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
> Chicago
> 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.