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Hi-Fi Choice|February 2022
Tape head David Price pays homage to one of the best cassette decks that wasn’t produced by Nakamichi
David Price

Cassette was the most unlikely music format you could imagine – at least at the time of its launch in 1963. It was originally designed by Philips as a dictation medium and no one imagined it would ever become the world’s most popular prerecorded music carrier – at least in the Sixties.

Yet something strange happened. The Japanese, who’d proved to be particularly good at making high-precision miniature electronics, took the design and ran with it. After Philips began to sell licenses to make cassette players and recorders to hardware manufacturers, Japan pretty much made the format its own.

By 1982, a range of manufacturers offered amazing decks, from Akai to Hitachi, Pioneer to Technics. Aiwa had been right at the forefront, and its new range launched in autumn of that year was staggering. This was the time when Nakamichi had made its name as ‘king of cassette’, its high-end ZX-9 offering startling sound quality; subjectively better than nearly any streamer on sale today.

Aiwa’s plan was to offer something approaching the performance of top Nakamichis for much less money, while making them easier to use. Given that prices of the latter were very high, the company could still sell a really top-notch machine for a lot of money and fulfil this goal. The AD-F770 was when Aiwa got really serious. It had an impressive wow and flutter figure of 0.025 percent, and introduced huge, wide-sweeping fluorescent meters. At the time, it felt like a window on the future – and more importantly, made even top Nakamichis look rather old hat.

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