What makes tape sound better than vinyl ?

Even when making recordings from vinyl to cassette, in some aspects it sounds better, though overall in this particular example the turntable sounds better than the deck. Tape sound appears to have a flow and continuity that vinyl lacks. 
I use well-tuned Nakamichi 682ZX with custom transformer with Maxell Vertex tapes. Recordings from cds also sound better than cds, in the same aspects. Cassette is just a mini reel, four track, slow speed. But of course I meant mostly open reel decks. Still, it's the tape.

There is no way to improve a given signal.
It can be possible that the tape has higher gain in the output stage and this can give the impession of better dynamics / detail in a given stereo system.
I can run the phono thru the deck, this gives extra gain at the slight expense of the resolution. The turntable has better dynamics and detail and soundstage, tape sounds more natural.
Tape was an imperfect medium that degraded the sound. You may like that particular flavour, but it cannot possibly be an improvement if accuracy is the criterion. As a demonstration that it is indeed an alteration (and hence degradation), tape sound can be emulated very accurately in plug ins. See here, for example: https://www.waves.com/plugins/j37-tape#butch-vig-billy-bush-j37
Another way to investigate this is to do muliple passes of the copying: make a copy of a copy of a copy. After a number of generations there is nothing left worth listening to.
A flawed original can be copied to be made better in the same way photoshop can enhance a picture, but it is no longer an original. If that is your end game, you are better off getting an equalizer. 
I find cassettes generally sound very musical, rich and natural. By comparison CD generally sound thin and bland and "uninteresting." Oddly, perhaps, I find cassettes that are digitally remastered sound quite good - very analog and detailed with better dynamic range than their CD counterparts in many cases. Case in point - Kind of Blue digitally remastered on cassette is very dynamic, detailed and lush. It appears cassettes went out of style and production just about the time overly aggressive dynamic range compression reared it’s ugly head for CDs, later on for vinyl.
Those who like cassettes may like compression - a more punchy sound. Cassette will definitely compress good vinyl. Good vinyl can have as much as 70dB dynamic range on the outer edge. Cassettes never exceeded 50 dB.

There is no need to feel ashamed that you prefer lower quality compressed audio - a lot depends on the quality of your playback system - compression in a modest car audio system usually works great and this alone probably lead to the success of cassettes (walkman and making your own compilation tapes are other factors). Of course from a sound quality perspective cassettes were a big step backwards.
Just speculating here I’d say the main factors for Tape possibly sounding arguably ‘better’ revolve around:
Bandwidth. Dynamic Range. Resolution.

Then or as well, the Mastering and duplicating Process… the playback device itself, the tape material, the bias applied to the particular tape material, and the original Master’s integrity prior to the conversion.

It could be here as simple as the devices have disparity in playback . resolution, TT vs Tape.

If everything here is home made, DIY duplications the factors are greater the duplicated version loses resolution during the process of CD > Tape, or TT > Tape. Merely the input/output connections demand a Db or so of loss for each set.

Regardless thereason, or IMHO, the reasons, it seems Inna has stumbled onto a scenario that has improved his ability to enjoy music.

I’ve found merely ripping CDs to lossey codecs then burning them back to CD and thereafter ripping to lossless codecs (which was not done intentionally) served to remove the roughness, aggressiveness, upper end brittleness the orig CD possessed in varying degrees.

Is it then more enjoyable? My jury is still out. Although, I’ve kept those files. Listen to them as frequently as nay others, so for me, its all good.

My enjoyment level does not hinge on the numbers associated with a digital track, only its sound.

Now and then, merely ‘different’ is indeed better.

Those who like cassettes may like compression - a more punchy sound. Cassette will definitely compress good vinyl. Good vinyl can have as much as 70dB dynamic range on the outer edge. Cassettes never exceeded 50 dB.

>>>>>Huh? That doesn’t even make sense. Compression gives a LESS punchy sound, a more uniform instantaneous peak. It’s only LOUDER. Methinks you probably need to spend a little time in the library. Check out the Official Dynamic Range Database and try to get a feel for which formats are overly compressed.

