Marantz SD-60 Cassette Deck

Since the Marantz company became part of the Philips empire, we have seen a number of Marantz products, notably CD players, labelled as manufactured in one of the Philips European factories. How ever, the company has retained a good measure of autonomy and ha s been free to incorporate sonic enhancing features designed to suit the UK audiophile market and (presumably) others. At the same time, many Marantz units continue to be made in Japan and this cassette deck is one of them.

The SD-60 comes at the top of the current range of Marantz cassette decks and it has a robust transport mechanism and several high-performance features as we might expect at £349. A single diecast chassis keeps the transport topology rigidly fixed and there is a high inertia flywheel to minimize wow and flutter. The closed-loop dual capstan drive technique is employed, with the rear capstan lagging s lightly to preserve constant back-tension and steady tape/head contact, whilst isolating this part of the tape from external vibrations. An additional damping pad supports the cassette shell to provide mechanical stability. The wear-resistant, hard permalloy heads are contoured for best bass response and the separate record and playback heads have appropriate head gaps for each function, as well as providing off-tape monitoring. Special attention has been given to the electronics, with separate power transformer secondary windings (or the audio and transport/logic control circuits.

Dolby Band C noise reduction circuits are provided, duplicated for record and replay (monitor), and also the Dolby HX-Pro system which increases high-frequency headroom during recording. Dolby B is necessary 10 match the majority of commercial prerecorded cassettes and Dolby C offers even more tape hiss suppression but needs very precise alignment of source and off-tape levels. There is a Calibration control which enables the user to equalize input and output levels by trimming the effective record level setting to suit the given tape's sensitivity. A further Bias control can trim the bias current to match individual tape characteristics, the user making adjustments until the source and off-tape high-frequency responses seem about equal.

The twin bargraph recording level meters are quick-acting, with a useful brief hold of the highest dot illuminated. This is supplemented during recording by an alphanumerical display of the peak level reached from 0 to + 12dB. Subsequently the maximum peak level or the last recording can be recalled by pressing a Memory Call button. The tape position indicator shows time in minutes and seconds calculated by a microprocessor linked to the rotary speeds or the two tape spindles and works during high-speed winding as well as during play and record. Other operational facilities include Automatic Music Scan, which plays the first 10 seconds or each recorded item in turn; Quick Music Search button which can be pressed up to 15 times and causes the tape to wind on or back to the selected item and begin playing; Quick Rewind Stop, which rewinds to the first hair-second gap and stops; Autospace Record Mute, which automatically insert s a 4-second gap between recordings; Counter Memo, which stores the given tape location in memory and will fast-wind to that position on demand; headphones jack socket with volume control; provision for timer operation.

There is no remote-control unit but sockets are fitted for connecting to a suitable Marantz amplifier having this facility. Input /output signal sockets are gold-plated and there is a seven-language (!) instructions booklet.

How it performed

As the specification table shows, this is a bulky machine but at least this means the controls are properly spaced out and there are numerous displays to identify the current status and aid foolproof operation.

Listening to some or the latest good quality commercial cassettes produced very favourable impressions. Frequency coverage was wide, though naturally short of that on the best LPs and CDs, with treble pleasingly extended and transients reasonably crisp. Tape hiss was low enough to be discounted at any normal distance from the loudspeakers. Stereo spread was excellent and there was a good feeling or dynamics. With large numbers or consumers now purchasing their music on the cassette, there is probably a fair market for a moderately expensive machine like this SD-60 for its playback performance alone.

If I had to put my impressions into words, I would say that the ferric tape gave a rather thin quality with some loss in warmth: the chrome type produced a more open sound with treble scarcely changed in quality compared with the original: metal seemed a little too busy at the top end but was dynamically very impressive. The manual bias and reference level adjustments available should enable any user to optimize the machine for any tape brand that takes his fancy. Given these possible variables and the wide range of convenience features (the only serious facility missing is autoreverse which would put up the price considerably if done properly) the Marantz SD-60 can be confidently added to the list or recommendable recorders in the medium price register.

Marantz SD-60 Cassette Deck photo