Dead Tape Deck?

I’ve been getting obsessed with tape cassette players recently and for the last few evenings I’ve been tinkering with a vintage ROTEL RD-500 tape cassette player/recorder that I picked up for beer money. I was delighted to fix a play back issue where the player kept stopping abruptly for no apparent reason by replacing the belts with some generic ones I found on the interweb.

Disappointingly though and most probably thanks to my amateur fiddling I appear to have completely lost the left channel. The VU meter kicks on the left channel when I power it up, but that’s it! After a bit of digging I can only assume I’ve somehow broken the rec/play switch on the circuit board which is activated by a gorgeous string and pulley system and seems to be the no.1 most likely culprit for the loss of any audio on the left channel according to my research – no left line in, no left mic in, no left playback and no left record. Spray generously with contact cleaner they all say and repeatedly engage and dis-engage record until it works… but it doesn’t work and I can’t seem to find any other information on how to test or fix the record/play switch.I have been able to prove the tape heads are good by swapping and soldering left and right wires, from the tape head and tracing to the rec/play switch – but alias still no left channel.

I’ve had so much fun opening up the player and learning how tape players work and I’m so grateful for all the expert advise from the many tape player enthusiasts around the world that help idiots like me on a daily basis, including offering free service and user manuals at sites like HI/FI Engine or helping people problem solve at the Tape-heads forum. Sometimes you just need to sit back and let somebody explain things carefully, the great thing about youtube is you can hand pick your teacher to suit your learning style. Two of my favourites are the cuddly and adorable guy at Vinyl TV and the no-nonsense bloke from Cassette Comeback – who both gave me great lessons in Tape Bias.

However, there was one site in particular I found called BACCYFLAP which really caught my eye and deserves a shout out – it was such a delight to find it as it really stood out from the horrendous step and repeat, old school forum style sites, where you have to dig and dig past blocks of repetitive quoted content with tiny text I can’t see to find the gold. So thank you BACCYFLAP for your refreshing, beautifully simple and bonkers site – I love the basic, yet so elegant layout and I wish I had found your page on cassette deck repair tips at the beginning of my journey – as it so clearly gives a great introduction to all of the basic issues that these old contraptions suffer from and how to fix them, rather than learning all those tips the hard way!

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Do you have any tips for testing or fixing a rec/play switch, other than spraying it with contact cleaning spray and giving it a good old w*nk?

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