Akai GX-625

This mid-priced open reel recorder was still lingering on dealer shelves and in shop windows at the time Compact Disc players were launched in 1983 – and suddenly it looked like an old fashioned, oversized white elephant. By the mid nineteen eighties, reel-to-reel was in terminal decline and Compact Cassette was approaching its finest hour. These days, if anyone knows the Akai brand name then it’s from those dire mini systems of the mid nineties; a decade earlier it was a top tape recorder company reaching the end of the road. Back in its seventies heyday, its 4000DS had been incredibly popular. With three speeds (maximum 7.5ips), three motors and three heads (one being made from the company’s trademark hardwearing GX glass crystal) for under £200, it comfortably outperformed all but the best cassette decks and offered great value.

The company’s high end range was no less impressive, but understandably less popular. In Japan, the GX-625 was the sort of machine for the committed home recordist, precisely the sort of buyer that Nakamichi spent a decade converting to Compact Cassette. It was a ‘middle class machine’ – not a Revox B77 but a real step up from Akai’s own 4000DS. Retailing for £600 in 1981, it was an expensive proposition. One glance at the head and transport block shows the excellent engineering. One erase head, plus glass crystal (GX) record and reply heads are set into massive metal housings. One big AC servo motor drives the capstan, while two eddy current motors take care of the reel drives. The Akai uses no clever tricks – bias and EQ are not user adjustable – the meters are about as slow as rush hour Tokyo traffic and there’s little in the way of user conveniences, aside from the essential ‘must have’ that is full logic control. In use, the machine issues heavily muted clunks and a very faint buzz from its mains transformer.

The result is a quoted frequency response of 30-26,000Hz (-3dB) at 7.5ips, 0.025% WRMS wow and flutter and 62dB signal to noise ratio. In use, it translates to excellent sound, one that warms the cockles of any analogue shaped heart. The downside is that the deck needs to be well set up for the tape, and also it doesn’t suffer poor tape gladly. The GX-625 cannot match the really high end stuff, but is a fine, relatively compactly sized open reel.



  1. Antonis

    The GX-625 cannot match the really high end stuff.
    Could you name a few really high end machines?

  2. Michael DeCarlo

    Will the Akai GX 625 or 635D erase a Maxell XL ll EE tape?

  3. Rich C

    This must have been one of the last full-sized RTRs from the Akai stable, particularly given the domestic hi-fi RTR tape machine market was allegedly fading into relative obscurity by 1981 and beyond, as a consequence of the cassette format quality-wise having vastly improved by then, even compared to the mid-70s.

    This machine still looks a work of art considering mechanical VU-type level meters were mostly considered old-fashioned by 1981 and were mostly superseded by the then-newer ‘peak-programme’-type metering which in the simplest form consist of a row (or two) of LED lamps (usually green and red), and on the higher-priced gear forms part of a vacuum-fluorescent digital display unit.

    My only (minor) criticism of this unit aesthetic-wise is that the record-ready indicator lights are green, which IMO look rather incongruous as such lights normally tend to be red in colour.

    I’m rather surprised that none of the Revox RTR tape machines (such as the iconic A77) have yet been featured on this site.


  4. Rich C.

    One thing I forgot to mention in my previous comments on here concerning this machine is that I really like the combination of old-skool illuminated VU level meters and the tape position indicator in the form of a red-coloured LED digital display. Revox adopted this combo around 1983-84 when they first introduced their PR99 MkII tape machine. It’s a shame that this machine doesn’t have the 15 ips speed in addition to the existing 3 3/4 and 7 1/2 ips speeds. Despite being of the domesticated 1/4 track stereo format rather than the more professional 1/2 (two) track stereo format, it would probably still play back professional 1/2 track stereo master tapes recorded at 15 ips (and occasionally even 7 1/2 ips) quite satisfactorily, which would have been very useful for studio engineers playing back master tapes at home on their hi-fi systems, though obviously this machine wouldn’t be recommended for recording such master tapes, even with the (hypothetical) 15 ips speed.

  5. Norman Porcher

    Still running a REVOX B77 as I have a couple of master tapes from 1976 by a local rock band, most of who members are aged or not around now. Dynamic range and clarity are still about as good as any CD without the shrill/artificially biased top end of the latter. There again that suits my hearing, which unusually for a 73 year old
    is still pretty sharp. Once asked why I hated TV in the old days as was put off by the high frequency background whistle of the line output oscillator, but with modern sets that is no more.

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