AKAI Reel to Reel Tape Decks Guide

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AKAI is a Japanese consumer electronics company founded in 1929. They are famous for their high quality reel to reel decks throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and the 1980s and those awesome features in them. This is the guide to those tape decks. Here are some of those features and what they do:

  • The Cross-Field Head System: AKAI used this type of head system in the late 1960's to the mid 1970's. There is a Bias head located under the recording head which is utilized for higher frequency response at the slower speeds like 3 3/4 inches per second. This would mean the tape would sound just like other decks recorded at 7 1/2 inches per second or even better. The following decks used this feature: X-100/D, X-150/D, X-165/D, X-200/D, X-201/D, X-300/D, X-330/D, X-355/D, X-360/D, X-1800SD, X-1810/D, X-2000SD, X-5000W, X-IV, X-V, M-7, M-8, M-9, and M-10. Heres a picture:
  • X-200D:
  • The Glass and Crystal Ferrite Head System: The Glass and Crystal Ferrite heads are known for their reliability and extra high frequency response and focused field and replaced the Cross-Field head system. These heads were made out of hard class and crystal ferrite and were virtually indestructable, and dust free. They were stated to last 150,000 hours which is equivalent to 17 years. This means the high frequencies don't go dull due to wear since this specific type of head is made out of hard glass and crystal ferrite. The very first reel to reel deck to have these heads is the GX-365/D. The following decks use these heads:  GX-210/D, GX-215D, GX-220/D, GX-221/D, GX-225/D, GX-230/D, GX-255, GX-260D, GX-265D, GX-266D, GX-266II. GX-267D, GX-270/D, GX-280/D, GX-285/D, GX-286/D, GX-365/D, GX-370D, GX-400D/PRO, GX-600D, GX-620, GX-625, GX-630D, GX-635D, GX-636, GX-646, GX-650D, GX-77, GX-747/DBX, GX-M11, GX-1820/D, GX-1900, GX-270D-SS, GX-280D-SS, GX-297D-SS, GX-400D-SS, GX-4000D, and GX-4400D. Here are some pictures:
  • GX-265D:
  • The Glass Heads:
  • Tape Speeds: There were 4 tapes speeds that AKAI used: 1 7/8 Inches Per Second, 3 3/4 Inches Per Second, 7 1/2 Inches Per Second, and 15 Inches Per Second. The 3 3/4 and 7 1/2 inches per second speeds were common and used on almost ALL of AKAI's reel to reel tape decks. The 1 7/8 Inches Per Second speed was used on some of those decks for voice/speech recordings which included the following decks: X-100D, X-150D, X-165D, X-200D, X-201D, X-300/D, X-330/X, X-360/D, 1700, 1710, 1720W, GX-220/D, GX-221/D, GX-225/D, GX-365/D, 250D, 1800L, X-1800SD, X-1810/D, M-6, M-7, M-8, M-9, and M-10. The 7 1/2 inches per second speed is obtained by a speed changing capstan sleeve on the following decks which the sleeve was located at the top of or inside the AKAI Head Cover: X-100D, X-150D, X-165D, 1700, 1710, 1720W, 1800L, X-1800SD, 3000D, 4000D, 4000DS, 4000DB, 4000DS MK-II, 4400, 4400D, GX-4000D, and GX-4400D. When the speed changing capstan is removed, the tape speed goes back down to 3 3/4 inches per second or 1 7/8 inches per second if the tape speed switch on top of some of the decks is set to LOW. An equalizer switch is used for the correct frequency response of each of the speeds. The 15 Inches Per Second Speed is obtained by a big speed changing capstan on some decks (regular on most), and a smaller pinch roller. The following decks have that capability: 1700, 1710, X-360/D, GX-365/D, M-7, M-8, M-9, M-10, GX-400D, GX-600D/PRO, GX-630D/PRO, and GX-650D. The GX-400D, GX-600D/PRO, GX-630D/PRO, and GX-650D are the only sets that do not require a speed changing capstan or a smaller pinch roller to obtain the 15 Inches Per Second Speed. The ultra rare 4000D-Pro had 2 speeds of 7 1/2 and 15 Inches Per Second! Some of the decks have the 3 3/4 and 7 1/2 inches per second speed switch that changes the speeds. Here are two pictures of the decks that used the speed changing capstan:
  • GX-4000D:
  • X-1800SD:
  • 10.5 Inch Reel To Reel Decks: Some of these AKAI reel to reel decks have the capability to handle 10.5 inch reel to reel tapes. 10 inch reel hubs are used for those types of reels. There is a 7 inch/10 inch tension switch on each deck to adjust for that certain reel. These decks include the X-355/D which uses adapters for hooking up these reels, the X-330/D which does not require hubs or an adapter since the built in hubs are already included, GX-400D, GX-400D-SS, GX-600D, GX-620, GX-625, GX-630D, GX-630D-SS, GX-635D, GX-636, GX-646, GX-650D, and GX-747/DBX. Here are a couple pictures of these decks:
  • GX-635D:
  • GX-747/DBX:
  • Auto Reverse: Some, but not all reel to reel decks have auto reverse capability. One way auto reverse uses for reverse playing is with a solenoid which pulls the playback head back for reverse playing. These decks use that feature: X-200D, X-201D, GX-210D, GX-215D, GX-220/D, GX-221/D, GX-225/D, 250/D, GX-280/D, GX-285D, GX-286D, GX-400D, X-330/D, X-360/D, GX-365/D, X-1810/D, GX-1820/D, 202D-SS, 280D-SS, GX-270D-SS, GX-280D-SS, GX-297D-SS, GX-400D, M-10, and GX-M11/D. Other decks use an extra playback head which eliminates the need for a solenoid to pull the playback head down when in reverse mode. Here are the decks that use that feature: 250D, GX-230/D, GX-270D, GX-255, GX-260D, GX-265D, GX-266D, GX-266II, GX-267D, GX-635D, GX-636, GX-646, GX-747/DBX, and GX-77. Some of those decks allowed recording in reverse due to having extra record/erase heads.
