(image: Hasegawa Tohaku - Shōrin-Zu Byōbu)

Disconcerted Sounds Last.fm Group - here. A curiosity if nothing more...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The long slow death of cassette players

Hope everyone has had a nice couple of weeks this Easter. I'll get around to answering any comments and a proper post on the weekend - assuming everything goes as planned. A lot of updates are cheekily taken from people kindly posting them in the Promotion section of Fangs & Arrows so check there if you want to get ahead (and join anyway).

The long slow death of cassette players

Cassette player 1:

This was (technically still is) my parents cassette player. It's part of a small stack system bought in the late 70s / early 80s that has a turntable on top and a CD player below. I sequestered it around 2003/4 and have had it in my room since 2005/6. The turntable, CD player and radio still work perfectly - only the drive belt for the turntable has needed replacing (this year) - but the cassette player died a couple of years ago and emits a constant sharp tone from one of the speakers.

Cassette player 2:

An old birthday present of mine. Probably from 1992/3 - I still have copies of 'History' by Michael Jackson, 'Things can only get better' by D:ream and 'Come on you reds' by Man Utd - and had been working perfectly until a month ago. Now it has started to regularly chew tapes. It often needed a bit of a warm up, by pressing play for 5 seconds with no tape in, but that no longer works and it has been going mid-tape. This is the player used for most tape rips on this blog.

Cassette player 3:

Best looking tape player I own but God knows when this was retired. It used to belong to my Grandad and was only recently uncovered. It has a record function and a pretty decent radio - now set to Radio 5 live for the football. Sadly, it will reach its end in 2012 when this country (for invalid reasons, in my opinion) will scrap analogue radio for digital. The rewind function no longer works with a tape in - although a flip and a fast forward does the same job - and the play warbles.

Cassette player 4:

A.k.a. 'The last hope'. Not sure how old this is. I'd guess it was bought for long car journeys to the south of France and Italy we developed a yearly habit of making in the mid-late 90s. It would be fair to say it was superseded by a discman after a couple of years whatever the case. It's the only one I own that still works perfectly on a regular basis.

You're probably now thinking to yourself, 'who cares?', or, 'so?', and you're probably quite right to do so. I guess I'm just wondering about the future of formats in general because once the last of these tape players goes I'm unlikely to buy a new one. Maybe I'll cave eventually but I don't think I love the format enough to bother. It's a shame because I love the music contained on a lot of them.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the future of cassettes?
Do you also just buy them for the music or would you pick it over other formats?

Hoping to have the next post up on Saturday with all the usual updates.


j said...

i must say i prefer cassettes to CDs hands down. I like the analog warmth, and i can't stand how easily cds scratch. Also, much of the music i listen to is being made on cassettes, with awesome packaging, so that probably contributes as well.

kh said...

i was hoping to see the back of them to be honest, then loads of labels started releasing more stuff on them - grrr. Anyway, bought a new tape deck 2 weeks ago for my hifi and it really does the tapes justice. I did feel like a saddo buying a new tape deck though. Hope you're good A? Sorry I haven't been in touch for a while.

doc kwan said...

I have been amazed by the number of decent to excellent quality component cassette decks I see/find at thrift stores. CHEAP!! I suggest taking a look. I've bought only one real clunker, I think it was $3. The Yamaha dual dubber I have now works flawlessly, I think I paid $5 for it. I have WAY too many cassettes to give up on the format entirely. I still am of the opinion that LPs are aesthetically most desirable but CDs are the most durable & practical format. My big worry is minidisc going away, I still think they RULE for home recording, sadly they never caught on.

bcordone said...

My shoutbox name on Akteon is red lipstick and I had requested Seth Nehil's Knives & you generously shared it with me. Thank you so very much as anything by him for me is hard to impossible to find. I have his 'Flock & Tumble' (generously given to me by Doru)and his 'From Cloud To Seed' and I love both of them. I would love his 'Umbra' & 'Eclipses' but have had no luck so far in finding them. I am anxiously awaiting The Fun Years new cd entitled 'God Was Like No' coming out hopefullly soon. Regarding your comments on cassette players I also have felt like I was in a dilemma in keeping my cassettes & players because I do prefer CD's as far as sound and durability. But I have much I love on cassettes and have been unable to abandon them entirely.

icastico said...

Indeed. My last deck died recently. I have about 3 or 4 more hours of the music I made back in the 80's still to rip...I find myself torn between the desire to dig back into the cassettes and the desire to free myself from so many pieces of outdated technology.

disconcerted said...

J, I agree with you about the sound of cassettes vs CDs - although some things do sound better on certain formats in my opinion - but with regards to keeping the media healthy I find CDs to be more controllable. Little dust scratches are unavoidable but they generally don't affect the play; CDRs do fade, but then if you pay £5 and easily back it up is it a terrible problem? However, I'll no doubt moan when I find out 100 of my CDs are unplayable.
Cassettes getting chewed is unpredictable. It seems some are more prone to it than others as well. So it could be £5 ruined before you've managed to play it.

Kev: Haha. Can just picture the scene of walking into Dixons searching for cassette decks and the looks the teenage assistants give.
I'm amazed they still sell them. I'm sure there was something a year or two ago about companies stopping making the actual tape for cassettes so I would have thought the machines would be discontinued, too. Audio books on cassettes are meant to be reasonably still (with the blind and elderly) so I guess there's still a market out there.

(All's well thanks. Hope you can say the same and that your move went well)

Doc: I hadn't thought of checking charity shops but will seriously consider having a purposeful look next time I'm at the shops.
The minidisc was a strange moment. I didn't ever move in that direction but I knew a few people, like yourself, that used them for recording. I suppose people thought that if they were going to go digital they'd use computer programs and so skipped over minidiscs (or just stuck with cassettes).

disconcerted said...

bcordone: Absolutely no problem with the Nehil record, I was actually planning to put it up anyway so the request and upload just had the element of good timing.
I know no other release of Nehil's, this was my introduction. Definitely going to try and track down something else of his in the near future. Great to hear that the others you have found are of high quality - it feels like little risk now.

Yeah, I don't think I'll be able to abandon them entirely either, especially if the new releases keep flowing. It could save quite a bit of money by not buying another cassette player though and make music purchases an easier decision.
Might buy a 4-track recorder instead of a dedicated player, then there would be the option to buy cassette releases but also give another purpose to the purchase.

icastico: You could end up re-finding those 3 / 4 hours worth of tapes in another 10 years and happen upon a tape player but find the tapes too faded. In your shoes I'd be tempted to try and finish because you might regret having lost it in the future. Frustrating to have that happen so close to the end.

Seth Nehil said...

Knives is most certainly not out of print, as it was just published a few weeks ago. On the other hand, I understand that vinyl is an inaccessible (or expensive) medium for many people.
I will soon be issuing download versions of older releases such as Umbra. Meanwhile, many items are available at Mimaroglu: http://www.mimaroglumusicsales.com/artists/seth+nehil.html

Glad you're enjoying the music, that's always good to hear.

Anonymous said...

Excellent stuff Seth

disconcerted said...

I sincerely apologise for sharing this before the release went OOP. It now appears to be sold out but if you want me to remove the files so you can issue it digitally with your other albums please don't hesitate to ask.

Sonoris: Seth Nehil - Furl (May 2010)