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A praise of SONY late 90's walkman's

Discussion in 'Chat Area' started by enryfox, Oct 8, 2017.

  1. enryfox

    enryfox Active Member

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    Following Techmoan video on walkman’s I too have started re-considering walkman’s outside of the DD line. When I re-discovered my interest in cassettes and walkman’s some years ago I immediately turned my attention to DD walkman’s as they are and were considered the best walkman’s; in the end I managed to buy three DD’s, the first, (WM-DD), the last (WM-DD33) and one in the middle (WM-DDIII currently being serviced). The DC2 and the DD9 are too expensive for my pockets so they are excluded from my considerations.

    dds.jpg

    I like how the DD’s sound, but I think they have room for improvements: first and foremost they are a bit weak in high frequency, even after a mechanical revision, a proper clean-up and re-alignment they tend to sound soft. I do not think my units are faulty, even in techmoan video its DDII sounds softer than all other walkman’s; I think it’s their signature sound. In terms of details, the gap with my tapedeck is still quite noticeable, I think mostly due to the softer sound. Yet DD’s are still the most sought after walkman’s and here on the forums they surely take the lion share of discussions (surely thanks also to the huge work done by Marian to fix the broken gear).

    Lately I have acquired some SONY walkman’s from the late 90’s similar to those tested by Techmoan in its video: in terms of practical use they are unbeatable, being smaller, lighter, with full logic transport (adding useful features such as music search and blank-skip), powered by a small gumstick battery that lasts for hours or a single AA which lasts forever. Sound-wise I am pretty amazed too: frequency response is much wider in the high frequency region; the amplifier background hiss is also lower and even with a pure Chrome tape you can clearly hear when the leader ends and the tape starts. Megabass is definitely more effective as it adds a proper boost at the spectrum edges and it practically fills the gap between listening with an around-the-ear headphone and more discreet earbuds.

    non-DDs.jpg

    Another advantage is that despite being very small, the tape transport is quite reliable: a new belt is all that is required to bring them back to life and FFW/REW always works reliably (I do not have to cross my finger and hope for a correct gears alignment as in the DD’s). The big draw-back of those walkman’s is obviously the strength of the DD, its lower W&F. Even with brass flywheels, belt driven walkman’s have high W&F which can be clearly heard with the critical instruments (piano, harpsichord, chimes, …). But DD’s too have W&F to some degree: their spec is greater than a tape deck and given the age of the DD’s nowadays they are all mostly close to the max specified W&F; and it can be heard, at least in my units, I can hear a bit of W&F with the same critical instruments as above.

    In the end I think late 90’s walkman’s are not so well considered because they were born when cassettes were on decline and personal audio was moving to new technologies. But indeed I think they were the pinnacle of technological development: 20 years of design and evolution lead to simpler yet reliable transport, complex logic control, quieter (in terms of noise) amplifier and very low power consumption. Those walkman’s are also relatively cheap to buy, I paid mine 1/4 of what I paid for the DD’s (both boxed and in very good cosmetic conditions); the “bang for buck”, again, is really unbeatable.
     
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  2. walkman archive

    walkman archive Administrator Staff Member

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    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Enrico.
    I'm surprised about the lack of highs in your DDs. In my experience some very old DDsdo lack that, like DD and DDII, but the newer ones (DD30, 33 and specially DC2) do have excellent highs response.
    In fact, the DC2 does have, IMHO maybe too much treble and a thin bass (which can be compensated with a good external headphone amp). Can it be your headphones? Maybe their signature is plain of dark and your taste goes more towards a "V" sound.
    Or maybe the problem is in your recording, which has not proper treble or maybe azimuth deviation...
    I think you should get a good calibration tape to start figuring out the truth...
     
  3. walkman archive

    walkman archive Administrator Staff Member

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    BTW: Nice photos. I love the lighting.

    What is that "mercedes" logo in the EX652?
     
  4. enryfox

    enryfox Active Member

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    I think I tried everything I could to increase the HF response: I have a 10kHz test tape and I spent a couple of evenings last summer with an oscilloscope trying to find the best azimuth both in terms of amplitude and phase shift. I also checked with several pre-recorded tapes and that is the brightest I could set them. The DD33 do sound brighter than the DD or DDIII, but it is far from what the EX652 or EX672 can do. I do not have a DC2 so I cannot tell. I cannot rule out worn heads, but I had another DD33 prior to this one (in much worse cosmetic conditions) and it sounded quite the same. One thing I noticed is that with type II Dolby encoded tapes, the DD33 has better HF response than the EX6xx; that is somehow weird but I attribute it to earlier saturation in the EX heads compared to the DD head.

