If you play mass-duped tapes and look at azimuth on a scope and frequency spectrum, you'll see that
it's far from a stable product and very far from output=input. With cassettes, at the kinds of
speeds they were duping, even with very narrow gap heads, you run into all kinds of limits of
electronics and physics. It just doesn't work well.
Also, keep in mind that many duping plants even the cassette heyday of the late 80s still used Ampex
3200-type slave transports. Imagine that thin, narrow tape being dragged through an Ampex transport
at 30 or 60IPS. Basically, it's impossible to maintain stable azimuth. The cassette loading machines
further pulled and stretched the tape, and the rule of thumb was to use the cheapest cassette
housings, which all but guaranteed non-perfect fit into players.
In short -- JUNK. And, I well remember there being a brief time in the mid-80s when LPs were CHEAPER
than pre-recorded cassettes. The Sony Discman saved us from all that, because once CDs became
portable it was lights out for cassettes except on the lunatic fringe (which still seems to survive
As for DIY cassette recording, it was possible to get better results there. First of all, a Maxell
UDXL or TDK SA tape had relatively precision housing and higher quality tape than was being used in
the duping plants. If you got a higher-end cassette deck and obeyed guidance about recording levels,
you could get a usable level of fidelity. Dolby B really helped with the hiss, but I found that high
end playback was not reliable between different models/makes of cassette decks (probably had to do
with factory azimuth settings, too). The idea of making mix tapes and passing them around was cool,
and I still have all my old mix tapes (my favorites are my 5-volume "Metal Hell" collection). But,
were I 18 years old today, this is not something I'd be spending time on. I'd probably create
playlists in iTunes, and then burn CDRs of them. Much faster and much much easier to make extra
copies. You can take water-based CD-labeller pens and draw on the CDR disc just like you can draw on
the paper cassette label.
By the way, there is one worse mass-media tape system, way worse -- 8tracks. Worse than junk.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Shoshani" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, November 11, 2015 11:25 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] What Your Music Format Says About You
>I never understood how high speed duplication worked, or was supposed to work. Cassette tapes have
>a very limited frequency response as it is, thus it seems to me that at higher speeds a lot of the
>audio content would be sent to the recording head at higher frequencies than either it or the tape
>itself were designed to handle.
> Michael Shoshani
> On 11/10/2015 18:38, Tom Fine wrote:
>> My father had been in the
>> tape duping business, in fact one of the first cassette dupers in the
>> US. He told me all the compromises and problems involved with high speed
>> duplicating, and opined that cassettes were designed as dictation media,
>> and they worked great for that but not for high fidelity music
>> transmission. He was right.