Cassettes still rock!


Played Dire Straits debut album last night - from a Maxell XL 2s cassette recorded from the vinyl over 30 years ago. Best sound I've heard on my system in months. I have the SACD, but doesn't have the organic sound from the tape/vinyl. Dig out your old cassettes! 
mcondo
Right. There is something going on with analog tape that is magic even compared to vinyl. Its so good it works even at 1 7/8 ips. You should hear it at 15 ips.... or 30!

Which, speaking of, its been a while. Hope maybe to rectify that soon....
I have a huge Cassette collection played back on a Nakamichi ZX7 deck recently fully restored by the master himself Willy Herman.

There are obviously some dud pre recorded tapes but a lot of excellent ones too.

Some of my home recordings on TDK SA tapes are pretty special if I say so myself.

And yes all of this at just 17/8 ips.

Reel tape at 7.5ips is another step up.

I can only imagine how 15 or 30 ips sounds......
Hear! Hear! Listened to The Cowboy Junkies and Dwight Yoakam on cassette in the past couple of days. Hadn't listened to cassettes in years, since our Marantz portable broke. Just picked up a Sony TC-K81 and can listen to cassettes again.
I take it you do not approve of cassette tape as being a viable audio media Orpheus?
Tape is a natural medium. It breathes. Listen to Heifetz on CD. Listen to Heifetz on cassette. The end.  🔚
They sound better when the tape begins to stretch and flake, too!
Just discovered my Nakamichi LX3 cassette deck in original box / papers as I’m [finally] emptying out a storage bin I’ve been paying a fortune for per year... (which was mostly holding all my original audio boxes, speaker crates and some miscellaneous papers).
Brought it to my long term audio service tech who confirmed it was in great shape but could use a simple “tune up” of belts/greasing, etc. so I’m waiting for that with baited breath. Am curious how it will compare to CD, TT, Hard Drive, and streaming service...
Will update after it’s running again for awhile.. Now if I can only locate those tape recordings.... I’ll see.../ “hear”...
I find that most haters of cassette tape have simply never heard a great recording on a great tape on a great tape machine.

Once they have, well most of the snide remarks fade away...….
Good luck lissnr and I hope it does not disappoint!
Nice deck!

I've got one of the best decks made, and I bought a ton of metal blank tape and enjoyed it very much. That was quite awhile ago. Compared to my other sources presently, it's mediocre.

Cassettes are just fine if you're into "mediocre".
Orpheus
We will agree to disagree my friend.
I find nothing mediocre about a lot of my cassette recordings tbh.
I also marvel at the excellent sound quality a well recorded cassette can provide.  As I've noted in other posts, I still listen to - and enjoy - cassette recordings I made in the late 90's and early 2000's of a great weekly jazz program hosted by Miles Willis on KPFT.  Still listen to these cassettes from time to time.

Most of youse guys really missed out on something fantastic when you swallowed that propaganda in regard to PC versus analog.

When I read how this "rich phile" who belonged to a club that met and discussed expensive cartridges over cognac, had gone to PC, but failed to mention that to the other members, I decided to look into PC.

That was some years ago when guys on the PC forum were taking the time to explain things to the PC illiterate. Stereophile even had articles about what cards to swap in your PC. The PC guys kept telling us that it was possible to get PC playback as good as R to R, but we said "No way".

I listened, but I couldn't understand PC, and If I couldn't understand it, I know yall couldn't understand it. Since I couldn't understand it, I found someone who could (the smartest thing I've ever done)

As I stated, this was some years back, and besides the PC cards, you needed a "Analog to digital converter", the reverse of a DAC, in order to put records on "hard-drive" in an Audiophile manner; "Benchmark" sold that. They no longer make them, consequently, you'll have to buy one used if you can find one at all.

Every since I've been in this game, in order to get something comparable to what the "Rich-phile" had, it cost thousands of dollars; I think those necessary computer cards cost in the vicinity of $200. dollars; I could swing that.

