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June 13, 2021 4:33 pm  #1


Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

A fun column from the Q107 music maven, although I liked cassettes and seemed to have much better luck with them than he did all those years ago. Luckily, I have several working machines to play them on. I'm not sure if everyone else still does. 

Alan Cross found part of his old cassette collection. The discovery unwound some thoughts

 

June 13, 2021 5:03 pm  #2


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Kind of along the same lines:





 

Last edited by grilled.cheese (June 13, 2021 5:03 pm)

 

June 13, 2021 9:22 pm  #3


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Alan Cross talked about the inferior quality of prerecorded cassettes from the record labels. For the most part I'd say that was true, except maybe some of the CBS Records releases that were put out on chrome cassettes from about the mid-80s to about the early 90s (I think). Those actually sounded fairly decent, and were at least a marginal improvement over the other labels' ferric oxide tapes (which sounded pretty freeze-dried). Although for my ears, they did sound a little compressed and kind of lacked the "openness" of LPs or CDs. I suspect the reason CBS discontinued that practice after a few years was because they probably figured most people didn't care, and anyone that was into superior hi-fidelity probably wouldn't choose cassettes as their medium of choice. Also, labels were starting to push the CD, although prerecorded cassettes did stick around for a while, even after vinyl records pretty much disappeared from most Canadian stores by about 1991.


PJ


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June 14, 2021 8:17 am  #4


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

I stumbled across a Billboard issue from Nov 1968. Looking at the Top LP's chart, other formats were listed including cassette, 8 Track, 4 Track and Reel to Reel. I just can't picture a reel to reel album, but they obviously did exist.

 

June 14, 2021 12:08 pm  #5


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

I started collecting  reel to reel albums sometime in the early 70's to obtain Beach Boys albums such as Wild Honey and Friends which were deleted on Vinyl and could not be found. Then I discovered that the format sounded nice and got more titles.

Sometimes the back cover was different from the vinyl. They still sound nice especially if they are recorded at higher speed. Prices have gone way up though and am glad I have held on to my collection. They were manufactured until the early 1980's.

Below is a pic of some from my collection:

https://lettheuniverseanswer.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/R-to-R-album-covers.jpg


 


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June 14, 2021 8:58 pm  #6


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

This thread got me thinking about which album or song I have on the most formats. Have the Rolling Stones album Flowers on three formats and a song from it "Mothers Lille Helper" on 5 formats. The fifth being a 45 ( which may be considered a sub format of Vinyl. 

Anyway I recorded a sample of the song using four formats ( and excluding the 45). Have a go at which format is which. I was most worried about the cassette as I had not played it in perhaps decades but it played okay.
Mothers Little Helper x 4



https://lettheuniverseanswer.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/RS-Covers.jpg

 

Last edited by Fitz (June 14, 2021 9:00 pm)


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June 14, 2021 10:19 pm  #7


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

At first, I thought it was CD,LP,reel then cassette.

Then I listened again.

I guessed LP because it was the only one in mono, then I heard what I thought was crackle on what I thought was the reel.  I'm so confused.

so my stab at it:
1. CD (seemed heavily processed)
2. LP (the only one in mono -- the LP doesn't say it's in Stereo)
3. Reel (I could have sworn I heard crackle -- it's really just guess because it's stereo)
4. Cassette  (I could hear an azimuth error half-way through which sounds very cassette like)

But all in all, nice transfers all around.
 

 

June 14, 2021 11:08 pm  #8


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Peter the K wrote:

At first, I thought it was CD,LP,reel then cassette.

Then I listened again.

I guessed LP because it was the only one in mono, then I heard what I thought was crackle on what I thought was the reel.  I'm so confused.

so my stab at it:
1. CD (seemed heavily processed)
2. LP (the only one in mono -- the LP doesn't say it's in Stereo)
3. Reel (I could have sworn I heard crackle -- it's really just guess because it's stereo)
4. Cassette  (I could hear an azimuth error half-way through which sounds very cassette like)

But all in all, nice transfers all around.
 

Nice try but no. Unfortunately the Canadian and US versions of the song were not released in true stereo until much later and so what you hear is at best very narrow or even fake stereo.
 


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June 14, 2021 11:16 pm  #9


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

I should add that Peter The K makes some astute observations that ring true even if the format is wrong.


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June 16, 2021 6:36 am  #10


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Peter the K wrote:

At first, I thought it was CD,LP,reel then cassette.

Then I listened again.

I guessed LP because it was the only one in mono, then I heard what I thought was crackle on what I thought was the reel.  I'm so confused.

so my stab at it:
1. CD (seemed heavily processed)
2. LP (the only one in mono -- the LP doesn't say it's in Stereo)
3. Reel (I could have sworn I heard crackle -- it's really just guess because it's stereo)
4. Cassette  (I could hear an azimuth error half-way through which sounds very cassette like)

But all in all, nice transfers all around.
 