There is no need to feel ashamed that you prefer lower quality compressed audio - a lot depends on the quality of your playback system - compression in a modest car audio system usually works great and this alone probably lead to the success of cassettes (walkman and making your own compilation tapes are other factors). Of course from a sound quality perspective cassettes were a big step

>>>>Again, huh? The compression is in the manufacturing, it’s the industry that’s doing the compression, the over compression, not the equipment. Listening alone will show cassettes do not SOUND compressed whereas CDs and even vinyl often do. Wake up and smell the coffee! ☕️ I never bought into the whole perfect sound forever marketing scheme, maybe I’m more open minded than the average bear, who knows? Furthermore, Walkmans or is it Walkmen? have a myriad of advantages sonically. Maybe we can review those advantages some time, if it won't upset you. 


You are showing complete ignorance.

Analog audio tape has for decades been one of the preferred methods of compression in rock and pop! The tape compression of peaks is what creates the punchy sound on AC/DC type stuff.

When you transfer good vinyl to a cassette you will compress the peaks (this happens whenever the needles on the VU meter get close to the red)
Rather than calling names, shadorne, which is a sure sign of failure to win the debate, I suggest you go back and re-read what I wrote. You obviously didn’t get it the first time around. I’m not talking about transferring vinyl to cassette or any such thing. I’m referring to store bought audio cassettes. You need to brush up on your audiophile jargon, since punchy is a sign of good dynamic range, not compressed dynamic range. That is why aggressive compression is bad, it's NOT punchy. Follow?

Geoff, your experiences show our point.

Huh? I don't think so. How so, Professor?

Please re-read the OP post that starts this thread. "vinyl to cassette" is quite explicitly the topic.

You are ignorant as well as completely off topic. 
Huh? You were the one generalizing and preaching about how tape was used for compression. Which in itself is pretty dumb since almost all great recordings in History were recorded on, you guessed it, tape. I was just responding to the ignorant thing you said, which was itself off topic. Tape is a natural medium. It breathes. That’s why the OP reported the tape copy sometimes sounds better than the vinyl original. Case closed.
"Maxell Vertex tape"

Inna- memory is letting me down. The glory days transferring a fresh from the bin record- recorded to premium cassette for the car, seem like yesterday.

I used most of the popular brands including Maxell. Don’t remember Vertex? is it a chrome or metal? Memory recalls a really well recorded album on regular tape was just as good as the "expensive" cassettes. I knew a few audio guys that were obsessive with making the best recordings for their just introduced "high end car audio" Playing a store bought album on cassette was a crime.

1979/80-hearing a trunk full of Fosgate amps and electronic crossovers feeding drivers in the rear deck and doors changed my idea of amazing sound in a car.

Hearing Floyd "DSOM"/Springsteen "Darkness" AND feeling it was an experience equal to a nice home system.

Maxell Metal Vertex is the very best cassette tape, and my deck is not even specifically calibrated for it.
I'll get Otari or Studer open reel deck in time and then the turntable, any turntable, will not sound better in any aspect. I will also be able to play master tape dubs if I can find them. 
Yes, I too think the resonances in vinyl playback is a big factor, but I suspect it's not the whole story.

Its impossible to get audiophile sound from a car system
True, but you can Audiomobile sound..close enough. 
All important recordings are originally on tapes, R2R. Is it just me who still after all these decades keeps wondering why this best media never came popular. Vinyl records, c cassette tapes, CDs and all that modern digital finally put the R2R into museum, so to speak... Shame, isn´t it ?
But it's not in museum, there is a number of people very serious about R2R recording and playback.
Vinyl is great for archive, though, and back-up.

Its impossible to get audiophile sound from a car system.