Not even "Benchmark" was available at that time, I had to modify a cheap analog to digital converter, but it worked, I was able to bring it up to "Audiophile quality"

After all of that, I enlisted the aid of a "Computer Guru" and told him I wanted to "down-load" Cd's and records, and just sit in my listening chair and listen to music without touching a record or CD player. He told me to go WAV and external hard-drive. I told him to go at it, and get me up and running.

Presently everything is on external hard-drive, and most of the time that's all I listen to; however, if you don't play your R to R, it will quit working. Which reminds me, I had better put on a reel.


Happy listening everyone.


Cassettes are, sort of objectively, inferior in sound, but they do sound better than anything. It has nothing to do with quality.

On a similar level, I read so many accolades about current high class reel-to-reel tape sound. I have been to two shows and one hi-fi dealer that played them. Easily contender for "the worst of the show" and really lacking at the dealer. Someone may like them, but someone may not be that impressed.
I love cassettes, I have an Akai GXC 760 D hooked up to a Rotel RX 1203 in my vintage system sounds great and looks the nuts....
I dragged out my long stored cassettes with my vinyl when re-setting up my turntable. Got around purchasing a used simple Nakamichi CR-1A, as I really didn’t see using it as I did 35-40 years ago, (recording many albums and CD’s for auto/mobile use prior to the inclusion of CD players in cars, or mini players), and my old deck is nowhere to be found. Thus, only primarily need playback for the surprising number of tapes I had (record label releases). I was wondering where some of my music went, as I knew I once had these ‘albums’, just forgot I had so many on tape.

What I have found is some sound amazingly good, some not so much vs their CD, or vinyl counterpart. After time, (maybe some never did), I don’t think the record companies put enough effort into creating good mastering and playback quality on cassette tape vs their vinyl or CD counterpart, but some did, and those indeed shine.

I have figured out a way to record as well (without a tape-out), so have erased many of my good quality metal and chrome tapes to play around with that, many times with very good results. But I also found quite a few had mold from being boxed in my basements or outdoor storage units over the years, and that made them useless. And the cost off a good quality blank tape is ridiculous today, as you have to basically buy old new stock, or a bunch of pre-recorded ‘blank’ tapes off of someone unloading them, and they charge a pretty penny as they know there is really no supply for new good quality tapes.

All that said, I’m glad I have the Nakamichi and my old tapes to play, and and quite surprised just how good some of them sound. 
Very interesting. Worth looking into a deck to give it a whirl.
You are correct on the dearth of good new blank tape media available.
There are still some basic TDK and Maxell tapes new but ok is about as far as I would go with description.

Unfortunately eBay sellers are a savvy lot and know they can charge a goodly amount for TDK SA tapes or similar especially if sealed NOS.

My stash of blank TDK SA tapes is running down and I will have to bite the bullet and try and find a good deal on the bay somehow.
I still have my cassette tape deck from 1981, Technics RSM 240X, and the Maxell UDXL II tapes that I recorded from 1981-1984. I upgraded that deck to the AIWA AD-F780 in 1988, but kept the Technics dbx deck also. That AIWA 3 head/dual capstan drive still works great, too, but I replaced the belts 3 years ago. They still sound great. 

Maxell tapes are the only ones that have withstood the test of time. All my TDK, Sony, and other brands stretched or the cassette mechanisms froze up. 

But alas, none of the tapes sound as good as the vinyl records I recorded them from. I still have the vinyl records, the Denon DP45F turntable, and even the cartridge, to compare to. 

I love my cassette collection, but to say that cassettes sound better than LPs is a total pipe dream. Perhaps with a few very TOP END decks, you can get close to being as good as source material.
I've just recently wound my way back to my cassette collection, (I have hundreds and hundreds).

I've had a blast listening and doing quite a bit of recording.  Glad I kept a bunch of sealed blank tapes.