The correct format is:

1. Cassette ( your comment about heavy processing could be b/c this version was digitally remastered in 1986.
2. CD ( this is mono as you said b/c it's taken from the CD comp "The Singles Collection" from 1989
3. LP ( and yes you did hear a crackle cos it was vinyl)
4. Reel to Reel ( This tape is well worn and there is a drop out at one point)

I remembered that I have two additional copies of the song. One on the "Through The Past Darkly" reel to reel and the other on the Hot Rocks vinyl comp. Plus I found one new format. A broken 8 track of Hot Rocks that I did manage to play but as you can hear clearly at the end there is bleed through. There was a proper wide strereo version of the song but sadly none of my copies have that. Was on UK versions and on a CD around 2002.:

Mother's Little Helper 8 Track.
 

Last edited by Fitz (June 16, 2021 7:14 am)


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June 16, 2021 9:22 pm  #11


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Thanks, Fitz.  That was fun.  Even if I blew it big time. I honestly thought the crackle I heard to be too easy and that it was in there to throw someone off.  If hadn't been such a cynic thinking I was maybe being tricked I could have had one right. 

I was amazed by the lack of surface noise/tape hiss on your transfers.  I'm suspecting it's just that these ageing ears of mine are starting to betray me.

What a drag it is getting old!
 

 

June 17, 2021 6:11 am  #12


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Peter the K wrote:

Thanks, Fitz.  That was fun.  Even if I blew it big time. I honestly thought the crackle I heard to be too easy and that it was in there to throw someone off.  If hadn't been such a cynic thinking I was maybe being tricked I could have had one right. 

I was amazed by the lack of surface noise/tape hiss on your transfers.  I'm suspecting it's just that these ageing ears of mine are starting to betray me.

What a drag it is getting old!
 

Glad you enjoyed and it sounds like the "lowly cassette" did not fair too badly. Maybe luck of the pre-recorded tape but I'm quite certain that tape sat in a car for a very long time. Also I played it back on a non audiophile tape player. A lowly boombox.
 


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June 17, 2021 10:24 am  #13


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

The "lowly" cassette isn't really that bad, especially if you open one up to see the amazing engineering that makes it all work.  As you've discovered, they withstand an amazing amount of mistreatment and still provide decent output.

When I moved, I found a couple of boxes of cassettes (only a few were pre-recorded) I had basically forgotten about that were stuffed away in a closet.  I was overall rather impressed with the quality of the recordings that had been sitting around for, in some cases, about 40 years. A couple cassettes exhibited a small bit of print-through that you could only hear at the beginning of the tape but nothing objectionable.  I did have a pre-recorded cassette that didn't do well.  It was still sealed and had sticky shed syndrome.  I tossed it since I already have the LP.

I guess the thing is, we've been spoiled with today's CDs and lossless digital media.  It's easy to dismiss yesterday's technology but when you put into perspective, it really is quite amazing.
 

 

June 17, 2021 12:29 pm  #14


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

I was going to say that cassettes have really been underrepresented here.  Sonically, the average cassette deck could yield 30-16,000 Hz response and fairly flat too.  With Dolby B-Type NR, the S/N was typically 65 dB.  Not bad at all.

Out of 100 cassettes, I may have had trouble with the odd one.  And by the mid 80s but especially the early 90s, pre-recorded cassettes were sounding pretty decent, especially WEA and CBS titles.  Even A&M had some good cassettes.

It's like when old jocks reminisce about the horrors of cart machines.  Towards the end, theere were some that rivaled half-tack open-reel at 7.5 IPS.  I think we want to remember things being worse than they were because it lets us tell the young-ins how "bad" we had it.
 


Cheers,
Jody Thornton
 
 

June 17, 2021 12:46 pm  #15


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

I used the term "lowly" in the subject line because that's how Alan Cross expressed his view and the story was based on his commentary. But I had great luck with cassettes over the years and some of the work I did in radio has been preserved on them for decades (since digitized.)

A lot depended on the quality of the tape you originally used and I spent a small fortune getting the best brands there were. It also helped if the machine you were using to record/playback was a good one. I still have my Pioneer stereo cassette deck with two separate machines in one for high-speed dubbing purposes. Worked great then, works great now - although outside of the aforementioned digitization project which took me more than a month, I can't quite recall the last time I used it for anything other than playback.

(I also discovered an unopened package of TDK tapes in an upstairs bedroom. Not sure I'll ever use them, but I'm betting they would still be OK even all these years later!)

The quality of most of those tapes equals reel-to-reel in my opinion. There are a few drop-outs over the years but for the most part, you couldn't tell the difference - no hiss and no noise on the music. And they still play well today.