    The headphones I am using now are the Bose around the ear (I think the 2015 model) and they by them self tend to be brighter than, say, a pair of vintage AKG 141 monitor. My reference is always the original source as listened while recording the cassettes, I'm not a fan a equalisation, I like the sound to be as faithful to the original as possible.

    The guy I bought the EX652 from, told me he bought it in the late 90's from a Mercedes car dealer as a sort of branded special version. Actually beside the logo on the case there is no other mention of Mercedes anywhere, nor in the box or in the inserts.

    The lightning is diffused natural light, I was lucky enough to take the picture at the right time of the day (thanks :) )
     
  5. T-ster

    T-ster Moderator Staff Member S2G Supporter

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    I think this is a well thought out post, I haven't heard any of the DD's as i still haven't pulled the plug on one, they are quite pricey and/or need lots of work. However i do have all 3 of the 90's walkman shown above and they have been both cheap and very nice to use.

    I still look forward to getting a good DD sometime but these units do look good and are great to use.
     
  6. enryfox

    enryfox Active Member

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    After checking Marian guide on how to repair a DD I was surprised by the number of things that can actually break in. Even if in good condition a DD will always require a bit of restoration to get decent quality.

    Among the pictured three EX's, the 672, 652 and 506, my favourite is the 672. The 652 has brass flywheels and a complex tape transport with varying belt tension to optimise power consumption while the 672 has a more conventional transport with plastic flywheels; but soundwise the 672 is richer with good bass and excellent treble. The 506 has the same tape transport of the 672, but the sound is thinner and more compressed. Beside that I never liked the "new" walkman logo and I still prefer the original one dating from the early 1980's. What is common to all three EX is how super-easy is to replace the belt: just some screws and the belt is readily available to be replaced with no need to desolder anything; a nice touch from Sony which helps the longevity of those units.
     
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  7. bub

    bub Member

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    I like to recommend late 90s logic Sony machines due to their general reliability as well!

    The DD33 should sound waaaaay better than any of the other 90s Sony Walkmans. In fact they should sound uncannily like a full sized deck. How is the pinch roller and hinge condition?
    There's a chance that your tape is skewing or height not set correctly.
     
  8. enryfox

    enryfox Active Member

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    The DD33 has been serviced by Marian and, according to him, it is perfectly fine (PB levels are perfect for Dolby decoding); I adjusted the tape guides a couple of years ago with a replica of the Terminals M-300 gauge borrowed from a friend of mine. The pinch roller is still in perfect shape and the azimuth has been adjusted this last august with a test tape and an oscilloscope. I'm not saying the DD33 sounds dull, among the DD's I have it is surely the brightest and it has perfectly decent treble response. But the EX6xx walkman's do have a flatter frequency response and are brighter than the DD's.

    TOTL walkman's from the late 90's were not cheap and I think Sony still devoted some research on how to improve playback; the DD's have been designed in the mid 80's and improved only up to 1991, 7~8 years more of development in technology and miniaturisation surely brought something to the EX units at lest in the design of the playback head.
     
  9. bub

    bub Member

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    I've found that some models of Walkmans tend to sound duller at lower volume settings than others, and that newer models have more linear volume controls somehow. For example, my DC2 sounds best above volume 4 and my 33 above volume 5.
    Just out of curiosity, what headphones and volume settings did you use on your DD?
     
  10. enryfox

    enryfox Active Member

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    That might be a good point: my headphone is designed for modern low power devices such as smart-phone and the typical volume level I use on the DD's is between 3 and 4; actually when volume is set to 7~8 the power amplifier of the DD33 is already reaching its maximum output voltage and starts clipping (as noted by Marian in a previous post, in the DD walkman's the maximum output voltage power is lower than the +/- 1.5V which could expected from a unit powered by two batteries) so there is a limited window above volume 5 which can actually be used without any distortion.
     
  11. bub

    bub Member

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    Yep there's a small window... the D6C seems to clip at a high volume as well (near its higher range). On the flipside, I have to crank the volume up on most slim logic walkmans, but they seem to do fine throughout most of their volume range (except the Panasonic RQ-SX series I own, definitely not linear at all in a strange way??? You can put the volume down super low and the bass level doesn't go down linearly???)
     

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