The Pioneer RT-909 Black Edition Reel to Reel

Discover the awesome black version update of the RT-909 Reel-to-Reel tape machine

The original black version of the RT-909 was made in small numbers for the U.S military. This version is named the 'Swiss version' by Vlad Frincu, ‘the best’ update for the RT-909. This is ‘the works’, the best of.

The Black Pioneer RT-909 Reel to Reel

All black fascia parts were finished at the Burmester factory to which you can only imagine and expect to be absolutely perfect. Everything from the knobs, tension arms to the reel tables, and the reels themselves.

The production of getting the finish as perfect as possible was an enormous and very expensive task because the original panels simply could not be anodised due to the poor quality of the original base metal. 

So a different technique was needed. Then of course came the re-production of the lettering. The technique of getting the lettering on the panels is one I've never come across before. You would think that it would be a post effect/over-print but it's not. 

If you run your finger over any of the lettering etc. there is no raised effect. How this is done to such accuracy and to pin sharpness is quite amazing. I suppose it's an effect that Burmester would be only too familiar with.

The head-block, for example, is actually a full remake of the original because of the poor quality of the original metal. Using extremely high tech 3D scanning equipment it is much more accurate than the original head block as much higher quality materials were used in this production. All heads are re-lapped and laser aligned by JRF Magnetics.

The process of getting the finish as perfect as possible and blemish-free on all of the fascia parts had been a very expensive and time-consuming project and so not many parts were produced. Therefore a very hefty price tag. Needless to say, this is for the connoisseur. Someone who appreciates quality in build and sound as well as design.

The deck is one of the last deck made and dated to 1982 and this conversion was carried out in May 2012. Here's what I started with.

The upgrades also included a remote control which worked perfectly. And also a newly developed damper for the capstan and pinch roller assembly.

Works carried out:

  1. The tension arms were stripped down and re-made and re-lubricated in Switzerland.
  2. Tension arm tape guides were fully re-made by hand in Switzerland.
  3. The tape heads were re-lapped, re-mounted and laser aligned on to the new head block by JRF Magnetics in the U.S.A (All documentation supplied). The fitting of the new head block is precision itself, an amazing piece of engineering.
  4. The deck was fully serviced. Every mechanism coupling has been stripped down, cleaned and re-lubricated; these include both Solenoid lift and pull mechanisms.
  5. The capstan lift solenoid had a custom made oil damper fitted which stops the ‘Klunk’ as the tape guides drop on stock decks. The damper was made by hand in Switzerland to the exact precision. New base pads for the guide arms had also been fitted. When the deck disengages the capstan arms smoothly glide down, no noise and very slick, beautiful.
  6. Both brakes were serviced and the motors were re-lubricated.
  7. Both brakes engage springs had been replaced.
  8. Both brake solenoid lift arms were replaced with custom made arms fitted with coupling silencers. Hand made in Switzerland.
  9. The brake drums were cleaned and fitted with anti-resonating tubes on the mainsprings as well as a velvety softener strip applied to the back of the brake band. This ensures that the bands don’t resonate when they’re disengaged.
  10. The motor relay was removed and all internal contacts cleaned with IPA and De-Oxit before refitting. An anti-resonating tube was also fitted to the internal spring.
  11. The custom made remote control which was designed in Switzerland by the re-inventor V.Frincu was also fitted.
  12. Capstan drive wheels were professionally polished and lubricated.
  13. Brand new drive belt fitted.
  14. All tape guides were cleaned.
  15. Brand new pinch rollers made by Terry’s Rubber Rollers in the USA were also fitted.
  16. The deck was re-biased and calibrated.
  17. The outer casework was fitted with internal sound dampening material and the vents have been fitted with a suitable mesh to reduce the dust accumulation inside the deck.

To finish:

The RT-909 is a lovely bit of kit. Its sound has a great signature and will adorn any vintage or modern system. The mechanics are sound and reliable as well as the electronics, once a re-cap has been performed.

The quality of the metalwork is good for a home unit but it's not great. Pressed plate metal sections make up the main internal face motor plate which is okay but when you compare it to say, a semi-pro Revox or a pro-Studer deck, you see where things could have been maybe a little better. 

On a Revox, Studer, Otari or Tascam for example, the faceplate is a cast chunk of alloy. 

The RT-909 is a consumer deck and it does sound very nice. Its aesthetics are the most important for most and therefore, in the grand scheme of things it's a nice sounding and comfortable deck to own.

With the updates from Vlad, this deck is now like using a very high-end cassette player, Like a Nakamichi or similar. For the user, it’s simply superb and an amazing piece of vintage technology. 

When reconditioned to mint condition mechanically and aesthetically, the RT-909 becomes timeless in design and, yes, a work of art in it's own way. It was a pleasure to be instructed by Vlad on the upgrades.

Lastly, if you are in possession of an RT-909, this is exactly what you should do with it... So long as you like black of course.