Akai 4000DS Guide
By Jason Savage
The Akai 4000DS is a reel-to-reel tape recorder originally produced in the 1960s. Many enthusiasts of older audio equipment still seek out the 4000DS for its solid construction and classic analog sound. However, because of the device’s age, setup and use of the 4000DS may pose something of a challenge, particularly in the absence of a manual.
The 4000DS has only five jacks on the back: a pair of line inputs, a pair of line outputs and a DIN/RCA plug. The inputs are designed to accept input from an external tape deck or record player using standard audio cables, while the outputs can send the 4000DS’s signal to a secondary recording device, if desired. Using a DIN/RCA cord and the DIN/RCA plug on the 4000DS, the device can also be connected to a stereo amplifier with attached speakers. This is the only way to listen to the 4000DS through speakers because the device does not have speakers of its own. It does, however, have a headphone jack for those without an external amplifier.
Loading tape reels onto the 4000DS is fairly self-explanatory when looking at the unit from the front. A full reel of tape is loaded onto the left capstan and an empty reel is loaded onto the right. The reel retainer is then engaged to hold the left reel firmly in place. The tape from the left reel is then threaded through the playhead mechanism and attached to the right reel, which turns counter-clockwise to gather the tape during playback and recording. The 4000DS can use two- or four-track tapes up to seven inches in size.
Playback on the 4000DS is achieved by first setting the “Track Selector” switch to “Stereo” and selecting the appropriate tape speed, usually indicated on the reel to be played. The “Tape Monitor” switch is then set to the “Tape” position and the “Record/Playback” lever to “FWD” to begin playback. If you are using an external amplifier and speakers with the 4000DS, volume and equalization are managed using the amplifier’s settings. If using headphones, the 4000DS plays back through them at a constant level — it is not adjustable.
The 4000DS can record from a variety of analog sources, including the two microphone inputs on the front. For example, you can connect a secondary tape or record player to the line inputs on the back and record their output by setting the “Record/Playback” lever to “REC” and playing the secondary device. The 4000DS can also record the input from a stereo receiver this way, making it possible to record radio broadcasts. Recording microphone input requires a slightly different procedure. The “Index Counter” must be set to “0000” and the microphone plugged into one of the jacks on the front. The microphone’s input level is then adjusted using the “Recording Level” control before setting the “Record/Playback” lever to “REC” to begin recording.
The Akai 4000DS is nearly 50 years old, so many units are bound to experience a variety of technical problems, depending on how they’ve been treated and stored over the years. One likely source of problems are the electrolytic capacitors used in the unit. These tend to decay over time, particularly if left in a moist environment, often resulting in noise spiking on one or both channels during playback. Finding replacements is likely to be quite difficult, but may still be possible. Numerous other parts may have gone bad over the years as well. If you are not an experienced technician, try locating a local shop that does work on older devices. It’s possible they may even have certified parts. The user's manual and service manual are available for download from HiFi Engine. You must sign up for a free membership before downloading.
Jason Savage has been a freelance writer since 2005. He has authored technical and procedural documents for a variety of clients, while his journalism and fiction have appeared in "Monday Magazine," "The Pedestal" and other publications. Savage holds B.A. in English and a B.F.A. in music.