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Cassette Tapes are back?

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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Oct 13, 2018 6:52 pm

ef37a wrote:The cassette medium was never I would aver designed to archive music for decades?

Nope. It was designed and intended to be a mono voice dictaphone format! It was really only the advent of Dolby B and better tape formulations that enabled it to be upgraded into a consumer stereo music format.

I really never had problems with cassettes jamming or tangling up myself, although I did have a quite a few machines come in for repair in that state. If you bought decent tapes to start with, kept them wound up in their boxes and use a decent, CLEAN machine you should very rarely have an issue.

Yes, keeping the machine clean is paramount, and using decent tape stock (avoiding the ultra-thin extra-long play tapes).

You only have to take vinyl out of its sleeve ONCE and it is buggered in some way!

That seems a little overly pessimistic! ;-)

I am sure if people chucked NAB spools of their current work about the back seat of the car, out of box and amid yesterday's lunch some dropouts and stickiness might have ensured?

You've worked in BBC Local Radio then? :lol:
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby James Perrett » Sat Oct 13, 2018 7:03 pm

The Bunk wrote:
ManFromGlass wrote:On the serious, well semi, serious side - after setting up a turntable et al I realized I was too lazy to stand up every 18 minutes to flip the lp over. At least with cassettes certain decks could play side 2 after side 1 automatically. I have a vague memory of side 2 played this way often sounded like crap, where turning the cassette over to play side 2 sounded fine.

I remember that! Presumably it because that tape basically played backwards which, well, surely just isn't right.

Nakamichi thought it was wrong too - which is why they came up with this...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrFU9kQrvNk
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ken long » Sat Oct 13, 2018 7:32 pm

ef37a wrote:The cassette medium was never I would aver designed to archive music for decades?

No, but that didn't stop a ton of people from archiving to cassette!
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ef37a » Sat Oct 13, 2018 7:39 pm

I wonder how many here experienced the video equivalent of the Music cassette, the Philips Video 2000 system?

The mandate from On High was that it had to be a flipover cassette on 1/2" tape and NO tracking control was allowed to adjust for replay of tapes from other machines.

The Philips engineers succeeded famously and despite the half tape width the results were easily as good as VHS or Betamax.
Unfortunately the first machines were huge and pretty unreliable. The next generation were far more compact and reliable but The World was not interested in yet another formats war and the system died out.

Philips kept the "dynamic track following" technology however and used it in their VHS machines. That, as they say is another story!

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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ken long » Sat Oct 13, 2018 8:08 pm

ef37a wrote:The Philips engineers succeeded famously and despite the half tape width the results were easily as good as VHS or Betamax.

Do you mean HiFi tracks? I mean, they were OK but not great and they didn't utilise most of the tape also?

F1 stuff was cool but that was digital. Now that sounded great! Terrible signal loss over time though.

What I find funny about the cassette revival is the indie designers have started adding dbx or Dolby logos on J cards for nostalgia's sake but for no technical reason.

I've bought a few new cassettes in the last couple of years and they don't sound great in general but they are nice to own and it supports independent artists so I'm all for that.
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ef37a » Sun Oct 14, 2018 12:09 am

James Perrett wrote:
The Bunk wrote:
ManFromGlass wrote:On the serious, well semi, serious side - after setting up a turntable et al I realized I was too lazy to stand up every 18 minutes to flip the lp over. At least with cassettes certain decks could play side 2 after side 1 automatically. I have a vague memory of side 2 played this way often sounded like crap, where turning the cassette over to play side 2 sounded fine.

I remember that! Presumably it because that tape basically played backwards which, well, surely just isn't right.

Nakamichi thought it was wrong too - which is why they came up with this...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrFU9kQrvNk

I cannot see that helps the supposed problem much? Cassette tape can "pack" against one side of the case and cause wow and probably weaving over the heads and poor sound. Just flipping the cassette round won't fix that AFAICS.

But again, it is not a problem I ever had. My first machine was a mid priced Yamaha which was not a full, i.e. vertical front loader, never a bother. Later came the Denon* full frontal but servo loading and twin capstans and a precision transport takes the cassette housing largely out of the performance equation. Again, no flipping problem!

I now have a rather nice Sony Dolby S machine and am setting up to digitize a big stack of son's cassettes.

*The Denon was an uncollected repair. It had been dropped and the capstan servo board cracked plus other damage. Since it was impossible to give even a guess at cost I quoted a high minimum but with the caution that labour costs could double that. I also had no idea how much a new servo board would cost, in the event, very reasonable! I spent quite some time tracing and fixing other breaks though.

