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If it plays back a pre-recorded tape OK, then the tape head will be good. If it doesn't you might have problem, with either the head or the pre-amp stage.
However if it is playing back OK but not recording, then you have problem in the record circuit. Some tape decks physically switch the circuit when you press record. Pushing the record button will cause a switch to move position. In some cases dirt or dust can get into the switch and it doesn't connect properly. Switch cleaning fluid will correct the problem.
However the record circuit itself could be faulty. Perhaps an IC has developed a fault on one channel, which will need to be replaced.
Watching what happens when you press record with the top cover off, showing the workings, might point to some movement of the mechanism to reveal a faulty switch.
The Akai brand across many models were known to have defective transistors more than any other brand. Some of the 2SC458 transistors were placed in the Bias Oscillator circuit and will not turrn that part on to erase or record. In addition I have had line section failures and record section failures of transistors and capacitors. There are so many variables of possible parts that the best answer is to bring it to a Technician. The problem that complicates it further is that most good Techs don't want to work on them as they were built so poorly. An Akai trained Technician told me they were built to be thrown away instead of fixed. Plus you will never find heads for them. They do wear out- 90% of the units I saw were worn out.
Ii have worked on tape deck for 40 years so far.
I'm pretty sure the auto-reverse is NOT supposed to work during recording. What would be the point since it only records in one direction?
And I'm pretty sure there's only one reverse sensor, usually to the left of the heads and not necessarily on a tension arm. The sensor foil is supposed to be on the non-oxide side of the tape so it will adhere better and never contact the heads.
This picture of a GX-635 shows a typical transport ...
There's a knob for how the auto reverse. Is it set correctly? I believe infinite forward / backward play is possible if you have the knob set properly, a sensor foil on the tape and the tape counter set to 0000 at the beginning of the recording.
If nothing else, get the manuals for the preamp and the EQ. You'll probably have to pay for them.
Akai PR-A04 preamplifier << This is the control center and where everything comes together.
Akai AP-D210 turntable (ONLY to jacks that say "PHONO"
Akai EA-G40 Stereo Graphic Equalizer (in the Tape 1 Out/In set)
Akai CS-F14 Stereo cassette deck (in the Tape Out/In set of the EQUALIZER) *
Akai AT-K110 Fm Am Tuner (to the Tuner inputs)
Akai DT-100 Audio Tuner (to the Aux inputs)
Akai PA-W04 Amplfier (to the amp outputs)
* This will allow you to Equalize the Tape on the Record or the Playback side.
Read some audio magazines or websites. Get to understand Tape Monitor Loops.
lets say you are hooked up correctly (cable to VCR in (from cable/sat box) & cable to TV from VCR out) and the VCR is set to Ch 3,, (PLEASE NOTE THE TV MUST BE ON CH 3)
program a recording the VCR clock / date must be set and not flashing 12:00 then you go to menu, program a recording by imputing the start time / end time of the show and the date it will be recorded and Ch 3...(you might have to set your cable box for the same date/time as the VCR or manually turn to that ch you wish to record that morning or before you go to bed) put a new tape in the machine....
manual recording a show,game or special comes on and you sitting and want to watch and record and even edit (no commercials) put tape in... press record button get the remote so you can pause (on commercials) and press pause again to resume recording