8-Tracks and Open-Reels: Who’s Got ‘Em and Whatcha Got?
I’m curious whether anyone here is into 8-track or open reel decks and if so, why. What decks do you have?
I really enjoy these old formats just because I find the mechanics of different formats really interesting. I also like to find newly released music that is exclusive to these formats (I think it’s a fun way to discover new music). I have a Pioneer H-R99 8-track deck, a Pioneer RT-707 open reel deck, and a Pioneer RT-909 open reel deck. I’ve found an independent record label that releases only on open-reel tape, and I’ve had luck in finding punk and even some vapor wave releases on 8-track. What about you? Any love for these formats?
8 track like 8 track? You mean the huge plastic cassette THING that gobbles tapes and the head stays dirty? NO THANKS. 4 track was better..
Reel to Reel, I like that... I use them.. Otari B2 IIM. With a decent preamp and a little fiddling.. Wonderful play back ability.. Material is always the issue and of course cost. You think you were buying by the ounce. 3 or 4 oz at a time too. puff puff pass. :-)
Two Teac X2000R Reel to Reels (1 music system, 1 office system). Despite higher S/N specs, the Pre-recorded 7-1/2 IPS 2 Track Stereo and 4 Track Stereo Tapes are the best source material I have. Many are 50-60 years old, and still sound terrific. Everyone always picks the Tape over the LP over the CD. I bought over 500, sold over 150, will sell some more when motivated.
and 8 Track (garage/shop system). A revolution of transportability at the time, but horrible sound quality, and horrible reliability. When cassettes were blowing 8 tracks out of the stores, I bought six 8 tracks for $5.00 every payday, (music/artists I would never risk real money on), thinking, when I retire.... surprise: the pressure pads self-dissolve, they suck.
and 4 Track Dual Cassette (garage/shop system). I have many tapes I made, so I keep it going for the rare nostalgic play. high quality tapes, darn good machine, they can sound very good, despite the 1-7/8 IPS and 1/8" wide tape/heads)
I work on the mechanics myself. I overhauled the two x2000’s and 3 X1000r’s (my 2 sons and spare I never sold). Prior to that I overhauled all 3 Teac styles: stainless face/wood ends; plastic face and case; aluminum face/plastic case/outer fake wood case.
8-track is so-called because there are 8 tracks of music. The tracks run side by side on the 1/4" wide tape, at 3 3/4 ips. The tape comes off the center of a single reel, moves across the tape head, and goes back onto the outside of the same reel.
That's right. The tape is constantly sliding past itself.
If that sounds bad, just wait, there’s more! To change tracks the tape head moves from one to another. Tape head alignment is important to fidelity, so you can imagine how well it works to be banging the heads around back and forth like this. The tape uses a foil strip to tell the machine when to move the head. Or you can move them any time you want, bang, bang, bang, bang goes the head.
Is it any wonder then that these things ate tapes and had all kinds of problems with sound quality? Horrible format. In 50 years audio has yet to come up with anything worse. They came close with the AVR, but the 8-track will always be the King of Crap.
About 20 years ago I picked up a nice Akai 4000ds Mk II. Had a capable tech go over it, and he pronounced it to be a top working condition. I've got +/- 100 prerecorded 4-track tapes, and I play a few of them from time to time - - in general, excellent sound.
8-track? I bought some of those to play in my 1979 Honda Accord Hatchback, which came equipped with an 8-track player. Hated it - - the "clicking" when the thing was operating (changing from one track to another?) drove me nuts. I made sure the next Honda had a cassette player.
@oldhvymec: Ahh the good old days when we could drink and fix anything--ok, maybe not well but make it work. Up until about 10 years ago i kept a Realistic 8 track player in my system just because i had a bunch of 8 track tapes i liked--i disagree with MC that the sound quality was the worst--it wasn't nearly as bad as most cassettes--but i do agree the mechanism was a crazy hassle. I still have two R to R decks--an Akai GX-265D and a Sony TC-880 which i sent in for refurbishment almost a year ago and still haven't got a due date--i loved R to R solely b/c i could record a vinyl album once and keep it pristine and play R to R endlessly at parties. Convenience mostly- the TT was always the best.
