(My particular deck pre-dates the idler gear and I'm fairly sure incorporates the improved biasing circuitry.)
I picked up my CR-7 in almost DOA shape from eBay with the hope I could fix it (I am an electronics hobbyist) and that with its particular odd issue the heads might have low hours on them. It paid off in spades. I am reviewing this deck for one reason - I want to let it be known what this model of deck CAN do when at its best, unhindered by lesser tapes, unhindered by poor sources.
Feature wise I had reserves about picking up this deck due to auto calibration. This, to my surprise, is something this deck nails. Not only do I get top notch strong, clean, and even response from this deck, I also get consistency from calibration to calibration, tape to tape. The deck has never failed to calibrate and calibrate well unless there's user error (eg, manually setting the tape type wrong, performing calibration on top of the clear leader, etc.) or a horrendous tape (eg, previously mangled by another deck).
After initially receiving the desk and performing repair, calibrating the azimuth mechanism, and doing head alignment I popped in a Sony mid-1980s UCS-X chrome and started doing measurements. Measurements were done using my PC with the deck at 0 db levels (where cassette decks have major roll off issues). Without Dolby this deck was an impressive -2 db @ 20 KHz. With Dolby C engaged, this deck measured up an astounding +/- 0.5 db to 25 KHz (still at @ 0 db levels). While I believe this is atypical for even this deck, it does show what this deck can do with stock parts. Happy with the measurements I narrowed down what tapes this deck sonically shines with and I use only these tapes.
Sound quality wise this deck is so good at recording the source that I only seem to lose noticeable highs when I use a top-end vinyl rig source (eg 30+ KHz capable). Even then, if you've never heard top-end vinyl you'd think the cassette's HF was infinite. CD is a joke for this deck. Some reviewers disagree, however it has become obvious that if the deck is in proper working order and you don't handicap the deck with your tape choice it is just not possible for CD to keep up. CD hits a wall at 22k no matter how good the player, this Nak clearly does not. W&F might be technically better on CD, but the W&F on the Nak is so good you can't hear the difference (eg, top end xylophone is perfect, harpsichord is perfect, instrumentation is completely distinct without interplay, etc). Noise floor with Dolby C is worse than CD, but even the worst offending tapes have their noise burried down to almost inaudible at normal listening levels. Obviously noise floor without Dolby is pretty poor on some cassettes.
Dolby tracking is dead on. Normally I can't stand it. On this deck, and only with the best of the best tapes, Dolby does what it was designed to do - remove noise without degrading the sound. On just a good tape, I can hear Dolby's loss of detail that comes from trying to cram full bandwidth audio into a narrow band of the tape's range. So for me, most of my tapes are sans Dolby, with my most cherished content on my best tapes and with Dolby C engaged.
Heads - these are amazing on this deck. While I don't recommend it, with the right tape and Dolby C this deck can run transients that tap +10 db and make a tape with little to no obvious clipping. Conversely, many tapes struggle in the +3 to +6 db range. I mention this to reiterate that I am reviewing the deck, not tapes.
In the end, cassette clearly has its limits. However, Nak has pushed this format as far as it can go with this deck. The end result is so much info crammed onto a cassette that you almost have to have a Nak to get it all back off and sonics that are hardly anything but high-end.
