2 or 3-head?
That's an important question, indeed. If you don't mind so much about all this or don't need very good quality, you can go for a simple (thus, 2-head) deck. A 2-head deck has an erasing head and a playing & recording head. While recording, the same head used for playing is used for recording.
SONY TC-K15, an old and simple, 2-head deck.
But if you want to enjoy the recording as much as possible and want a very good quality, you may go for a good 3-head deck. Any of the previously recommended is a good starting point, although there are much better decks. At a much higher prices, though.
In a 3-head deck there are separated heads for record and play. This lets you use both at the same time while doing a record, so you can hear what's actually being recorded and not just what you're feeding to the recording head. In other words: you can hear the result of the recording in real time, so you can make small adjustments to get better results. And you'll enjoy much more the whole process.
This is a 3-head deck, as it's clearly stated in the front door.
In case you go for a full-size deck, here are some recommendations for a good 3-head deck:
- AIWA AD-F8XX (I mean: every model starting with 'AD-F8' plus two more numbers, like 'AD-F800').
- SONY TC-K5XX/6XX/7XX
- Pioneer CT-5XXS/6XX
FOTO: SONY TC-K570, an excellent option for a cheap and good deck.
You can find many other recommendations at my friend Rotovator's page.
All these decks are reasonably easy to find at a cheap price (around 30-80 euros or so) and they were considered some of the best back in the days. If they are in good condition is very likely that they will work well. Even if it works well, it's a must to clean carefully (specially for the first time) the head, capstans and rollers. You will need a cotton swab and alcohol to clean them. Refer to the manual of the deck for more details.
But, if not, consider take them to a technician. Although many tape fans doesn't believe there exist any nowadays, they actually still exist ;-)
You may walk by the old town and look for those old TV repair shops…
The best shop for vintage HI-FI gear in Barcelona area is Darthy, which also offers technical service.
But if you are searching for a specialized technical service, you can still find them too. Sometimes you find it in a moment of luck. At first sight, this store doesn't seem a service:
But if you look inside, you will find one of the best technicians in Europe:
I'm very lucky to have found Sergi's repair store, which is not only an excellent and neat technician, but also a very nice guy. He has repaired and even upgraded some of my most preciated jewels, like my Pioneer RT-909 R2R. Highly recommended..
What about recording walkmans?
Recording quality of almost all walkmans is very poor, except a very few units. Making an excellent recording is not that easy, even for professional audio engineers. Even with modern digital equipment.
SONY WM-R202 & AIWA HS-J600: Excellent walkmans with recording capabilities.
If you think you can get high quality recordings from a Walkman, then you may as well think you can get professional quality photos like this one:
A beautiful landscape, taken in Minorca island.
with this point-n-shoot camera:
But the truth is that this photo has been taken with a camera like this:
Nikon D7100, a semi-professional camera.
Believe it or not, it's more or less the same.
There are some walkmans well known for being so advanced that includes recording capabilities, like the AIWA JX-505, JX707 or the SONY WM-AF670, and they look good enough to make good recordings. But, believe me, the recording quality is very poor. You better forget about this if you are looking for something decent.
AIWA JX707, one of the most advanced walkmans ever made.
If you want something good, I recommend you to discard Walkman recorders, boomboxes and cheapest decks.
A very decent Hitachi boombox from the late 80s.
There are some exceptions, as always. Some are the SONY WM-D3, WM-D6C, the TC-D5 ProII and D5M (preferable the first one) and the Marantz PMD-430. All of them can make excellent recordings, especially if they work properly or have been serviced recently.
SONY TC-D5 ProII, one of the best portable recorders.