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.