View Full Version : Pioneer RT-1020L /Deal ?

09-07-2004, 02:10 PM
Well, I have had the RTR fever for a few weeks now. Been watching eBay and biding[on Teacs], but until today with no success. Today I won a Pioneer RT-1020L. I didn`t think I would get it. I put in a low bid and I won. I know nothing about it. Is it a good model? I don`t think anything comes with it.

Here is the link:

Thanks for any info you guys can give.


09-07-2004, 02:21 PM
They're nice RTRs; I have one.

It's nice as a first deck, but it will get you lusting for more; I'm thinking later model Teac or Akai w/10 1/2" capabilities. RTRs did get better as time went on.

So far my deck is fine. Sound quality drops off in the 3 3/4 speed (40-12,000 +/- 3dB) vs. 7 1/2" (40-20,000 hZ), so you'll probably want to use the faster speed.

One thing I did notice is that you didn't get the NAB hubs, so you'll be limited to small (7") reels until you get some. That's too bad because they'll run you at least $30+ for a set.

If you have any questions, or want a copy of the Operating Manual, let me know.

Congrats and welcomr to RTR world!

09-07-2004, 02:43 PM
Andyman, thanks for the info.

NAB hubs? This thing uses 10 inch reels? I didn`t know that.

Yes, I can use a Manual. I know nothing about it, so that would help alot.


09-07-2004, 02:52 PM
No problem. PM me your addy and I'll get it out.

Here's a link to another auction that shows the 10 1/2" reels and the NAB adapters. No affiliation, of course.

RT-1020L Auction (

BTW, are you getting a power cord? None of the photos look like it's powered up and there's none connected in the back shot, although there is some sort of cord behind it in the first.

09-07-2004, 02:57 PM

Now that`s a good looking machine!!

PM on the way.

Thanks again, Tankdonovan

Vintage TX
09-07-2004, 05:07 PM
Not sure if you noticed the deck is set for 220 volt and 50 hz.:rolleyes:
Be sure to ask the seller if it has a voltage-selector.

09-07-2004, 05:19 PM
Great eye, TX!

According to my manual, it should be adjustable. There's a whole page on what to do to set it to 110V, 60 Hz.

He'll have to pull the back panel, switch a voltage selecter pin switch, and flip a couple toggles and the drive belt pulleys.

More work than flipping a single rear mounted switch, but still do-able.

Vintage TX
09-07-2004, 05:28 PM
Great Andy:)
The reason why I noticed the outlet, had the same thing with a Sony a gentleman bought from E-boy and didn't work right.
Was set for 220 and 50 hz, but a pulley for the capstan-motor made it spin too fast.:mad:
Live and learn:D

09-07-2004, 06:04 PM
The auction read:

"This auction is for a vintage Pioneer RT-1020L reel-to-reel tape recorder in good operating and cosmetic condition".

If it`s in good operating condition maybe someone has already changed it over to 110. Or they just flat out lied!

Yes, live and learn!

09-07-2004, 07:13 PM
I wondered about that too. How can they know it's in good operating condition w/o the power cord?
Maybe they just pulled it for the pics.
Let us know.

09-08-2004, 02:26 PM
Are all 10 1/2in. NAB adapters the same? Or is there ones just for certain brands like Pioneer? Will Teac adapters fit a Pioneer RTR? Are not all holes in the 10 1/2in[for 1/4in tape] reels the same size? They look the same. I really don`t have a clue.

Thanks for any info you guys can give.


Vintage TX
09-08-2004, 03:06 PM
There is different kinds, Pioneer adaptors are more high priced, same was used on RT-901 and RT-909 models.
You can use Teac's but they are not 100 % safe mounted, center-lock with Pioneer has a 3-legged springloaded to hold the hub in place.
Teac models use a treaded center piece that you tighten down.
Model: TZ-613. partsnr: 574 402 3200.

1/4 NAB reels are the same, just different ways to hold them in place. :)

09-09-2004, 08:29 PM
The RT-1020L is due for delivery on Saturday 09/11/04.

Will it have a power cord or not?

Will it be 220 or 110?

Is it really in good condition or a piece of crap?

Did I get a deal or get a shaft?

Those are the questions.


Vintage TX
09-09-2004, 08:41 PM
Hopefully everything is OK.;)

Did you ask the seller those questions ?

