For the better part of 70 years (my adolescent and adult life), I’ve collected – things, a lot of things. Most of what I kept were things I used in everyday life. Like most people, I found something, was given something or I bought that something. But unlike most, I felt compelled to hold on to and preserve those things that meant something to me, that remind me of a time and place, or the item was unusual, interesting or showed some innovation. Many of these things are technical in nature. Among my collections, I have a number of innovative tape recorders, six of which were made by a company called Concord.

Concord Electronics was known in the 1960s as a manufacturer/reseller of Japanese made electronics, much of it was said to be aimed at the middle tier consumer market place.

Now, before I talk about these tape recorders, I want to say, one has to understand, these machines were manufactured in 1969 which is 50 years ago. Though these recorders weren’t exactly high fidelity, especially by today’s standards, they were what was available at a reasonable price. High fidelity stereo sound had just started to come into vogue in 1959, only ten short years earlier.

In 1969, there were companies such as Uher, Nagra, and one or two others who made battery powered tape recorders that were a whole lot better than Concord tape recorders. However, these recorders were hideously expensive – from 10 to $40,000 in today’s dollars. Sony did make one or two professional recorders that were slightly better, but they were much more expensive.

What is unusual about two of the Concord tape recorders below was they were battery powered reel to reel recorders that had an unusual feature.

Concord was the only common manufacture that sold small battery powered reversing portable reel to reel tape recorders, meaning the user could record on or playback both sides of a tape without having to manually switch the tape reels over to the second side/track.

Concord 300 – 4” Reel to Reel Bidirectional (manual reversing) Mono Portable Tape Recorder

SPECIFICATIONS: Tape speeds: 1 7/8 and 3 3/4 ips – Recording time: 2 1/2 hours at 1 7/8 (1/2 mil tape), 5 hours at 1 7/8 (1/4 mil tape) – Reel size: Standard 4" reels or smaller – Power source: Built-In AC or 6 "C” cell batteries – Microphone: Dynamic, remote control – Level indicator: Recording and battery level meter – Frequency range: 60-10,000 Hz at 3 3/4 ips – Weight: 5 3/4 lbs. – Dimensions: 10" (w), 3" (h), 9" (d).

This recorder did appear in a variety of TV shows of the late 60s and early 70s. Though it never appeared in Mission Impossible, it did show up in TV shows such as Columbo.

I bought this recorder sometime in late 1969 from Olson Electronics as a returned item for about $40. It had a suggested retail price of $100. For me back then, $40 was a lot of money which today is only about $260. I was still living with my parents and my only source of income was from my meager appliance repair activities I did on the side.

This recorder looks nice, sounds great – with recorded voice through its microphone. Remember the Nixon Whitehouse tapes that were recorded on his Uher 5000 in the Oval Office – all that echo and the poor fidelity. The Concord 300 sounds much better and it does a better job with background echo. By today's standards, the audio fidelity with recorded music on old tape isn't all that great. It only had a measured upper frequency response of a little less than 10,000 Hz. I used it in college for a while to record lectures but the battery life wasn’t all that great. Also, it didn’t have NiCad battery recharging capabilities.


Concord 350 – 5” Reel to Reel Bidirectional Auto-Reversing Mono Portable Tape Recorder

SPECIFICATIONS: Tape speeds: 1 7/8, 3 3/4 ips – Power source: 6 “D" size batteries or optional external AC power supply – Reel size: Standard 5" reels – Motor: 4-Pole, D.C. w/special platinum coated governor – Transistors: 9 transistors, 1 diode – Speaker: 3" x 6” – Microphone: Stop/start remote dynamic type – Remote control: By switch on microphone, foot switch optional. Automatic stop/start, built-in voice operation – Indicator: Recording level and battery condition indicator – Recording time: Up to six hours at 1 7/8 ips – Frequency response: 50-10,000 Hz – Weight 10 1/2 lbs. – Dimensions: 11 1/2" (w), 4" (h), 12 1/2" (d).

Sound-wise, this recorder is really no better than the 300 except it takes larger 5-inch reels. Also, unlike the 300 which has manual reversing, the 350 has auto reverse. The tape switches direction when the recorder senses a piece of applied foil near the end of the reel of tape.

The cons of the 350: Unlike the 300 which has an integrated AC power supply, this larger recorder requires one to lug around a heavy wall-wart. Another quirk is, the recorder will only switch into reverse but not back into forward. You have to stop the machine and then press play again. This is kind of annoying when one is searching through a tape.

Technically, when the user presses the play key, they are cocking a spring loaded mechanism that, when two contacts (the tape sensor or the reverse button contacts) are closed, a small solenoid releases the latched mechanism and the player is mechanically thrown into reverse. This is why the recorder can’t be switch back into forward without stopping the recorder. The play key has the reverse button integrated into it.