>>>Let’s get real. It’s impossible to get audiophile sound from many HOME SYSTEMS. More to the point, it’s possible to get very good sound from car systems. WITHOUT much effort. Let’s see, you got battery power, no house AC issues, the car is metal so act as as RFI/EMI shield. Obviously you'd want to replace the fuse with an aftermarket fuse and the acoustic space in a car is small, a lot like near field listening, no worries about having to use a lot of acoustic treatment. Maybe a little wouldn’t hurt. One assumes the CD player buffers the data so you don’t have to worry about vibration, anyway the shock absorbers act as a seismic vibration system for very low frequencies. Finally use audio cassettes anyway. They sound better. Problem solved!
This is an interesting conversation. The best playback in magnetic tape would be a half track machine running at 15ips and recorded directly from the studio master which most likely would have been 2".
Tape (of any sort) also has potential problems such as drop outs (metal particles actually falling off the tape) and having levels set too high during the recording process leading to "print through". I would love to be able to hear music played back from a first generation half track format. Unfortunately, tape degrades over time and is not a stable source. That's why we have digital now.

I have couple of Vertex cassettes that I played more than 500 times. I almost never rewind or fastforward. They still play just as good as when they were new. And this particular tape is Maxell back coated tape that they used it their reels. They might be good for 500 more plays, I'll see. 
You can also modify decks, add outboard tube playback head amp, have custom headblocks for two track and four track recordings and playback and do other things. Great open reel deck is a true audiophile machine. You can even use it as an active preamp, as I sometimes do.
It might be one of the big ironies of audio that tapes degrade, even though I suspect when properly cared for it’s probably not a huge problem, and that’s why digital came along. Another big irony is that solid state replaced tube electronics due to "reliability issues." Cassettes when cared for just a little do not degrade. First, tape has been the first step in most recordings ever since digital first reared its ugly head. Second because digital has been playing second fiddle to vinyl and even cassettes like forever in some VERY important respects such as emotional involvement and musicality. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, "But digital is getting better!" Perfect Sound Forever! Horray! 😛
Doug Sax proved the superiority of direct-to-disk LP's over tape recording way back in the early 70's. Take a direct mic feed from a band playing live, record it onto the best tape machine you have (even the best in the world, that of Water Lily's Kavi Alexander), and cut a d-2-d LP at the same time, comparing the two formats to the direct feed. The d-2-d wins, hands down. Compare a d-2-d LP to any tape recording you can name. No contest.  
Yeah, some guys 'bake' the tape, use LAST tape and head preservatives and do other things. I use LAST head preservative that ideally should be applied before playing each cassette. My deck probably has 5000-6000 hours of playtime on it and the head has a minimal wear.
I believe, best tape decks and turntables/arms/cartridges were made later than in early 70's. Or the tape itself, for that matter. He proved nothing.
That Direct to Disk thing really caught on, eh? The industry had a different idea in mind. Overly aggressive dynamic range compression. 😬
Even if direct to disc can theoretically sound slighly better in some respects, I think, tape will still have an edge in smoothness and continuity, perhaps in drive as well. And think of the level of the equipment that you would need to get that out of the groove. Continuum Caliburn with Ypsilon phono and SUT, anyone ?

Compression is added to get "punch". As a recording engineer I learned this from others and use it myself. If your kick sounds loose and flabby, add compression. It will give it punch. If the bass is a bit defused and lost in the mix, and compression it will give it punch and sit better in the mix.

Compression and punch in audio engineering terms and practice go hand in hand.

Maybe I’m wrong, but if your cassettes sound better than your turntable, then something is wrong with your vinyl set up or hardware. Cassettes can sound good but ultimately I find vinyl better. Now, if Dolby SR was used for all cassette mastering and releases that would be very interesting, indeed. The problem is it wasn’t.

I did an enormous amount of live to two track analog recording back in the day and cassette was only used as a convenience not as SOTA. Hey, but it worked and I made some nice recordings.
raymonda, you should've read carefully what I wrote. I didn't say that cassette sounded better in all aspects of the performance. It is not all or nothing, you know. I never use any dolby.
I also use top cables when recording and comparing the two. I read there is an idea that vintage equipment is less cable dependent. That appears to be a mythology. I tried five different interconnects that I have and difference varies from moderate to huge. And of course I record directly from the phono, not using tape out of the amp.

