Aiwa AD-WX110E Tape Recorder
Aiwa's new model is a hi-fi version of the dual cassette decks which seem to be becoming very popular nowadays. Very smartly finished and equipped with Dolby C noise reduction, its major feature is a double speed facility coupled with four-track heads which allow it to copy both sides of a tape simultaneously. Its maximum capability is therefore 'Quarter Time' copying, so that a C60 cassette can be copied in 15 minutes.
The finish is silver and black, with some vital controls in coloured plastic — 'Record' for instance is red, 'Record Mute' is blue and the 'Track' selector is orange. The switches are of a mechanical design apparently with a microswitch mounted beneath them, so that the overall feel during use is a cross between mechanical and touch sensor switching. A set of LEDs situated between the two cassette mechanisms indicate the state of the Dolby, dubbing and other facilities, for which the miniature controls are on the right hand side of the machine.
Each cassette lid also carries a set of indicators. On Deck 1 these are for tape type; 120uS or 70uS for Deck 1 itself (which is for Play only), and LH, CRO2 or Metal for Deck 2 (which is for Play or Record). Deck 2 carries a pair of LED VU meters, which indicate record and playback levels. During dubbing the record level will be shown, and during playback Deck 1 has priority over Deck 2.
The major specialised function of this machine has been kept as simple as possible to use. In order to copy a tape, the master is loaded into Deck 1 and a blank into Deck 2. The Dubbing switch is pushed in (to disconnect the Line inputs from external sources) and then it's only necessary to push Record on Deck 2. This acts as a One-Touch Record control for Deck 2, and also causes the Play function of Deck 1 to operate. Normal or High copying speed, and 2 or 4 track copying, should be selected before starting the machine.
During dubbing, level control is automatic, although there are recording level sliders which can be used when recording from external sources. Additionally, the Dolby selectors do not function in this mode; it's assumed that the master tape is already Dolby encoded, which in most cases would be true. If either of these operating factors present a problem, however, it should be possible to take the line out signal from Deck 1, feed it via a mixer or amp if necessary back to Deck 2, and so obtain increased flexibility in use of the level and Dolby functions.
During recording, blanks can be created using the non-locking Record Mute button, which does not stop tape travel but does remove the input signal. This is a particularly useful feature in view of another facility on Deck 1, the MS or Music Search. This detects blanks of 4 seconds or so between tracks and drops into Play mode when they're found.
Although the WX110 has one specialised function, it operates well as a conventional cassette deck and in fact has a few facilities which are not often found on other hi-fi machines. These include Fine Control over Bias settings, with a handy chart of tape types to refer to; Continuous Play of Deck 2 followed by Deck 1; Microphone Mixing during record; Cue and Review on both decks; Full Auto Stop and Timer Standby recording mode, for unattended recordings in conjunction with a mains timer switch; fully automatic selection of tape type.
One feature that is lacking is a memory on the very small tape counter, which would have been useful if portions of cassettes are to be copied.
The WX110 works smoothly, quietly and efficiently. Although the control layout seems a little daunting at first it's quite easy to use, and the design choices made with regard to Deck priority, Dolby switching and so on are logical.
Some of the switches could be made more pleasant to use, and the placement of the meters on the cassette compartment lids is, though clever, a little unsettling as all your readings fly through the air on insertion or removal of a cassette. The VU meters are not of a particularly sophisticated kind and do not include Peak reading, and the damping on the rack-and-pinion mounted cassette lids is poor.
Quality of tapes copied in realtime is very high indeed, virtually indistinguishable from the original. This isn't entirely the case with 'Quarter Time' copies; on headphone monitoring tiny dropouts and irregularities are just audible, but certainly not as bad as those to be found on commercial pre-recorded tapes any day of the week. The Dolby C system is claimed to give 20dB of noise reduction, and can be heard fading in through two stages when switched on. It's clearly an improvement on the B system, as long as tapes are both recorded and played back using it.
A final point is that the internal wiring is extremely untidy, a fact which could be improved upon without much additional cost. Construction otherwise is good.
Overall the WX110 is almost entirely successful in combining standard and highly specialised facilities. A lot of thought has gone into the control layout and the machine will be ideally suited for many applications in the A-V studio, music studio or the home.
Recommended retail price of the AD-WX110 is £189.95 including VAT. Further details from Aiwa UK, (Contact Details).
Review by Mark Jenkins