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, it was also widely praised by audio engineers, service technicians and even hobbyists, for its outstanding 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, THD, Speed, W&F, S/N with its built-in signal generator. 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 instruments and calibrating respectively. Especially when iterative and grouped test cycles were required, Nakamichi T-100 eliminated repeated overhand and hence made the job easier and faster done onsite.

Today, as the resurgences of analogue audio sources, the needs for servicing analogue audio players/recorders are increasing accordingly. Despite today's rich supply of modern digital test instruments, including software applications, the unique advantage of Nakamichi T-100 Audio Analyzer is still being remembered and preferred. However, the growing demand can no longer be easily satisfied because no new T-100 Analyzer is in production by Nakamichi. You have to look for a used unit which is rather scarce and pricey, 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 but you do need the functionalities/usability rather than the pride 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 computers and can not overcome the inherent limitations of sound cards. For example, it may not be immediately ready for measuring absolute AC voltage unless a rather rigid calibration work has been done, and even so, an ordinary 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 yield the exact same readings as given by the analogue hardware. Although both methods are of equivalent approaches for the same measurement, typical tolerances across different types of test instruments would be expected. Without understanding the limitations in advance, it makes no sense to talk about the benefits.

The immediate benefit is the cost. The NAK T-100 software can virtually provide more than 90% of the functionalities and usability of the real Nakamichi T-100 Audio Analyzer at about 5% cost. Yes, each individual function may even be substituted (arguably) for free today, but the value of a simulator is about its ability to imitate the specific user experience of the original device, which is often unique.

In addition to the limitations per-se, there comes desirable extensions too, such as: THD@1kHz, Spped@3150Hz and W&F@WRMS. The simulator can also perform more advanced tasks that the real device could not do, such as:  spectrum analysis, oscilloscope, frequency response scanning and W&F spectrum analysis. The frequency response plots can be obtained in 3 methods - white noise, pink noise and sweep. The sweep method is truly asynchronous, which is beneficial for testing 2-head tape decks where the test signal can be recorded first, then rewind and played back from any arbitrary point, the program can automatically identify each test signal and place the test point at the correct spot on the result curve. The simulator also comes with a special Lissajous display for adjusting tape head azimuth. It features an additional slow-motion ellipse, which stabilizes the wobbling and flipping pattern while tuning azimuth with a reference tone 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. To getting started , if you have ever managed to transfer audio between computer and tape recorder/player, you are pretty much ready to go. The simulator comes with built-in guide,  just click the little question mark near by each function. Due to 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 function simulator rather than a cosmetic simulator. It has both limitations and extensions. It can not offer you a pride ownership of the legendary gear, 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 the laboratory grad instruments after all.

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