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Sony TC-200 Reel-to-Reel tape deck and My 50-Year Audio Journey in Southern California

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The Sony TC-200 reel to reel tape recorder is where it all began. These days, I primarily listen to my turntable, but it did not start out that way. As a teenager, my favorite listening was to reel-to-reel tapes. Because they were recorded from records, it was not of the highest fidelity, but I still enjoyed it. I would play these tapes for hours to my parents’ chagrin. My mom would say that at least it kept me off the streets and out of trouble.

This picture looks identical to the Sony TC-200 I used to own. I even had the same Sony tape.

The year was 1970, and as a teenager I had finally saved up enough money to buy what was then my dream stereo: a Sony TC-200 reel-to-reel tape recorder. My parents took me to my first high-end stereo store, Beverly Electronics Stereo, in Panorama City, CA. The location has been replaced by an Italian delicatessen which may still be there.  Thus began my 50-year journey in high-end audio.

Beverly Electronics Stereo was my favorite place to hang out as a teenager. The manager, a musician named Lance Schwartz, and his staff were very tolerant of letting this teenage boy hang out all day. They even let me play around with the equipment. Their flagship stereo components were all McIntosh.

Beverly Electronics Stereo carried the original Bose 901 speakers at $476 per pair. It is interesting because, even as a youngster, I did not care for their sound: no bass, and they had a very boxy sound, the exact opposite of the Alon open baffle speakers that I happen to be listening to as I write this article.

The next chapter in my high-end journey would be Woodland Stereo in Woodland Hills, CA. They demonstrated speakers that to this day I think were fantastic: the Infinity 2000A and the ESS Translinear, both at $600 per pair. I know they had even higher-end models, but these were the speakers I could almost afford. I ended up buying a pair of ESS AMT 1, also $600 per pair. With the benefit of hindsight, I’ll say that both the Translinear and the 2000A were better sounding speakers. And you could have thrown in the Dahlquist DQ-10, also $600 and also better sounding. I eventually purchased the Acarian System Alon 1, which is a descendant of the Dahlquist open baffle design.

Chapter 3 would involve Jonas Miller Stereo, originally in Beverly Hills and later in Santa Monica. They introduced me to the Magnepan line of speakers and NAD electronics. I also bought my original Thorens TD-147 combined with a Dynavector 23R Ruby phono cartridge at Jonas Miller. That turntable was subsequently stolen and eventually replaced. Sadly, Jonas Miller Stereo is no longer in business.

Most of what I purchased from Jonas Miller Stereo was stolen and the next chapter would be GNP Audio. The owner’s brother, Larry Gross, helped me decide on my Acoustic Research “The AR Turntable” with the Sumiko Premier MMT tonearm. The people at the store felt this combination would be more compatible with a wider range of phono cartridges. I enjoyed the Dynavector phono cartridge but felt it was a tad bright sounding, so Larry thought the Talisman S would be better suited to my needs. He was absolutely correct. I still enjoy the lesser Talisman A to this day.

I still prefer brick and mortar audio stores, and my current go-to stereo shop is Shelley’s Stereo in Woodland Hills, CA. Although they carry some of the best home theater products you can buy, they still carry an array of high-end stereo products, such as turntables, tube amplifiers and, of course, Magnepan speakers. I bought my home theater set-up there as well as some  phono cartridges, preamplifiers, and speakers that I used in my system at work. If you could go back in time, there are certain aspects of this store that remind me of my first experience at Beverly Electronics Stereo. They even carry McIntosh. The Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society holds annual events there.

There are a number of other high-end stores in Los Angeles that I have purchased products from and highly recommend. One is Ken Ito’s Reference Audio-Video in Gardena, where I purchased my Acarian Systems Alon 1 speakers, my Nitty Gritty record cleaning machine, and my Abis Hana phono cartridge. I have received some wonderful customer service from Ken.

At Weinhart Design in the upscale Bel Air neighborhood, the owner, David Weinhart, recommended the Grado Platinum as a cartridge with a similar sound to my Talisman but with more bass. I have to agree with him. I also get to visit his showroom because this is another place the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society holds events.

There is also Audio Den, which used to be in Van Nuys but is now closed. I bought my Talisman A among other items from this fine store, and I learned how to align my phono cartridges by watching their turntable technician.

My fellow Dagogo writer Marc Silver used to have a store in the greater Los Angeles area but eventually moved north to Santa Rosa where he started Soundscape Audio-Video. He highly recommended Quicksilver power amps to me, and Quicksilver monoblocks are the main power amps I use to this day.

I am at the stage where I get the sound I want from my current components, so I no longer have the urge (or the space) to upgrade. If I were starting all over, I would start with several products that I have reviewed, such as Magnepan or Martin Logan speakers along with maybe a Sumiko turntable.

One of the reasons I have a bias towards brick and mortar stores — and I am always encouraging audiophiles to patronize them — is the many great memories I have of hanging out at these stores, along with their essential recommendations. I still own both the Acoustic Research and Thorens turntables recommended by these stores in 1983. The help you get at a good store can ensure you that you are buying the correct component that can help to reduce the urge to constantly spend money upgrading. The greater Los Angeles area has so many stores that the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society can hold monthly events and never run out of stores. I have personally had wonderful experiences when I attended these events.

I wonder when we will be able to frequent the stores again.


Copy editor: Dan Rubin


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5 Responses to Sony TC-200 Reel-to-Reel tape deck and My 50-Year Audio Journey in Southern California

  1. Hanif Haji says:

    Different times in LA during the 70’s. As poor college kid used to hang out Ear Drum near LAX, Stereo Hi-Fi Center – Gardena, Dimensions in Stereo – Torrance, Jonas Miller – Beverly Hills, Paris Audio-DTLA behind the clothing store. All these folks knew I could not afford most of the equipment they sold, however always were glad to see me and demonstrated what was new. Thank you for the journey

  2. Steven A Mariash says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I used to own two of the TC-200 decks that I used with a Pioneer SX-1980 reciever. I used to record entire albums of the radio with these, then transfer those recordings while editing out commercials using one of my two Pioneer CTF-8282 cassette decks. I still have some of these recordings to this day.
    Eventually, the main belts stretched out on BOTH TC-200 open reel decks causing the speed to start s-l-o-w-i-n-g down near the end of an 1800′ reel of tape.

  3. I have a Sony TC-200 and am getting ready to transfer the tapes that I recorded in 1965 while serving on the USS Coral Sea CVA-43.

  4. David Bass says:

    nearly all Sony recorders had the same drive design until 1968, they used a rubber ideler wheeler. While the transports were the same the electronics were different the TC 200 was tube from 1963-67 and solid state 1967-70. many prefered the SS the tube units had issues with capacitors…

  5. Scott Alan says:

    My parents bought a Sony TC-200 around 1968 and my earliest memory of it was it being used to record a comedy monologue of my uncle during Xmas of ’69. By 1975 it was handed down to me, and a friend and I played around with it using speed change tricks and lots of primitive overdubbing of his musical talents. Later in the 70’s, I went all cassette with my first real stereo deck, the venerable Pioneer CTF-2121. By the early 80’s I had worked myself up to a Nakamichi 680z, recording from a Sony PS-X555es linear tracking turntable using a Signet 7LCa cartridge running through a Mitsubishi Amp and ADS 620 2-way speakers.
    I too frequented brick-and-mortar stereo stores, becoming a fixture in the western Minneapolis suburbs starting with Schaak Electronics, TEAM Electronics, Sound of Music (which later became Best Buy), and finally my final system from Audio King.
    I don’t remember what became of that TC-200, but I have fond memories of it starting me off on my Hi-Fi journey.

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