for the record - there was nothing wrong with the workings, or the sound.

The controls are tight and robust, as they were back in the days when they used to make the sliders and buttons out of lathe-turned metal. This is what they call "precision-turned parts"... The responses of the various controls were 100% still in working order, and the in-out buttons were 100% functioning - no clicks, pops, cut-outs or drop-outs were to be heard, changing from one mode to the other.

The bass and treble function incredibly well, and give a very warm, well-balanced "golden" sound to the reproduction, which matches the warm, burnt umber yellow lighting on the display and tuner. The tuner dial itself is weighted and swims in your hands - such a joy to change station; and the bass... it's as if you've been anchored to the sound, the bass is so warm and responsive. Of all sources, CD or mp3 sound reproduction on this receiver sound unduly clinical, without soul - but vinyl and radio... another story entirely. Perhaps using this unit in a vinyl-only set-up would be the optimal method.

All in all 10/10 for this wonderful, still-working receiver. A testament to robust design, good components and long-lasting production techniques.
17 people found this review helpful.
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Denon DRM-540

Denon DRM-540

By: BiggieTembo
"Denon DRM-540 review"
4 out of 5 7th March 2014
Update, expanding and re-appraisal of earlier review: Great cassette deck - bought in Richer Sounds, Bristol, UK, around 1994, and still going strong. Had it repaired once, to change the bands driving the drive wheels (it had been used nearly every day for 5 years), but apart from that, no problems.

The responses of the controls are very subtle, the servos react instantly and are very smooth - you don't have to put any pressure on any of the buttons - they respond immediately. The Display is clear and understandable, and the knobs, although seeming slightly "loose" (not physically loose, but very easy to turn) have responded well for 20 years, so no criticism there.

Recording and playback is very good - fidelity is reproduced in a very fine way, and the Dolby B and C recordings reproduce themselves commendably - 99% perfect, albeit not as pitch-perfect as a Sony 3-head with Dolby S, for instance. But that's just nit-picking. It lacks a monitoring button - but on the whole a great little unit.

A little quirk of the unit is that when the cassette buttons are released after pressing - they go "boing" like a little spring! It gives the impression that the unit it still young as fresh as when first bought.

With maintenance, switch cleaner, de-magnetising and head.cleaning - this unit will serve you well. I hadn't bought any Denon product before this one - but I would recommend Denon products to all after experiencing this tight little deck.
12 people found this review helpful.
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Technics RS-B355

Technics RS-B355

By: BiggieTembo
"Technics RS-B355 review"
3 out of 5 7th March 2014
Ahh... a nice deck. I "borrowed" one of these from my friend, when my Denon DRM-540 began to play slow, and... erm... sort of... still have it. Currently being used in a fixed set-up back in England, with a NAD amp and a Rega Planar 7 turntable, in a combination to tape 78s.

What can be said about this beast? A monster, for sure: Clunky responses, slightly mechanical servo controls, but smooth and somewhat "tightened" sliders and knobs. They respond, however, extremely well. The drum-counter gives away the age of the machine, but, as in my other reviews of older, classic decks, it is always a plus in this age of downloaded mp3 files and other digital sources, to SEE SOMETHING MOVING - the capstans, the spools, or the drum counter - accurate or not - very charming indeed.

With regular maintenance (demagnetising, cleaning tape heads, switch-cleaner etc.) this machine with serve you for a lifetime. The parts and controls are sturdy and robust, and the machine feels like it's got the build of a shire horse.

Nevertheless, the recording - and playback of recorded sources - is not 100% reliable. The non-Dolby recorded matter reproduces fine, with sensitive fidelity. However, once you start choosing Dolby B or C, things begin to go downhill slightly - not enough to warrant a criticism, but enough to notice. The Dolby B lops off quite a bit of fidelity, and sounds like you've put that warm, furry Russian hat on, while listening. Dolby C pretty much annihilates the rest of the fidelity that was left after Dolby B: Imagine a great jazz track with wonderful fidelity from the cymbals - well, tape that and then play it back with your head in a bucket of water - that kind of thing.

Non-Dolby or Dolby B, with a bit of tweaking from the amp's treble and bass controls, are the ways forward here.

So, to sum up:
Build, construction, performance and reliability: 5
Recording and playback: 3

Overall: A high-up 3.
4 people found this review helpful.
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Sony TC-199SD

Sony TC-199SD

By: BiggieTembo
"Sony TC-199SD review"
3 out of 5 6th March 2014
Oh my Good Lord - such a joy to see this again! A great, retro cassette deck, seen in all the recent 70s revival movies, in the background, VU needles waving away, dimmed yellow display lights glowing, playing the latest Doobie Brothers tape, while the main character goes through some all-emcompassing, destroying crescendo of "i'm caught up in events beyond my control..." type of thing.

