Test Drive: Denon DN-790R Stereo Cassette Tape Deck

denon-dn-790R

by Jerry Vigil

In this world of digital this and digital that, one might think the analog cassette deck is nearing extinction. But look around you. Every radio production room has one. Clients need their spots on cassette. Cassettes are still the easiest and least expensive way to distribute audio of all types, from music and air checks to demos and special programs. Everyone has a cassette deck! Most people, including those NOT in radio, have them in their car as well as at home. The analog cassette is still a standard in and out of our industry. But the fact that it's analog doesn't mean it has to sound that way. Today's technology hasn't left the analog cassette untouched. Enter Dolby Laboratories and their incredible Dolby S noise reduction system that virtually eliminates tape hiss. Take this technology and combine it with the other features of the Denon DN-790R, and you have an analog cassette deck for the digital '90s.

While most decent cassette decks employ noise reduction of some type, Dolby S is rarely a choice. The Denon DN-790R offers Dolby B which provides about 10dB of noise reduction, Dolby C which obtains up to 20dB of NR, and Dolby S, which pushes the noise reduction levels to 24dB in the high frequencies and 10dB in the low frequencies. Dolby S uses the same technology as Dolby SR, and the result is an increase in dynamic range and a drastic reduction in tape hiss.

Another unique feature of this single well deck is the Auto Tuning function. This is used prior to recording to optimize the recording level and frequency response to the specific tape being used. Select the desired Dolby NR setting, put the unit in Record/Pause mode, press the AUTO TUNING START button, and the unit records for about five seconds while making the adjustments, then rewinds to the starting point.

You get the usual transport controls plus one not found on many cassette decks. The REC/RECORD MUTE button acts like the Record Mute function on DAT decks, recording five seconds of silence before stopping in the Record/Pause mode. This is to create enough blank space between programs for the Music Search function to work properly.

The DN-790R features a 3-head system which enables monitoring of audio off the tape while recording. The MONITOR button switches between Source and Tape as indicated on the display. The Amorphous heads have a lifetime about five times that of conventional Permalloy heads and improve high frequency dynamic range by as much as 2.5dB at 14kHz.

The transport mechanism features three motors in a microprocessor controlled system. The transport controls are very quiet and very responsive. A dual-capstan drive helps keep tape tension on the heads constant.

A BIAS control allows fine tuning of the bias which gives you a choice of increasing high frequencies at the expense of increased distortion, or you can decrease distortion while losing some highs. Press the MPX FILTER button when recording FM broadcasts with Dolby NR to prevent interference with the Dolby circuitry. Press the TAPE SPEED button to activate the vari-speed function. Use the TAPE SPEED knob to adjust the speed plus or minus 12%. Red LEDs in the display illuminate to indicate whether the unit is in FIX or VARIABLE mode.