Let the Cassette Tape Die Already

smashed-broken-cassette-tape.jpg
And stay dead! (Photo via.)

In its July issue, Wired magazine takes note of a disturbing trend: The apparent unwillingness among young, music-loving cool types to let the cassette tape die a complete and much-deserved death.

Noting that 2010 saw both the last new car ship with a tape player and the end of production for Sony's Walkman (note to youth: It was like an iPod, except way shittier), the magazine scratches its head at recent tape-only releases from indie-rockers like the Mountain Goats and electronic musicians like Matthewdavid.

"Cassettes are about to be cool again," we're told.

Not if we have anything to say about it.

Perhaps some of you whippersnappers are confused by the recent resurgence of vinyl into thinking that all dead formats will have their day in the zombie spotlight. They won't.

Cassettes are not vinyl. They don't have pretty labels and large art. They do not spin elegantly. Cassettes come unspooled, leave sprawling plasticky messes of sticky ribbon behind, perish in summer heat, and wear completely out. (You try killing off your treasured tape of Thriller at the vulnerable age of 7 and see how it makes you feel.)

Cassettes also do not sound good. Lacking the crisp clarity of a CD or the punchy warmth of vinyl, music on cassette sounds flat and dull. It's like playing music through your computer speakers, except it sounds that way all the time.

Admittedly, cassettes are the original format of the mixtape, which has considerable romantic value. And ghetto blasters will always be cool. But there are lots of ways to make a mixtape these days without the hassle of using actual cassettes. Don't want to make an iTunes or Rdio playlist? Why not try this crazy new technology called a recordable CD? And if you want to put giant speakers on your shoulders, check out the iPod Ghetto Blaster, or TDK's new boom box.

Perhaps the best reason not to let cassettes come back: Do you actually own a tape player? Outside of your car? Yeah, we didn't think so -- because no one does. (Hell, do you even own a dedicated CD player anymore?)

Don't worry, kiddies. You're not missing anything with cassette tapes -- except a chance to look like nostalgic hayseeds to those who've lived longer than you. Tapes are dead -- or at least mostly dead. Let's bury them for good.

[Wired]

----
Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Ian S. Port @iPORT, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.


My Voice Nation Help
30 comments
gtkruskie
gtkruskie

I wish some of the editors who write articles would research things properly before writing an article with their comments on them.  I have many cassettes that were recorded with cassette decks capable of making a recording that rivaled the quality of vinyl records-and achieved this many times, without difficulty.  I also have one of those old monster receivers (120 watts/ch), and a turn table which both still work, after 30+ years and perform their tasks without issues.  You can't and won't be able to say that about the new stuff out there-unless it is custom made for you!  I have multitudes of cassettes that are 25-30+ years old that still play  and seem to sound as good as they did then.  My children have heard dubs from  CD's playing on cassette and told me that they liked them better than the CD!  Said that like the vinyl records they sounded "warmer" to them.  So much for your Death Nell!

tobiatesan
tobiatesan

There is at least one pretty good argument for cassettes: lifespan.

Dub to cassette and forget, when your children dig your cassette box in 30 years, they will presumably be able to listen to your tunes, provided a tape machine is still to be found somewhere (this may sound like a stretch, but it isn't).

On the other hand, CD-Rs have this tendency to turn to dust, and hard drives tend to fail and/or be replaced with newer standards. Most new computers don't even have an IDE/PATA bus anymore.

If a cassette breaks down, a pencil and a piece of duct tape will get it back in shape except for a few seconds of music. 

Now, is this just theoretical?Boy, I wish it was.I have boxes of cassettes and VHS tapes which play perfectly fine, while a lot of DVD/CD-Rs I've burned over the past years, not so.

RM
RM

why is this in the "Tech" section? its an opinion piece.