This recorder got lost in some box in my parent’s house only to be recovered five years ago when it was unearthed after my dad’s passing. I don’t remember where I originally got it from. I do remember that it did stop working. After changing a few capacitors, its back working again.  This recorder was rode hard and put up wet.  When I got it, it had been used in an office setting. There was some kind of meeting recorded on the tape that came in the recorder.  I've long since recorded over or lost that tape.


Unusual Concord Cassette Recorders

In 1963, the Compact Cassette tape was introduced by Philips. In the late 60s, there were thousands of compact cassette recorders that had been offered from dozens of manufacturers around the world. 

Concord F-98 – Portable AC/Battery Powered Mono Cassette Recorder

SPECIFICATIONS: Tape speed: 1 & 7/8 ips – Cassette tape cartridge: Standard C-30, C-60, C-90 and C-120 – Recording time: One and a half hours on C-90 – Recording system: monaural – Playback system: monaural – Record/playback head: Concord Flux-field – Erase head: Ferrite – Tape transport mechanism: Professional TM-100, push-button operated – Electronics: Solid state recording preamplifier, playback power amplifier – Outputs:  Extension speaker output – Microphone: Built in dynamic, with remote control.  External Microphone input with remote.  Aux input.  Power output: 4 watts – Power source: 110/117v AC house current or 6 "D" cell batteries – Drive motor: Servo type with electronic speed regulation – Record level control: Selectable automatic or manual  – Frequency response: 50-10,000 Hz – Wow and flutter: Less than 0.25% rms – Speaker: 4 x 6”  – Weight: 8 lbs. – Dimensions: 12” (w), 9" (h), 4-1/2" (d).

Three months after I graduated from high school in June 1969, my parents decided I should go to a 2-year college.  I had done poorly in high school.  I really didn't like school and my grades tended to show this.  But after graduation, I wasn't sure what it was I would do with my life.  That's when My parents found this post high school college preparatory program offered at our local 2 year college. 

This program was much different in that there was significant technology used in teaching.  This included computer generated lesson plans as well as video and audio. Along with classroom teaching, there was individual study learning via video, film and audio tapes.  In these classes, we used personal table top film strip viewers connected to Concord F-98 tape recorders. There were sub audible tones on the tape which caused the film strip to advance to the next frame.  I really got into studying things like algebra, trigonometry, calculus, physics and other necessary elements for advanced college studies.  After which, I did go onto a 4-year university.

While using this rather robust beast of a recorder, I saw in the brochure that came with the recorder where Concord made a stereo version - and I wondered, how I could get one.


Portable Stereo Cassette Recorder

In the late 60s, there were a number of companies that produced stereo cassette recorders. However, very few of them were portable battery powered recorders, especially with integrated stereo speakers.

Concord F-400 – Portable AC/Battery Powered Stereo Cassette Recorder

SPECIFICATIONS: Tape speed: 1 & 7/8 ips – Cassette tape cartridge: Standard C-30, C-60, C-90 and C-120 – Recording time: One and a half hours on C-90 – Recording system: Stereo and monaural – Playback system: Stereo and monaural – Record/playback head: Concord Flux-field stereo – Erase head: Ferrite – Tape transport mechanism: Professional TM-100, push-button operated – Electronics: Two solid state stereo recording preamplifiers, two playback power amplifiers – Outputs: Line outputs for operation as a tape deck. – Extension speaker outputs – Microphone: Two dynamic, one with remote control – Power output: 8 watts – Power source: 110/117v AC house current or 6 "D" cell batteries – Drive motor: Servo type with electronic speed regulation – Record level control: Selectable automatic (mono) or manual (stereo) – Frequency response: 50-10,000 Hz – Wow and flutter: Less than 0.25% rms – Speakers: Two side mounted 3 x 6” acoustically matched – Weight: 11 lbs. – Dimensions: 12-3/8” (w), 9-3/4 " (h), 3-3/4" (d).

 In 1969, portable battery powered stereo cassette recorders were a rarity and quite costly.  This was my first stereo compact cassette recorder which I also got used in 1970 from Olson Electronics. I recorded a whole lot of stuff with this battery powered thing including live performances.

The guys in the dorm at college got freaked out when I was playing music in my room during a power outage. Because the college was out in the countryside, the power would go out a lot during storms. I had a set of home made speakers which were very similar to the Realistic Solo-103s except mine had real Fostex FE103 drivers.  I had them hooked up to this recorder which could easily drive them because the F-400 had an 8 watt RMS amplifier in it.

This recorder has all kinds of inputs and outputs such as left and right line level in, line level out, microphone in, and speaker out. It also has a Ό inch stereo headphone jack. It tried to be all things for a cassette recorder – and it did a good job of it. One more thing: it has an integrated AC power supply.