  • Surround Sound Series Reel to Reel Decks:
  • Some reel to reel decks have the capability to reproduce sound in 4 channels for that "being there" feeling. These kind of decks are also useful for mixing tracks and used as "mini-studios". Here are following decks: 202D-SS, GX-270D-SS, GX-630D-SS, 280D-SS, GX-280D-SS, GX-297D-SS, GX-400D-SS, 1730D-SS, and 1800D-SS. Here are two pictures:
  • GX-280D-SS:
  • 1730D-SS:
  • Noise Reduction: Some of these reel to reel decks are equipped with Dolby B Noise Reduction to cut out 5-10 dB of hiss. The GX-747/DBX allows for 128 dB dynamic range!!! The following decks have Dolby Noise Reduction in them: 4000DB, GX-4000DB, GX-600DB, GX-630DB, GX-635DB, GX-285D, and, GX-286D. Here is one picture of the deck equipped with Dolby:
  • 4000DB:
  • Built-In 8-Track tape decks:
  • Some of the early AKAI models had built in 8-track players/recorders which the record lever was  used to get the recording process on an 8-track tape started. These models are: 1800L, X-1800SD, X-1810/D, GX-1820/D, and 1800D-SS.
  • Worldwide Voltage Selector:
  • Almost every AKAI Reel to Reel deck will have an AC 100V/110V/120V/200V/220V/240V Voltage selector along with a 50 Hz/60 Hz cycles per second selector for worldwide usage located on the back of the reel to reel deck along with a Fuse (2A used for 100V - 120V and 1A used for 200V - 240V). These are the Japanese models unlike the American models which have only one voltage being AC 120V, 60 Hz which is used for the United States and Canada.
  • Reel Retainers:
  • Early AKAI Reel to Reel decks used rubber retainers which had a tendency to get worn or lost. Some of these decks include: M-6, M-7, M-8, X-100D, 345 Auto, X-355/D, 1700, 1710, 1800L, X-1800SD (some X-1800SDs used built-in reel lockers), and 4000DS (see pictures on top). Most AKAI Reel to Reel decks use built-in reel retainers (see pictures on top). Other than the X-100D, 345 Auto, X-355/D, 1700, 1710, 1800L, X-1800SD, and 4000DS, all other models listed on top use built-in reel retainers.
  • Amplifiers and Built-In Speakers:
  • People are often confused as to why the D is at the end of some model numbers. D stands for deck which has to be hooked up to a stereo receiver for sound to be heard (for example, GX-365D is not a stand alone unit and must be hooked up to a stereo for sound. GX-365 is a stand alone unit with a built-in amplifier and speakers) The 1721W, 1722W, 1722II, M-6, M-7, M-8, M-9, M-10, 1800L, X-1800SD, and 4400 Convert-A-Deck are stand alone units with built in speakers.
  • Today's digital equipment including iPods just cannot compare to the warm, crisp, and natural analog sound. It tends to cut off the rough edges that digital gives out.
  • On a Final Note, There are a lot of these decks for sale here on eBay, always check the model number to make sure it is the one you're looking for and check the description for any flaws it might have. Most of these decks have technical specifications available all over the internet that have the frequency response, signal-to-noise ratio, wow and flutter, etc... There are also manuals available for sale on the internet for a few bucks. Also, be prepared for any technical work to be done if that reel to reel deck has been untested due to lack of reel to reel tape. Channels going out, broken belts, and wow and flutter is common. The best way to get rid of that unwanted fluttering is to spray the metal part that holds the pinch roller and the flutter goes away almost instantly. Contact spray usually fixes scratchy sound from the volume pots. Motors can sometimes go bad and not have stable speed and cause the tape to slow down and stop. Hums are also a problem due to worn transistors and ground wiring.
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