New! Follow this link to download the EL-5 service manual. (The scan quality of the schematics in this manual is not so good. If you have a better version please let me know!)
The Sony Elcaset was a cassette tape system introduced in 1976. They were very solid and durable machines of professional quality, developed to combine the high quality of open reel tape recorders with the ease of use of cassette tape recorders. During recording and playback the tape was pulled out of the cassette and guided along the mechanism inside the machine, so that the quality of the cassette shell did not influence the quality of the recording.
The cassette was very solidly built. It had reel stoppers, so the tape reels were blocked when the cassette was not in the machine. The tabs to prevent erasure of the tape were sliders that could be clicked up or down, no need to break off something. It was also much bigger than a compact cassette: 15 cm wide, 10 cm high and 2 cm thick.
The Elcaset used a tape 6.3 mm wide that was driven at a tape speed of 9.5 cm. There were four tracks on the tape, for two stereo programs, one on each side. Because the tape width and tape speed were twice as much as that of the compact cassette, a higher audio quality was possible.
I am very happy with my Elcaset machine. Even today it sounds great, when it was introduced it was way ahead of the compact cassette machines of those days, and it isn't too long ago that cassette decks with comparable quality to the Elcaset became affordable. It was another example of the innovations Sony often introduced on the audio market. Unfortunately it was not as successful as the Walkman. Because of the very high price of the system not many were sold.
I bought my EL-5 Elcaset machine for $ 250 with 16 cassettes from a misguided audiophile who was switching over to the CD when the CD technology was brand new, around 1985 I think it was. He actually believed that he was going to be able to buy all his records and all his cassettes on CD, so he didn't need his Elcaset and his record player anymore. He even sold me his very high quality record player and all his records too, I still have all of them today. I used to take the Elcaset machine over to friends who had already bought a CD player and CD's, and I recorded their nicest CD's which then sounded at home just as perfect as the originals :)
This is the EL-7 Elcaset machine of a friend. The EL-7 has three heads, so it was possible to optimize the heads for their recording or playback function, and you could hear while recording what was being put on the tape. It also has a dual capstan/pinch roller, so it has even better control over the tape tension.
I have 16 tapes for my machine, 9 FeCr tapes (red tabs) and 7 SLH ferro tapes (blue tabs). The ferro tapes are unusable now, the magnetic material is flaking off the tape, it's a mess. The FeCr tapes are still perfect though, they play now just like when they were new. I have been experimenting with replacing the tape in the ferro cassettes with tape from a reel-to-reel machine, but I never found tape that sounded right.
The next two pictures I received in an email from another Elcaset owner. Thanks Stewart!
The EL-4 appeared a while after the EL-5 and EL-7. It was a lower priced entry level piano key version with minimal controls.
The remote control box for the EL-5 and EL-7.
A portable version of the Elcaset was available too, the EL-D8. This picture was found by Raffaele Grieco, thanks! See this page for more EL-D8 pictures by Raffaele.
Raffaele also found this picture of the top of the line EL-D9 machine.
I found this picture of an Technics RS-7500 Elcaset in an Ebay auction by 'Skubo'.
Read this story to find out what Sony did with the remaining Elcaset decks when they dropped the system.
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