Here’s The Norwegian Tape Deck Teardown You’ve Been Waiting For

“They just don’t build ’em like they used to” is a truer statement every year. Whether your vice is CRTs, film cameras, or tape decks, you’ll know that the very best gear simply isn’t manufactured anymore. Even the day-to-day stuff from 60 years ago is often a cut above a lot of today’s equipment. [Anthony Kouttron] shows us this with his teardown of a Tandberg TCD301 from many decades ago.

The Tandberg unit is beautifully finished in wood and metal, a style of construction that’s fairly rare these days. It’s got big, chunky controls, and a certain level of heft that is out of vogue in modern electronics. Heavy used to mean good — these days, it means old. That’s not to say it’s indestructible, though. It’s full of lots of old plastic pulleys and fasteners that have aged over the decades, so it’s a little fragile inside.

Still, [Anthony] gives us a great look at the aluminium chassis and buttons and the electromechanical parts inside. It’s a rats-nest design with lots of discrete components and wires flying between boards. You couldn’t economically produce this and sell it to anyone today, but this is how it was done so many years ago.

This non-functional unit ended up being little more than a salvage job, but we’re still glad that [Anthony] gave us a look inside. Still, if you long for more cassette-themed teardowns, we’ve got the goodness you’re looking for!

37 thoughts on “Here’s The Norwegian Tape Deck Teardown You’ve Been Waiting For

  1. Equipment with moving parts had to be built well to work well. Modern digital technology with no moving parts, far exceeds the sound quality of those older machines and with greater reliability and with no servicing required!

    1. Cheaper, too! A German catalogue for the TCD310 listed it for 1300DM in 1074, which is about $2500 today. And you’d still need an amp and speakers!
      I’m sure for $2500 today you could also get a similarly solid steel & wood MP3 player (or for that money, commission a custom case for one).

      1. That’s missing the point – these old pieces of electronics have a significant collectors value, esp. when in good shape, even if not working. You could easily get $200 for one of these today.

        And you could get a nasty sticker shock if you think that $2500 today buys you something that would be considered “high end” (as this deck was back in the day – 1975). Anything-“audiophile” prices are completely insane. E.g. a Chord Hugo DAC (i.e. only a DAC + headphone amplifier and needs computer/phone to actually play anything) costs $4500.

        1. This deck was also not considered ‘high end’ in its day, it’s a compact cassette deck.

          “Audiophile” has nothing to do with quality, just marketing susceptibility. Actual high-end gear is usually well below ‘audiophile’ pricing, as it’s purchased by recording engineers and sound engineers who have an actual clue.

    2. Guys, MCs (audio cassettes) were *never* HQ. They’re toys.
      The format was meant as a convenient consumer format for voice recorders, answering machines, car radios, children toys and walkmen.

      Never for the audiophile or the studio! They had audio reel tapes with much, much better mechanic and better bandwith.

      And “HiFi” never was high-end to begin with.
      HiFi of the 60s was 16 to 16000 Hz with a poor dynamic range.
      It was just a marketing blurb.

      If you’re into real HQ, get a pair of electro-static headphones w/ mstching amp (Stax etc) or plasma loudspeakers.

      Use SACD, DVD Audio or a traditional vinyl record with a record player that has a moving-coil head. Or even better, a laser based head (if available already).

      Because, normal audio media suffer from loudness war.
      The dynamic range is gone in most modern recordings.

      And no, no FLAC file or other loss-less audio file from a torrent can fix a messed-up recording here.

      Both the source material and the equipment for playback should match in quality.

  2. “This non-functional unit ended up being little more than a salvage job”

    Which is why they “don’t build ’em like this anymore. $2500 over 50 years is $50/year (1974-2024.) My guess is this thing has been non-functional for a while, which just means the usable life was much greater than $100/year.

    Certainly not a fine piece of furniture to “hand-down” to family.

