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Cassettes….why ?

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Bhaskar Jyoti Talapatra

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I had couple of questions for people who are into cassettes these days.
Many years ago I was an avid user of cassettes and cassette decks. Owned a nak, technics and even a sony 3 head deck. From a sound quality context, cassettes were relevant only in the below situations.

  1. Some music was mastered better on vinyl than other mediums. Since you never had a vinyl player / vinyl you made a copy of the album on a good quality tape from vinyl at some friend’s home or places that offered that service. These tape copies actually sounded better than the cd version especially in the early days of cd / cd players.
  2. Once upon a time, CDs and CD players were expensive. Since you owned a tape deck, you made copies of those on your tape deck at some friend’s home or places that offered that service. This problem went away when cd player prices came down and you could easily make copies of cds on a PC.
I am curious. Apart from the nostalgia and the above, is there any other reason for cassette tape love ?

How relevant are cassette tapes ? Are there people who make copies of cds to tapes and then listen ? Isn’t it better to introduce filters in a pc playback system that gives you that “ tape “ sound ?

Please note that I completely understand nostalgia and people’s need to go back in time etc. I am more curious to understand their relevance purely from a sound quality context.
I had couple of questions for people who are into cassettes these days.
Many years ago I was an avid user of cassettes and cassette decks. Owned a nak, technics and even a sony 3 head deck. From a sound quality context, cassettes were relevant only in the below situations.

  1. Some music was mastered better on vinyl than other mediums. Since you never had a vinyl player / vinyl you made a copy of the album on a good quality tape from vinyl at some friend’s home or places that offered that service. These tape copies actually sounded better than the cd version especially in the early days of cd / cd players.
  2. Once upon a time, CDs and CD players were expensive. Since you owned a tape deck, you made copies of those on your tape deck at some friend’s home or places that offered that service. This problem went away when cd player prices came down and you could easily make copies of cds on a PC.
I am curious. Apart from the nostalgia and the above, is there any other reason for cassette tape love ?

How relevant are cassette tapes ? Are there people who make copies of cds to tapes and then listen ? Isn’t it better to introduce filters in a pc playback system that gives you that “ tape “ sound ?

Please note that I completely understand nostalgia and people’s need to go back in time etc. I am more curious to understand their relevance purely from a sound quality context.
Hi
Square_ wave
Before coming into the vinyl world I used to buy cassettes or even had those recorded because I couldn't have the fund to go for vinyls. Besides this our HMV fiesta stopped working. So I wanted cassettes those days having no other alternative.Later when CDs came into being,i began to buy audio CDs and Mp3s. IMHO Cassettes have no value other than nostalgic or emotional values. If anyone has recorded some personal matters in cassettes then it should have an immense value.Otherwise one who likes the sq he will go with vinyls or for convenience one has so many options these days. Again listening to music is entirely a personal matter.so people have the right and choice to go with either vinyls, cassettes or whatever he finds convenient and pocket friendly.It seems to me that you have nicely described your view
Regards
Bhaskar
 

skroderider

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I had couple of questions for people who are into cassettes these days.
Many years ago I was an avid user of cassettes and cassette decks. Owned a nak, technics and even a sony 3 head deck. From a sound quality context, cassettes were relevant only in the below situations.

  1. Some music was mastered better on vinyl than other mediums. Since you never had a vinyl player / vinyl you made a copy of the album on a good quality tape from vinyl at some friend’s home or places that offered that service. These tape copies actually sounded better than the cd version especially in the early days of cd / cd players.
  2. Once upon a time, CDs and CD players were expensive. Since you owned a tape deck, you made copies of those on your tape deck at some friend’s home or places that offered that service. This problem went away when cd player prices came down and you could easily make copies of cds on a PC.
I am curious. Apart from the nostalgia and the above, is there any other reason for cassette tape love ?

How relevant are cassette tapes ? Are there people who make copies of cds to tapes and then listen ? Isn’t it better to introduce filters in a pc playback system that gives you that “ tape “ sound ?

