No. It was never a high quality analog medium when it came to prerecorded material. It could be pretty darn good when done at home. It will return about the same time 8-track does. :-)
Alternately, reel to reel would be a much better format. Surprisingly, there is an active community of reelheads selling-buying of machines and tapes. I got a used r2r this summer as an alternative to a turntable because my HT shelf couldn't accommodate a turntable. The sound is 90% my analog (tube/vinyl) set up. A well recorded reel to reel tape compares favorably to the vinyl counterpart. Best part is I don't have to deal with surface noise, record scratches, noisy grooves, or warps. Relatively hassle free analog format with a retro cool factor tossed in. This thread has extingished my notion to resurrect the cassette deck.
Nrenter- unless nostalgia is your motivation...prepare yourself for sonic disappointment. Having a great piece of audio history is a good thing, my 4 head Onkyo falls into that category... I also have recorded all my old vinyl (back in the early 90s, before giving it away) on Cassette, just wished it sounded better!
Actually, the first cassette I dropped into this deck was a live-to-2-track recording I did about 20 years ago of a Ph.D candidate performing a piece for berimbau. It had been stored in a hot Texas attic for the past 10 years, and it's storage during the previous 10 years was not much better. I was actually surprised how great it sounded (not to mention the fact it was recorded on a Nak and played back on a Pioneer). Very little hiss. Decent dynamic range. Good frequency extension.
However, the 2nd tape I tried did sound pretty bad (sonically). A bit of a hot mess. It was a pre-recorded cassette released on the 4AD label (one of my favorite labels).
Neither of these examples should be proof of the quality of the cassette format (or lack thereof). Quite frankly, if I wanted to get as close to that "live" sound as possible, I'd listen to myself play guitar.
My desire for a cassette deck is for access to music *in context*. By this I mean finding "mix tapes" from back in the day, and reliving those good times through that particular sequence of music. Back when one was lucky enough to have a boom box with both detachable speakers and a dual-cassette deck. Back when some songs were recorded from the radio. Back when CDs were emerging from being a novelty. Back when you had to think about the next song while the current song was playing. When a mix tape was an art unto itself. Back when you recorded your friend's brother's LPs when he was back from college for the weekend.
It's more than just nostalgia. It's about the music.
Right...yuk it up guys but as I write this I'm listening to my Nakamichi RX-505 which was recently gone through by a renowned local tech named Willy Hermann. The sound is amazing and I do trust my ears to form that opinion. I just got in from shopping a local thrift store and picked up eighteen of my old favorites from the 60's and 70's for $0.25 each, many of them still in the original wrapper. The sound easily rivals vinyl, and the price I paid for the eighteen tapes would barely pay the tax on a remastered vinyl re-strike, not to mention the "hot stampers" snake oil they sell for $$$. So, if you're mind is still open, buy yourself a rebuilt Nakamichi unit: I recommend a Dragon, RX-505, ZX-9 or a CR-7A. Pair that with a set of Stax headphones driven by the analogue outputs (not the headphone jack) and enjoy! Oh...and don't feel you have to apologize when nearly everyone slams cassettes-just enjoy!
Tapes? No way. Think about it, twenty year old magnetic media has deteriorated, unlike vinyl, which is fairly stable. I have many tapes, R2R, cassette and even eight track, all cannot equal properly cared for vinyl played on a first class rig. My cassette tapes, all pre-recorded, played on a Dragon, don't come close to equaling vinyl. Long live vinyl!
"...you must have compared them to some pretty bad records on a plastic turntable."
Wow, that didn't take long! A plastic turntable...yeah, right. See what I mean?
I don't expect, or want, a cassette renaissance. If that ever happens I'll have to compete with everyone else and prices will increase as they have for re-issue vinyl, or old vinyl for that matter. I bought a ton of vinyl years ago when everyone said it was dead. Always try to buy things when nobody else wants them. Like I said..just enjoy!
Nrenter, that's probably a good analogy. I think the idea of VHS making a resurgence is pretty far fetched. Don't misunderstand, I'm not replacing my CDs and vinyl with my
cassette collection. The point is that you can get great
sound from a quality cassette player and a Stax headphone set-
up if you try, and at a competitive price. FYI, tubed Stax units are very listenable for any medium and you don't need a dedicated room.
Another "vote" on behalf of Tonykay by one who listens casually to commercial recordings via headphones, sometimes directly from the cassette player headphone out of a variety of former "top of their line" models, not just my Nak. At other times, listening through the classic beautiful sounding Earmax headphone amp.
I am surprised how many of the tapes sound enjoyable which I attribute to the immediacy of headphone listening as well as the remarkable state of preservation of much thrift store and library book sale stock. Some are sealed or recorded on chromium dioxide tape when audiophile labels still catered to the high end auto commuter market.
Of course, there are a few tapes that are defective, but the price is close to free, or actually free.
The players themselves are often sold in the $15 price range which allows for strategic placement around the home.
Overall, count me as a satisfied casual listener, minus any i-Pod type device.
There is nothing wrong with preserving especially your analogue vinyl sound onto cassette. It's just a fun side road to this hobby. I have two nice three head cassette decks. A mid 90's upper end Yamaha KX-930 and a mid 80s's top of the line JVC DD-VR9. Both feature full computer test toned auto bias, level and sensitivity setup. Using good cassette stock especially type II or type IV or even a good type 1 can give me near indistinguishable recordings of vinyl from my LP's themselves.
