Tandberg TD20A SE

As a regular visitor to Havens and Hardesty, an audiophile shop in Huntington Beach, CA, I had lusted after this deck for quite a while. On December 1, 1984, one of the sales guys noted that I was eying it again and said that they had decided not to carry reel-to-reel decks anymore and was I interested in this floor model. It was $1,200 but they would knock $200 off. How could I resist? As seen in the photo to the right, it replaced the Sony TC-600D that had previously occupied that spot in my system.

While I now know that this one one of finer pro-sumer machine ever made, I was primarily interested in the 10" reel capacity and how much tape I could put on one for recording the many hours of old time radio shows I was picking up each week. Not long after I brought it home I spliced two 3600' reels of tape together on to one 10" reel and that gave me 6 hours of recording in one direction. Each weekend I would record old time radio from KPCC, KCRW, and KCSN, easily filling up one side of the tape. During the week I would transfer just the shows to 7" reels on my Akai 202D-SS, building up the collection I have now.

I also used the deck for making mix tapes that I would play for 3 hours in one direction. This was handy for creating commercial-free music in the house.

At some point the deck started making some motor noise. I'd lubed it but the noise persisted so I took it to a shop in Torrance, CA and they replaced the motor and did some adjustments and it played fine after that.

Move ahead many years and the Tandberg had made the move to Montana but since I was no longer recording old time radio off-the-air and was busier than before with a new career and other activities, the machine ended up sitting idle for quite a while. As I started resurrecting decks from the past, the Tandberg finally went to my workbench for cleaning and lubrication. The tape that was on it, a TDK GX35, had begun to suffer from "sticky shed syndrome" and readily gummed up the tape path as I started to play it. I cleaned things up and tried a different tape and it played fine and sounded great.

About that time I bought a 10" reel of tape from an online auction because of what I saw on the label of the box which indicated it had come from NBC radio and was a 1966 recording of the "Monitor" show celebrating the 102nd anniversary of Chase and Sanborn, a longtime NBC sponsor. I noted the date and saw that I already had that program in my collection but making a new transfer from a high quality tape would be a great find. Luckily, after receiving the tape, it was as labeled and I used the Tandberg to digitize the program. I created a new page on my old time radio website, The OTR Annex with photos of the box, label, and reel, along with the recording itself in MP3 format.

After making that transfer I was using the deck to listen to a mix tape I made back in the 1980s and at some point I stopped the tape and when I attempted to restart it and it refused to play. All other functions work fine, rewind, fast forward, etc. but it will not go into play mode. I am afraid that the eprom that controls that function might be the problem and, unfortunately that part is no longer available. A blank eprom can be had and the program contained in the original is available, but it takes an eprom programming burner and the knowledge of how to put that all together to solve that problem. Or it could be a switch issue. For now, it sits again until I get the time to dive into it.

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Updated November 2020.