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The Great Cassette Comeback


erhgiez
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We have a CD thread but my love for cassettes has gone into hyperdrive. 
 

My first device as a kid was a Walkman, but it was, in hindsight, a rubbish one from Argos, and the lasting memories were that it didn’t sound great. This was largely due to terrible cheap headphones and cheap electronics.

 

Fast forward to now and after much soul searching with Discmans and MD players, I have finally reached my retro music techs final form - Cassettes. 
 

I went in pretty hard and got decent player to start with - a refurbished TPS-L2, the one famously used in Guardians of the Galaxy. I thought it looked the part, was the first Walkman released and was meant to sound good. It sounds amazing. I never knew tape sounded this good! 
 

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A lot of bands are releasing their albums on tape again and I picked up Ghost’s new album, Impera. I genuinely have a hard time telling the difference between it and the cd version.

 

What’s crazy about the TPS-L2 is it has two headphone sockets, so two people can listen at the same time which is pretty cool in itself, but it takes things further and adds a Hotline button which activates a microphone the the unit so they can talk to each other without removing their headphones, this also works with one person if some else wants to talk to you.

 

I’ve now been trying to find some of my favourite stuff on tape, and it’s a real hunt, which makes it fun. But a lot of them are less than £10 which makes it relatively cheap to collect for. Sadly, most charity shops don’t sell them anymore so it’s quite hard to come across them in the wild.

 

Today I found some nice thrash metal in a music shop, great selection, and randomly went into the junk shop next door and asked on the off chance if the ever got old Walkmans in. She said she normally doesn’t but walks over to a cubby hole and pulls out an absolute mint WM-F28. It has the works, radio, auto reverse, Dolby noise reduction. And it works flawlessly! The sound quality is great and she only asked for £10 for it, it also came with the original on ear headphones, that actually should be matched to the TPS-L2, which was a great surprise. 

 

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So, anyone else collect tapes?

 

 

50E9DF0E-EC18-4868-BD39-FA6A6900C1C3.jpeg

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I’ve still got all of my original 80s & 90s cassettes in the loft. Sadly no Walkman to listen to them on, but I’ll get one if I spot a bargain. 
 

Does anyone still manufacture hardware or decent new blank tapes?

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I've tried to get tape players a few times in the last few years and found it too difficult to get a working player. Too many unscrupulous people selling junk on ebay without testing it.

One with decayed belts, one with an unusable batteries, one where the whole right channel didn't work.  I ended up with a walkman that's very unreliable, couldn't get it to work last couple of times I tried.

15 minutes ago, Vespa Alex said:

Does anyone still manufacture hardware

Yes, but they're all using the same cheapo mechanism, so absolutely everything is inferior to what you'd get 30 years ago. But they'll generally work unlike the old stuff people will try to flog you.

As far as I can tell the only way forward is to buy a refurbished deck from the 90s from someone who really knows what they're doing, which is expensive. Or to be ludicriously lucky like erghiez apparently was. Twice.

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I do have a soft spot for tape, as it's a format I grew up with. The Streetsounds Electro tapes in particular have probably been key in my musical education.Also, the autoreverse sound is one of the coolest things ever.

It's probably not a format I would get back into now though, partly due to the reasons @chris on the moon mentioned. 

 

Does surprise me, though, when I see new tapes in record shops. Perhaps someone will pick up on the demand and make a better tape mech than the cheap crappy one that everyone uses now?

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Oh shit, this is confirmed for being a thing. My bestie has something of a collection.

 

at first I thought it was a nostalgia thing, but it’s widespread

 

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EBB00214-3E1B-4C72-B2E2-58ED465C2FC7.thumb.jpeg.b7537bad7c2ba9fe2b59a4fee462af1f.jpeg

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Tapes never went away for me. Lots of the music I listen to only has a physical release on cassette, I must have 300 or so in my collection. I’ve also got a little stockpile of decks because decent ones aren’t made any more.

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Was thinking about making a similar thread myself. Got a small collection that’s building here, some might call it hipster but cassettes have a charm that CDs don’t possess and the modern ones I’ve played sound great. Picked up a secondhand Cambridge audio cassette hi fi separate for a tenner years ago but only recently it’s been getting use.
 

Been buying more mostly as my LP collection has grown as far as it can to comfortably transport between rentals and the prices of LPs have made them a luxury item. Cassettes are getting use more by independent artists who struggle to get their albums pressed onto LP so more and more albums I want physically are on the format. If a cassette option is there on an album I want I’ve been purchasing that, recently picked up the latest black midi, father John Misty and super organism albums on cassette for the cost of a single lp these days. No brainer. 

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1 hour ago, Oh Danny Boy said:

Cassettes are getting use more by independent artists who struggle to get their albums pressed onto LP so more and more albums I want physically are on the format.