Maybe not the best in reproduction, but what a good time!
Never stopped listening to cassettes. It helps having a top notch machine to play them on such as my Aiwa ad f770! Frank Sinatra on reprise cassette sounds spectacular!? 
I don’t think I would go as far as to say Cassette sounds better than lps but on a top flight deck, Nakamichi or similar with a top quality tape they can be very good indeed.
Certainly better than some members give them credit for.
I was a big fan of TDK MA and SA tapes, have some Maxwell as well. Yes, some have froze, but very few. That just seemed to be an issue with the medium, even ‘back then’. My larger issue is those damn felt pads falling off a few vs freezing of the rollers ;-)

I really thought I may purchase some old record label releases on cassette again, as you can find them pretty cheap, but not sure I will, as if the vinyl album is available, that’s what my preference would be. Especially not knowing the quality of the mastering/tape. That could change if there were more ratings by users of tape releases on places like Discogs, but those are few and far between. From the tapes I already had/have, it is a crap shoot at best knowing which ones will sound good, and which ones won’t.
I would agree on pre recorded tapes quality.
A while back I bought up some " old stock" tapes from a dealer, about 400 I think.
Of that 400 I threw maybe 100 away as even though still sealed the rollers had frozen or tapes deteriorated.
Of the 300 left, probably 200 were just ok in quality.
Of the 100 left maybe 75 were very good with about 25 being spectacular.

So yes not very good odds really.. lol.
I have a restored Nakamichi BX-300 and a few tapes, some of them recorded from LP's in the late 80's and well preserved. When the recording was done well on quality tape, cassette playback sounds very good on the BX-300. However, I think cassette sound quality is not really audiophile compared to vinyl and digital. 
bkeske,

"Got around purchasing a used simple Nakamichi CR-1A..."
I ran into one at the Goodwill store in the U.S.A. for, I think, $20. I bought it just so I can say I owned a Nakamichi at some point in my life, also not forseeing using it more than an hour or two. It is, in fact, sweet little player. I rarely use it, but it always makes me smile.
Cassettes didn’t sound that great 30 years ago either. At the time, I had a teac reel 2 reel tape deck and the teac blew away my akai glass head cassette deck, which I liked better than the nakamichi deck at the time.
i also have to say that r2r tape decks don’t sound that good at 7.5 ips either. I’ve had a couple of r2r decks with 15ips capability and they sounded much better at the higher speeds.
If you are extolling the sonic virtues of cassette tapes I am likely to not take your opinion seriously on vinyl versus digital. I owned quite a few decks over the years including a Nakamichi and they were all just shades of "meh". I don't miss them at all, ditched all the tapes except for a few, but the playlist and what it meant is worth far more than the cassettes.
None of you are thinking about the quality of cassettes, you are thinking of the quality of your girlfriend in high school, and the music that was always perfect during that time in your life.
I agree ,tape sounds more dynamic than CD or vinyl.  I spoke to an electrical engineer awhile ago and he told me he recorded vinyl to a vhs tape and it improved the sound.  I could not get it to work for me.  Anyone out there who does this?
Cassettes may be fine if you are old enough to have loss your high frequency hearing.  The hiss is intolerable, even with dbx.  And they degrade.  Two thumbs down.
Post removed 
Oh, geez, they’re coming out of the woodwork on this one. 
Some very varied responses and opinions so far.

Now not wishing to be a snob here at all just injecting a little bit of reality.

I did say very early on that one needs to hear a great tape on a GREAT player to get a handle on this.

So far not really heard of anybody mentioning the usage of a great player just good or adequate ones.

There is a reason that fully restored  Nakamichi ZX7/9 and Dragons are pushing nearly 2k.
Sorry to hurt anybodies feelings but NO Akai deck even comes close, I have tried a lot of them in my system and they are definitely vanilla!

It is like comparing an Ortofon 2m Red to an Ortofon Black Cadenza. You gets what you pay for.
I guess by that definition my humble Sony Professional portable cassette player is a great machine. Hooray! 🤗
If you have a Nak deck that is working you have the best of the day.  We did A-B tests...pretty hard to do and never really perfect, but we just played the record and the tape simultaneously and switched between preamp functions...best we could do.