Vintage TX
09-09-2004, 08:50 PM
Back in June I bought a piece of crap, same model and no pictures in the ad.
Auction was listed like this:

It arrived 2,5 month's later, rusty, no cord, non-working and mildew all over.:mad:
Paid $ 80.00 for that door-stop.:confused:

Took a chance, auction was almost over and just one bid, the last 2 minutes hell broke loose and I was the highest "lucky winner":p:

09-10-2004, 09:16 AM
I asked those questions and got no answer. I do not bid if I get no answer, but it was in the last day and I broke my own rule. Maybe I`ll get lucky.

I`m not going to have to wait long to find out according to FedEx.[09/11/04]

I guess we all do dumb things from time to time.


Vintage TX
09-10-2004, 11:31 AM
Yes, I also broke my own rule doing the exact same thing:D
But mine is so bad condition, only a few parts can be used.

09-11-2004, 06:05 PM
Well, the RT-1020L was delivered today. Fast shipping. It was packaged real well. No shipping damage.

It looks real good after a little clean up. Maybe a 8 or 8 1/2 on the 1 to 10 scale.

The Heads look good, show hardly any wear.

No power cord. So I don`t know if it is 110 or 220 or even works. I have found power cords on the net but not sure where to pick one up at locally.

Well...., so far so good.


09-12-2004, 05:58 PM
Is it a 2-prong or 3-prong AC outlet in back (I can't tell from the pic). I would assume you could use any computer AC power cord like the one for your monitor...RadioShack and Office Depot carry 'em.

Did you ever write back to the seller and ask again if it's 220V or 110V? Wonder if the seller even knows? You may have to take it in to a qualified local audio tech who works on tape machines first before trying to fire it up yourself, just in case. May set you back $50 or so, but for piece of mind it may just be worth it.

Good luck!

09-12-2004, 06:13 PM
The manual will be there in a few days. You can use it to check out what voltage it's set for.

The plug is 2 flat prong and thin, sort of like an older extension cord.

Just out of curiosity, how was it tested w/o a plug? I've used alligators on the end of a chopped cord; that would work short term for testing.

09-12-2004, 08:53 PM
It`s a 2 prong plug. Flat prongs. I checked at Radio Shack and could not find one.

I sent the seller a email last night[Saturday]to find out how it was tested and have not gotten a reply yet. The seller has a Pawn Shop so he is probably closed on Sunday.

Alligator clips! I was wondering if that would work. I found a place on the net that sells a power cord for the RT-1020L. It`s 12.50 plus 3.50 S/H. Not to bad.

If it is set up for 220 and I plug it into a 110[before I find out for sure], will it hurt it? Is it hard to take the cover off to check it out?

Thanks for the manual Andyman. I`m sure that will help alot.

The more I clean the deck, the better it looks. If not for a very few scratches and nicks[2 or 3] this thing would be near mint!

Vintage TX
09-13-2004, 09:34 AM
If you take the rear cover off and look next to the capstan-motor (has a fan mounted) there is a switch to the right side with 50-60hz. The switch should be on 60.

Then look at the drive-belt between the fly-wheel and capstan-motor, it has 2 tracks on the capstan-motor pulley.
If your machine are set for 110 the belt should be on the smaller pulley behind the capstan-motor.
Also there is two different tracks on the flywheel.
Belt should be closest to the base of the deck, if set for 60 hz.

After that check the voltage-selector with a fuse-cap mounted in the center.
Should also have a safety plate mounted with 2 screws.
Take those off and you will se different voltage-settings behind.
Take the fuse-cap off and check the fuse, should be a 2-amp.

Good Luck:)

09-13-2004, 05:46 PM
It`s set for 110. Thanks Vintage Tx. and Andyman[copy of manual came today].

Now all I have to do is wait for the power cord[ordered one today] and reels of tape.

If it works good and I don`t have to put any more money in it right away I`ll get some 10 1/2 reels and adapters for it. That will probably cost more than I paid for the deck! But they will look sooo good.


Vintage TX
09-14-2004, 01:04 AM
Great, glad it was correct settings.:)
Keep us posted on the progress.

Good Luck !

09-17-2004, 03:05 PM
Got the power cord Wednesday from Vintage-Electronics. Bob is very fast with his shipping. Anyway, pluged it in and the meters both lite up. It looked like everything was good to go.

Got some used tapes late yesterday and put them on and everything worked. I recorded with a mic and it worked. I haven`t had time to do much else. I`ll hook it up to my system and give it a good checking out. It looks like I may have gotten a fair deal after all.

