How does the monitor/resource button work on a cassette deck?

Looking a purchasing a Nakamichi or Aiwa three head cassette deck. Question has to to with the monitor/source switch. I am wanting to use the VU output meters for all sources that are played through my system. With that being said…do I have to engage the recording mode of the deck in order to do this? And is this true for all three-head decks? I know I can buy external meters but I don’t like their looks within my system.

Provided you have the cassette deck fully connected to a proper tape in/out on your pre-amp then the monitor switch on the deck will either monitor directly from the play head (TAPE) or from the source of whatever is being fed to the REC OUT pins of your pre-amp (SOURCE).

So, I will not have to engage any function on the front of the deck to do this?

You’ll need to switch between Tape and Source on the deck itself. Most 3 head decks will have off tape monitoring and a button too switch between the two. Be careful though as Nakamichi used to offer 3 head decks with no off tape monitoring (481, 581, and 660, 670 and 681). Also, IIRC, some Aiwas had automatic monitor switching, but could be manually over-ridden. If you’re a fan of meters then the Aiwa AD-F770 had some of the best.

Thank you. Were those the only Naks that did not have off tape monitoring? Besides the Aiwa AD-F770, did other Aiwa’s do the same. Just hard to find documentation. Is there a site where I could find out if the decks have this specific feature?

Yes, I think those were the only 3 head Nakamichis without off-tape monitoring.

The AD-F770 had off-tape monitoring with a source/tape switch (first of the three buttons on the far right). It’s an excellent deck and can sound really nice.