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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ef37a » Sun Oct 14, 2018 12:15 am

ken long wrote:
ef37a wrote:The Philips engineers succeeded famously and despite the half tape width the results were easily as good as VHS or Betamax.

Do you mean HiFi tracks? I mean, they were OK but not great and they didn't utilise most of the tape also?

F1 stuff was cool but that was digital. Now that sounded great! Terrible signal loss over time though.

What I find funny about the cassette revival is the indie designers have started adding dbx or Dolby logos on J cards for nostalgia's sake but for no technical reason.

I've bought a few new cassettes in the last couple of years and they don't sound great in general but they are nice to own and it supports independent artists so I'm all for that.

No, I am talking of a VIDEO system that used 1/2 the tape width and could be flipped as per a Music cassette. I don't know but I would guess the audio was a version of hi fi video sound. Before that I had a Ferguson (aka JVC) VHS machine and the HF sound on that was a revelation!
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby Dynamic Mike » Sun Oct 14, 2018 1:52 am

Cassette really took off back in the day because of the features it offered teenagers that we couldn't get in any other domestic format, not because of the sound quality.

1) you could record stuff you didn't own from records/radio.
2) you could lend people stuff & not worry about it getting scratched
3) you could skip tracks you didn't like
4) you could make mixtapes for personal listening, parties & more importantly girls
5) you could play the same bit over & over & over (guitarists will get this)
6) you could fit a few in your pocket at once
7) you could safely change a cassette no matter how drunk you were
8) later cassette players had skip/repeat/shuffle/fast copy options

We expect these features now, but back then... Wow
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ef37a » Sun Oct 14, 2018 6:26 am

Quite so Mike.
The cassette grew from a dictating machine concept AFAIK and was never originally intended as a very high quality music medium, but, as you say it was SUCH a handy device that people used it as such. Many here will remember the portable mono recorders with piano key transport controls! Eventually machines were developed that had at least as good a spec as vinyl but with none of its vulnerabilities. I will agree that commercial high speed copied tapes were never quite to LP standards?

The record industry of course HATED it! Blamed it for robbing the musicians of income (more the junketing fat cats of course!) We had the "Tape Levy" lobby and millions were spent on "inaudible" copy spoiler development. All seems very silly now.

However, even today there is still no other convenient way to record an audio source such as a radio programme or TV sound.

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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Oct 14, 2018 11:01 am

ef37a wrote:However, even today there is still no other convenient way to record an audio source such as a radio programme or TV sound.
Except for those of us who still have our minidisc recorders! :D
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ef37a » Sun Oct 14, 2018 11:31 am

blinddrew wrote:
ef37a wrote:However, even today there is still no other convenient way to record an audio source such as a radio programme or TV sound.
Except for those of us who still have our minidisc recorders! :D

Oh! I 've got two of those and one is a Grundig FCS! One of those is being integrated into the digitizing "suite" I am building with the cassette machine and a DVD player. I also have a VHS machine but have not fired it up in yonks so have to see if it still works.

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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby nathanscribe » Sun Oct 14, 2018 11:59 am

Wait, people still have radios and TVs? I thought teh kids just used their phones for everything now!
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby Still Vibrations » Sun Oct 14, 2018 1:51 pm

I prefer cassettes to CDs (and I dislike streaming as well).
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby James Perrett » Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:22 pm

ef37a wrote:
Nakamichi thought it was wrong too - which is why they came up with this...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrFU9kQrvNk

I cannot see that helps the supposed problem much? Cassette tape can "pack" against one side of the case and cause wow and probably weaving over the heads and poor sound. Just flipping the cassette round won't fix that AFAICS.

Well it may have been a bit of a gimmick (I never noticed a problem with the auto reverse in the car) but I've just got hold of one of those decks and it works very well as a player - it just seems to sound more stable than the other decks I have here. I do have a Hitachi 3 head dual capstan machine that needs new belts but I think the Nakamichi, despite being only a single capastan machine, sounds better.
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sun Oct 14, 2018 8:51 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Moreover, the self-erasure issue with cassettes tends to appear worse than it really is because of the almost ubiquitous use of Dolby B, such that a slight loss of HF from the tape is further reduced by the mistracking action of the Dolby B decoder.

