Special mono tape recorders for Micro owners of the early 1980s

So what were the KEY FEATURES of these machines that separated them out from the normal mono tape recorders ? I cannot really remember- but I have suddenly realized just how special they were! . So I will have a go.

1) Did they have an AZIMUTH ADJUSTMENT HOLE?

2) Were the heads very accessible and easy to clean?

3) Did they have a facility to reduce the "screeching" decibels down to a more acceptable level when a jack plug was put in?

4)Did they have a nice tape counter?

5) Did they have a nice big volume control wheel so that the "tape load" volume could be precisely controlled?

My WH Smith one broke pretty quickly so it is hardly surprising I have probably forgotten at least half of its most astounding features . And how did the "most excellent" + 2 tape recorder stand up against this incredible competition? It came later but could it possibly get away with not having all these wonderful facilities? How could it not?


  • edited August 2019
    1. Most of them did, I can't really recall seeing many without said hole. There will be exceptions obviously to prevent "tinkering about" , same as with 80's EFI (or rarely, electronic controlled carbs) on cars where they would fit blanking plugs to various adjustment screws. I have a vague recollection of seeing a player without the hole so you had to take the case lid off to adjust it, but I can't for the life of me recall what model it was. Likely some obscure branded shoebox type one.

    2. This depends, generally if you did not want to use a tape cleaner aka 'sandpaper!' then if the lid would come out easily then yes otherwise a case of care with cotton buds. :) I do recall most of them you could open the lid then gently (gently!) squeeze the vertical sides to release it past its stop and then lift the lid off. Much easier then.

    3. Only really the special 'data recorders' , usually had a small speaker and I think the output level of this was not linked to the volume control, or if it was said speaker amplification was low enough to not shatter nearby windows or ear-drums upon receiving the audio! :D , a couple of the models would have a 'monitor' switch so you could have the sound ouput on or off during load. This is relevant for something like a BBC MIcro/Electron and others which otherwise load in silence, unlike our Speccies.

    4. 50/50 on a counter. Although they all seemed to vary wildly I found, in that you could not use say "100 game x" and "180 game y" on another tape player as the counter would of read a bit differently. I never really took a great deal of notice of the counter to be honest with you on the models I had that did have such a thing fitted. It was not really that much bother even with a compilation tape to find out where you were, if you had an ordered listing.

    5. Again varied. The slider potentiometer seemed somehow to be a bit more hardy as it got older in that it did not wear out quite so quickly, despite it feeling looser ( ! ) it did not end up with like the rotary ones with crap bits. Switch cleaner would of probably helped I guess. Mind you they are not difficult usually to change if it comes down to it, assuming you can find one of the appropriate or nearest specifications. With a decent player and half decent tapes ( and a decent quality tape lead! don't use a piece of wet string or doorbell wire! lol :D ) should not really be needing to play with the volume that much anyway.

    6. Not numbered but you mentioned +2. I had one of the very first grey +2's , the tape buttons Play and Stop snapped off actually just out of warranty. I opereated it with a half wooden clothes type peg after that for ages, was fine. It was not my abuse causing it as the later one I had as well as my well used +2A , that has not shown any signs of similar issues. Despite not seeing any spec change I do *think* that the very early tape keys the plastic on their 'head' area was too thin and something was done about it.

    Hope that helps, all just in my opinion obviously! :D
    Post edited by spider on
  • Reply to Spider.

    Thanks for your update on these aspects. With cleaning I meant with chamois or buds rather than sandpaper tape . You seem to know more about the tech specs than me . I was trying to work out what has been lost since . The newer tape recorders lost most of these "tape-gamer"features -so it made me realize we were indulged a bit at the time because of the size of the micro gamer market -but no longer as so few models are still made.

    Today it is just one BUSH or two standing out on the horizon . The refurbished one I received this morning ( the Bush KCS-317 ) is heavier than expected , has onboard power (unusual nowadays) and has USB (which is a special feature than was not around back then) . I will trying to work out if it deserves the slagging off it got by some online reviewers . It seems that Bush and maybe one or two unbranded Chinese manufacturers are the only ones still in this market.So some facilities are added and others taken away .

    Thanked by 1spider
  • edited August 2019
    This one says it is "computer compatible" . That must mean that some of the others ,to some extent , may not have been !https://ebay.co.uk/c/652579499

    Morphy Richards - now that is a name to remember . But was it compatible with ZX Spectrums?
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • Computer compatible = Marketing ploy.

