Another PCM Recorder? Really?

AR-sanyo1.jpgA couple of months ago I finally found a working example of a Sony PCM-601 digital recorder for a long-term recording transfer project. I wrote about my travails on AudiophileReview.com. The first unit I purchased from a far-away seller proved to be DOA on arrival. The second one, purchased from the Roger Nichols' estate auction on EBAY, worked perfectly.  The working one was only slightly more than the DOA "parts unit" I already owned.

After acquiring two PCM-601s I thought my PCM recorder needs were satisfied, and in practicality, they were, but two weeks ago I noticed another PCM unit for sale that piqued my interest. The component was a Sanyo PCA 10.

Ever hear of a Sanyo PCA 10? No? Me neither. After some research I discovered that it was a strictly 14-bit PCM recorder that was introduced by Sanyo about the same time as Sony's original PCM-F1 and Nakamichi's PCM-F1.

The description said, "NICE ITEM, IT DOES LIGHT UP WHEN PLUGED IN, THANKS." and nothing more. Shipping was listed at $42 from California, which did sound slightly high, but I went ahead and threw out a bid - $19.51, figuring that a total of $62 shipped for a pig in a poke was worth it, if for nothing more than entertainment value.

I passed on my usual EBAY victory happy-dance when I found out I had "won" the auction with a high bid of $13.83. I paypaled the money and went about my regular daily activities. A week later a large, heavy box appeared on my doorstep. Inside the well-packed container was the Sanyo PCA 10.

My first reaction to seeing the PCA 10 "in the flesh" was, "This thing is HUGE!" It weighed more than twice what the Sony PCM-601 weighed, and its dimensions were more appropriately sized for a power amplifier than a recorder. At 19 ½" wide (no rack-mounting for you), 5 ¼" high, and 16" deep, the PCA 10 is imposing.  It sure ain't your cousin's Sanyo table radio...

But, far bigger surprises were still in store...It worked. Not only did it work, but the Sanyo's unique error-reporting circuitry worked as well. As far as I know, the Sanyo was the only PCM recorder that gave a front-panel read-out of the error level of a PCM playback. Unfortunately, the Sanyo lacks any error-reduction or tracking error adjustment scheme as on the Sony PCM recorders, so every drop-out (usually accompanied by a tearing sound) was front and center. I can see using the Sanyo as a test unit to see which Beta playback unit produces the least playback errors for an particular PCM tape.

But the wonders didn't stop with the Sanyo being fully functional...on the back of the Sanyo I found the biggest surprise of all - two stickers. The first sticker read, " SANYO ELECTRIC, Property of the Engineering department, 1200 West Artesia Blvd, Compton, CA." The second was a paper sicker that had the hand written words, "CES Sample PCA 10."

If these two stickers were real, I had just acquired THE CES SAMPLE Sanyo PCA 10! Now that was worthy of an EBAY happy dance...

Cynics are thinking, "Yeah, sure. Some sharpie just put those stickers on to increase value." Since the ad never even mentioned the stickers, I suspect the seller had no idea what they meant, and that they would add provenance and value.  Given their condition, AND the fact that the unit has no serial number or standard manufacturer sticker with a place for a serial number, this PCA 10 does appear to be a pre-production unit.

He shoots and he scores...I think I'll do another happy dance...

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