When I was young I wasn't caught up in any events beyond my control, apart from having to go to school when I didn't want to. However, when staring at this baby while the needles clicked and popped, and the capstans rolled around, I forgot all about school, laying there on a fluffy carpet in 1971, mesmerised by the rollers rollin', and the VU needles "needling"...

I simply loved this cassette deck when I was a kid - the controls were smooth and easy to operate; the cassette levers were - as all the really classic decks were - erm, mechanical, but don't let that put you off, this machine's levers were smoother than some of the others (see Ferguson's Casseivers for example - the scariest machines ever made - the cassettes used to fly out after being ejected, providing a new target practice leisure-time pursuit for my Dad...).

The old epithet of "if it don't fit, don't force it" comes in useful here, and many of the classic decks' mechanical, non-servo "push" controlled function levers were usually wrecked by upset, sad, over-zealous, sorry operators, ostensibly in a rage over the disappointing nature of the latest Alice Cooper cassette, or the "plagging up" of the tape around the tape spools of "Band On The Run", or the break-up misery of a 10cc tape.

Never happened to me though (I would crank up the volume with my brother's copy of "Deep Purple In Rock" and practically wore out The Beatles' "Rock And Roll Music Volume 2" - the old cardboard MFP reissue, bought from Boots the Chemist in Chippenham, around 1978, of course) and, although serving me reliably for 20 years, around 5 years after that, my great 199SD started playing slow. Not bad for an old timer, aye.

But age aside - this retro classic is a real gem. Just to look at it "working" knocks the more modern decks for six - that was always the advantage the older decks had over the newer ones - there was always something to look at, while listening to the tape - it was a feeling as if something was happening simultaneously with the music - there were parts MOVING - there was a system in operation - generating somewhat a sense of nostalgia in itself. You could even listen to music with the lights off - and still feel that warm thrill of confusion - that space cadet glow... (My daughters of course have no inkling of this, in the age of digital downloads and mp3s).

For the nostalgia, the design, and the treat of watching something HAPPENING while the tape is being played, and the warm candle-like glow of the VU meter lights - this scores a 5.

But for playback, well, you have to say that it lags behind in comparison with the modern, 3-head calibrating, recording-monitoring, Dolby S machines which came at the twighlight of the cassette era.

For example, the Dolby lops not just the head off, but lunges a huge blunt blade though the entire waist of the sound. The three bias choices are like A) putting a sock over your speakers, B) putting a sock over the speakers and your head and C) putting a sock over the speakers, your head, the entire universe and then immersing the whole entity in a vat of lard. Similarly, the Tape type-control does the same thing, in reverse.

OK, OK I hear you say - I'm just being mean - I mean it really is an old deck, and many of the old decks perform likewise - especially in Dolby's infancy, way back when - but with a little tolerance and a readjustment of the settings on your amp, you can get a real nice warm sound from some of the old tapes - and realistically, these are what the deck was meant to have played on it - old, first-time Dolby or even non-Dolby tapes from the 70s (these are getting pretty rare right now, but you may find them in some second-hand shops right at the back - they're the ones that smell of John Player Special or King Size No.6 cigarettes... Go on, sniff them... Have a Bic ball-pen handy as well, to un-stick "print-through" tape and tighten the tape around the reels, before you put it in the machine again...)

So for playback, recording, and general sound reproduction I'd give this old lady a generous 3.

But having it on your shelves to admire, or relaxing in your "egg" chair copy whilst putting on an original non-Dolby "Who's Next"... you'll be transported back to 1971 and begin to smell cigarette smoke, taste Angel Delight (the 70s dessert made from pure chemicals), while simultaneously feeling the urge to cover your kitchen floor with lino, stone-clad the INSIDE of your house, and sup on a pint of Younger's Tartan ale ...
4 people found this review helpful.
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Technics RS-BX606

Technics RS-BX606

By: BiggieTembo
"Technics RS-BX606 review"
4 out of 5 6th March 2014
Great cassette deck - reminds me of the Sony 3-head TC-K611S deck (reviewed on this site) in that the responses are slightly clunky - but the knobs and dials and buttons are totally responsive and after a slight delay, do what they are supposed to do. Playback is good, but I think all Technics decks' playbacks lack a little fidelity compared to some of the SONY 3-headers - nevertheless, and similar to the Sony 3'ers - the recording and monitoring function serves the recording process well. It's a shame that there is not a calibration function (like the Sony TC-K611S), but trusting your ears and monitoring while recording must be the rule of thumb here. The carriage is robust, a little on the clunky side when opening and closing, but the belts and capstans, after 20-odd years of careful maintenance, perform as they should on the first day of purchase. Technics have always, in my opinion, lagged just a tad (and I mean only a tad) behind the Sony 3-head decks, but while the 3'ers from Sony have a slightly (to be argued of course) better fidelity-tainted playback reproduction - the Technics machines seem to last longer than the Sony's, mechanically speaking. All in all, if you can't get your hands on a pristine, well-maintained Sony TC-K611S, get this chunky, robust baby. She'll serve you well with reliable performance and playback for years (with regular maintenance, of course ;-)
5 people found this review helpful.
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Kenwood KA-3020SE