I do have one little problem on the take up reel.[see picture]. The rubber piece is missing and the take up reel is a little unstable. It only sits against the three screw heads. At 7 1/2 and especially at ff it could cause a problem. See what I mean? Does anyone know where I might get a rubber piece for it? I`m sure I can make something fit but I would rather have the original if I can get it.

Thanks as always,

For some reason I can`t upload picture. See tape deck here:

Vintage TX
09-17-2004, 04:37 PM
Great it works:)
Bob is always fast with shipping I think, I call him "Speedy Bob":D
About the rubber-mat, I can take one off my "Happy Eboy Treasure " mistake that I bought.
Send me a e-mail with your address and it will be on the way Monday morning.
No charge, but don't forget me at Christmas.:p:

09-17-2004, 05:34 PM
Thanks Vintage Tx.

PM ed my address.


Vintage TX
09-17-2004, 05:45 PM
Got it, will send it Monday.;)

09-19-2004, 06:44 PM
Well, I guess I spoke to soon.

I finally had time to really test the deck out and things are not that good.

It plays pre-recorded tapes very well. Sound is great. But it will not record. I can`t even get the mic to record now. The erase head works when I try to record over pre-recorded tapes but no sound from new recording. The meters work and can be adjusted. I know I have things hooked up right and am doing what I am suppose to do.

I cleaned the heads. They look good.

Does anyone have any ideas?


09-19-2004, 07:09 PM
Do you have the Record switches flipped down to record???

09-19-2004, 07:34 PM
I wish I could say no..., but I had them flipped down!

Could it be that I`m using old tape? It looks O.K. Not sticky. It`s about 15 years old and has been keep in a recording studio[according to eBay auction] Ampex Mastering Tape 456 and 457. ????

Thanks anyway, Tankdonovan

Vintage TX
09-19-2004, 07:43 PM
After the new recording, did you set the 2 monitor switches to Play ?
If you have signal when recording how were the monitor switches, Source or Tape ?

Vintage TX
09-19-2004, 07:45 PM
Ampex 456 can be the problem...:(
Older batch 456 shed like crazy, try with another tape instead and clean the heads first. probably alot of black residue..

09-19-2004, 07:49 PM
The monitor switches were set to play after recording when trying to play back.

Monitor switches set to source when recording.


Vintage TX
09-19-2004, 07:56 PM
Hmm, did you check the heads if they are dirty ?
Does the meters move at all on playback ?
Try another tape with some recording on it already and see what happens.:)

09-19-2004, 08:20 PM
The only tape I have is the old 456 and 457. And some pre-recorded tapes. In other words I don`t have any other tape to record on.

Yes, the tape heads were very black when I cleaned[about an hour ago] them. It could very well be the tape. I will have to order some new[fresh] tape and see what happens.

The meters worked on play back[pre-recorded tape] and on trying to record. They did not work when I tried to play what I had attempted to record.

Am I having fun yet?????


Vintage TX
09-19-2004, 08:34 PM
Yes, you have fun:D
If you buy used tapes from Ebay, try find Maxell UD35-7, goldbox.
High grade polyester tape or there is Ampex 631 box of 10 for $ 24.95 + shipping yesterday I think, that also works good on your machine.
631 is normal tape and Maxell High output.
New tapes you can find at US-recording Media.

Stay away from older Ampex 456 0r 457..:(

Good Luck !

09-19-2004, 09:53 PM
Would you believe I have bought[eBay] 26 boxes of 7" Ampex 456 and 457? I thought I got a deal. Wow!! What a deal. It mades sense about the tape being the problem. When I first got them I recorded with a mic. It worked. Then I played pre-recorded tapes and I also did some rewinding of the Ampex tapes[in play mode]. Alot were on side 2 and I wanted to see what was recorded on them. Then I tried to record again and nothing happened.

I have learned alot from this forum. This place is the greatest!


Vintage TX
09-20-2004, 12:40 AM
So you bought a whole box..:(
Sorry to hear that, I think you should save the boxes and trow those tapes away.
I did a search for good tapes and this auction:
Seller is dependable and honest, I know him from earlier transactions.:)
These 631 Ampex will work on your Pioneer.

