Gear Review: Nakamichi LX-3 Stereo Cassette Deck – Elegance in Looks and Sound

If the name Nakamichi gets encountered by tapeheads, most of them will immediately associate the name with the legendary Nakamichi 1000, otherwise known as The Dragron, or that cool auto-reversing of a machine, the RX-202. I can’t blame those who have these two, fine decks come to mind when the Nakamichi name crops up, for I, too, have these two in mind. That is, up until I saw this elegant looking thing of a tape deck.

Unlike the Mitsubishi DT-7 that I had earlier reviewed, there is enough technical information about this machine on the Interweb, which are as follows:

  • Type: 2-head, single compact cassette deck

  • Track System: 4-track, 2-channel stereo

  • Tape Speed: 4.8 cm/s

  • Heads: 1 x record/playback, 1 x erase

  • Motor: 1 x reel, 1 x capstan

  • Tape Type: type I, CrO2, Metal

  • Noise Reduction: B, C

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz (Metal tape)

  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 68dB (dolby C)

  • Wow and Flutter: 0.06%

  • Total Harmonic Distortion: 1.0%

  • Input: 50mV (line)

  • Output: 1V (line)

  • Dimensions: 450 x 135 x 307mm

  • Weight: 8.5kg

  • Year: 1981

Back in ’81, this thing cost a pretty penny – all US$ 600 worth. However, given the sound quality of this sexy little thing, all 600 greebacks would have been worth it. From the reviews that I had read, almost all Nak cassette deck collectors covet the LX-3 for the reason that, while it is “only” a 2-head system, it provides a sound quality that can rival that of the more expensive 3-head systems. So, what did I do to find out for myself if this claim is true? I tested it.

I was floored.

The sound of this deck is amazing and I would dare say it can rival the sound of vinyl (NOTE: some owners of this deck also made the same claim). It sounded more natural than the other decks that I had reviewed for this site. Absolutely sweet, which is no wonder because this is a Nakamichi. As with the other decks that I had tested and reviewed before, I played my fave The Eagles Unplugged album on the LX-3 and I tell you that it made that album sound better than I ever heard it before with those other decks. The lows we profound and rich, the mids were on point and the highs were absolutely crisp. The warmth of the sound is what will make you do an “Ohhh!” or an “Ahh!” and will probably make you save up or rob a bank to get either a Dragon or the RX-202. Like with the DT-7, I was too lazy to change the speakers that I had connected to the amp. So, I am sure that better speakers will make this thing sing even better. Also, the Dolby on this thing is superb, which made me wish that the other decks that I had the pleasure of testing before had the same Dolby quality.

The looks alone is a killer. No protruding buttons. Everything is flush and looks like it has been designed by an artist. The aesthetics are great, the controls are feathery to the touch. The tape handling is next to none. Well, not exactly as high end Nak decks will most probably trump the tape handling of the LX-3 but it is up there. Not only is the LX-3 a joy to listen to but also a joy to look at.

When I was doing further research on this model, I found information posted by owners at different forums that the LX-3, along with the LX-5, was the last of the 2-head greats that Nakamichi produced. After the LX-5, Nakamichi entered the entry level decks with their BX series. Having heard a couple of those BX models – the 100 and 150, in particular – I can tell you that those two will not hold up against the LX-3. So, the claim of owners that the LX-3 was one if the last greats may hold some truth to it.

Elegance mostly comes at a premium. For the Nakamichi LX-3, it did in the 1980’s. Forward 40 years, this Nak does not command the premium price that it did back in the day but its premium sound will always be one that stays in the mind of all who owned it.

Great deck. Period.

Interested in getting your hands on this beauty? If you are, hit About then Contact on this page. The people at their physical store will be more than happy to accommodate you.

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