 

It wouldn't surprise me if independent artists dropped vinyl as the current cost/delay isn't sustainable. Mike of off the In Groove record shop/youtube channel said it took him two years to get vinyl pressed up, and three weeks for the CD. I presume tape is also as quick to get released.

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You can get tapes made up at home with a set up that only costs a few hundred. Inserts are easy to produce and if you want to can hand make them which is always a nice touch when artists do that. Can DIY it all. 
 

It will be sad if independents are forced to drop vinyl as its a format that’s been so synonymous with them for the last 30yrs. 

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Whilst I've kept all my vinyl and CDs over the years - I binned all of my cassettes about 10 years ago. A design classic at the time - the form and function just amazing - but now? Not a chance. 

 

Inconsistent audio playback speed, drop outs, jams, rewinding/ffwd, either hissy audio or muffled Dolby NR options, and then the actual tape degradation - which was a thing during the mass market days of pre-recorded cassettes - they were ever cheaper mass market shit than vinyl at the time. I can only imagine the 2nd hand market for cassettes must be a minefield of disappointment. 

 

The art of the compilation tape was definitely something, but I find the "comeback" just unbelievably hard to fathom and something I won't be partaking in at all, it just doesn't seem worth the effort and pain.

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On 25/07/2022 at 20:56, erhgiez said:

We have a CD thread but my love for cassettes has gone into hyperdrive. 
 

My first device as a kid was a Walkman, but it was, in hindsight, a rubbish one from Argos, and the lasting memories were that it didn’t sound great. This was largely due to terrible cheap headphones and cheap electronics.

 

Fast forward to now and after much soul searching with Discmans and MD players, I have finally reached my retro music techs final form - Cassettes. 
 

I went in pretty hard and got decent player to start with - a refurbished TPS-L2, the one famously used in Guardians of the Galaxy. I thought it looked the part, was the first Walkman released and was meant to sound good. It sounds amazing. I never knew tape sounded this good! 
 

417CD1CD-E5A8-4727-A675-7A58079B2913.jpeg

 

9C32F4A0-C1A5-4DA7-BA9E-43BB7126BB40.jpeg

 

C17E9C74-C0CE-40A9-90C4-710E57E0F739.jpeg

 

3680A594-C854-4EE4-A8C6-11E0F55E19C5.jpeg

 

A lot of bands are releasing their albums on tape again and I picked up Ghost’s new album, Impera. I genuinely have a hard time telling the difference between it and the cd version.

 

What’s crazy about the TPS-L2 is it has two headphone sockets, so two people can listen at the same time which is pretty cool in itself, but it takes things further and adds a Hotline button which activates a microphone the the unit so they can talk to each other without removing their headphones, this also works with one person if some else wants to talk to you.

 

I’ve now been trying to find some of my favourite stuff on tape, and it’s a real hunt, which makes it fun. But a lot of them are less than £10 which makes it relatively cheap to collect for. Sadly, most charity shops don’t sell them anymore so it’s quite hard to come across them in the wild.

 

Today I found some nice thrash metal in a music shop, great selection, and randomly went into the junk shop next door and asked on the off chance if the ever got old Walkmans in. She said she normally doesn’t but walks over to a cubby hole and pulls out an absolute mint WM-F28. It has the works, radio, auto reverse, Dolby noise reduction. And it works flawlessly! The sound quality is great and she only asked for £10 for it, it also came with the original on ear headphones, that actually should be matched to the TPS-L2, which was a great surprise. 

 

F5932C48-BFAC-4C62-9BFC-3F10137AF6C6.jpeg


 

So, anyone else collect tapes?

 

 

50E9DF0E-EC18-4868-BD39-FA6A6900C1C3.jpeg


My dad had a TPS-L2 when they came out, we were obsessed with it as kids. That Hot Line button was like magic, using it never got old!

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1 hour ago, englishbob said:

Whilst I've kept all my vinyl and CDs over the years - I binned all of my cassettes about 10 years ago. A design classic at the time - the form and function just amazing - but now? Not a chance. 

 

Inconsistent audio playback speed, drop outs, jams, rewinding/ffwd, either hissy audio or muffled Dolby NR options, and then the actual tape degradation - which was a thing during the mass market days of pre-recorded cassettes - they were ever cheaper mass market shit than vinyl at the time. I can only imagine the 2nd hand market for cassettes must be a minefield of disappointment. 

 

The art of the compilation tape was definitely something, but I find the "comeback" just unbelievably hard to fathom and something I won't be partaking in at all, it just doesn't seem worth the effort and pain.


There are a lot of bands, quite big bands, and record labels putting out a lot of new releases on cassette, so there must be something happening. 
 

