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Topic: Is Cassette The New Vinyl? (Read 3070 times) previous topic - next topic
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Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #1
The humble cassette tape never stopped being the format of choice for DIY underground lo-fi outfits on a tight budget. It has the association with a more rugged and unpolished scene, tapes were something you threw in the glove compartment when going for a road trip, they were what you brought along with you to listen on the move. You could copy and record mixtapes, unlike with records.

But I don't think it'll go through a revival quite like vinyl, because it doesn't have the imagined sound quality benefits, nor the big beautiful cover art.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #2
I'd say the reason it's currently in-fashion is because of vaporwave being a thing. It's also less cost prohibitive, etc.

But I doubt it'll become a staple of audiophile mysticism as vinyl is.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #3
Whether or not there is any inherent value in what the equipment does or does not do, there is still quite a bit of new, very expensive playback equipment made for phonograph records. New cassette players are few and none I've ever run across are other than low end. Someone would have to start manufacturing cassette playback decks, and recorders, with all the high end specs and features of yesteryear for there to be any chance of an "audiophile" revival.

Also, phonograph records, the basic element for storing the music, can last without deterioration for generations (depending on how they are stored and how, and how often, they are played) while tape tends to deteriorate relatively quickly.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #4
I also doubt there will be anything like the vinyl "revival" but there may be a lo-fi fringe that keeps cassettes going for awhile longer.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  ;~)

 

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #5
Cassette decks are harder to repair, and there's no community of DJs keeping the cassette format alive.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #6
Why MoFi ever released these, I'll never know.  I think I'll pass.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #7
Decent tapes last forever, so that's not a big problem. The problem rather is, that the times when good quality tape was made, is certainly gone. It's mostly people seeking out new-old-stock tapes to record onto.

Cassette mechanism are complicated and relatively expensive. The best mechanism available now, is about comparable to a mid-tier mechanism that was available in the heyday of cassettes, in the 90's.

About half if not more of the interest in magnetic tape, comes from the ability to record. I'm not sure that has any audiophile appeal, tbh. What are they gonna do, record their vinyls on their Nakamichi Dragon on a Metal type-IV tape?

When seeking out pre-recorded tapes, I doubt it'll ever reach the echelons of audiophile music enthusiasm, simply for the fact that recording media was usually better than what you'd get as a pre-recorded tape.

While the sound quality of a decent tape on a decent deck is awesome - even surprisingly so - you can only really get that if you record that tape yourself.
So you had a better source before that.
So what's even the point?

Cassettes were a pretty cool format to handle, they were much more robust than vinyl and a whole lot more handy and portable. But the kind of mechanical, or ritual involvement that you get with Vinyl, it's just not there with cassettes. Also, playing Vinyls is more of a visual event, than playing a cassette is.

Playing with cassettes is fun, but it's not on the same level or "class" as Vinyl is. Unless it's some sort of very expensive reel-to-reel tape recorder, I'm pretty sure Audiophiles like that will scoff at tapes.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #8
Do people play these cassettes? Or are cassettes sold more as merchandise than as medium?
High Voltage socket-nose-avatar

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #9
When it comes to pre-recorded cassettes, you just use them in occasional playing like any other older-style medium, including CDs.

There are some rare relatively desirable tapes, the quality is also pretty good, etc. Also, people like to hang on to their own recordings from way back when.

It's not as much involved as it is with Vinyl, but it kinda replays a bit of 80's and 90's nostalgia. Many very old tapes from the 60's and 70's are still working fine, although the old tape formulation wasn't really made for the kind of immersed listening.

When it comes to recording, it's similar to recording on reel-to-reel these days. Nice to play around and collect good blank tapes, there's actually a bit of a collector's scene for blank tapes. Some people like to record on reel-to-reel in a studio, mainly for novelty reasons.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #10
Let's hope so, so that my investment in a cassette player was not for naught. 😂

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #11
Let's hope so, so that my investment in a cassette player was not for naught. 😂
Well, if you bought one of those decent, almost mystical players like a Nakamichi Dragon, it's kinda almost an investment.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #12
A friend of mine doesn't distribute his live recordings in any format other than cassette tape, so I purchased a wreck of a Marantz portable in order to listen to them. I needed to remove potassium hydroxide residue from leaky batteries, replaced belts, used rubber rejuvenator on parts which still seemed to be in decent shape, mended cracked pcb, bridged foil traces destroyed by battery leakage, etc. Of course the first thing I did was create a digital copy of the recording!


Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #13
That's a very neat little player, though.

There is certainly some fascination in seeing mechanical devices move and switch and produce music, something that modern digital playback devices can't replicate, despite their absolutely superior sound quality capabilities.

That's part of the reason I keep a record player around, because of a fascination with mechanical devices.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #14
It kinda depends about what sort of tape technology we talk about though. Cassette tapes at the peak of their quality, were both incredibly good in quality both tape wise, and device wise.
You get what you pay for, etc. but decent decks and decent tapes lasted forever and produced sound which were pretty much on-par with CD quality. But we're talking about very expensive tech here.

If anything digital audio has brought down the price for superior quality music, because the medium is of no issue anymore, and it's possible to create copies which are the original.

Incidentally, it's why I tend not so use the term "original" and "copy" when discussing digital data of any kind.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #15
Thanks re my little Marantz: I got some satisfaction of basically rescuing it from the scrap heap, it takes up little space when not in use (which is most of the time) and I figured I'd have no problems in finding it a new home someday!

Sometime around the late 1970s or early 1980s, I seem to recall paying $13 for a 60 minute TDK MA-R cassette which was had this amazing die-cast metal frame. I don't know about sonic wonders, but it was like an artifact from a gilded era when there must have been serious R&D money being spent on developing home hifi products.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #16
Sometime around the late 1970s or early 1980s, I seem to recall paying $13 for a 60 minute TDK MA-R cassette which was had this amazing die-cast metal frame. I don't know about sonic wonders, but it was like an artifact from a gilded era when there must have been serious R&D money being spent on developing home hifi products.

Personally for me at the time, late 80's - early 90's, The TDK SA-X-90 were the best quality tapes (cassettes) for the price at the time.
Still have about 40-50 of them, All still sound good.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #17
Speaking of cassettes:

The bias dial on some (better) cassette decks could be adjusted from the mid-point to positive or negative. What does that actually control? The level of the bias signal?

Turning the bias to "negative" gave more higher frequencies and less base, turning bias to "positive", traded higher frequencies for better base response, but I've never understood what the bias dial does to the signal. Could someone explain?

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #18
I was a Maxell XLII-S guy myself.  I never heard the difference between that and the metal tape.  But I digress.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #19
Speaking of cassettes:

The bias dial on some (better) cassette decks could be adjusted from the mid-point to positive or negative. What does that actually control? The level of the bias signal?

Turning the bias to "negative" gave more higher frequencies and less base, turning bias to "positive", traded higher frequencies for better base response, but I've never understood what the bias dial does to the signal. Could someone explain?

Bias is an inaudible high-frequency (above 40kHz) signal applied to the tape while recording. Due to how magnetic tape works in a nonlinear fashion, you need a certain signal level to properly saturate it, which is a problem when recording low-level signals. Tape bias applies a strong high-frequency signal that pushes the signal to a level that saturates the tape better.

Different formulations of tape need different bias levels, and improvements such as HX Pro (developed by Bang & Olufsen) can dynamically adjust bias so it is boosted during low-level signals and reduced during high-level signals, further improving sound quality.

Even with proper bias adjustment and control, monitoring recording levels is critical when working with tapes. In 24-bit digital you can just wing it, as long as you're not clipping or at like -80dB, you're probably fine. With tape, you really need to have the peaks right up to the saturation point, to maximize your SNR.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #20
Speaking of cassettes:

The bias dial on some (better) cassette decks could be adjusted from the mid-point to positive or negative. What does that actually control? The level of the bias signal?

Turning the bias to "negative" gave more higher frequencies and less base, turning bias to "positive", traded higher frequencies for better base response, but I've never understood what the bias dial does to the signal. Could someone explain?
Essentially, you needed to bias the tape into the most linear part of it's recording characteristics.
Some decks generated a test tone; one would adjust the bias control to align the meters on a particular marking.
On a 3 head machine, one could also do it by ear in real (slightly delayed) time during recording, switching between input monitoring and off the playback head.
Aah, the "good old days" /s
Here's a good explanation:
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Audio/bias.html

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #21
Speaking of cassettes:

The bias dial on some (better) cassette decks could be adjusted from the mid-point to positive or negative. What does that actually control? The level of the bias signal?