    The only micro's that needed special recorders were the Commodore variety. All software on cassette is recorded in mono on type 1 ferric. No chrome tapes or Dolby. Any basic mono recorder is more than good enough as long as it has it has the right connections, eg 3.5mm jacks for ear and mic, and some used the REM jack like the Dragon to start and stop the recorder, some used the 5 pin din connector(line level output). This is what's it probably means by being computer compatible. It wont do anything fancy. I have a Hitachi recorder with all those connections and no mention of being computer compatible, but it may pre-date the hayday of micro computers. Older recorders pre-dating micro computers say from the 70's, it was very common for audio equipment to be connected together with 5 pin din leads so wont have 3.5mm ear or mic sockets. Some had a din connector for an external speaker. Phono connectors were usually found on Japanese equipment of the same era.
  • Yes, most likely.

    However, there were some tape recorders made by Sanyo which featured a switch to alter between "data mode" (intended for computer recordings) and "normal mode" (speech or maybe music).
    I have one of these and it seems to make a slight difference in "cleaning" the sound.


    I think Sanyo had some really cool models of computer tape players/recorders but for the MSX!
    Never had the chance to buy one and test it as they seem to be desirable and often achieve high bidding prices...
  • edited August 2019
    So on the list of "specially adapted" mono cassette tape recorders for micro enthusiasts and/or with computer style marketing we now have the following:-

    1) WH Smiths
    2) Computone and similar variants
    3) The Morphy Richards C440
    4) Sanyo ones like the DR101
    5) The Dixons TR30

    And from the other thread we have:-
    5) The Emerson /Ferguson
    6) The Kisho KC 2510

    The Sanyo one could be this one:-


    PS I was joking a bit about the compatibility with ZX Spectrums.
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited August 2019
    Some Philips models even allowed for speed/pitch control!


    I wonder if that could made programs load any faster somehow... 8-|

    Edit: it seems Philips kept the "chipset" of the recorder for some time and there was an updated model :

    Post edited by Renegade on
  • FWIW, this wasn't marketed as a computer deck, but I got an Amstrad model 6700 radio cassette recorder and used it reliably for years with my Oric, ZX81 and Spectrum. It survived azimuth adjustment (using the Shadow of the Unicorn cartridge and tape), had an iffy crackly worn out spot on the volume control where it mostly sat for loading stuff, and doubled as an alarm clock (the Star Wars main theme fanfare doesn't half wake you up of a morning).

    I can only find this one image of it, and the link that came from goes to another item now.


    It may not be hugely relevant, but seeing it again made me slightly nostalgic.
  • edited August 2019
    Reply to Antiriad 2097

    That is an interesting one . It has the "look and feel" of an "old style complex" recorder one that may nevertheless have been quickly redirected or marketed for the newly emergent micro computer gamer market .

    I suppose we have several categories. A possible way to go with this thread:-

    1) The "genuine" cheapo "added gizmo" mono recorder aimed at the enthusiast and sold "by the ton" by mainstream retailers and the newly emerging retail "sheds" like Comet . These were often "cheap and nasty" (but not always) . These are probably the core of this thread

    2) Then we have the "marketed as" computer friendly ones but with no substantive changes . They can be assessed on a "case by case" basis to see if they are indeed offering any specialist features that make them worthy of inclusion in this "computer specialist2 list.

    So if any recorder has "micro" related features or marketing , then it can be "bunged" in here !And if any have been included that should not have , then they can be taken out ! (Wow)
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited August 2019
    So no 3) in the initial list of "Special Features" is now properly renamed as "speed and pitch control" or is the volume control reduction a different feature ? Some reduced the volume when jack was added .

    Another another (non specialist but now specialist on these criteria) .Number 6) MONO JACK -not stereo!


    And there is the new no 7) DATA MODE:-

    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited August 2019
    The Bush KCS-317 (refurbished): A post "micro boom" specialist tape recorder.

    A quick look (so I can do the Ebay feedback) . In depth testing will have to wait till I have figured out which type of mini jack to use on it .

    This thread really relates to the specialist "micro boom" mono tape recorders . But sound has moved on with WAV and MP3 files so how will an older gerneration of "old stylers" cope with all that . Is is recorder really bad or just too advanced for its main user base in the UK (probably mostly tape "country" music enthusiasts) . Or it could be that this tape recorder is really bad (ie too advanced for me!). Or do the instructions maybe include a touch of "Chinglish" which make them harder to understand ? (this should not really happen with "British" brand, but you never know!)

    As mentioned above Retromad did a pretty good thread on the Bush CRS-132 which sadly is no longer (much) available . I got the successor model the KCS-317 . I bought it cheap on Ebay as refurbished for about £15.00 though the instructions refer to Argos . So it could be an "Argos reject". Maybe Argos had loads of these and passed them to an Ebay reseller (possibly).I am trying to work out whether it is as bad as some of the online reviews say . And I want to find out what sort of mono jack I should use.One possibility is that it was TOO COMPLEX for the users possibly could have rejected some of its "modern" features.The Features list . Some examples "2) Skip +/- or Turn +/ * Press to skip between tracks on USB /MP3 3) Play/Pause USB."