The minefield of second hand cassettes and actually trying to find good stuff is part of the fun for me. I’ve found the more effort I put in to try and get stuff, this goes for out of print cd releases as well, the more time I invest in the music. I’m listening to so much more now that I’ve ditched streaming. I’ve likened it to getting a hacked console with 1000s of games on and not playing any for more than 5 mins vs when you had to buy something from the shop and read the manual on the home on the bus. 
 

I just did a sound comparison of my iPhone with Bose QC2s vs the tape player with some SoundMagic earbuds and the tape blew the iPhone out the water, seriously. It was crisper and had far more space and was dynamic. The iPhone just sounded 2D and slightly muddy

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Wouldn’t try buying old secondhand tapes but as has been said those new releases I’ve picked up have sounded as good as my records on my amp. I read an article online about how much cassette technology has improved and that their sound quality is much improved as a result. 

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6 hours ago, Oh Danny Boy said:

Wouldn’t try buying old secondhand tapes but as has been said those new releases I’ve picked up have sounded as good as my records on my amp. I read an article online about how much cassette technology has improved and that their sound quality is much improved as a result. 

Can you share the article?

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I pulled out some of my tape collection earlier this year. I've kept most of them, the earliest ones from childhood, my dad's '70s Readers Digest compilations, throughout every tape I bought and recorded throughout the 90s until maybe the mid 2000s.

 

I'd planned on going through a box of unmarked tapes which contain a bunch of recordings I made as a kid - songs cued up and being played and recorded with live microphone input of me terrorising my siblings - but my deck needs a service so using it isn't an option at the moment.

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2 hours ago, Hanzo the Razor said:

I bought Neil Young's latest album "Barn" on cassette with a view to getting a decent cassette deck down the line. Young is a notorious audiophile so if he's happy to release his stuff on cassette I'm happy to buy it.

He’s into snake oil though. 

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9 hours ago, Hanzo the Razor said:

I bought Neil Young's latest album "Barn" on cassette with a view to getting a decent cassette deck down the line. Young is a notorious audiophile so if he's happy to release his stuff on cassette I'm happy to buy it.

You should be listening to Neil Young on one of these bad boys

 

Pono-music-player-014.jpg

 

I miss the days when music players had their own unique style, even if this one was a massive flop. It's all black rectangles these days.

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10 hours ago, cubik said:

You should be listening to Neil Young on one of these bad boys

 

Pono-music-player-014.jpg

 

I miss the days when music players had their own unique style, even if this one was a massive flop. It's all black rectangles these days.

This is partly what I was talking about. Perhaps he does care about sound quality, but he was also openly shilling snake oil to the 'audiophile' community.

 

'Audiophile' being people that are willing to buy magic beans to improve their (already probably good enough for anyone ever) sound system.

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Wasn’t Pono just a vehicle for playing a lossless audio format? Not sure there’s anything magic beans about that really, it would absolutely sound better than compressed formats. Now ‘audiophile’ USB cables on the other hand…

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6 hours ago, Count Buffalos said:

Wasn’t Pono just a vehicle for playing a lossless audio format? Not sure there’s anything magic beans about that really, it would absolutely sound better than compressed formats. Now ‘audiophile’ USB cables on the other hand…

Almost no one can tell the difference between well compressed mp3 and lossless, but all things being equal i would rather play lossless. 
 

but most MP3 players can play a lossless format, it wasn’t unique to this. 

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Like others here I do still buy cassettes via Bandcamp and have built up a pretty good collection. I need to get myself a decent cassette sperate for my hifi as I only have a tape-to-tape unit from the mid-90s in the kitchen I use for the radio mainly. 

 

I have an album that came out on cassette a few years back and have made another album with a fellow musician which we're aiming to be on tape later this year. It's a nice format as far as an object goes, it's easy to get funky colours and relatively inexpensive to produce. 

 

It's a shame modern cassette players seem to be pants, if watching Techmoan's videos are anything to go by. Poor all-in-one mechanism bought in bulk, uneven playback, rubbish recording mechanism. Will have to look for vintage gear to get a good-quality playback. 

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I’m currently eyeing up a Sony WM-D6C

 

A legendary player and recorder that out performs most decks, apparently the BBC used to use them to record sound out of the studio. The trouble is getting one that works well and has been serviced recently, although not too hard a job to diy, plenty of tutorials out there. I want to try and make some mix tapes, so I’m after recorder functionality.

 

If anyone is after more info on cassettes and the tech then Techmoans YouTube channel has been really informative to me.

 

 

D8ABF999-FBAA-4BFA-80FE-D35751A52964.jpeg

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I decided to buy a broken Walkman to see if I can fix it. I’ve been keeping my eye on the DD series as they are supposed to be the best ones going but some of the prices are eye watering. I’ve done a load of Gameboy refurbs so hopefully it shouldn’t be too difficult, not sure what’s wrong with it yet though….

 

It’s gorgeous though!

 

 

F306B996-F3C9-4CA3-AA43-4254F87F60EE.jpeg

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