Prerorded 8-Tracks were usually better than preecorded cassettes, for a while. Sometimes you got lucky. Homemade 8-tr's almost as good as homemade cassettes 8-tr carts had the same track width and twice the speed. Radio PSA's used to be on carts late 60's. My cassette mix tapes from driving days sound pretty good in the workshop on $20 auto reverse double well decks. Reel to reel's time has past. I have a wall of tapes and a BQ II 4 channel and a Teac.
@fuzztone Yep, still have about 100 mix tapes I made in the 70-80's on a Nak. with Maxell tapes. Still sound fine. A friend of mine used to make 8-track recordings, but finally gave up when he kept recording over the beginning of the tapes. Pre-recorded did sound better. Great for parties as they sounded better when everyone was wasted and would just repeat over and over.
I usually try to avoid absolutes but I think the 8-track may be hands-down the worst consumer audio format ever - perhaps even worse than 78 rpm shellacs. I never messed with it. A properly made cassette could walk all over any 8-track.
And yet, the 8-track has a relatively high fidelity cousin in the NAB tape cart, which looked very similar. Broadcast carts ran at 7.5 ips and the rubber roller wasn’t in the tape shell but in the tape deck itself. While there were plenty of bad sounding carts and decks, the best of them were very good, such as those from BE and ITC.
I have to say, my refurbished Pioneer H-R99 sounds pretty damn good to my ears if playing new tapes or older tapes in good condition. I was surprised. I know that the format is inherently limited (or shite), so I definitely don't listen to 8-track for the sound quality alone (or at all). I just enjoy traveling back in time. (My Pioneer CTF1250 is vastly superior in sound quality to my 8-track.)
I do like that I can play my vaporwave tapes on a continuous loop when I have people over. No fussing with changing cassette sides or flipping a record.
I also just enjoy the tinkering involved with 8-tracks. I've replaced the foil strips and pressure pads in all my 8-track cartridges. It gives me something tangible to work with and occupies my mind and passes time.
If you recorded your own cassettes then yes, better than 8 track--but IMO prerecorded 8T better than most prerecorded cassettes mainly b/c of tape speed. I have cassettes recorded on Nak cr-4A which is still in my system but the tapes haven't really held up over the past 40 years--my RtoR tapes have held up well and i still enjoy putting on a loop occasionally and re-living the old party days--if i recorded at 3 3/4 i could fit up to 6 albums on a reversible tape--but that's not something you sit and listen -- just crank while you putter around -- serious listening always takes me back to the vinyl version from which i made the tape
The label is called Orbita. They’re based in Ulyanovsk, Russia and release mostly post-punk, new wave, and cold wave bands (which is a lot of what I listen to these days). That scene seems to be alive and well there. I have a few of their releases and every one of them is great (both the sound quality and the music).
Technics RS1500 has clever u shaped tape path. Switchable between 2 track and 4 track because it has two playback heads. 3 3/4, 7 1/2, 15 ips. You will need a Dolby B outboard if yr pre records are Dolby encoded.
At 15 ips it is hardwired for NAB equalization. (CCIR sounds better.)
I found a 8 track player at a yard sale, took it home and found an old 8 track tape and within a few minutes I had a working unit. Last weekend we were at a used record store and found a box of 8 tracks and we bought them. We have been enjoying them and it is a good conversation starter, like many people have no idea of what they are, and others it brings back memories and makes them smile. Besides the player and box of tapes set me back a whopping 15 dollars, good value. Now to find an underdash 8 track and a Sparkomatic power booster and I can time travel to the 70's. I know the audio snobs heads are spinning right now, but that makes me smile too.
I have a tabletop in my listening room that needed something on it, so I grabbed a bunch of my old 8 tracks and scatted them on the table. Some think it looks cluttered so that's what I call it, a "clutter of 8 tracks"😉.