NS
NS

It would be really nice if people educated themselves a bit more on a subject before writing an article on it, same goes for making comments on it, wow

Tapehead
Tapehead

Can you point to where the cassette touched you? Seriously, just because you had crap tapes, a crap source material, and a crappy dirty player, improperly handled and stored, doesn't mean everyone did. A properly recorded tape sounds and a decent player sounds absolutely amazing.

Evan
Evan

The author of this article is out of the loop, there are plenty of bands that release their music ONLY in tape format. Granted, it gets digitized eventually and shared (usually for free). But some people actually like the sound of cassettes, even after they wear out. Digital is perfect every time, it can get boring, and clips instead of saturating beautifully. Don't try to rule the world from the top down, just let people do what they want with old tech and don't complain about stuff you don't understand.

guest
guest

Fuck everything about this article.  Do I even own a cassette player?  Hell yes I do.  Like 5 of them.  They are practically free.  Do I own cassettes that sound amazing?  Hellz to the yes.  I'm listening to a release form Joyful Noise Recordings right now and it sounds crisp and clean with no hiss and a huge frequency range.  Great bass, crisp highs, no distortion.  You can't kill DIY music with some uneducated rant by someone who hasn't touched a cassette in the last 20 years.

JK
JK

i like the convenience of mp3s, but try finding an iPod thats working 20 years later (or 5 for that matter).

Rgruber88
Rgruber88

Brilliant! And oh so true. This article may have finally given me the resolve to throw out those four or five moldering boxes of cassette tapes in my hall closet. (that's right, I'm a tape hoarder!)

Gamegeeku
Gamegeeku

I went and consulted my grandma on this and she said they do last forever as long as you keep the player clean and do use heap shitty players

chokeonthisfatnut33
chokeonthisfatnut33

SFW, why are you bein' tape haters? And fuck Technics for getting ridding of the 1200's and those that are trying to kill off the DJ turntable, and these bitch-ass motherfuckers that are attempting to beat and gang rape the term "Electro Music". It's fuckin' bastardized House music (and don't fuckin' call it "Electro House" either) with some insect noises thrown in. 

SoundExpert
SoundExpert

Yeah right. This guy is hurting. Whats wrong with a tape? Why does it deserve to die? Cassettes are awesome. They last for generations. Come out by hundreds of different manufactures which come up with their own unique styles, colors and designs which makes them more atractive once you start collecting them. No wonder car manufacturers still intalled them in brand new cars and stereos still come out with tape decks. Vinyl may seem to have punchy sound. But did anyone ever noticed vinyl has the lowest frequency db responce when played directly unless amplified. Wheather I record from CD or another tape deck, sound levels seem fine unless I want them recorded louder then original source. With vinyl I have to adjust the input volume way higher when recording otherwise it will record too quiet and then the tape gets the blame for poor sound? Especially on basic stereos with no manual input volume feature, vinyl sounds too quiet when recorded on tape. I used same tape and recorded same vinyl track next to that track I recorded erlier on a pro high end deck by properly adjusting volume levels to almost peak levels, the result was incredible. I was shocked how much louder it was. louder than CD. And those punchy sounds are even louder and more surround, the sound itself just creeps up on you when recorded from vinyl on a properly set tape deck using only Type II or Type IV tape formats for original sound quality plus extra clarity and sharpness these types of tapes offer. I see nothing wrong with a tape. I had good memories and experiances with it and see no reason to talk trash about it.Instead, more brands and types of tapes need to start getting manufactured especially Type II & IVs. Remember CDs do scrach, crack, warp, rot and fail too. Same with vinyl, they collect dust and dirt over time in their micro tiny grooves resulting sound to degrade and pick up unwanted background noise. MP3 players fail too. So whats wrong with the tape? Besides its lasting sound storage and ability to change sound recording anytime. People forgot what boomboxes and dual tape decks are with all this anoying digital brainwashing that is taking control of them. 

Doin' Werk Son!
Doin' Werk Son!

