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

The counter has two modes: the standard counter mode, and a real time counter. Press the TAPE SIZE button to set the tape size being used. Choices are 60, 74, 90, and 100 minutes. You get the standard MEMORY feature which provides a return to zero function.

The DN-790R also uses Dolby HX PRO, a common feature in cassette decks which increases the saturation level in the high frequency range. Unlike Dolby B, C, or S, HX PRO requires no decoding; it can be played back in any deck.

The back panel sports balanced XLR I/O and unbalanced RCA I/O. There's also a jack for wired remote control of the transport. Reported specs include an "overall S/N ratio" at >75dB with Dolby C on. "Overall" frequency response is 20-20kHz with metal tape. Channel separation is >40dB and crosstalk is >65dB. Wow and flutter is 0.038% WRMS. The rack-mountable unit takes up three rack spaces.

The DN-790R lists for $1,000. That might seem a little high for a cassette deck, but this is one time when you can hear the difference between a $300 deck and this one. The large transport controls are ideal for the broadcast environment, and the quick response of the microprocessor controlled transport is perfect for the fast-flying pace of radio.

The only concern about using Dolby S is the fact that tapes recorded with Dolby S can only be played back in decks that provide Dolby S. With that in mind, purchase of a cassette deck like this one should be well thought out. The ideal situation is to have all cassette decks within the station the same. With a DN-790R in the on-air studios, newsrooms, and in production studios, the advantages of Dolby S can be utilized to their fullest. Phone bits can be transferred to cassette and given to production for promos, etc. minus the usual tape hiss. Full length programs can be mastered to cassette for airplay without having to worry about the quality of a cassette recording. And audio can be transferred from studio to studio on easy to use and inexpensive cassettes.

Certainly, many stations have moved so far into the digital world that a cassette deck of this nature is unnecessary and maybe even a step back. But there are many more stations where the analog cassette is still used extensively, and you know who you are! These stations can benefit greatly from the advantages of applying '90s technology to cassette decks.

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