I've never viewed cassette as being in the same league as reel to reel. It came on the scene for portability sake and...only had won-out vs. 8-track (what the "competition debate" in the '70s was actually against) due to easier ff/rew as well as record capability.
The notion, in my view, of thinking: a $4000 Nak 1000ZXL was necessary to extract as much as possible from the format made as much (practical) sense as believing one needs a $five-figure-amount turntable (nowadays) to make the most of technology compromised by far too many technical tradeoffs.
I haven't, personally, had use for cassette decks since the time before cdr's came out. Twenty years'-ago: I'd copy R2R's onto them for carry-along or in-the-car listening (made on, either, 1980's vintage Teac V-800 or Nak BX-300 machines with Quantegy 467 blanks). However, the "pinched" sound and loosely-defined bass revealed they were never as good as the source feeding them. The three R2R's I've still got for playback and dubbing beat those cassettes like it's no contest.
'The notion, in my view, of thinking: a $4000 Nak 1000ZXL was necessary to extract as much as possible from the format made as much (practical) sense as believing one needs a $five-figure-amount turntable (nowadays) to make the most of technology compromised by far too many technical tradeoffs.'
No one here is saying cassette is or was superior to the better reel to reel decks of their generation. They were capable of sounding pretty good though, back in the day. I think people here enjoy the nostalgia of that time and the coolness factor of owning those machines, as well as the convenience factor of the format. As for five-figure-amount turntables, I'd have to disagree with you. In 2019 dollars there aren't any turntables for sale new under $10K that sound as good as an Air Force One (e.g.). Are you sure you're on the right web site?
It’s been said that the 1000ZXL is or is within reach of Reel to Reel quality. The soundstage that these beasts can extract from that tiny strip of tape is unbelievable. Now the reality is that’s a nice quote, but whoever said that never revealed which R2R it was on par with. From my own personal experience it’s on par with my Tandberg 9100X. That being said my tech says the 1000ZXL is stunning while at the same time saying it’s no Studer. That’s the reality of it. At the hight of its perfection it still has its flaws, its formats that best it, and that’s what makes it so special.
Pop open the cover of a 1000ZXL Limited and you’ll be greated with the names of the techs that built your machine or performed the Q/A on it. These are the people that labored to produce what was thought to be beyond possible for that format. I dig that.
A Ferrari 308GTB can easily be beaten by today’s beige family sedan on the strip. It can be out cornered by most entry-level sports car. They’re loud, harsh, rattlely, things that would make a modern car buyer turn heel and walk off the lot. But they’re still fantastic, beautiful, intoxicating, visceral cars that put out sounds at the twist of a key that no speaker could touch. In their day they could best most competitors, and in some categories and still are ahead of some cars today.
Today you could sell the 308GTB and buy 2 examples of a car that could wipe the road with it. You could also sell a 1000ZXL and buy 50 examples of a digital device that could blow it out of the water.
I’m not sure what the build cost or profit margin was on the 1000ZXL, but I would not be surprised if they barely eaked one out. To me it was an exercise to push the format to the limit regardless of cost. It served as a successful real-world R&D exercise which technologies were leveraged and further cost-reduced in subsequent Nakamichi models. It’s one of the few examples in consumer goods where a legacy product’s ability to do something really well (record), was never really bested the company’s newer, more advanced product lines.
Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised that the 1000ZXL or Dragon sounded better than many RTR decks of that time. A technician told me back around 1980 that Nak was using heads that were easily the best available in the market. I had a Nak 480, the bottom of the line cassette deck and the tapes it recorded from LP sounded better than any main stream tape deck I had heard. There were some sleeper decks around then like Aiwa and Teac that were exceptional, and might have used the same heads as Nak. But the bottom line is that the basic physics of a tape deck using 1/8" wide tape running at 1 7/8" ps can't hold the same amount of information or frequency range that a 1/4" tape running at 7 1/2" ps or faster.
Given the revival of analog recording, I've wondered what a TOTL deck like the Nak Dragon e.g. that had been modified with the finest electronic components available today and using the new cassette formulation from Pyral would sound like? You have to admit the cost of cassette is far less than high end reel to reel. I think you always come up against the sound quality that the latest digital equipment is capable of though.
Nakamichi 700 ZXL. I have a hi end rig (over 200K) and often will fire up the Nak and play a tape that I recorded from a good source and watch peoples jaws drop when I stop the tape and pull it out ! Oh what fun that always is!!
I have several Nakamichi decks, with the 1000ZXL Limited and ZX-9 being my favorite. The 1000ZXL is breathtaking to record on and listen to. YouTube videos don’t even begin to capture the magic of these decks.
A friend of mine had a mark levinson full reference system with a 1000zxl limited and a dragon and a studer a80. I listened to the 1000zxl a few times, it’s truly unbelievable how good it is. It’s in a league of its own and completely redefined was is possible from a cassette. A staggeringly great machine ! The benchmark for cassette in my opinion!