Tandy Radio Shack Computer Cassette Recorder (TRS CCR) Comparisons

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GOTO PART 3 (Support PCs)

PART 2: Comparison of the types of Tandy cassette deck models [photos below]

The intent of this section is to highlight pros/cons and overall differences between the various Tandy CTR/CCR models. The table below highlights some of the differences between the various models of the Tandy cassette recorders.

ModelPositivesNegatives (or notes)
CTR-41
(pdf notes)
– Original model included with TRS-80 Model 1 $599 package (c. 1978)
– “tone switch” at front
– Lacks “ALC” (automatic level control) circuitry, can make recording for digital-data purposes inconsistent
– Records from MIC and AUX (thus needing a Dummy plug to make reliable recordings)
NOTE: Clearly labeled as a “Realistic” brand, not Tandy/Radio Shack label
CTR-80A
(pdf)
– Metal carrying handle
– “condensor mic” at top front
– the “knubs” at the back make this model studier when stood upright
COLOR: Black
– Tallest/heaviest of all these models
– Index counter towards back
– Volume knob black labels on black wheel (difficult to read in low light)
– No pause (sixth button is EJECT)
NOTE: Manual mentions coming with a Dummy Plug to help erase tape content.
NOTE: Avoid early (non-A) models, due to potential voltage spike issues.
CCR-81
(pdf)

– Index counter towards front
– Larger speaker
– Metal carrying handle (thinner than CTR-80 model)
COLOR: Silver of Beige
– AC power on opposite side as all other cables
– Two tone (bottom black, top white) [could be a positive, depends if trying to match other equipment color; some variants offered in silver]
NOTE: For all CCR models, STOP/EJECT button are combined (unlike CTR model), which allows PAUSE to be its own button.
CCR-82
(pdf)
– Smaller size
– Sized carrying case (synthetic)
– “monitor” switch to “hear data recordings”
– Volume knob at front and with white on black labels
COLOR: White
– Large gap in backside of cassette lid cover
– no pause (5-buttons only)
– DC power only
– Index counter towards back
– Synthetic material case prone to deteriorating (if left in hot or non-air-conditioned rooms)
– Belts seem more prone to deterioration
– Not included with any “standard” power cable (“$5.95” adapter required)
NOTE: Requires “center negative” AC/6V DC adapter, or a 12V to 6V DC/DC adapter.
CCR-83
(…no PDF manual yet…)
– Cassette lid has two legs (the others technically do as well, but the legs here are more prominent/thicker)
COLOR: White
– Volume knob has black labels (difficult to read)
– Smaller speaker like CCR-82
– Plastic carrying handle
– Index counter towards back
NOTE: Available 1990-1992.

Here is another table to try to summarize all the main various aspects of these tape recorders: (X==YES, has this feature)

CTR-41CTR-80ACCR-81CCR-82CCR-83
DC 6V “center negative” 2.1mm portXXXXX
Built in 120V AC adapterXXXn/aX
Automatic Level Control (ALC)(AUTO)XXXX
Battery Type4xC4xC4xC4xAA4xC
Battery CoverCLIPCLIPCLIPFRICTIONFRICTION
Speaker Size3″3″3″2″2″
Condensor MicrophoneXXn/an/an/a
Counter PositionBACKBACKFRONTBACKBACK
HandleMETALMETALMETALn/aPLASTIC
Volume KnobFRONTSIDE B/BSIDE W/BFRONT W/BSIDE B/B
PAUSE Buttonn/an/aXn/aX
ColorBLACKBLACKBEIGE/BLACK or SILVER/BLACKWHITEWHITE
Lid Gap (mm)000.220.3
Introduced1977(?)19781981(?)1982(?)1990

These CCR-models were sold along side various Tandy computer models throughout the 1980s. There are more recent Cassette Tape Recorder models (e.g. CTR-85, CTR-111, CTR-121, CTR-123, or some from the brand called Realistic), or there are stereo receivers that have cassette tape support also, which may be viable alternatives. But again, it is “trial and error” to determine which alternative will work, or what specific settings are necessary to function with a PC (different settings may be needed for pre-recorded “factory” tapes vs self-made recordings).

Keep in mind that many audio-oriented CTR’s will not have any tape counter index. That counter index is important, since it helps more precisely track what offset into a tape you are at (vital for storing multiple programs on the same tape). However, not all index counters are perfectly aligned (even within the same model), especially as belts have aged (which are used to spin the index counter). That is, if an old tape is marked as having content at index 80, on your tape device the data stream might start at index somewhere between 70-90. Most SAVE protocols will have a long header, allowing for some imprecision in these indexes. If a LOAD fails, try rewinding starting at an index that is a tad earlier (78, 77, 75, etc. if the original marked index was “80”).

In my view, the CCR-81 is the “best” model paired with a PC when looking for used units. While I would prefer the smaller CCR-82, I do think they have a quality issue that make them more prone to needing maintenance than the others (also the CCR-82 has a large gap at the base of the top lid, making the cassette area more prone to dust). I ordered 2x used CCR-82’s and they both had belt issues. As for the CCR-83, there is nothing really newer/better about it, in terms of function or quality. In fact, despite its size, the CCR-83 has the same size speaker as the smaller CCR-82, and a cheaper looking plastic front handle.

Below is a visual comparison of the CCR-81, CCR-82, and CCR-83 models (presented in that same order, with CCR-81 on left, CCR-82 at middle, and CCR-83 at right).

(click on images for larger preview)

Here are updated photos that include the CTR-80A (black) for comparison…


Below is a comparison of the gap (space) at the base of the cassette lid. A larger gap can mean more dust, debris getting into the cassette chamber and then into the device internals (eventually causing maintenance issues). This is on the order of:

  • CTR-80A (inset, effectively no gap)
  • CCR-81 (minor gap)
  • CCR-82 (largest gap)
  • CCR-83 (small gap)

GOTO PART 3 (Support PCs)

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