Anyway, the only difference we could hear between the Nak 1000 and the best vinyl playing stuff of the day-probably Linn Sondek, but I forget, was a slight "hollow" sound from the tape deck.  Otherwise, identical using Audio Research/Magneplanars from the mid-1970's.

I still have tapes like many of you, but my 2007 car has a CD player and the '66 Vette, well, music is not the first sound you want to hear in a C2 anyway, so...

Cheers! 
LP revival, now cassettes?  Is the zombie apocalypse upon us?
Actually I am pretty sure that yes the zombie apocalypse IS upon us!

And Richopp…… could not afford the C2 but my C3 convertible only has a single speaker AM radio in it that I think works, as you say who listens to music with the top down in a classic Vette.....
I guess by that definition my humble Sony Professional portable cassette player is a great machine. Hooray! 🤗
Will give you a bye on that one GK as you are " off the grid" which changes a lot of things.

😁😁
I would disagree if I could. It also helps to have inserted a Perfect Path Card inside the cassette player case and to color the cassettes. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “coloring cassettes, are you out of mind?” 🤪
There is a really good documentary on Amazon Prime titled:

Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/cassette-a-documentary-mixtape

OP here. Lots of support and some naysayers on cassettes. FYI - the LP was recorded on my Nak 500 Dual tracer (still have but pretty worn out) and played back on a newer (!) NAK BX 2. 
GK
I have a whole emat plus sitting on top of my Nakamichi!

Thx mofi!

glupson,

I ran into one at the Goodwill store in the U.S.A. for, I think, $20. I bought it just so I can say I owned a Nakamichi at some point in my life, also not forseeing using it more than an hour or two. It is, in fact, sweet little player. I rarely use it, but it always makes me smile.


That was a heck of a deal. And yes, it is a pretty good basic deck.

I do believe cassette tapes *can* rival *some* vinyl. Can, but not always. In fact, in my short re-experiance, rarely in a couple cases where I have copies of both. As in everything, it depends on many many things. The quality of the the mastering by the label for its release being the most important things (for non at home recordings) for cassette format, IMO. But, depending on the pressing, that is true for versions of a vinyl album too, and yes, CD’s can have the same issue.

Of all my tapes, a couple that particularly stick out to me are The Modern Jazz Quartet’s - No Sun in Venice & Concorde, Wayne Shorter - Best of Wayne Shorter, Billie Holiday - All or Nothing at All, Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Further Out...and there are many others. These are mentioned off the top of my head.

I purchased quite a few jazz albums on cassette prior to, or right around the time CD’s first came out. And those are the ones I am most pleased to have ’back’ in rotation.

Yes, I could replace all of these, and many more, on vinyl or CD, and have/did in some cases, but there really is no need to do so with many cassetes back in my collection, and recordings that still please me.


Just felt the need to share this as it is both amusing and a delightful to myself both at the same time.

I felt the need for some music in the garage where I clean all my records and other tasks.
I remembered that I had an old Sony "boom box" up in the loft so dragged it down , plugged it in and lo and behold music issued forth on FM radio, it even still had all the local stations stored!

As this is old it has both a CD and tape player as well.
Popped open both drawers and was in shock. There sitting in the tape well was a blast from the past indeed.
A copy of a cassette ep single of our band back from the 90,s.
I always wondered what had happened as I had the empty case in the house.
So I had to play it and it still sounds good to my ears. It's on a tdk c15. Must have been popular back then as can't remember seeing any for sale of late.

So just very happy at this find and yes maybe clouded by rose tinted spectacles in this instance!