    9) (the fast forward button) "Skip +/-* Press to start rapid tape winding in either forward or reverse direction."
    Yes I really do wish I could skip the "Skip +/- " It appears the language has changed (and nobody sent me an email about it!) . It used to be called "fast forward" but I think I can cope.I think I have seen enough to do the Ebay feedback . The power lead turns the spindles OK . That will do for now!

    And of course I gave him great feedback . After all he probably used the same "multi-model" pics as Argos . (So it could have come "right from the "top" ( of retailing) - so not his fault at all really!)

    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • A bit of Background on Bush:-


    Recently I think Sainsburys bought Argos From the info on the above link it seems that the Home Retail Group owned both Bush and Argos . So this brand and the retailer were ,in effect ,before the Sainsbury's takeover, "sister" companies.
    The manual looks good but I could not find anything on the type of mini jack to be used . It just says ;" 16 .Earphone * 3.5mm earphone jack for connecting with the earphone" So no there is indication about whether a stereo or mono mini jack is to be used.

    But there is some humour. On page 20 it reads:-


    A little bit of slack in the tapes can cause scratches on the tape ,or worse yet , the tape could break" .

    My "best guess" is that , from this special and sophisticated form of English , these instructions were probably written in Hong Kong.
  • The manual looks good but I could not find anything on the type of mini jack to be used . It just says ;" 16 .Earphone * 3.5mm earphone jack for connecting with the earphone" So no there is indication about whether a stereo or mono mini jack is to be used.
    As it does not say stereo, it’s likely to be mono...


  • edited August 2019
    Hi Mark

    Yes that it what you would think . But as Retromad says in his thread on the previous Bush model the CRS-132 (the model that everyone raved about) this had a stereo jack


    So it appears that in this new model they dropped the stereo (if mono does indeed apply) As the 2 models were sold alongside each other and appeared to together for approx 2 years as the "same machine" (ie it was "pot luck" which one you got) this led me to double check this . But I think you are right . This one appears to be mono which should be better . The reason people do not appear to like this model have not yet been fully nailed down.
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on

  • One trade of to consider . A nice "soft close" lid like the Sony TCM 939 versus an "easy take out " style of lid which would give good access to heads for easy cleaning .Now that is a hard question ! What model of mono tape recorder had the most easily cleanable heads - easy access to heads for cleaning? ( you can't get a more intricate question than that !) Seriously though some of the heads are quite hard to see or get at for tape head cleaning.
  • That’s easy, the deck that has completely lost the cassette door / cover :))

    In reality, use of an inspection mirror (a small round mirror mounted on a small plastic and metal shaft) and an angled plastic head cleaning tool are your best bet. As a lot of the cassette door / covers are a pain to remove just to clean the heads.

    Manually cleaning disk drive heads or video recorder heads is far more awkward...

  • Hi Mark

    That explains why the rubber roller was so gunged up .People can only see the heads and give up on the roller. Those special mirros sound interesting . Are they "dental equipment"?
  • No, they are engineering tools. For example here’s one https://cpc.farnell.com/rolson-tools/59139/utility-set-pick-mirror-tweezer/dp/TL18839?st=inspection%20mirror (I just looked at one suppler, no doubt they are stocked by other suppliers).

  • Thanks Mark

    Something I have not got!
  • How to tell if the ear jack is mono or stereo, or dual mono to be precise. Just plug in a set of stereo headphones. If sound comes out just the right headphone, it's a mono socket. If it comes out of both, it's a stereo socket. I personally have never had trouble with consumer grade audio when it comes to head cleaning. But some of the high end hifi units I've owned that have sensors and won't do anything till a tape is inserted, are much more difficult. I have an old mechanical head cleaning cassette I would use for these. I think it's called an Allsop 3. This:-


    These are great for auto reverse decks that have 2 pinches and rollers. I can't get replacement pads no more, but the odd new old stock ones come up on eBay now and again.

  • That Allsop 3 cleaner is great, don’t ever get rid of that! I used to have one ages ago. 80s? 90s?
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  • The one I had back in the day would almost mute the loading sounds, but would amplify sound from the Spectrum when the tape wasn't playing so you could have the in game music turned up without bursting your ear drums when it came to loading something else. It also had a tape counter and a remote line suitable for computers like the Amstrad CPC.

    By contrast the built in +2 deck was frankly a bit crap.
  • Replies

    There must be an "official" title for the "almost mute tape loading sounds" feature . Was it called DATA MODE ? Reducing the "screech" was a useful benefit to get . And I think it is one of the specialist features of this type of recorder.I do not think the "speed pitch control" mentioned above is really useful for computer tapes so this maybe this is less i . So can this feature be excluded? (not sure).