It's mostly in the EQ and Compression. Each has its pros and cons. The analog soundwave versus digital sampling conversion argument is a waste of time because neither can match the dynamic range of the live performance, and any format that was replicated from an analog source is from a copy that is probably third generation at best.

Diesel Power Dash9
Diesel Power Dash9

I got music cassettes since 1969 and up which still sound amazing and clean. Its just amazing how long they last. I dont agree at all to what idiots say they wear out. Action speaks louder than Words. Plus over time I collected so many different brands, designs, colors and types of cassettes that makes them a unique invention & all the memories they bring so I switched back to that format. I started collecting CDs around 2002 and thought that was a better format and keep them in original cases till 2 years later I started out by having my music constantly skip or freeze regardless which CD player I used unless it is a sony. I pulled a CD to a light and right thru it, start seeing tiny holes appear (even with no scratches on it) Then over couple months of use and storage, more tracks suffer. Untill I started seeing bigger spots called CD-rot spots, which later on randered enire CD un-readable. So I couldnt rely my precious music to CDs. CD-Rs started suffering from CD warpage, cheaper plastic causes them to scratch easier. Then I started out by backing up my music on each format, Tape and CD. Today I still listen to these tapes I backed up back then, and for CDs some dont play no more while others annoyingly start skipping again. I had an iPod for 2 years and it started freezing up on me till the screen stopped working. I had another one, same thing screen stopped working but the player works. The tape feels more original for portable music and sound systems. The way all my tapes sound are amazingly loud on my system since I use top of the line professional decks and record only on music grade Type II & Type IV tapes only. I had neighbors constantly complaining while others trying to turn their music up and getting mad, untill I would tell them its only a music tape. And that would really shock them. They couldnt believe the crisp clean loud music they were hearing was on tape recorded over 30 years ago. 

Getshorty123
Getshorty123

Tapes? CD's?---Whatever to just having a good memory?

joseph
joseph

I still have a working (In think) double cassette deck of reasonable quality. I have some sort of warm fuzzy feeling that a product outlasted its usefulness so I'll keep it until I die, or somebody needs it. I used it once this century, making a digital copy, quite hissy, of a recording that only existed on tape.

cassette
cassette

You're a complete moron, with no taste for sound in music::: Analog sound is vastly superior to anything digital. For you to say, kiddies, you un-appreciative cynic with lack of experience and culture. Get moderated! Maybe make a mix tape some time and compare your brain busting 100 monthly iphone to nostalgia.

Rayrauch
Rayrauch

They were cool for their time but so were 8-tracks,once upon a time 

Iisweong
Iisweong

The warm, punchy sound of vinyl eh? You just described tape fool. The reason it sounds better than a cd (to many) is it's a continuous waveform. Digital is a bunch of tiny samples acting like a wave. Most large budget bands still track their drums to tape, why? For a warm punchy sound. You may step down from your ignorant editorial perch now.

kris
kris

Cassettes sound much better than digital music - not that sound quality matters to people anymore.

John Doe
John Doe

There are a few things "technologist" fail to understand, retention of cassette is one of them.

There are a few things that USB memory sticks may not be able to do in the new future. They always require power to retain their  position. You have a play list. You pull out the USB and put it else where, you back to the start. I am not very sure if USB sticks operating out of solar power are available which dont eat up standby power. This is also the same reason that cassette players are more power efficient than CD players. It takes more standby power for  the CD player to hold remember the  CD position. Cassette player can be COMPLETELY powered off, as cassette is probably the only self-book marking format available.There is also another problem with MP3 player. Their cost is not justified nowadays. When MP3 was new, it was a new concept. The cost was justified. Buying an MP3 player meant forgoing the cassette (or CD function completely). Nowadays MP3 playing function has been absorbed into FM transmitters and Cell phones. You pay Rs 200-300 or < US 10 for an FM transmitter and nothing for a cell phone. Buying these devices gives you MP3 functionality along with the old functionality. A MP3 player capable of playing FLAC file is very expensive. So far there is no really universal music file player which can play APE, FLAC, MP3, OGG files.