Please enjoy your cassette recordings, as that is what it is ultimately all about. However, I could never imagine how a cassette without the use of Dolby would be an improvement in any regard. However, I respect the fact that you do. I have owned many TOTL cassette decks and without the use of Dolby they are an immediate and obvious compromise, IMO.

Let's return to real tape machines - open reel decks.
In addition, cartridges color the sound like hell. Even if vinyl was better you cannot fully make use of it - no cartridge will be able to extract all the information from the groove and present it as a complete flow as opposed to imperfectly connected elements, and that's plus coloration. It would be interesting to hear what engineers think. Direct to disc recordings will not solve playback problems, one of the reasons why it was virtually abandoned.
R2R is a different story. R2R using Dolby SR  can be argued to be as good as, or better than, hi rez digital. D2D never made it because it is essentially a live recording. 


Compression is added to get "punch". As a recording engineer I learned this from others and use it myself. If your kick sounds loose and flabby, add compression. It will give it punch. If the bass is a bit defused and lost in the mix, and compression it will give it punch and sit better in the mix.

Compression and punch in audio engineering terms and practice go hand in hand.


With all due respect I’ll stick with my definition of "punch," which one hears in live performances due to outstanding dynamic range and on recordings that have not (rpt not) been overly compressed dynamic range wise. Your "loose and flabby" and "diffused and lost in the mix" descriptions don’t actually compute for me. No offense. Most likely we’re talking about two different things. When I I hear CDs that have been overly compressed they lack "punch." That’s why I don’t like overly compressed CDs. They are loud, I’ll grant you that. Want some examples of what I’m talking about? Dylan’s Modern Times, Stones’ Bridges to Babalon and Steel Wheels and A Bigger Bang and any Radiohead CD. No Punch! MONODYNAMIC. New word! 😀 In my world music IS dynamics. You seem to be saying that the overly aggressive dynamic range compression of music in the last twenty years is actually a GOOD IDEA. Cases of overly aggressive compression can be confirmed in the Official Dynamic Range Database.
I love tape but i "believe" from a non-technical point of view that due to some smoothing (cut-off) of the high frequencies and excellent midrange and mid-bass response, that the sound is very pleasant and inviting to my ears.  Vinyl noise and some flaws in the original recording can often fall more into the background on tape (at a more typical 7.5ips) so 50-15,000Hz. "ends up" being easier on the ears.
CD's and vinyl have more extension and dynamics but also are more revealing, and can be more distracting/annoying.  I have not as yet heard a FULLY optimized tape front-end though- a second generation copy of a master tape played back on a Studer with specially designed EXTERNAL playback amps, or a UHA tricked-out Tascam Br-20 (unfortunately).  The guys at the audio shows are far luckier than I.  Again though, i was raised on R-t-Reel tape and I still love it for some strange reason. Like getting out microphones and playing guitar with a friend.  Lot's of fun.
french_fries - eggs ackley!! It isn’t really a technical argument in my opinion. If it was a technical argument the CD would always win. That’s what’s so frustrating!! 😛 It’s what you like to listen to. Music soothes the savage breast. By and large CDs are not soothing, they’re irritating. Tape is a natural medium. It breathes. The music is almost always more "beautiful" on tape than CD. CD by comparison, especially untweaked CD, sounds like paper mache, thin, rolled off, airless, thumpy and bland. Let’s compare Heifetz on CD to Heifetz on audio cassette. Same violin concerto. Same recording. What you will find is the CD version sounds super clean but threadbare and lifeless, whereas the humble cassette sounds rich, sweet and full, like Heifetz’ violin really sounds. CD doesn’t do air or sweet very well.