My rapidly aging car (and yes, I'm still vowing to get a new one) from 2006 has a cassette player in it. Certainly, the last of a vanishing breed. 

     Thread Starter
 

June 17, 2021 1:09 pm  #16


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

RadioActive wrote:

My rapidly aging car (and yes, I'm still vowing to get a new one) from 2006 has a cassette player in it. Certainly, the last of a vanishing breed. 

I would love to have a cassette machine in my car.  I have decent Rotel and Technics decks I could have used to make tapes for the car.

EDIT:  RA - I'm guessing you have a Ford Taurus.  I know those had a combo CD and cassette machine in the mid-2000s
 

Last edited by Jody Thornton (June 17, 2021 1:10 pm)


Cheers,
Jody Thornton
 
 

June 17, 2021 1:31 pm  #17


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

No, it's actually an aging Mazda 3 and I had to pay extra for them to put it in before it was delivered. I actually did use it for a while, too, but then the use dropped off over the years. 

     Thread Starter
 

June 17, 2021 11:33 pm  #18


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Okay if I may indulge a bit more and  it's all too much but I tried two old  prerecorded cassettes. Perhaps the oldest left in my collection. Paul McCartney's Ram on Apple played fine and I think I have had it since 1973. I was surprised by that.The other by the Grateful Dead from 1974 is almost unplayable now.

I have prerecorded reel to reel tapes that are older than both the selections above and I have not encountered any that are unplayable now.  Some like the Flowers album are a bit worn but play mostly okay and most of my reel to reels sound fine even after 45 plus years.

No doubt cassettes improved over time but reel to reel had them beat for longevity early on. 

Sample below of reel to reel cut by Peter Paul and Mary from 1967. I bought the tape later used but it's 54 years old. Don't think you will find a cassette that old sounding the same. Not sure if they even had prerecorded cassettes that early.

Too Much of Nothing Peter Paul and Mary R to R

Also included the Ram track on cassette from 1973 and I was surprised by the fact that it still sounds good 

Too Many People Paul McCa Cassette



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Last edited by Fitz (June 18, 2021 6:16 am)


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June 20, 2021 8:13 pm  #19


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

$49.95! Boy, what a bargain!

From Feb. 1969:

https://i.ibb.co/2qs5prC/Cassette-Tape-Recorder-49-Feb-1969.jpg

     Thread Starter
 

June 20, 2021 8:50 pm  #20


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

RadioActive wrote:

$49.95! Boy, what a bargain!

From Feb. 1969:

https://i.ibb.co/2qs5prC/Cassette-Tape-Recorder-49-Feb-1969.jpg

That's about $359.33 in today's money, according to the Bank of Canada's inflation calculator.  https://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons3/smile.png




PJ
 


ClassicHitsOnline.com...Lots of radio stations play classic hits...we just happen to do it best!
http://www.classichitsonline.com
 

June 20, 2021 10:04 pm  #21


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Well in that case, they'd better throw in that $1.98 C-60 blank tape for free!

     Thread Starter
 

June 21, 2021 7:38 am  #22


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Yesterday at a flea market store  I found this old stock new Sanyo RD 10 cassette deck. Reading about it looks like it was a budget model. I paid $ 30.00 and maybe could have talked the guy down a bit but I am happy looking at the clean heads and pinch roller on the apparently unused deck. Came in the original box with two sets of RCA leads but no manual. Perhaps it was a demo. The machine is playing well and has a wood cabinet which is unusual for cassette decks.

The deck has Dolby and can play metal tapes. I recorded the sample below with the Dolby engaged.

Sanyo RD10 Sample

https://lettheuniverseanswer.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Sanyo-Tape-Deck.jpg


Glad the store sare open again


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June 21, 2021 7:48 am  #23


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Hey Fitz, if I recall correctly, that model yielded 14 KHz response with ferric tape, so for a budget model it was no slouch

EDIT:  Enjoyed hearing Bread .  But yes, it's a bit too rolled off for my tastes.  I'd just play it back in the car without Dolby
 

Last edited by Jody Thornton (June 21, 2021 7:55 am)


Cheers,
Jody Thornton
 
 

June 21, 2021 8:34 am  #24


Re: Alan Cross Salutes - And Laments - The Lowly Cassette Tape

Jody Thornton wrote:

Hey Fitz, if I recall correctly, that model yielded 14 KHz response with ferric tape, so for a budget model it was no slouch

EDIT:  Enjoyed hearing Bread .  But yes, it's a bit too rolled off for my tastes.  I'd just play it back in the car without Dolby
 

The tape seemed to be quite "hissy" and perhaps the deck brought that out more and so I used the Dolby. Here's a old RS article I found a few years back about Bread:

https://lettheuniverseanswer.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/img093.jpg

https://lettheuniverseanswer.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/img094.jpg

Last edited by Fitz (June 21, 2021 8:40 am)


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