Coming back to cassette functionality. Analog mastering can retain original frequencies as it is. That is not possible to do with MP3 with limited sampling rate. MP3 is good for convenience but it is not good for archival.

Tapes have improved over the years. Today a MAXELL or TDK is really worth it. On the other hand CDs have stagnated. Scratch proof CD was a failed technology, SACD and DVD-A remained commercial failure. 

Music is one of the areas, where technology has stagnated to worse for sake of "convenience". Despite killing of Dolby S for cassette, cassettes have refused to die. Whether "Technologists" like it or not, cassette will not get killed due to one more reason - the Internet. Most cassette sales including blanks happen through website like Ebay. Maxell and TDK cassette sales are up again. 

Most important reason that cassette cannot die easily is ironically because of MP3s on the Internet. Cassette is also the world's cheapest weapon against piracy. It just simply involves flooding the market with them. They cost even less than pirated CDs or pirated tapes and converting them into Mp3 is always lossy.

Keef Harris
Keef Harris

Cassettes ain't going away no time soon people like the simplicity of making mix tapes and just like the recent demand for more vinyl records cassettes are going to be around awhile if not indefinately ,why hate on them they're just another tool for creativity if you're a creative person you understand.Most in demand double cassette CD player Yeah!

Multitekauto
Multitekauto

Damper Manufacturers

Multitek Auto Parts company engaged in manufacturing and supplying various kinds of components like Plastic cassettes for pregnancy test kit and hcg test,Dampers Manufacturers,Plastic Cassettes for Diagnostics Kits, Injection moluded components Manufacturers.pregnancy, pregnancy test kit, Plastic cassettes,Dampers Manufacturers, home pregnancy test kit,cheap pregnancy, hcg test,urine pregnancy test, pregnancy, ovulation, predictor kits, Plastic cassettes, injection, molding, plastic injection molding, injection molded plastic, plastic injection,old, moulding, mould, mold making, parts, manufacturing, components, molds,Dampers Manufacturers Classifieds,

http://www.multitekautoparts.i...

tapelover
tapelover

I agree with you about tapes. However you could have made your point without sounding like a foul-mouth. It's not big and it's not clever!

steveiii
steveiii

Oh yeah, one more thing-most of the tapes (1,000+) I have that I self recorded from the seventies/early eighties still play fine (some with dulling of high frequencies)-but I will maintain that it is a crap-shoot on long term performance -nothing will ever beat for longevity a perfectly stored, seldom if ever played high quality piece of vinyl-nothing. Your great-great grandkids will love the fact that they can auction your records on Ebay for a killing. That's never ever gonna happen with any other format.

steveiii
steveiii

Until recently I had recorded with ultra high quality cassettes (harder to find these days than some NOS tubes) since the late seventies on Nak, Tandberg Denon & Aiwa machines (good luck finding ANY of those machines nowadays in perfect/speced out condition). Sadly many of my tapes from the seventies have turned to mush even with proper storage. It is laughable to consider oxide formulations as lasting generations. Cassettes have wonderful distortions that can lull you into the belief of their naturalness and musicality-just like a vinyl LP. Even recently tons of blogs have offered downloads of cassettes. Yeah, some measure against piracy! Labels like Stunned (recently kaput) have released a myriad of oddball and eccentric music/sound pretty much only on cassette. This phenomenon reminds me of the early eighties and the birth of DIY indie/noise/punk when it was the ONLY cost effective means to get your sounds out. Today with the internet there are better and cheaper means to have your sounds heard than on cassette. Kind of ironic it seems. While I have absolutely nothing against cassettes, there are certainly better options. After all, NOTHING lasts forever.

Mark
Mark

 Amen, brother!

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Drink

San Francisco Event Tickets
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...