I found the worst part of pre recorded tapes was the quality ( or the lack of ) tapes used..Mostly cheap ribbon used..I always prefer to use Maxell or Scotch Master and record my own..Better sounding and last along time .You know when your buying the blank tapes that its your choice on which quality tape you buy...Spend more money up front and get a longer life ( and better sound ) ....If you tape off cds ,you don't need a noise reduction to cloud the sound ....At least that works for me.....
The best prerecorded cassettes I ever encountered were the CrO2 tapes Advent put out to show off the potential of their cassette deck. I encountered them when I worked at a stereo shop in SoCal in the mid-'70s, as we were an authorized Advent (and Revox, Nakamichi, and Tandberg) dealer.
I got my comeuppance when I tried to dub some of these (mostly classical) to my Tandberg reel-to-reel. I could usually dub LPs to 3-3/4 ips with plenty of headroom, but with these cassettes, I not only had to switch to 7-1/2 ips, it was quite difficult to dial in a recording level that didn't max out the meters and (presumably) oversaturate the tape.
I recently purchased a re-conditioned Nakamichi CR-7A from a local stereo repair shop. I immediately began shopping for cassettes since I had only a few remining from the 70s.
They are incredibly inexpensive now that noone wants them. I bought most of them from used record stores here in the SF bay area. Many were purchased, unopened, in their original plastic wrappers with prices like $10.99 on them.
I got most of them for 4/$1.00...TWENTY FIVE cents! They sound great in my system through the Nakamichi. The sound
approaches CD quality on the newer ones. No lie...check it out!
Regular pre-recorded cassettes from the late 70's to 80's on my Nakamichi Dragon sound just as good as CD's.(I listen to classic rock and jazz). There are some chromium dioxide "audiophile" cassettes put out by CBS in the 80's. That are supposed to sound better. I have one of these (Springsteen-The River)but honestly, to me that particular one, sounds about the same as the standard cassettes.
There was a company, I think called In Sync, that made audiophile cassettes in the 80's. I have a stack of them somewhere. They were very fine...I recall they used Maxell tape, and were dubbed in real time. They had a very interesting collection of historic recordings, well-remastered (such as Karl Muck doing Wagner, and some French composers conducting their own works in the 20's and 30's), and then some more current audiophile stuff, like the Skrowaczewski Ravel with Minnesota. I have a stack of them around here somewhere...haven't listened to them in quite a while, but I have fond memories of them. Maybe you can find them on Ebay or at Irvmusic.
well, it's all what you enjoy. Cassettes are pretty bad from a pure technical standpoint. there were not designed from music reproduction. The wow and flutter is high as is the THD, which is part of what people liked about cassettes i think. MY favorites for home recording were the denon metal tapes with ceramic housing. You kid hit them at a decent level without all that ridiculous distortion.
I'm gonna skip the technicalitites of thd, wow/flutter, pleasing waves of distortion, and will get right to the point. A top Nakamichi, Tandberg, or Revox/Studer tape deck (with proper tapes and corresponding equipment) can and will sound better than your $10K Sim Audio or Krell CD-player. It will do everything right (unlike a cd-player), will not have a piercing digital edge at higher volume level, and won't sound like a computer built from zeros and ones. Some of these tape decks cover 10hz-35khz with a S/N ratio of the best of CD-players. The Nakamichi Dragon has a 0.019 % THD. Are you claiming you are going to HEAR that? Not even your dog will. This thd is normally found in $5K CD-players.
It is a fact that your favourite tube amp measures a thousand times worse distortion than these tape decks, yet you find it pleasing to your ears and prefer it to solid state amps with virtually no thd... It's all in the listening and what pleases your ears. We can go on about white-paper measurement all day, they mean jackshit.
If you haven't owned one of these tape decks please try them one day and you will feel the sudden urge to remove your above statement.
Cassettes are, believe it or not, making a small comeback recently with underground music and DIY musicians who have some recorded tracks that are not worthy of a vinyl pressing, or small labels that want to produce something on the cheap and easy. I've bought a few over the past couple years and found a Technics deck in good condition for $20 to play them on. I was surprised at how good they sounded. Smooth analog sound and plenty of headroom. Not as good with separation of notes and detail as vinyl but not as bad as I thought it was going to be.
I have to agree with Milanv, I once owned a Revox B215, that was freaking amazing. I had to struggle to hear the differnece between it, and my B77. Only on my Sony TC-755 could I easliy tell a difference, and that was in the bottom end. (sony goes down stairs like none other) Hence in a moment of stupidity sold the Revox. I am now using my calibrated Advent 201A to make tapes for background music when company is over. Surprising, it's a very respectable machine. Milav is also spot on with regard to the top Nak decks. I still use cassettes and enjoy their convenience. While I would never sit and 'seriously' listen, you may be stunned at what a well calibrated machine can do.
Try to contact 'Teresa' on AA. She's all over the higher-end pre-recorded cassettes.
At least she was recently-her format tastes seem to change on a whim.
I found a Nak deck that really blew my mind, using a Telarc Cassette I picked up in a thrift for .25 cents. The theory is that even cassettes, with all their issues, might still provide a more "liquid" sound than CD's with their inherent bandwidth limitations. (I'm quoting from the 'net, so take that FWIW.) I was very fond of the Slatkin/Barber survey on RCA and EMI but I didn't like the sound at all on CD, I like the sound on cassette. Considering that the deck was $10 and the casettes are often 4 for a dollar, you can't help but experiment. The Nak was the only player I found that still ran smoothly and had good bass and an soundstaging.