This cassette recorder which was made by the same company as the 300 and 350 has much better fidelity. Depending upon the quality of the tape, this cassette recorder is capable of a 12 kHz frequency response – which wasn’t all that bad for a 1969 portable stereo cassette deck.

It must be noted that in 1969, cassette recorders had noticeably poor frequency response specs. The highest quality cassette deck only had an upper frequency range of 12,000 Hz. It was in 1970 when I was in my favorite electronics store – Olson Electronics where I asked one of the sales guys to demonstrate an H. H. Scott stereo system for me. I was initially impressed that it had a cassette deck and I wanted to hear it. He recorded a cut off a Jimmy Hendrix album and then he played it back. My hearing was really good then and when the song started to play, it sounded to me like the high end was completely gone – like listening to a recorded AM broadcast. I expressed my disappointment about the sound and he abruptly responded, “Hay stupid, its cassette!” – And he walked away.

You-know, now that I think about it; back in 1969, cassette tape wasn’t all that good. But by the 80s, cassettes were much improved and this may account for the higher frequency response from the F-400.

Interesting note.  Concord did make a variety of options for their various devices. For the F-400, they made a kind of case that surrounded the f-400 with latches between each speaker. When set on either side of the recorder, they were a set of 6" speakers that were powered by the Cassette player's 8 watt amplifier. 

Concord SPS-2 External Speaker Case Option for the F-400 Stereo Cassette Recorder

Note. J. C. Penny Co. sold a clone of the F-400 recorder under the Penncrest label.


Portable Stereo System

Concord F-600 – Portable AC only AM FM Stereo Cassette Recorder with Detachable Speakers

Specifications: Receiver Power output: 35 watts • Frequency response: 20-25,000 Hz ±3 db • FM sensitivity: 1.9 microvolts for 30 db quieting • S/N ratio: 65 db • AFC: Selectable • AM antenna: Built-in • FM antenna: Built-in • Automatic stereo muting • Tape deck Frequency response: 50-12,000 Hz ± 3 db • Wow and flutter: 0.2% rms • S/N ratio: 45 db • Erasure ratio: 52 db • Heads: field design • Tape speed: Electronic servo-controlled motor • Overall Stereo inputs: Microphones, ceramic phono, tape recorder Separate bass and treble controls • Dimensions: 9" (h), 18 1/4" (w), 12 1/2" (d)  Each speaker: 12 1/2" (h), 9" (w), 4 1/2" (d) • Weight: (w), 12 1/2" (d)  • Weight: 30 lbs.

What was unusual about this recorder was that it is a portable stereo system.

I had one of these in 1971.  This was really my first stereo. I bought it used for $100 in 1971 and after I got it home, I was sorely disappointed. This thing had so many quirks. When I took the back covers off the speakers, I was blown away – 6-inch speakers. It didn’t even have any tweeters. I also looked for the battery compartment only to find – there wasn’t any.

Soon after I got it, I took two 6 by 9 car speakers with weezer cones as tweeters and mounted them into the cabinets by carefully pulling off the grill cloth and cutting bigger holes. I think my mother helped with regluing the grill cloth back on. It did sound much better with a bit more bass.

The one pictured above is, I think, a flea market fine.  I bought it for nostalgic reasons. I'll explain later.  But first...

About the F-600's portability: this dude is not lightweight. It would be uncomfortable for the average slender 70s girl much less young children to manhandle this thing.  Altogether, it weighs about 30 lbs.

Concord did make a 35 watt stereo receiver which was very much the same as the portable F-600. It was the model HES-35 AM FM Stereo Receiver with a wood grain cabinet and had the same top loading cassette recorder. I heard one of these with the matching optional speakers that, at the time, sounded good. That’s why I bought the F-600 – thinking it was the same except that it was portable.

F-600 quirks: separate volume and tone controls – one for each channel; FM stereo muting instead of automatically switching to mono while tuning or listening to weak stations; no magnetic phono inputs; and a bad design by allowing 7 volts DC across the volume control making for a slight noise as you turn up and down the volume controls.

F-600 Top Loading Cassette Deck

In restoring the above, I replaced every electrolytic, a bunch of resisters and a number of transistors. I have bunches of Velleman assortment packs of capacitors and resistors so it wasn’t all that expensive to do. In the end, I did get it to play, but because of its bad design, it still makes a crackling noise when it is turned on as it did when I first turn it on. It looked like someone else was in there trying to figure out the noise – but it’s the DC bias across old carbon comp volume pots. Or, I reengineer the circuit. I’ll be dammed if I do that. It’s really just something to put on display in my oddity collection.

Note.  It could be one of the reasons the F-600 was discontinued after 1968. Another was its weight.


S March, 2019