Turning the bias to "negative" gave more higher frequencies and less base, turning bias to "positive", traded higher frequencies for better base response, but I've never understood what the bias dial does to the signal. Could someone explain?
Essentially, you needed to bias the tape into the most linear part of it's recording characteristics.
Some decks generated a test tone; one would adjust the bias control to align the meters on a particular marking.
On a 3 head machine, one could also do it by ear in real (slightly delayed) time during recording, switching between input monitoring and off the playback head.
Aah, the "good old days" /s
Here's a good explanation:
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Audio/bias.html

No offence but I have to say, KozmoNaut's explanation is a lot better than that link. I really don't think "stirring" the magnetisation really cuts it in technical terms. There's a decent page on Wikipedia too.

FWIW, back in the days, I had a tape deck with (internally) adjustable bias. I set it up for the specific tape, using a signal generator and 'scope. The difference was quite noticeable and I stuck to that tape thereafter for recordings.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #22
Bias is an inaudible high-frequency (above 40kHz) signal applied to the tape while recording. Due to how magnetic tape works in a nonlinear fashion, you need a certain signal level to properly saturate it, which is a problem when recording low-level signals. Tape bias applies a strong high-frequency signal that pushes the signal to a level that saturates the tape better.

Different formulations of tape need different bias levels, and improvements such as HX Pro (developed by Bang & Olufsen) can dynamically adjust bias so it is boosted during low-level signals and reduced during high-level signals, further improving sound quality.

Even with proper bias adjustment and control, monitoring recording levels is critical when working with tapes. In 24-bit digital you can just wing it, as long as you're not clipping or at like -80dB, you're probably fine. With tape, you really need to have the peaks right up to the saturation point, to maximize your SNR.
I know what a bias signal is, how the AC biasing acts on tape hysteresis, etc.
My point was specifically how the knob acts on the AC bias signal. I.e. does it adjust the bias frequency slightly, or change the level of the bias signal, or some combination of it.
Specifically, since a lot of manuals use the term "positive bias" and "negative bias". "Negative Bias" doesn't really make sense to me, as a "negative signal", is simply a phase shift of π.

Adjusting the level on a DC biased deck doesn't really make much sense, as in a DC bias, the main reason it so squelch noise in quiet regions. DC bias is always dependent on the signal put onto the tape, which depends on the deck.

I guess I could simply measure it with an oscilloscope directly at the coil, but I don't have a cassette deck with adjustable bias anymore. (In fact I don't have any cassette decks right now).

Also, when AC biasing, is there still a DC component that moves the midpoint off of 0? Since terms like "positive" and "negative" are used I was also wondering if perhaps this adjusts the DC component of an AC bias signal, etc.

Hence me asking.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #23
To me, the whole "vinyl comeback" or "cassette comeback" is just silly.   And personally, I'm not "going back"!   

Quote
Also, when AC biasing, is there still a DC component that moves the midpoint off of 0? Since terms like "positive" and "negative" are used I was also wondering if perhaps this adjusts the DC component of an AC bias signal, etc.
No DC and no "negative".   The adjustment would be plus & minus around the nominal level.

I had totally forgotten about bias!   Back when I was in high school in the 1970s I bought a couple of surplus cassette machine mechanisms (with heads) and I built the electronics.  Everything was adjusted by-ear.   I didn't have a way of measuring the bias frequency so I just assumed the oscillator was operating "as designed" or "close enough".   I'm not even sure if my meter was measuring the bias voltage accurately but I measured "something" out of the oscillator and it did affect the sound.   Those were 2-head decks so it must have required lots of trial-and-error.

I remember that I used an inverting op-amp as the playback amplifier and the inductance of the tape head accidently worked to create the playback equalization (or maybe some/most of the playback EQ?).     There was no Dolby.  That was probably before Dolby was introduced, and the bias was fixed so that was probably before the more-advanced tape formulations were introduced.    They worked "pretty well" for what we had in those days but I think I eventually just "trashed them" when I could afford to buy a "real" cassette deck.

Re: Is Cassette The New Vinyl?

Reply #24
No DC and no "negative".   The adjustment would be plus & minus around the nominal level.
OK, so basically the adjustment is pretty much just the amplitude of the DC biasing signal?

 
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