The Nakamichi CR-7A is a marvel of audio engineering with superior sonic qualities. This cassette deck is very simple to use with its auto-azimuth fine tuning, auto-calibration of any tape formulation, easy to read, accurate flourescent meters, real-time tape counter, and excelent build quality. The sound you get from this machine is superior to the CD format, yes I said it, superior to CD in terms of depth of soundstage, inner detail, overall smoothness, ambience, and the ability to bring out every nuance of music on a recording. Add to that the wireless remote, which allows you to control the azimuth of the tape head from your armchair, and easy tape setup. Just insert a tape, press "auto cal," and after a few seconds, the ready light will tell you it's time to enjoy some good music. Some people say that the CR-7A sounds superior to the Dragon, and others say the opposite, but I think each deck has its own distinctive sound. I have owned the Dragon also, and I can tell you that the Dragon excels in the top-end of the frequency spectrum with its 20-22 kHZ response, whereas the CR-7A (20-21kHZ) excels more in a fuller, rounder bottom-end. Also, as I read in one article and experienced first-hand for myself, the Dragon's high-end frequency response sounds a bit softer and more delicate than the CR-7A's. Personally, I think it really comes down to which sound your ear prefers. I think there is a saying that goes, "doctors prefer CR-7A's, and lawyers prefer the Dragons." Whichever you choose, you obviously cannot go wrong because both machines will not dissapoint, and will leave a big smile on your face every time you turn them on. The bottom line here folks is, neither one stands head and shoulders above the other, instead, both decks are superb pieces of equipment with their own distinct merits that will not only give you pride of ownership, but tremendous musical enjoyment for many years to come. Enough said.
Well, my foray into the world of REAL tape decks has ended with my purchase of the Nakamichi CR-7A. I have bought the last tape deck I'll ever need!! I just got this CR-7A on eBay, super MINT(no blemishes, he claimed less than 50 hours use, I have no reason not to believe it) from the original owner with two complaints, broken rca connector when I set it up, but that's due to age. The second is a flickering fluorescent display, that the original owner noticed as well. Okay, now that those have been discussed, let's talk about the recording and playback! By far one of the easiest decks I've ever used!! The Playback Azimuth adjustment is to die for! Now all my old pre-recordeds and those off my old Sony TC-K615S 3 head are all usable in the same deck! The TC-K615S was a good TAPEDECK, this CR-7A defies all logic that there's a cassette in there! So rock solid with wow and flutter less than ants can hear, let alone a human. I have put 25 hours plus on it this last week, and I can't get enough. I am usually put off by Auto anything(daytime running lights, seat belts, etc.). I recorded using Auto calibration of azimuth, level, and bias. One button. It's idiot proof. Worth every penny, and I paid for it, no regrets. Now to get more MA-XG and Metal Master blanks!
As far as I'm concerned the CR-7A is 2nd only to the Dragon of Nakamichi "modern" decks, and top 10 - 15 of all time.
Hey guys! Just picked this up at a thrift store for $7.00 and it works great, looks great. I've got a DR-2 but the CR7A kicks its butt. I'm transfering all my rare vinyl over to cassette right now as it is a whole lot easier to store than reel to reels. I just obsoleted my Akai GX-747. If you are contemplating spending the ducats on one of these decks, it is everything the previous reviewers said and more. I'm so stoked. Check Ebay for a used Akai GX-747 and a Nak DR-2.
I recently bought this Nakamichi deck at an Ebay auction. Not only is the deck in very mint condition, it is a revelation in cassette recording. While my Yamaha deck makes great recordings with 20-20kHz frequency response, it requires metal alloy tapes, which are no longer available (both Maxell and TDK have stopped making these tapes), Nakamichi CR-7A can achieve the same FR with any tape formulations. I taped a number of CD's ranging from J.S. Bach, Handel's Messiah, Mary Chapin Carpenter to Fleetwood Mac with some normal TDK tapes, the recordings are simply fabulous. This deck is built like a tank and the controls are well placed and extremely sure-footed. I thoroughly enjoy using this deck. While I am hoping to buy my first CD recorder over the next few months, I will continue to enjoy this deck. After all, a recordable CD can hold no more than 80 minutes of music while a good quality cassette tape can hold 90 minutes. Direct access to a specific track is rarely important to me since I am mainly into classical music and I already have three high end CD players that allow direct access. While I am not an audio purist and certainly not an analog nut, I strongly feel every high quality sound system should have some good analog sources. I hope this Nakamichi CR-7A and my Revox A700 will give me many years of enjoyment. To summarize, this deck is absolutely first rate and one of the best decks Nakamichi has ever built.