    Digital can be manufactured cheaply and result is outstanding quality but the big elephant in the room is achieving ecologically targeted recycling. Even after “harvesting” for parts, that old tape deck stills requires dealing with electronic waste (and old lead bearing circuits.)

  3. It is a shame OP destroyed this instead of either repairing or selling it to someone who has use for one of these (or collects them). These things easily sell for $200+ today if they are in good condition, even not working.

    Servicing belts and capstans is not that difficult to do and the replacements for them are still available (e.g.: ). If that was the only problem with the device it is really a shape – the salvaged parts are not worth much, if anything.

    1. I don’t know how you bill your time but let’s say you have skilled hands and can do that work. What- $50/hr not including parts? And that’s cheap (cheap!!) skilled labor.
      So unless you can bang out a full repair in less than an afternoon you will be making zero dollars at best and lost time or flatly losing money on a $200 sale.
      Are YOU going to do that? I didn’t think so

      1. Hm. While I don’t think that this piece of vintage equipment here is especially outstanding,
        I generally tend towards repairing stuff without thinking about money or “lost lifetime.

        I’m rather pro repair, because I believe that people who’ve grown up valuing and respecting inanimate objects do unconsciously apply this same thinking pattern to plants, old and sick people or animals.

        In other words, the idea of not giving up on something, despite it being old or obsolete is something that makes us human
        It doesn’t matter whether it’s rational or not. It’s an ethical principle.

        In this context, I don’t mind spending or rather, investing some time and resources into repair worthless junk.

        On the positive side, this also serves as some sort of training.
        It’s the equivalent to do a workout, writing memoirs or playing a game of chess.

      2. “I don’t know how you bill your time but let’s say you have skilled hands and can do that work. What- $50/hr not including parts?”

        If you apply that mode of thought to your hobbies, the only conclusion is that you don’t have hobbies because they will only cost you money. As far as that goes, by your logic it costs you money to comment on the Hackaday news – better stop that, you’ll go broke soon.

        Nobody is paying you for the time that you might spend on your hobbies. It isn’t like you could have earned $50 an hour in your free time if you hadn’t been working on this tape player.

          1. My bad. Or our bad, rather, maybe. I can’t speak for Joseph Eoff, but I guess some of us are just slightly tired of certain people valuing everything in money. It’s maybe a stereotype, but it seems that especially people from NA do often think that way. My job, my house, my money.. Even marriage is money-oriented or so it seems. Sigh. I think I understand were this is coming from, but to me as an European (the reason, I guess?) this ongoing over-capitalistic mindset is both confusing and annoying. Also because it’s everywhere, like spam in an in-box. Anyway, this isn’t the right place for such discussions. I just tried to explain the situation, because few do. Hope you people reading this don’t mind. It’s not the fault of those people that they got raised that way.

    2. Yeah I don’t like it either, but I get it. I try to re-home things to interested local people. I can’t always find those people so I occasionally have to scrap things. Not interested in dealing with scammers on eBay and such.

      For instance, I’m about to put the hammer down on a stack of SCSI HDs, because I somehow managed to get rid of my last piece of hardware that could wipe the drives. Tried to find someone local who could loan me the equipment and in return own the cleaned stack of drives. Thought I had found a guy, but that fell through. Too many months of trying have gone by. I’ve used up all of the mental energy I had for the preservation of that particular pile of not-super-rare hardware.

      I’ll get some nifty magnets out of the deal anyway. I’ll never use them either, but they take up a lot less space than a stack of drives. :-)

      Reluctantly, sometimes space considerations, mental health, and general household harmony preservation inform me that it’s time to wish some things into the cornfield.

    3. Yeah, I put towards the bottom of the writeup I really regretted tearing this down. I was young, foolish and running out of space in my dorm room. A crop of one of the teardown images serves as the banner image on my website to remind me to never do this again :/

  4. We recently purchased a well preserved Wega ks 3341 from the 70s. Of course there was a lot to fix and clean, but it works and sounds really well.

