The Maxells I recorded 25 years ago on a Yamaha tape deck consistenly sounded better to me. The Maxell XLIs were especially good for rock. And I think more of the Maxells have survived but both are very reliable for cassette tapes.
I always loved the TDK and even have a few MAR metal tapes if you are interested ( they are rerecordable ).These were the very best tape with a die cast metal body and clear body.Please let me know if you are interested-Dennis
I always liked the XLII-S, somehow a smoother sound - if I wasn't too influenced by publicity back when I was that young (or now...)
I used them both. You can't go wrong with either, IMO.
I've always liked TDK's product over Maxell's. What's really cool was TDK's reference MA-R with the metal internal sturcture and the see through casing. I don't think they make it anymore though.
Used them both with excellent results. Usually bought whichever had best deal.
I have a supply of both, I think that they are about equal but I do use a slightly different bias setting when recording for each. The XLII-S is usually easier and less costly to purchase giving it a bit of an edge.
I was always a Maxell fan, the XLII-S was my standard blank for copying precious bootlegs.
If you have a Nak deck, use the Maxell XL2's. For most other brands of deck, they were biased at the factory for TDK SA, and that would be the tape used when they designed/voiced/tested the decks. Broadly speaking, it's the only tape and bias setting they were seriously made to work with.
For standard bias, the Maxell XL1 is the only way to go; TDK's normal bias tapes are merely adequate. Normal bias tapes tend to avoid the slightly rising high end that hi bias tapes tend towards and if you are a midrange/bass guy you may prefer them overall. Also, they take tape saturation much better.
You need to really be vigilant about levels with hi bias tape; they are fine to a point, a bit cleaner than normal bias tape, then the transition to saturation is quite abrupt. Normal bias gives you a smoother transition to saturation and is preferred for any live recording, at the expense of a little dirtier sound everywhere else. The distortion isn't objectionable, just noticeable by comparison with a well recorded hi bias example.
Metal tapes are essentially the same as hi bias in the way they act, but better in most areas. They are good, but formulas varied and were still evolving all the time the better cassette decks were being made; thus TDK SA being the "real" standard. If you can adjust bias and EQ then they are good choices.
I always preferred to adjust bias by ear; the auto bias always turned out too bright to my ears. Record a 10K tone at -20 Vu and match levels by ear; you could also try -10Vu but be forewarned that you will probably bias too bright if you do; cassettes can't really do good HF at that level. 5K no problem, 10K not really.
That might sound weird but it's OK as it's just transients there anyway and that's what you hear when cassette copies sound a little soft. Can't be helped; bias for the average levels and you will be happer as the song will sound more like the source when its all said and done.
Recording cassettes is a black art that few can do well, but if you get good at it you can make some surprisingly good tapes.
Dear keith: For years I use both in my Nak 700ZXL and I prefer the Maxell to the TDK, not that the TDK is not a good one it is but the sound through the TDK is a little ( only a little ) on the dark side and it is not a bias problem because my Nak makes all adjustements in precise and automatic way.
Regards and enjoy the music.
Maxell XLII-S outperforms TDK SA-X in both sound texture AND mechanics. TDK SM-X (professional)comes very close to XLII-S but still looses in body quality,later batches come without screws.
Especially if you're using a NAK use the Maxell tape. Nakamichi sold their own branded tapes in some, but not all markets, and they were made by Maxell. Some say the formula differed somewhat from XLII, etc but others say they are exactly the same. I only ever had a few samples (not sold in my market) and I would say they are the same, going by the smell test, which is surprisingly accurate.
I'm out of practice now, but at one time I could easily nail about a dozen formulas blindfolded just by smell. Each tape formula has a very distinct odour, even within the same brand. Pop the tape into a plastic bag and let is sit for a day, then take a whiff from the bag. You will be surprised how easy it is.
Nakamichi tapes are re-branded TDK not Maxell.
Maxell XLII-S and TDK SA-X sound different on NAK, in most cases I prefer Maxell. SA-X Limited is better than regular but only 100min., no 60 or 90.
XL1-S is lower distortion.
XL 1 s is lower distortion, post got changed in the translation
IIRC, the TDKs were smoother, cleaner, but had more frequent dropouts. The Maxells were brighter, a little grittier, with a little more detail, and suffered less from dropouts. I didn't think anyone still cared. I digitized all my cassettes (well, the ones I lacked a CD or LP of) and now my really nice Onkyo TA-2600 (bought new in 1989 - 2 motor, 3 head, with real time and time remaining counter!) sits at the bottom of my rack, gathering dust.
Well.... back during the day when I was using cassettes as one of my music sources (which is now no longer the case), I used TDK SA-X Chrome 2 Cassettes to record off of FM Radio, and their high-end Metal Tape to record CD's (all of which was used to playback on an Awia Walkman Radio Cassette Player..... I bought the 1986 model with Full-Logic Controls and a Wired Remote Control).
My Cassette Deck at the time was a Nakamichi BX-300 (3-Motors, 3-Heads, Direct-Drive, with Pitch and Bias Controls which I bought brand new in 1987, which I still have, but now, I no longer use).
Now.... this is what I call walking down memory lane.
I use my Nak 682ZX quite often but almost exclusively with Maxell Vertex metal tape, the best cassette tape known to man, at least to common man. Better by far than all TDKs, Denons, That's, Sonys etc. Extremely expensive to buy these days, quite rare too. I make compilations from vinyl and cds and get a great sounding background music.
I will keep tape deck forever.
The 680 series of NAK decks is awesome. Bay Dragon's so to speak. Still have my 680ZX as well as a couple 550's. Used Maxell XL-II pretty exclusively in the day, including recording many concerts on either the 550 or a Sony TCD-5M and even later Tascam DP-1 DAT.