Nakamichi T-100 Software Simulator

The Nakamichi T-100 Audio Analyzer was a legendary piece of test gear produced by Nakamichi Ltd in the last century. Originally conceived as a tool for serious recordists, the Analyzer had also been widely praised by audio engineers, service technicians and even hobbyists for its unique compactness, versatility, portability and convenience. By simply turning a rotary switch on the front panel, the Nakamichi T-100 can be instantly ready for conducting various audio measurements, including: dB, Voltage, TDH, W&F, S/N... and so on. The advantage of such an all-inclusive design made it an incredible handy tool like a Swiss Knife. When inspecting a given audio device, significant time and space could be saved compared to swapping individual test equipments and calibrating respectively. Especially when iterative test cycles were required, Nakamichi T-100 eliminated repeated overhand and hence made the job easier and faster done onsite.

As the resurgences of LP records and magnetic tapes in recent years, the needs for servicing analogue audio players/recorders are increasing accordingly. Despite today's rich accesses to the modern digital test equipments, the unique advantage of Nakamichi T-100 Audio Analyzer is still being remembered and recalled. However, the growing demand can't be easily met because no new T-100 Analyzer is in production by Nakamichi. You have to look for a used unit which is rather scarce and expensive, not to mention the potential service needed to bring an aged unit back to a trustful condition.

However, if you are not a hardware collector and you do need the functionalities/usabilities rather than the ownership of a reel Nakamichi T-100 Audio Analyzer, you might be interested in this NAK T-100 software simulator. But before you expect too much, please be advised that such a simulator is based on general-purpose computer and can not overcome the inherent limitations of sound cards. For example, it may not be immediately ready for measuring absolute voltage unless a rather rigid calibration work has been performed; And an average sound card can not measure higher voltage above 1.0V unless a physical attenuator has been added. Another noteworthy fact is that the virtual NAK T-100 analyzer measures everything with digital algorithms instead of analogue circuits, which may not necessarily give the exact same readings as given by the analogue hardware, although both methods are of equivalent approach with reasonable tolerance. Without understanding the limitations in advance, it makes no sense to talk about the associated benefits.

One of the obvious benefits is the cost. The NAK T-100 software can simulate approximately 90% functionalities and usabilities of the real Nakamichi T-100 Audio Analyzer at about 5% cost. Yes, each individual function may be arguably substituted for free today, but the value of a nice simulator is also based on its ability in imitating the specific usabilities of the original device, which is often unique.

In addition to the limitations per se, there comes desirable extensions as well, for example: THD at 1kHz in addition to only 400Hz, speed at 3150Hz in addition to only 3000Hz, and W&F in (W)RMS in addition to only Peak. As per the original Nakamichi T-100 User's Guide, drawing a Frequency Response curve requires a tedious step-by-step manual procedure working with the hardware. The software simulator automates the procedure on screen and accomplishes it in an asynchronous manner which is beneficial for testing 2-head tape decks. The software simulator also comes with a built-in spectrum analyzer, a simple oscilloscope and Lissajous display which were not available on the original hardware. The Lissajous display features an additional ellipse in slow-motion, which can stabilize the wobbling and flipping graph while tuning tape head azimuth by using a reference signal higher than 10kHz.

The NAK T-100 software simulator is distributed via Microsoft Store or Mac Store, hence, it requires Windows 10 or macOS 10.11 at minimum. As of the usage, if you have ever managed to  transfer audio between computer and analogue audio device, you are pretty much ready to go. It has a built-in guide for each calibration and measurement task. Because of its similarity to the real device, the original Nakamichi T-100 User's Guide is also a good reference.

To conclude, the software is a functional simulator rather than a cosmetic simulator. It has both limitations and extensions function-wise. It can not offer you a pride ownership of the legendary gear virtually, but it can save you maintenance effort, space and cost which were formerly required for having the equivalent functionalities. And no, don't hire it for your science project, it's a different species from laboratory grad instruments after all.

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