    Fortunately it has a label attached underneath showing the assembly groups and where to unscrew to gain access to them. Apart from the dolby chip all electronic components are still optainable.

    Eat this, modern throw-away gadgets!

  5. Am I the only one who spent way too much time trying to figure out where the tape goes? My first thought was behind the VU meters because the buttons and tape mechanism are _usually_ colocated, but I couldn’t find any photo to back it up. Then I zoomed in the picture in the article and noticed the tape heads on the right. Yup. My experience with tape decks is limited but such complicated solution is a tell-tale of high end deck ;)

  6. This violates a theory I have about stuff. It actually started with taking apart hard drives and extended into lawn mowers, and I started seeing it in dang near everything I get.

    Near the end of the presentation, he goes on about how space is at a premium. I have found, and those of you who take stuff apart, ponder this, that the most efficient use of space is to leave something intact until I need a part from it. A single 3.5″ drive is pretty compact, but it turns into s shoebox full of parts. Which is smaller?

    It your collection gets so big some stuff gets rougher storage, I have inside storage in the house, that is temp controlled. I have various sheds that are water tight, I have the big HF tent garage full of stuff, sort of out of the weather, and I have piles of stuff with tarps over them, and stuff that is just facing the elements.

    So to some extent if something that is in one of the lower positions has some interesting part that may be damaged, that may come off and go into nicer storage, but over all, the most compact storage for most things in as intact as possible.

    One thing I also try to do, but I am funny about is put stuff that would naturally be exposed to the elements, outside. But I have outdoor rated doors in dry storage, I have a pole pig in dry storage. Some things you just want to keep “nice” even though they could in theory just be left out with no cover.

    1. I’m glad there are people on That Auction Site (TAS) who keep old stuff and sell parts to those who need them.
      I have bought a shelf and supports for an old refrigerator, as well as a blower wheel for a ~40 year old shop vacuum.
      What otherwise would have ended up in a landfill now has a extended use.
      I recently repaired an old printer with a part from Craigslist free.

    2. Leaving the things together for space reasons is my tip, too. Plus, you can learn from the surroundings or even reuse some of the mounting material when using a part.
      Sadly I am surrounded by “nice” people who throw (parts of) my things in the trash because I will never need them; I lost a lot more things this way than things actually get broken. So I really quickly adopted the bad habit of tearing everything apart and storing the interesting or rare parts in as many places as possible in piles on top of each other, so a cleanup spree would hopefully end before reaching them … it did not really help, though, because the “nice” people have a great sense for picking out and trashing the important parts while leaving the (from that moment on mostly unusable) rest untouched. Cherry on top: they then complain about me not using the junk.

    1. I’m not sure where your university is located, but I have gotten some cool stuff from college auctions (how about a rodent respirator for a dollar? B^) )
      You may have to contact their Physical Services department to find out if/when they have them.

      1. I know where my local university’s excess property liquidation facility is located. It’s dangerously close to my office. So far, I’ve managed to keep my car from turning into the parking lot when I pass it on my way home.

        Is there a lot of call for the respiration of rodents in your world?

  7. Hey there! This one caught me off guard but I’m glad you guys liked the teardown! I added a link of additional photos to the bottom of the writeup. Yeah, It’s still one of those that got away if you know what I mean. I really wish I kept this untouched. It killed me to see this chucked out in the bins, but what I did was not that much better. I literally gutted my backpack, shoved it in, put my textbooks below my feet and scootered back to my dorm. It would have looked most excellent besides a future wall of synths :D

  8. In scandinavia i think these were mostly used at schools, for education stuff, seldom for music. Probably thanks to their physical durability. Never saw one outside a school. I think they are really cool looking. When you pressed eject, often the cassette flew out with gusto, landing on the table or floor.

  9. Unicron,
    I’ve recently been rereading Iain M. Banks culture novels and pondering on what “post scarcity” would look like. Would I be able to obtain a brand new Nakamichi Dragon for example? Our progress to date consists of what manufacturers want to sell us, rather that what we wish to buy.

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