Kenwood KA-3020SE

By: BiggieTembo
"Kenwood KA-3020SE"
5 out of 5 6th March 2014
This amp is fantastic! The sound is so warm, especially with vinyl, that I would not hesitate to recommend this amp for any hi-fi enthusiasts out there that can get their hands on a good quality, well-looked after example of this creature. The switches are large, soft in the interchanging and responsive - can be easily cleaned with a smooth slip-off function - and the buttons are non-clicky. The contact in general are very subtle, and there are no clunky changing noises or responses. The bass is extremely warm and responsive, especially, as mentioned before, with vinyl playback, and the cd and monitoring functions are simply a joy. The volume levels are also responsive, even at higher volumes, and the piece in its entirety, although heavy, is a great , warm, smooth, lovely sounding amp.

One drawback, which is common to many amps, is that the phono switching contacts began to click and fall out over time - this shorting could easily be remedied by slipping off the output selector knob and giving a tickle with some switch-cleaner spray. But hey - things don't last forever, so it's not a mark-down in this respect.

4 people found this review helpful.
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Technics SL-220

Technics SL-220

By: BiggieTembo
"Technics SL-220 review"
4 out of 5 22nd May 2013
Wonderful turntable - great functions - speed adjustment/strobe function is truly a help when optimising playback speed, the tonearm movement is gentle and soft, the cartridge is robust and the stylus (with care) lasts forever ;-) Anti-skate and weight adjustment is very responsive, and although the stopping and automatic starting of the tonearm sounds a bit clunky and mechanical, the operation of this function is reliable and good. One age-related problem was that the 45 speed started to go slow/fast, but this was after 15 years of generally excellent operation, so a belt check/change and a service would probably have treated that anyway ;-)

The hinges of the lid had snapped, the only negative part of this review, but all in all a great turntable.
7 people found this review helpful.
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Sony RCD-W100

Sony RCD-W100

By: BiggieTembo
"Sony RCD-W100 review"
4 out of 5 22nd May 2013
Good CD recorder - a little strange to operate at the start, but the manual explains clearly how the unit operates and functions. Remote control is clear and understandable, and the display is great. Recording is of top quality, as is the output, and the mechanisms and functionality of the unit is good. Drawback is that the unit only utilises CD-Audio type CDs (ostensibly due to copyright control issues) and has a copy protection memory built into the unit, so only one copy of a respective CD can be made. Still, overall a good machine, with SONY's "trademark" "patient" smooth responses i.e. the response times of the controls are maybe not for the modern, intolerant young generation ;-D
1 person found this review helpful.
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Sony CDP-212

Sony CDP-212

By: BiggieTembo
"Sony CDP-212 review"
4 out of 5 22nd May 2013
Good allround CD player, with great functionality and reliable features. Smooth operation, lovely output and easy-to-understand controls and functions. Long-lasting working order, have had mine since the early 2000s (believe it comes from the mid or late 90s...) and it works as new.
7 people found this review helpful.
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JPW Gold Monitor

By: BiggieTembo
"JPW Gold Monitor review"
4 out of 5 22nd May 2013
Great speakers for affordable price (in the 90s, at Richer Sounds, Bristol, UK). Lovely warm sound and fine hi fidelity output, from these bookshelfers... Great when coupled with a Kenwood KA-amp series, and fine, robust construction.
4 people found this review helpful.
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Sony TC-K611S

Sony TC-K611S

By: BiggieTembo
"Sony TC-K611S review"
4 out of 5 21st May 2013
Great cassette deck - a bit clunky when changing functions, and the response is not super-quick, but great playback for the various Dolby settings on respective tape types. Dolby B lopped quite a bit off the top, but still sounded freash - Dolby C was much more refind, especially with Chrome tapes, but Dolby S, with either chrome or metal tapes, gave near CD-quality output, with the same analogue warmth.

A great feature of this unit was the ability to calibrate the bias for every indivivual tape used, so recording would be as near as to the original source as possible - the monitoring function was always spot-on when comparing in real-time recording situations - if you didn't want to calibrate and do what the bias wanted you to you, then you had the choice of listening yourself and judging your own aural comparisons...

Great function that showed how much time was left on tapes when recording, so you could fade out before the leader tape span around, but after 5 years (nearly every cassette player's lifespan, it started eating tapes, unfortunately...)
12 people found this review helpful.
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Denon DRM-540

Denon DRM-540

By: BiggieTembo
"Denon DRM-540 review"
4 out of 5 21st May 2013
Good solid tape player - playing softly, a little clicky when changing function modes, but robust enough (even though it looks and feels a little plasticky and weak). Served great for up to 5 years, when it started to play a little slower than normal. Good fidelity with playback, good response from buttons, and generally an all-round great upper-level cassette deck
6 people found this review helpful.
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