There is a plus side here, in that cassettes I recorded in the late 70s and 80s with Dolby encoding sound quite reasonable now with the Dolby switched off. In other words the Dolby encoding is compensating for the HF loss. It's all very rough and ready and of course you lose your hiss reduction but what the heck. If it sounds OK after all this time you're not doing too badly.

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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ef37a » Sun Oct 14, 2018 10:03 pm

James Perrett wrote:
ef37a wrote:
Nakamichi thought it was wrong too - which is why they came up with this...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrFU9kQrvNk

I cannot see that helps the supposed problem much? Cassette tape can "pack" against one side of the case and cause wow and probably weaving over the heads and poor sound. Just flipping the cassette round won't fix that AFAICS.

Well it may have been a bit of a gimmick (I never noticed a problem with the auto reverse in the car) but I've just got hold of one of those decks and it works very well as a player - it just seems to sound more stable than the other decks I have here. I do have a Hitachi 3 head dual capstan machine that needs new belts but I think the Nakamichi, despite being only a single capastan machine, sounds better.

Aha! They HAD to flip the cassette because you need two capstans for auto-reverse!

But I doubt there would ever be a tape handling problem with a Nakamichi? REALLY well engineered.

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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby Tim Gillett » Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:48 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
ef37a wrote:I really don't see why any tape format should lose HF over time unless exposed to a magnetic field?

It's entropy innit? The signal recorded onto the tape via the orientation of magnetic particles degrades as those particles gradually attempt to revert back to their non-oriented state.

This happens on all tape formats, but is generally worse for thinner, slower tapes, and higher magnetic flux levels. So use standard-play tapes rather than long play, higher tape speeds where possible (open-reel, not cassette, obviously), and don't thrash the record meters to force heavy saturation!

Although gradual self-erasure affects all frequencies, it is the higher frequencies that are affected most quickly and most obviously, although keeping the tape cool helps to minimise the problem for long-term archives. The magnetic field embedded within adjacent layers of tape can also advance the self-erasure process (as well as leading to pre/post echos in some cases).

Moreover, the self-erasure issue with cassettes tends to appear worse than it really is because of the almost ubiquitous use of Dolby B, such that a slight loss of HF from the tape is further reduced by the mistracking action of the Dolby B decoder.

I also reiterate my point? Unless the tape had reference tones recorded on it (as studio Dolby A tapes always should) how could you know the HF was down on 5 years ago?

The obvious answer is to compare the (cassette) tape with the source. I have often done exactly that in my previous career, and can state that self-erasure really isn't a myth... although it might not be quite the huge problem some would claim!

H


I'm not sure either way on tape self erasure. I understood that higher energy tapes were harder to erase just as they're harder to magnetise. So a Type II or Type IV tape would be less subject to accidental erasure than a Type I.

I also thought that multiple plays in a machine tended to gradually erase tapes hence the qualifier with calibration tapes to check them after a certain number of plays, not necessarily after a certain time. Also the need to properly demagnetise a tape machine to minimise the tendency to gradually erase tapes after multiple plays.

It's wavelength related too, only indirectly to frequency. So a loss of 3 db at 10kHz on a cassette would be equivalent on a pro reel to reel tape to a loss of 3 db at 80kHz which of course no one would notice.

I agree any serious test needs to be done with careful measurements. The thing with tape is that there are multiple causes for loss of the highs, not just self erasure. So , a tiny speck of dirt on a repro head, a worn or misaligned head, in various planes, can be enough to compromise the highs. It's often not appreciated that just playing a tape back at its optimum is not always easy.

Here's an example of a cassette recording (Maxell UDR Type I) I made off the TV in 1976. It's been played many times over the years but it seems to have survived reasonably well. Of course this cassette recording off TV cant hope to compete with the original BBC videotape's audio quality. The vision isn't my recording, only the audio.

https://youtu.be/KYFVx4gpe9c
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby Rich Hanson » Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:17 pm

With respect to auto-reverse sound quality, I found it depended on the system (albeit only two data points from me) - the system I had where there was a stereo head that was rotated when the tape was reversed was very much prone to mis-tracking. The other system was a four track head which was electronically switched when reversing direction. The latter was much more reliable.

I found this an interesting watch, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVoSQP2yUYA
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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ManFromGlass » Mon Oct 15, 2018 3:05 pm

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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

Postby ken long » Tue Oct 16, 2018 10:50 am

blinddrew wrote:
ef37a wrote:However, even today there is still no other convenient way to record an audio source such as a radio programme or TV sound.
Except for those of us who still have our minidisc recorders! :D

Aaaahh... but that's compressed audio, like MP3.
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