Good Luck !:cool:

Vintage TX
09-20-2004, 12:57 AM
The Maxell I mentioned cost more buying from Ebay but they are high-grade tapes, if you record your own tapes on the higher speed the Ampex 631 will work just fine.
Slower speed (3-3/4) a higher grade tape is better.
Maybe you can find some locally, here is UD-35-7:
Maxell also made a newer tape 18-180.
(black/silver box) Also high-grade and excellent tape.
1800 feet with polyester.

Stay away from Radio-Shack, Ampex 456, Concertone, Sony SLH (red boxes), Lafayette Criterion XHE, Some of Memorex Low Noise, High output can also have problems with shedding tape and make a mess.
Of course the best way is to buy new fresh Quantegy tapes if you don't want to gamble.

I don't know the seller by the way.:cool:

09-20-2004, 07:16 AM
Now I have to learn about tapes. Maybe I should have done a little research before buying. Another old" live and learn".

I don`t know of any place locally that sell RTR tape. The Ampex 631 tape looks like alot of tape for the money. The Maxell is much higher but able to record at 3 3/4 gives you double time per tape. So it may be a trade off.

I think maybe the best thing to do for now is to buy fresh new tape. That way I can find out for sure about the recording capabilities of my deck and not wondering if it is the tape causing a problem.

Thanks for the info on tape.


09-20-2004, 09:38 PM
Is the Ampex 457 the same as the 456? Does it also put black gunk on the tape heads? Just wondering.

How many companies make new tape? Is it only Quantegy?

09-21-2004, 12:42 AM
Take it from tx and me stay away from backcoated tape. I have dozens of reels at work and home of the backcoated tape which has gone bad. Scotch 226 was the most notorious circa 1980's-90's. I gave the 3M rep a good earful in mid 90's about rare concerts and interviews I recorded which are about worthless now. Switched to 456 in early 90's and it has held up a bit better, but we are a radio station and don't have climate controlled rooms like studios or record companies.
There is a baking process you can do to release the oil I believe which allows you to get one pass and rerecord on another format for these bad tapes.

Anyway go with polyester based tape. I still have quite a few of the scotch 176 reels, which is still good with little print through. I had good experiences with the few Maxells i used years ago.

Here is a good local company I still buy cassettes and minidiscs from. They do carry the quantegy(Ampex) at good prices.
good luck and enjoy the RtR experience.

09-21-2004, 09:46 AM
Thanks for all the info on tapes. I had no idea. I thought if you keep tapes from extreme cold or heat that they would be O.K. forever.

Do you think the new backcoated tapes made by Quantegy are going to have the same problems down the road?

I have bought 3 pre-recorded tapes on eBay and they sound great. They are from the middle 70`s. I guess commerical tapes may last longer. I checked the heads after playing and they left no gunk.

I ordered one 7" roll of Quantegy tape from Sweetwater yesterday. They have good prices with free shipping. The dealer you recommended looks good, too. I`m going to try my deck out[recording] with fresh new tape so if it does not sound right I know it will be the deck and not the tape. New tape is probably the best way to go anyway but more expensive.

I have always been a record fan and I don`t think that tape will ever take me from my first love for LPs. I`m sure that subject is up for debate!

Thanks again for the info.


09-22-2004, 01:40 AM
well whether the newer formulations will hold up over time is probably up for debate. The sad thing is you won't know until it is too late.
The temperature extremes are important but also humidity is critical too. Plus the enviroment where you live can affect the life as well. Pollutants in air will contribute to the breakdown of the formula over time. we all know what acid rain does.
I don't recall what the optimal percentage is but think it was around 30-40%.
I would like to know what temp/humidity the record companies keep their old master tapes at in the vaults.

the same goes for recordable cd's. my oldest ones are about 9 years old but one guy I used to work with had some from early 90's and those were still good when I spoke with him a couple of years ago.

well look at what i found! This should answer all your questions on storage. I wasn't far off on humidty.

09-22-2004, 02:54 PM
Wow! Great article on tape care. An awful lot of things effect tape.

With the pre-recorded tapes I bought on eBay was an old tape from the 60s. It is called "LR audiotape"[Mylar*polyster film]Type 1861. It has instrumental music on it[Bill Justis/Chet Atkins/Mancini/Arthur Murry and others]. Not really my type of music but I played it anyway. It is recorded at 3 3/4, in stereo from LPs. It sounded real good. I was surprised. This tape is over 40 years old and it has pasted the test of time. It left no gunk on the heads, it did not stick, it played through all the way with no trouble. Record date was 06/13/63. I may try tapeing over it.


