Realistic TR-801

I am pretty sure that I bought this player because I wanted the collection of tapes that came with it, not so much the player itself. This was in August of 2018 I paid about $20, plus shipping, for everything. I forget which tapes were included but this deck has turned out to be a real workhorse and sounds great.

Upon receiving it I did have to go through it and deal with the usual issues of cleaning, Deoxiting, lubing, and replacing the belt. The indicator light for Program 4 is out and replacing it is problematic based on where it is mounted. The counter does not work and it turns out that it's a cracked gear in the system. I did notice that it seemed to be playing back too fast so I decided I needed to adjust the motor speed.

It turns out that the speed control is by a centrifugal governor on the end of the motor shaft. I desoldered the motor and then removed it from the chassis. It is encased in a metal jacket and I was able to remove one half. Inside there is the motor casing which has a removable top. A video I watched said that one of the two screws would never come out. I had that problem so I drilled the head off it and the casing opened just fine.

Once inside I found out why one of the screws won't come out. It's a left hand thread!!! WTF? OK, no biggie as the case can be taped back together as it was originally anyway.

So, now I see the governor. It has some wiper contacts on the main shaft and spinning one on top. The 3rd set of contacts is the one that spins and is thrown out by a weight and contacts the adjustment screw. I used Deoxit on a q-tip to clean the main shaft and some Deoxit on paper to clean the others.

I reinstalled the motor with the top off, as shown in the photo to the right, and decided to give the adjustment screw a try. First I reconnected the belt and inserted a tape, the Doobie Brothers, and sure enough it played fast just like before. I figured that the governor works like the old vibrating voltage regulator that my 1959 Volvo still has and that the tighter the setting, or narrower the gap, the higher the voltage. Since this is running fast I assumed that it was getting too much voltage so I gave it a full turn out to increase the gap. I inserted the tape again and it's now playing too slow. I turned it in a half turn and now it sounds really close.

I didn't have a calibration tape of any kind, or any equipment that would utilize it, so I though I'd time one of the songs and compare it to the published time for it and go from there. But that wasn't good enough for me. I wanted to calibrate the motor speed and took a DIY Rube Goldberg approach that I think worked just fine.

I used a blank 8-track tape and bulk erased it. I opened it and wound the tape onto an empty 7" reel using an Akai GX-280D reel to reel that plays and records just fine. (I've been transferring lots of prerecorded analog tapes to digital with it and the timings are accurate.) I generated a 440 tone using Audacity and recorded that onto the blank tape that I'd removed from the 8-track shell. I then rewound the tape onto the 8-track hub, respliced it with foil, and closed up the the cartridge.

I hooked the TR-801 deck up to an amplifier and played the tape with the 440 tone. I used a guitar tuning app on my phone that reads out both the note and the frequency. I adjusted the screw on the governor a few times until the tuner app indicated 440. That's it. I buttoned her up and enjoy hearing tapes at the proper speed. Oh, and I cleaned the graphite from the Akai GX-280D.

Since this unit is also a recorder, I have used it for that and the tapes sound very good. I've been going through all my 8-track tapes, replacing slices and foam/pads, and then testing the tape by playing throuhgh all 4 programs. As long as I am doing that I digitize the tape to my computer so I have a backup copy. This player just keeps running and running.

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Updated December 2020.