The dancing fluorescent meters looks cool too.
Using good cassette stock especially type II or type IV or even a good type 1 can give me near indistinguishable recordings of vinyl from my LP's themselves.<<
Reviewing your system, especially the turntable, I'm sure that's the case. I own a 1210 logging many hours of experience with it and a half dozen cartridges. The Technics is a decent product, a bargain at its' price point, but no match for my other tables. So it may appear indistinguishable to you now, but if you ever buy a real high end table, the difference will be immediately apparent.
A cassette playback system is no match for a decent analog front end. Apples and oranges.
That is not debatable.
Clio, I concur.
My Sony reel to reel makes scary good copies of vinyl.
Cassettes are cute, handy, and cheap but not serious analog. Then again, in some systems I've seen here, the cassette deck is actually better than the vinyl front end it's compared to. That may account for the cassette cheerleading.
"Let's bring back VHS! Everyone knows it is as good as DVD and Blu-Ray! :-)
What is real strange is SONY still markets blank BETA MAX tapes, but noone makes or sells VHS tapes. Why did VHS vanish so fast when one can goto the nearest FRY'S store and still buy a cassette deck? What is up with this? Someone must still be using cassettes and doing it in the closet or something. I know I tossed all cassesttes and the player about 20 years ago. I hated the format!! What is odd too, is Lexus still offers cassette players in some models because they precieve there customers as being older and not tech savy and stuck in the past!!?? What is up with this line of thinking? If i am 50, im too old to know about CD?
btw, IF tubes are better, then why no modern tube amps for auto?
The thing is, many listeners have never truly listened to a quality cassette recording on a good deck. If one wants to transfer analogue sound of vinyl onto another analogue format one really has it best with a good cassette deck and audio cassette tape. Yes, Reel to Reel is better, much so in some cases but it's not as user friendly.
Factoring though today that many used cassette decks can be had it can be hit or miss as to how well they still work. But if you land one that is operating properly and you truly do learn to record on it well, you can get killer copies of vinyl and Cd.
I for the fun of the hobby got back into cassettes oh about 2 years ago. I have bought many decks from thrifts and eBay, some pretty good 3 headers that are very cool and others that were snagged at thrifts for cheap. I have a few keepers though that I will never get rid of now. But let me tell you they work great in making very serious analogue copies of my vinyl. It gives me an ability to get most of that vinyl sound we all seem to love and be able to do it that is quicker and easier to use. Sometime I just do not want to bother dropping a vinyl disc on my turn table but want to get close to that sound. Rolling tape gives me longer playback times between flipping tapes over too.
Besides its just fun picking a tape out from my stock of blanks and setting it all up. The meters dancing and seeing tape rolling is just another part of our audio hobby so to speak.
Yes there were some good cassette decks made several years ago. I used to compare the better ones to my 1/2 track R.R and signal to noise and frequency response was pretty close. You could make surprisingly good recordings that exceeded commercial cassettes. I have one somewhere in the garage, might have to dust it off and see how it sounds.
Cassette's are actually quite trendy now within the uber hipster music scene. It's so much cheaper to record on a cassette then make a 7" record. Obviously the sound quality is sub par and that's why the lo-fi indie hipsters love it. It's also retro to the younger generation who only know digital formats so it makes it cooler. Legendary indie rocker Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth, wrote the book Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture.
Back when cassettes were still popular, I found the biggest sonic problem to be the poor quality of most prerecorded tapes. I considered that to result from the high-speed duplicating necessary for mass-production. With care and good quality raw tape I felt I could make decent tapes of my own.
So imagine my surprise when I visited a friend recently and he played a couple of prerecorded jazz cassettes he just picked up from a thrift and they sounded very good. They were from labels I was not familiar with. If they were from smaller companies they could have been produced with greater care and possibly not from high-speed duplication. My friend is more of a music lover than audiophile but still has a well chosen system. It was revealing enough to cause my surprise.
Audio cassettes if they were the higher quality pre-recorded ones or better yet a properly recorded onto blank have a high level of fidelity. I find that the slight added hiss using for example Dolby B on recording vinyl can like the dither added to CD's add a level of depth and air to the perception of sound. On top of that a the slightly higher midband hiss that remains with Dolby B on vinyl recordings can help mask the sometimes rough and crackly background noise of used vinyl.
On my more quiet vinyl discs or CD's I often will up to Dolby C to gain the higher signal to noise ratio. The hiss it then below the noise floor of the very quiet high quality vinyl disc and a bit higher than the noise floor of cd's again then adding a slightly smoother and more depth perception to CD sound.
So one should not rule out the fidelity of a properly working and better quality cassette deck be it a top notch 2 header or more often than not quality 3 header.
Besides again it can be fun to make your own tapes and play with the tools of a cassette deck ultimately watching those meters dance as you listen to the music.
Les_creative_edge has put into words the fascinating phenomenon of enhanced enjoyment of analog tape recordings with their ever present but still unobtrusive background hiss.
This has long been noted by myself and another family member who feel many CD's can have a sterile or cold quality due to the background of total silence, unlike the real world in which we live and listen.
Thanks to Les_creative_edge for explaining why when tape recording he chooses either Dolby B or C noise reduction in order to better match the source material.