^ Exactly, Geoff ... My very ´eavy.... very ´umble Uriah Heep Island Tapes, UK c cassettes from the Golden Age of Recording Technology til 1972 before Noise Reduction outperform modern 24 bit digital Japanese UH CDs hands down, both in dynamics (natural flow of music) and details (nuances) not to mention musicality. Despite they are mass produced using high speed copying. They sound quite incredible in a car as well, still after 40+ years.
Noise reduction only lessens tape noise (as it was meant to do obviously) but flattens real dynamics. Practically noise reduction on tape is exacly the same thing as backround noise in vinyl play. I never cared either of them, they are just backround noise due to the media in question. The actual signal on tape/record (recorded music) is all I have cared for. I have never used noise reductions whatsoever. That´s other peoples´ fantasy.
Furthermore, I never couldn´t stand digital distortions (whatever they may be) but like analog ones because they sound quite natural (right) to my senses. For me noise reduction is just another form of compression. What a bloody waste of time  :^ )

You can't share anything of your vast experience with Geoff (or get him to admit he is wrong) even though your experience with compresion and punch is standard audio industry practice. Geoff is as slippery as the snale oil he purveys liberally on this site.

In order to avoid confusion, why dont you make another thread as this one is stated to be about Cassette tape recordings of Vinyl and how they sound better.

The purpose of this thread is to call attention to the tape and tape machines. Whatever anyone has to say. I think, many agree that there is something that makes the tape sound more natural. As for the cut-off frequency extremes that somehow make the sound more pleasing, I disagree. The biggest difference is in the midrange itself.
Vinyl playback is a very 'bumpy road' if you imagine the way stylus moves, not to mention the transformation of the mechanical energy into electrical. Tape is quite different, though there is a tape movement. Studers are first of all famous for their transport. I said that I use LAST head preservative when playing cassettes, I didn't say that it slightly improves the playback, you can easily hear it. In a manner of speaking, it improves the transport. I am not sure it's a correct way to put it but tape appears to give more 'sound saturation'.
I'm not going to get into why tape sounds, or does not sound, better because I really have no idea why. But I can tell you via first hand experience at many audio shows, R-T-R just sounds excellent. That's why dealers like MBL bring them. You can hear the resolution and air jump up on master tapes played at 15 IPS. At the LAAS, I remember the Evolution Acoustics room with Dartzeel and a Studer playing Peter Frampton's "Lines on my Face" just blew everyone in the room away. So dynamic and beautiful; very live with a ton of air. I also remember that the monobloc amps had power meters on them and though music was playing at perhaps a few watts per channel, there were some peaks in excess of 500 WPC and it just sounded amazing. Never got fatiguing in any way and for me, I just wanted more. It was an amazing demo and it proved the very significant importance of the source and the source media.
Yeah, Studer and monoblocks. You may not need a preamp, you've got it in the deck. I think, 7.5 ips two track is also acceptable in many cases. One pair of interconnects and a pair of short speaker cables, and nothing between speakers.
Really gentlemen!....many half truths and non scientific bla bla.
Who was it said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing...having worked with sound 30yrs and more to the point here Dolby Labs 7yrs i can only that few here actually know what they are talking about....you at least owe it to fellow forum users to research your topics before launching into heated arguments about what are ...it would appear are personal preferences.
Just one more thing..why are we still using CD 16bit 44.1 as a reference when we were promised Digital Versatile Disk as the natuural (DVD)successor...24bit 96k should have followed...and we wouldnt be talking rubbish about retro mediums which somehow have been hyped into fashion(for "fashion"is what it truly is...i mean vinyl ...and i hear cassette is also dragging us back from the future....rediculous...if your Cd sounds worse than vinly then you have either rubbish d to a's or the mastering was a farce......or as is more likely you find dynamucs tiring to listen to.
Cd quality is the nearest you can get ro how the artist and engineers n producers wanted it and HEARD it in the control room.....fact.
Btw....napster and mp3 is the reason our industry has'nt progressed.
We had a whole generation who expectations of sound quality were set lower than cassette....that means no dvd no investment in playback hardware manufacturing no studios recording dvd quality...because their numbers are now so low due to the pc/mac home studio..and of course broadcast...we get DAB.....and thats it...even that is subject to corruption by greedy corps who put 4 stations where 1 was inteded and cut ti bw.!