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Cassette Tapes are back?

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Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 3:34 pm
by Martin Walker
ef37a wrote:T2 HF "self erasure"? How would one know unless you played one in a magged up deck?

A tape with frequency response that slowly degenerates, sounding duller over the years?

(or have I missed something? ;) )


Martin

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 3:50 pm
by ef37a
Martin Walker wrote:
ef37a wrote:T2 HF "self erasure"? How would one know unless you played one in a magged up deck?

A tape with frequency response that slowly degenerates, sounding duller over the years?

(or have I missed something? ;) )


Martin

I was been a little flippant Martin but I really don't see why any tape format should lose HF over time unless exposed to a magnetic field? My point about a magnetized deck was that IF there is some "wives tale/myth" about this it could have started with someone with such a poorly maintained machine?

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?

Dave.

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 4:10 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
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

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 4:23 pm
by ef37a
Thank you Hugh, I am enlightened. Although, being 20dB down at 2kHz from age about 50 (73 now) I dare say the effect was lost on me!

The cassette medium was never I would aver designed to archive music for decades? It was a very convenient (and spoken as one who has installed more than one Philips 45 player in cars!) method of having black discs handier to play and with good equipment, tape and accurate setup gave nothing away in quality, other than the fact of course that you were making a copy.

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

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?

Dave.

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 6:10 pm
by The Bunk
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.

I had a decent-ish set-up at home years ago, in the old days of Turntable, Cassette Deck and Amp and always though that the sound quality of my vinyl recorded to cassettes was better than the vinyl original.

But is this whole cassette (and vinyl for that matter) thing something to do with the real drive behind it being the hardware manufacturers being in cahoots with the record companies, trying to convince us that it's the new (again) big thing?? I mean...the CD, way back when...best ever sound quality (well, maybe but let's not go there now), scratch-free (no) indestructible and playable anywhere in any condition (nonsense). Didn't they try that with DAT as well before getting rumbled?

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 6:52 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
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:

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 7:03 pm
by James Perrett
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

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 7:32 pm
by ken long
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!

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 7:39 pm
by ef37a
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!

Dave.

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 8:08 pm
by ken long
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.

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 12:09 am
by ef37a
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.

Dave.

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 12:15 am
by ef37a
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!

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 1:52 am
by Dynamic Mike
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

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 6:26 am
by ef37a
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.

Dave.

Re: Cassette Tapes are back?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 11:01 am
by blinddrew
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