Please note that I completely understand nostalgia and people’s need to go back in time etc. I am more curious to understand their relevance purely from a sound quality context.
There is another aspect apart from quality and nostalgia, which is availability.
  1. There is music, especially non-mainstream, and regional/folk music that does not have a wide audience, that is available only on cassettes. E.g. Assamese folk/film music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
  2. When you do find CDs or streaming for such music, they are of such bad quality that you feel like screaming. Sometimes better quality CDs did come out when the album was released (and the cassette too) but they are not available anymore. So you are stuck with the cassette. Examples - Bombay , 1942 A Love Story, Maya Memsaab - to take a few Bollywood examples. My cassettes sound fantastic even now for these albums.
 

skroderider

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Most of my cassettes used to warp and disintegrate very fast. I don’t know if it was due to the fact I was staying close to beaches all the time during that period (Goa, Lakshawdeep, Mangalore etc)
Some of my cassettes (the tape inside) warped because I used to play them too much :p.
 

sandeepss

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Some of my cassettes (the tape inside) warped because I used to play them too much :p.
:D That's true. There was one track on "Sadma" cassette (the one with the silly lyrics :) ) which I used to fast forward, and never used to play. After a few years, that was the only track playing in pristine quality :)
 

skroderider

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Hi!

I get your curiosity. You've rightly listed the usual factors that lead us to the Cassettes. Apart from that, there are a couple of cool things.

If you find your favorite digital music bright/harsh to your ears, then, you can record the same the way you prefer on a "quality" tape using a top quality tape deck having advance NR features., like S & C.

Also, if you ever run out of/end the subscription to your fav streaming sites, the recorded Cassettes come in handy! rather than just listening to low format MP3s/AACs.

Finding cool music & being happy with it, in any form, is just a great feeling. If not, we got to switch between the mediums/tweak our approach a bit to be happy, be it, goin back to Cassettes/Vinyls/Reels.
Slightly unrelated to the topic, but since you mentioned ending of streaming subscriptions - I cannot help but mention that I always felt having your music on physical media, with you, matters a lot. Old school thinking? :p Maybe, but let me attempt to explain why I feel so. Streaming is a good and easy to use technology, but it's a service, not a product. It is dependent on so many external factors - paying for the subscription, paying for your internet service, depending on a company which is probably located in another country with different laws. If one of these stop or change in a way that is detrimental to you - your music stops.

That said, I am a big fan of Amazon's Echo - and use it everyday to stream from Amazon Music. But the point remains. I think the same point applies to physical books versus Kindle-like devices (I use both heavily).
 

preth30

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Slightly unrelated to the topic, but since you mentioned ending of streaming subscriptions - I cannot help but mention that I always felt having your music on physical media, with you, matters a lot. Old school thinking? :p Maybe, but let me attempt to explain why I feel so. Streaming is a good and easy to use technology, but it's a service, not a product. It is dependent on so many external factors - paying for the subscription, paying for your internet service, depending on a company which is probably located in another country with different laws. If one of these stop or change in a way that is detrimental to you - your music stops.

That said, I am a big fan of Amazon's Echo - and use it everyday to stream from Amazon Music. But the point remains. I think the same point applies to physical books versus Kindle-like devices (I use both heavily).
You are absolutely right. Streaming was never for me. I always felt awkward with that kind of music listening.
 

reubensm

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After extensive cassette use, I must say that CDs are far superior. But I enjoy cassettes too, record on NAK and playback on Kenwood car cassette, while driving
 

Amarendra

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Taking inspiration from the section on cassettes I picked up an Akai CS M01 cassette deck in Mumbai. It's a "made in Japan" kit, very old but working. It was great to access my old cassettes particularly old hindi film songs and recordings done from radio by parents. Some of these songs were no longer available in their original form. I could also play cassettes with my specific notes written on them as a kid. Just nostalgia. The cassettes seem to have survived Mumbai weather for 2 decades in a box remarkably well. I always thought that cassetes were crap but I was wrong.
 

Amarendra

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How is that deck the cs m 01?
Pretty good. I don't have a reference point to check since I am listening to cassettes after about 2 decades but sounds quite sweet to me. It is a single door / bay contains Dolby NR and a recording function. The dealer gave me a 6 month warranty. A lot will depend on the recording though.
 

SachinChavan

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Is this debate any different from the vinyl vs CD debate, especially because the OP is focusing only on the sound quality and not on nostalgia or user experience factors? Isn’t it then simply the classic analogue vs digital medium/source debate? My two pennies on that: analogue recordings sound better on analogue medium/source and digital recordings sound better on digital medium/source. Exceptions could be proficiently digitally remastered (analogue) recordings, but that’s rare in the Indian context.

Not surprisingly most the TT/vinyl favouring users I know are mostly into the music from 50’s-70’s. The question to ask is why would some (if any) of them prefer the SQ of cassette over the vinyl? Another question I’d like to add to the mix: why most cassette vintage users today are South Indians (even if residing in other parts of the world today). Did the music labels there continue making cassettes well after they went out of vogue elsewhere in India? Or that South Indian Music world was relatively late to get into digital recordings?
 

sandeepss

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Is this debate any different from the vinyl vs CD debate, especially because the OP is focusing only on the sound quality and not on nostalgia or user experience factors? Isn’t it then simply the classic analogue vs digital medium/source debate? My two pennies on that: analogue recordings sound better on analogue medium/source and digital recordings sound better on digital medium/source. Exceptions could be proficiently digitally remastered (analogue) recordings, but that’s rare in the Indian context.