    But "data" mode sounds a bit more like it . And maybe this feature is just called "data mode" though some manufacturers could have called it something else

    Actually missing cassette lids appears to be an issue . What is the best tape extraction method?

    1) A small screwdriver

    2) A pair of scissors

    3) A knitting needle

    4) A piece of cotton thread applie under each top corner

    There must be a right answer (very hard)

    Some great historic Allsop gear as well. A pity this kind of stuff is no longer made

    And I like the stereo headphones idea is "just the ticket" for detecting whether mono or stereo.mini jack plugs are needed .(Could prevent shorts etc)
  • Ehh? Most cassette decks switch off their internal loud speaker when you plug a jack plug into the ear socket.

    If using the line output (say with an Electron or a BBC Micro), then it should be okay to turn the volume down (as the line output level is supposed to be independent of the volume control).

    Or are you talking about something else and I’ve missed something.

  • There was one at least that had a switch for either disabling motor control and/or allowing the speaker to function at low volume with a jack plugged in, I think my memory is playing tricks and the former is true and the latter is not. 90% on that anyway.

    Regarding head cleaners, well I think I found something ;) :-O :D

    jTlN7UL.gif :))
  • They look more like nostril cleaners =))
  • edited August 2019
    1024MAK wrote: »
    They look more like nostril cleaners =))
    You know I did originally have a pic of a cordless mini belt sander to post instead but decided against it! :D
    spider wrote: »
    There was one at least that had a switch for either disabling motor control and/or allowing the speaker to function at low volume with a jack plugged in, I think my memory is playing tricks and the former is true and the latter is not. 90% on that anyway.
    I did some digging, well kind of. Slightly boring bit of a post here now, might interest some :)

    Regarding the TR30 , the Acorn ANF03 is almost the same. The following changes (except case colour) are noted:

    1. There's no microphone fitted. A badge sits on top
    2. The I/O 3.5mm and 2.5mm sockets are awol and replaced with a 7pin DIN socket to match an Electron/BBC etc. There is a 3.5mm ear socket still though provided
    3. The fonts used on the cases are a bit different
    4. Not confirmed but I think the VU meter colouring is different between them
    5. Again not confirmed*** I think some of the tape circuitry in particular the amp section is slightly different. It may be AGC or something I'm not sure

    90% sure the actual tape mech in use is identical I've not bothered to research this in detail. Its actually not that easy to find a service (service not "owner's guide") manual for the TR30.

    *** = I'm basing this on the fact I had one of these in the early 90's but it was a GreenWeld (iirc) clearance item quite likely a line reject perhaps or something, I do recall it never quite worked properly but more details on this are lost to the mists of time.

    EDIT... Extra bit: Purposely excluded the 'cut down' Electron ALF03 (see, ALF **not** ANF) unit, but in brief this one looks vaguely like the CBM tape player deck in physical size, it has no mic or speaker fitted but it does have a slide switch to enable / disable motor control via the DIN. DIN I/O is all you get. There is a tape counter though!

    What appears to be an 'ear' socket is actually the power supply socket. I did have one of these too on loan for a while but could not get it to work with the Speccy for some reason. As it was not mine I was not able to investigate in detail.

    Back to the main items:

    Regarding the TR30 / ANF03 There's some kind of Alba clone (maybe?) of this model is R-170 , I call it a clone simply as it looks a bit too similar rather than just being "the same shape" , I'm probably wrong however I noted the following immediate main differences:

    Its off-white!

    The tape counter is on the right hand side of the deck not above it. A comment I made in a previous post about that I won't repeat ;)

    There's no VU meter fitted at all

    The mic is on the left side under the tape mech not to the far right. If there is a mic fitted or not I'm not quite sure

    The 'buttons' are quite different

    I/O consists of a 5 (not 7) pin DIN along with a pair of 3.5mm sockets for ear/mic and a 2.5mm for motor control. If said DIN does control the tape motor or not (there's enough wires lets be honest!) I'm not sure on that

    No more research on this model as of yet, no free time. A bit like the TR30 the manual is not terribly easy to locate but I've not really yet done more than a very cursory search for it.
    Post edited by spider on
  • Reply to Spider

    Does this mean a Speccy owner can use an Acorn ANF03? (Well I have never heard of that!)

    You seem to be saying these two are pretty much the same. So what extent are they "special" (ie adapted specially for micro users)? Are they robust ? Are many example still around ?
  • Reply to Mark

    Yes of course you are right but I think I found one where the volume was merely reduced to an acceptable level when the jack was inserted . I would need to check this again ( I don't want to be found out talking ******ks again!)

    So the question is : Is DATA MODE (applied generically if poss) sound control or a tweaking of the signal or both?
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