Crowncorder CTR-5400

This was my second reel-to-reel and, based on its capstan drive and dual speed, I would call it my first reel one.

My dad gave me this on his return from a tour in WESTPAC in, I think, 1966. And, as with my previous recorder, the Starlite, I used it a lot. I recorded theme songs from TV shows and lots of pop music from our local, Los Angeles, radios staions, mostly from KHJ. I still have many of these tapes. I'd even recorded the audio track from many episodes of my favorite TV show, "Get Smart."

In about 1967 we took a family road trip from Southern California to La Follette, Tennessee and the Crown went with me. I loaded up on batteries and had one of those cheap earphones we used back then. I remember setting the recorder on the rear window deck of the family Oldsmobile and letting the miles spin by along with the reels. I played the Lovin' Spoonful's "Nashville Cats" when we went through that city.

The recorder was most always at the ready and when I got up on the morning of June 5, 1968 I heard that Robert Kennedy had been shot the night before so I switched on recorder and saved that newscast from KHJ. Listen to the file down below.

The Crown shown in the photos below is, I think, playable, but as of this writing I haven't given it try. It did come with a seperate power supply which I think I still have but am unable to put my hands on at the moment.

Adding an Auto-shutoff Feature
I was always into modifying my things and the Crown was no exception. In fact, my mother told me once that the first thing I'd do with any new toy was to void the warranty. With the Crown I wanted it to have an "auto-shutoff" feature which it lacked. What I came up with was a Rube Goldberg design that I now look back on with some fondness. Relying on memory I produced a sketch, shown on the left, of the solution I came up at age 15 or so.

The principle of operation was to have the end of the tape pull a string that was connected to an existing switch inside the power supply. This required that the tapes had to have the tail-end sticking out a bit from the plastic reel and that tape-end had to be reinforced with some adhesive tape through which a small hole was made. I bent paper clip, suspended it from a piece of cardboard through which it swiveled, and it was hooked through the end of the tape. This hook would rotate with the reel until the tape came to an end where is was pulled, tugging on the hook, pulling down on the cardboard. This cardboard was mounted like an arm that was suspended above the reel, hinged, with adhesive tape, to another piece of cardboard that functioned as a vertical support. A piece of string was attached to the end of the cardboard arm and that string was placed over the top of the vertical support and then to the switch in the power supply. The switch was spring-loaded so the spring was removed to make it easier for the string to pull the switch away from its contacts. Amazingly, this worked quite well and I used it to shut the machine down at the end of a recording or play session when it was unattended.

You can view the owner's manual in PDF here. <7.7 MB)

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Sample of the tape recorded on this machine

Mike Roy Cooking Show excerpts, with Denny Bracken, from KNX in Los Angeles, about 1967-8.

Click to play(6:51)
Click to play(24:44)

Recording from KTTV in Los Angeles, about 1967.
A Ralph Williams auto dealer commercial and brief excerpt of the following program

Click to play (3:46)

News of the Robert Kennedy shooting from KHJ in Los Angeles, June 5, 1968.

Click to play(11:44)

Updated December 2020.