taking apart an AKAI M9 pre-amp

I was on my way to my office when I found it abandoned next to a public trash bin. it stood out because nothing else was around. like this was that runt of the stuff already picked over. I liked the meters enough to carry it to the office.

then it sat. I’d put in in the area where the office people leave their old books, monitors, printers and other office stuff that somebody might want. sometimes things get a new home right away. mostly stuff just sits there until the computer recycle truck takes it for one last ride. sadly, this “free space” is done just like Virtual Fry’s is over. somebody moved into the office next to there and all that stuff was going to go away. if I was going to salvage the meters it was now. so I stashed the box in the closet that nobody looks in until the weekend.

in looking at my task I found it was going to be a bigger job then I first thought. the problem was that to get to the meters I had to remove almost about every part because that stuff covered the four spring’d screws holding the meters on to the panel. let’s just say I’m not keeping much.

let me tell you there is nothing as satisfying as taking old something completely apart. all I wanted was the meters. I wasn’t interested in any of the other parts. my junk parts drawer is full of junk parts waiting to become another project. like something that will power my new meters!.

I started on the right side and worked counter clockwise. I think the appeal was start where there was less parts before getting into the mess. meticulous could be a way to describe my focus but I wasn’t trying to save it back to live. it was coming apart as fast as I could get it apart. but reckless doesn’t describe my work either. if I was reckless it would have been much quicker to the meters.

it’s interesting to see technology from the not so past. it’s complicated and it’s not. I found reason to what looked like madness as I became more familiar with the layout. sometimes it’s a thing of beauty. but mostly you have to marvel that it worked at all. I am sure that somebody will marvel over an iPod the same way 4o years from now.

at some point in the dismantle I stopped to organize. wire went in a plastic cup, electronics parts went in another, and hardware went in plastic that delivered pie when I demanded that somebody bring me pie one day on Twitter. this made the mess less. you don’t have to have the neatnick gene in you to see why you’d bother. there are so many screws, nuts, stand offs, wires, knobs, resistors, capacitors and everything else that eventually everything is in everything. and when you move the case to get a better view the clutter is automatically in the way. so if you don’t have a declutter plan on going you will have to sort it in the end but I think its better to have the sorting done along the way.

it took a while but I finally found a clue as to what it was I was taking apart. it hadn’t occurred to me to ask this question before I plunged into destroying what could have been a priceless pre-amp. I’d figured out from the inputs, knobs and switches that it’s job was pre-amp for something. although the numbers 7 1/2, 3 3/4 and 1 7/8 didn’t mean anything to me. nor did MUTE, NORM and SOS. it must be HAM radio gear I surmised.

one circuit board was marked M-9-501. at this point I had to stop to see if I was right in the middle of a thousands of dollars mistake. a quick search found that it was the pre-amp for a Akai M9 reel to reel tape deck. eBay revealed that, wait for it… it wasn’t worth anything… phew!

auction for an M8 and a M10

the search did find a PDF of the service manual for the AKAI M9. you have to love that this kind of detail was sent into the field allowing people to repair what became broken. today if it breaks you almost always have to replace it. although we have luck getting iPods to work again replacing batteries, screens and media. but not everyone has an awesome set of tools.

I was pretty quick to finish. unsoldering wires from boards and connectors took about as long as cleaning the table of clutter. I took pictures of the front panel then stacked the metal so it could take it to the recycle bin when I left for home. finally I put all the parts in a box which will go back into the secret closet until I have another day to build the project that needs my found meters.

why take stuff apart?

  • it’s a satisfying way to spend a few hours.
  • you might get ideas on how to build something based on old something.
  • there are lots of useful parts.
  • it’s better than recycling the whole thing
  • makes a nifty article like this.

tools you definitely need

  • screw drivers
  • soldering iron
  • solder sucker
  • wire cutters
  • nut drivers
  • pliers (various sizes)
  • containers
  • recycle bin

AKAI tape reel to reel tape decks were sold for the next two decades or so until sales of cassette recorders pushed them out of the mainstream market place. audio “geeks” still have a love affair with this type of recorder for good reason. they often have features that lessor recorders will never have. things like four tracks, different recording speeds, and analog warmth caused by lots of analog head room. the last decks were things of beauty. watching somebody winding a tape to play and then watching the open reels as it’s playing is nothing but hypnotic.