Amidst all of the reports and industry comments telling us how the cassette is dead, Denon has introduced yet another stereo cassette tape deck to the market, the DN-780R. But what’s different about this deck? Where’s the need?
Product PointsApplications: Installation, studio, broadcast
Key Features: Dual autoreverse transports; synchronized recording; cascade recording; Dolby B & C and HX Pro; pitch control; independent and combined headphone monitoring; music search
Contact: Denon at 973-396-0810, Web Site.
+ Intuitive user interface
+ Good fidelity
+ Synchronized cascading options
+ Music search
+ Easy to read display
– Unbalanced microphone inputs
– Small level meters
The Score: An excellent value for the cassette user still requiring the manipulation and use of that medium.
A quick overview of the front panel reveals a dual-well, auto-reverse tape transport system with an HX Pro headroom extension system. Yes, a dubbing deck, but also much more. Each transport sports a veritable cornucopia of optional features and functions one would need for the most demanding cassette duplication process. Of course there are the standard transport controls; the master/slave control is used to set the deck for standalone operation or linking them (slave) with other DN-780Rs. Next, you can select between none or Dolby B or C noise reduction, and an input level control adjusts both channels’ input levels. There is a headphone level control and a headphone monitor select so you can choose Deck A, B or a mix of both.
A line input select allows you to choose Line A or B input. Microphone inputs are available and can be selected and adjusted with the main input level control, but they are 1/4-inch unbalanced inputs, so obviously this deck is not meant for a professional recording gig, but could work well for a meeting or dictation. There is a Reverse Mode button that allows you to choose One Side recording, Continuous (both sides) Relay (relay playback) and Cascade for continuous recording/playback on multiple units! Next to that is the Twin Recording button. Pressing this button will set both decks A and B to the recording pause mode. A pitch control varies the speed approximately 12 percent. A tape counter (relative not actual) along with a counter reset button. The illuminated display is easy on the eyes and very well laid out. I should point out that counter controls are available for both transports.
On the rear panel things are somewhat less congested. There are phono jacks for inputs and outputs for both decks A and B; a Deck A Output Select; either Deck A or a mix of Deck A and B. An external sync in and out (you connect these with a common dual phono to phono cable), a cascade in and out (connect these for cascading multiple decks) and an RC-in control jack for a wired remote. There is an RS232 control 9-pin D-sub connector and a parallel 25-pin D sub connector. Whew!
Well, thank goodness the manual is written in seven languages (and very informative), or I would be lost. But seriously, at least all of the instructions are sectioned by language and easy to follow. The deck is so intuitively laid out that I had no problem popping in a tape and getting a level. The input level controls are large and easy to manipulate, and the input select was well marked. Having a deck with two bidirectional, auto-reversing transports provides a lot of flexibility. Thanks to the direction indicators on the display, you always know what mode and tape path direction a transport is in. I know this may seem like a simple thing, but this deck offers quite a few recording, dubbing and cascading options, and depending on what you are doing, you will be referencing these displays. I made a recording from some CDs using pop music with female and male vocals as well as some jazz and classical genres.
The display LED level meters were very small due to display real estate, but were easy to read and facilitate a level.
Typical of today’s decks, it should be noted that in the monitoring mode (record button depressed but transport not engaged), you are not monitoring though a repro head but the input to the record head. You will need to know the formulation and headroom of the tape you are using and make a test over the loud portion to ensure you do not whack the tape with too much level. Especially with HX Pro, it seems that the more you increase the level to tape, the brighter the audio gets. The reproduction of the music was probably as good as the cassette medium can provide.
When using the Dolby B for the same selection, the brightness was diminished but some image depth was lost. I also noticed when trying to find certain cuts on the cassette that the music search function did not pick up the beginning of some tracks. This is due to the search function’s need for a four-second gap between cuts.
The Twin Record Mode worked well and looks like it would be especially useful when making multiple tape copies and cascading multiple units. Keep in mind that you have to be sure you check the tape direction of both bidirectional transports before hitting the record function to ensure you are recording the tapes on the same side. The twin record button does not automatically adjust this for you.
The microphone inputs are for unbalanced high-impedance microphones. I only have balanced microphones and would have had to convert them through a transformer, so the test would not have been completely accurate. My recommendation is that in this day and age if you are going to put microphone inputs on any recording deck, they ought to be balanced, low-impedance capable. I was also unable to test the cascading function of the deck since I only had one unit to test. But the directions to facilitate this type of operation seemed straight-forward and simple. The combined output mode that allows you to monitor the record and playback of both transports with a single program input is very useful. There are also separate outputs available for each transport as well. The headphone output located on the front of the unit has its own level control and monitoring selector as well.
Denon has always been known for its product quality and feature sets. The DN-780R does not disappoint and offers a well-designed, robust feature set for recording using the cassette medium. The sound quality is good and the machine is well-built.
Yamaha 03D console; Crown PS200 amplifier; Fostex RM856 monitors; Fostex T-20 headphones.