It Lives! Sony TC650


Well-known member
A few years ago, my brother was clearing out old stuff and asked if I wanted his old Sony RTR. Of course, I took it off his hand to keep it out of the landfill. It languished in my basement for about 3 years.

After the discussion in another thread about "analog emulation" plugins, I decided to pull the thing out and give a quick check to see what type of shape it was in. My old Dokodor has fallen into disrepair with belts melting, etc. Thankfully this thing, besides being quite hefty (45 lbs), was in pretty good shape. A couple of button caps have been knocked off their switches, but the buttons are still functional. A cursory check of the caps didn't show any bubbling up. The belts were nice and pliable. The reel and capstans turn freely.

TC650 Belts OK.jpg TC650 Caps.jpg

I pulled out the only reel of tape that I have left, a reel of TDK Audua with two Illinois Speed Press albums on it, threaded it on the machine and hit play. Of course, the tape is 40 years old, so the leader tape immediately pulled away from the audio tape. Luckily, I have a small spool of splicing tape that is still good, so I put things back together (on a glass plate.. don't know where my slicing block is) and hit play again.

Presto, it works.
TC650 Tape Rolling.jpg

I guess the next step will be to try to get an alignment tape, or least a copy of a tape from a machine that was properly aligned and check that. Then, maybe I'll do some digital / tape comparisons of my own. At $50 a reel for 1/4" tape, I don't think I'll be using it for a lot. I might see what the local tape machine repair place has in stock. Or maybe my brother has some reels of tape he doesn't need.
Nice! I grew up around my parents’ TC-630…lots of fun times with my brother using that thing. I have it. It’s in the attic. Someday I’d like to get it going. I’m confident it needs completely gone through…rubber idlers, tires and belts I’m sure need replaced, moving assemblies cleaned and lubricated, etc. But unlike a contemporary SMD device built to be thrown away, I’m sure the old Sony can be brought back to operation…have a box of tapes somewhere…
HP, You're spot on! I got some good news last night when I told my brother that I had it running. He looked in the basement and has a dozen reels of Sony tape, some unused. There are also a few Maxell tapes and some Radio Shack tapes. So I'll have about 18 tapes to play with, along with a prerecorded copy of Black Sabbath IV!

Sweetbeats, I had to get a few drops of light oil onto the pinch roller bearing and the capstan motor. I need to check the flutter roller to make sure it's turning smoothly. I pulled the service manual down off of HiFiEngine to see if there are any other points that I need to check.

The reason I originally jumped on this is because I have a box full of old tapes from my dad. He and my uncle both had mono Wilcox-Gay tape decks. These are mostly Scotch tapes from the late 50s/early 60s. Two were labeled as John F Kennedy Funeral. The others probably have my brother and me doing ABCs or some other important dialogue. We shall see.

But, it's something to play with, when the cold winds blow this winter!
Continuing the story,

It seems that my dad had some prerecorded tapes in the box. Perry Como - So Smooth, The Three Suns Hi Fi and Wide, Jaye P Morgan with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra and Freddy Martin and his Orchestra - Shall We Dance. These are Vintage 1956 RCA "New Orthophonic" High Fidelity Tape Recordings (says so right there on the box). They are all half track mono tapes, so I just need to feed one channel to the interface.

These things were expensive! $7 for the Freddy Martin and Jaye P Morgans, $9 for the Perry Como and $11 for the Three Suns. Using the inflation calculator, that works out to around $100 per tape in 2022 money!

So I started the transfer of the Perry Como. The first obvious problem is that Perry is singing pretty low. So I dubbed the first song down, pulled up a copy from Youtube and did a pitch comparison. Turns out that the deck is running about 10% slow. Bumping the rate slider up to 1.1 brought it to pitch and the song length was 1:42. The listing for the track is 1:44, so pretty close.

Looks like I'll have to dive deeper into things to see what's going on. The other issue is that the takeup reel brake is weak. Looking at the service manual there are adjustments that can be made there. The drive motor and pinch roller have been lubricated with light oil. I don't see a way to lubricate the capstan bearing itself in the manual. Need to investigate.

If anyone wants to hear a 1956 tape dub of It's a Good Day by Perry Como, let me know. It's certainly not the warm, full frequency response one might think.
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Nice! I have a TC-560 that belonged to my grandparents. It's one with the dual voltage - 12VDC or 117VAC. Uses a special 4-pin power cord, and if you plug in to the wrong set of pins, you're feeding 120 into the side that wants 12V. No problem if you have the proper power cord, and of course, when it was pulled out of their house, nobody grabbed the power cord. It took a while, but I found one. Also found a car adaptor.

Growing up, my Grandpa didn't have a turntable. All of the music he played was on reel to reel.
And of course, everyone in the house smoked, so it took some patience and lubrication, but it runs great now.
Another update:

My brother dropped off a box of tapes that he had. Some of these were albums he recorded from my collection. We used to dub each other's albums back then. Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Starcastle, White Witch, Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Roaring Silence were the first ones I checked.

Here's the kicker, I pulled up the original albums and they are on pitch. Apparently this deck might have shipped out of spec for speed. I noticed on a 3.75" recording, it was maybe 3-5% off pitch, but that was recorded on a different tape deck so maybe that was a tolerance difference. So either the oil has finally worked it's way into the bearing and loosened things up, or the speed was off for 50 years! There's a receipt for a reel of tape that is dated 1973. I'll go back to some of the prerecorded tapes and see how they are now. He's also got a prerecorded Black Sabbath 4 reel, so I'll put that on after Sabbath Bloody Sabbath finishes. (It's been years since I listened to that one).

I've also got 5 factory sealed reels of Sony SLH180 Hi Output/Low Noise tape. This was what the machine was originally set up for, so that's cool.

Audio Tapes.jpg