😎😎
so much time to yap on, I like tape best

tape being analog, any analog in my simple summation, ’get’s the overtones right’.

noise, tape hiss, lp’s static between songs, .... don’t matter, when listening, tape/lp both can win.

thus cassettes can sound great. It is amazing how much precision was achieved to get 4 tracks on 1/8" tape, a reversible head, smooth transport, noise suppression, advanced tape formulations at only 1-7/8 ips, hard to believe really

analog: various degrees of success:

lp physical setup of deck/arm/cartridge is absolutely critical for lp to win.

tape was a wealthy man’s game in the beginning, then servicemen (no women then) had access to both cameras and tape recorders in asia, shipped home, increased volume, awareness, cost’s lowered, content increased ... the standard cycle, and home recording from lots of radio variety, a great deal live and unique.

tape formats, pre-recorded, follow ’general’ rules:

1. machine with properly aligned heads (let’s say likely, my experience buying teac x1000’s and last pro-sumer x2000r certainly).

2. faster speed better

a. studio 30 ips masters awesome. pro playback 15 ips terrific (content very limited).
b. high consumer speed 7-1/2 ips great, still my best source, combined with lots of pre-recorded content, although the content is dated, ended production, so progressively younger = less of ’your’ era’s music is available.
c. low consumer deck speed 3-3/4 good, not great. CD can easily beat 3-3/4 tape.
d. 8 tracks, lousy really, 3-3/4 ips, more comments below.
e. cassettes, initially for dictation are 1-7/8"

3. wider tape better. combined with faster speed.

a. 2 track, 35mm wide (1-3/8" wide); pro 1" wide pro tape amazing. (think imax 70mm superiority)
b. 2 track 1/4" mono sound quality can be darn good, lacks imaging, not a lot of content, physics of machines, tape formulations initially ’primitive’. for speech, school and business use,
c. 2 track 1/4" stereo from late 50’s, early 60’s still my best sounding r2r tapes, simply more magnetic material for signal.
d. 4 track 1/4" reversible stereo very good, still beats my lp at 7-1/2 ips.
e. 8 track 1/4" 8 cartridges were a REVOLUTION, despite being a horrible design. Revolution because for the 1st time ever we could readily take our music in our car, anyone’s car, anyone’s home, free from packaged radio content. cars and most young people did not have good systems then, it was about portable content. 8 tracks were never intended for music, they were designed for radio commercials, pop it in, hit play, end of that ad campaign, throw them out.
the cartridges construction and slip sheet method of gradual compression and yanking tape up and over the edge from a tightly wound center was/is designed for destruction. self dissolving foam pressure pads. were standard. But, like early portable digital, standards dropped for convenience.
f. 4 track 1/8" cassettes, same magnetic material as 1/4" 8 track, per track, but at half the speed again. How? Progressive improvements in every part of the chain
g. Sony’s walkman, a huge revolution, personal content, anywhere, any time, incredible.
h. dual copy/record decks, holy smokes, FREEEEE music!
I agree! When I play same brand tape on my Nakamichi it is incredible. Came of vinyl or from my good Yamaha analogue tuner so it is that sound you mentioned. Must be why so many of us bought those higher end tape decks, love it! Thanks for posting !
Inspired by this discussion, I hooked up the old, disused Rotel 960 cassette player to the preamp and simply inserted a home-recorded Maxell XLII-S from mid-1987 at the precise where it was last stopped, decades ago. Figured many degradable parts of both cassette and player would be shot and in need of an earlier poster's personal tech rehab person. Not so far! Instantly I heard 10,000 Maniacs just as it would have sounded decades ago -- probably better, given some updated electronics since then. 

The idea had occurred to me, but never got around to it before reading this. Glad I did! True, I never bought Akai or Nakamichi, so that quality is unattainable. But given what it is, a bonanza. Thanks for the thread.
I like the standard Sony Walkman cassette players, I have a bunch. They just plain sound good. Heifetz sounds like Heifetz. No power cords to worry about, or interconnects or fuses or room treatments. No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks. I also am quite fond of the vintage Sony Ultralight earphones. How come the Japanese have such good ears?