09-22-2004, 09:43 PM
I have a feeling that the tape is inside out. If you have black stuff on the heads, that's the back coating. The tape side should be brown. The older tapes of that type not only shed, they dry up. Discard them when you get the machine running.


Vintage TX
09-22-2004, 11:12 PM
Those Ampex 456 and 457with back-coating to make tape grip better are black, polyester tapes is different with brown color.:)
If the tape was stored with "tails out" when loaded on the machine sound or recording is backwards.

09-22-2004, 11:32 PM
Remember the old red tape? I forgot who made that, but not a long shelf life. we have some 35 year old reels at the station that have become brittle over the years. have to be reel careful on FF or RW!

Tank, that's another important point. To extend the longevity and minimize print through (which is the signal from one layer of tape transferring to another, because it is a magnetic recording) your tapes should be played through until the end and left in the tails out condition. Then when you are ready to play rack it up and rewind.

Enjoy your reel to reel experience. and down the road if you want to have fun, get an editing block, a razor, grease pencil and splicing tape and experiment cutting different sounds together. That's what we did before these fancy computers came around:D

Vintage TX
09-22-2004, 11:48 PM
Bill, was that RCA Mylar tape 10M-18 ?
Red Seal Sound Tape or something.
The oldest tape I seen was Scotch with paper-backing, did a transfer for a gentleman couple of months ago.
Could not rewind or forward at time shot.:confused:

09-23-2004, 12:25 AM
Originally posted by tankdonovan
Wow! Great article on tape care. An awful lot of things effect tape.

With the pre-recorded tapes I bought on eBay was an old tape from the 60s. It is called "LR audiotape"[Mylar*polyster film]Type 1861. It has instrumental music on it[Bill Justis/Chet Atkins/Mancini/Arthur Murry and others]. Not really my type of music but I played it anyway. It is recorded at 3 3/4, in stereo from LPs. It sounded real good. I was surprised. This tape is over 40 years old and it has pasted the test of time. It left no gunk on the heads, it did not stick, it played through all the way with no trouble. Record date was 06/13/63. I may try tapeing over it.

Off topic: Don't record over this tape! It sounds interesting, and maybe some collectors would find interest in this recording as well. Especially as old as it is and it still sounds least sell it on eBay! If I had a reel to reel, I'd take it off your hands (alas, I do not, and have no way of playing it).

Just my thoughts on the matter...

Vintage TX
09-23-2004, 12:46 AM
Jim, are you looking for something particular ?
I have lot's of old recordings, even jingles from radio-stations, sound effects from studios etc.:D

09-23-2004, 10:31 AM

The tape is right side out. It`s just that the backing still touches the play side and the backing is kinda sticky.

The old tape I was talking about does look like it would break easy. But like I said, it does play well. I do wonder what kind of equipment was used to record it. Back in 1963 the use of stereo by the consumer was kind of new. Mono was still King!

I should get my new tape in the mail today. I`m ready to test this thing out with what I know is good tape. Everything else on the deck works great.

I was worried about the deck, not the tape to use with it. Boy, was I surprised! I now have a better understanding of tape. Thanks to AK!


09-23-2004, 08:06 PM
Got the tape today from

The RT-1020L records just GREAT! No problems at all. Now I need more tape.

So it looks like the deck is a fair deal after all. All functions work. The apperance is very good after a clean up.

I wish it played back in reverse. That would be a nice feature. I need to set it up with 10 1/2" reels soon.


Vintage TX
09-23-2004, 11:58 PM
That was good news.:)
Glad it works like it should.

09-27-2004, 10:41 PM
I'm not sure of brand. I will have to go into file cabinet at work tomorrow and look around for some of those reels. I seem to recall it was another brand, the last time I listened to it was late 80's and it may not even be in original box.

10-02-2004, 08:45 AM
Well...,I have had time to test the RT-1020L pretty good the last few days and I must say that it works very well. It does everything it is suppose to do. Only thing I have not tested is the playing of a 4 channel tape.

The recording[7 1/2] I have done with it has been from LPs. The play back is good but it`s not as good as the LP. It seems like the sound is missing something. Hard to explain. Years ago when I owned a 4010S it`s play back was not as good as the LP. The pre-recorded tapes seem to have a better quality. Is this the case with most RTRs?

I have enjoyed recording and playing the deck and I plan later on getting 10 in. reels for it. I have seen pictures of the RT-1020L with them and it looks real good.