Not surprisingly most the TT/vinyl favouring users I know are mostly into the music from 50’s-70’s. The question to ask is why would some (if any) of them prefer the SQ of cassette over the vinyl? Another question I’d like to add to the mix: why most cassette vintage users today are South Indians (even if residing in other parts of the world today). Did the music labels there continue making cassettes well after they went out of vogue elsewhere in India? Or that South Indian Music world was relatively late to get into digital recordings?
Thats interesting. Malayalam LPs were there for a shorter interval, i think late 60s to late 80s. Cassettes took over long before that since Yesudas’s Tharangini studios came out with it in 80. Due to their convenience and low cost of entry, cassettes stayed for long. In the mid 90s onwards most releases had both CD and cassettes, with master tapes I think were analog. But the digital mastering was excellent preserving the dynamics of the original.
 

SachinChavan

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Thats interesting. Malayalam LPs were there for a shorter interval, i think late 60s to late 80s. Cassettes took over long before that since Yesudas’s Tharangini studios came out with it in 80. Due to their convenience and low cost of entry, cassettes stayed for long. In the mid 90s onwards most releases had both CD and cassettes, with master tapes I think were analog. But the digital mastering was excellent preserving the dynamics of the original.
I have one old Malayalam film (Gramophone) CD of Yesudas and some other singers and I like it (though don’t understand a bit). I felt the sound has a honey like flow in those songs. May be it’s a property of the language. Can there be connections between a language or kind of singing with what media it sounds better on? Just a thought.
 

jmascreen

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I have one old Malayalam film (Gramophone) CD of Yesudas and some other singers and I like it (though don’t understand a bit). I felt the sound has a honey like flow in those songs. May be it’s a property of the language. Can there be connections between a language or kind of singing with what media it sounds better on? Just a thought.
Please post a photo of that CD
 

sandeepss

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I have one old Malayalam film (Gramophone) CD of Yesudas and some other singers and I like it (though don’t understand a bit). I felt the sound has a honey like flow in those songs. May be it’s a property of the language. Can there be connections between a language or kind of singing with what media it sounds better on? Just a thought.
Malayalam composers and lyricists were excellent during 70-90s. Since it’s a regional language, they never caught the limelight like Khayyam or Burman. Compositions were simple, original with more focus on the poetry and I needn’t add that his voice is like velvet smooth :)
 

COOLDUDE7808

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tape used to develop fungus due to humidity in mumbai....so had to regularly clean the deck head and pinch roller ....finally gave up on it when income improved and shifted to CD's ....
 

SachinChavan

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tape used to develop fungus due to humidity in mumbai....so had to regularly clean the deck head and pinch roller ....finally gave up on it when income improved and shifted to CD's ....
Perhaps none of us who wax eloquent about cassette (or even vinyl) sound today had a second thought on moving over to CD back then. :) Each one of us had some convincing reason to do so, most of which are listed in this thread. Most of us junked our cassette decks, Walkmans, turntables, and respective media while some with collector/hoarder (both are different) mindsets had boxed and kept them aside, but never used for years together. There’d be an exceptional one who continued listening to them in the intervening period. It’s only when the vinyl revival started few years ago, did some get back to dusting/refurbishing and trying out the older equipment and media and discovered an again-found love. Did any of those reasons to move to CD become inapplicable now? I don’t think so. We just found newer reasons to go back.

Just goes to say how human mind (individual as well as collective) is fluid and nothing can be taken for granted for ever. :)
 
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sandeepss

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Perhaps none of us who wax eloquent about cassette (or even vinyl) sound today had a second thought on moving over to CD back then. :) Each one of us had some convincing reason to do so, most of which are listed in this thread. Most of us junked our cassette decks, Walkmans, turntables, and respective media while some with collector/hoarder (both are different) mindsets had boxed and kept them aside, but never used for years together. There’d be an exceptional one who continued listening to them in the intervening period. It’s only when the vinyl revival started few years ago, did some get back to dusting/refurbishing and trying out the older equipment and media and discovered an again-found love. Did any of those reasons to move to CD become inapplicable now? I don’t think so. We just found newer reasons to go back.

Just goes to say how human mind as well as the collective mind is fluid and nothing can be taken for granted for ever. :)
Now you need to armor up well! The brick bats will be coming in any minute from now :D
 
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