Five Reasons for Audio Cassettes Revival

Audio Cassettes Revival

After lying stagnant for decades, the audio cassette tapes have been resurrected by audiophiles worldwide.

What happened?

According to British Phonographic Industry figures, 156,542 cassettes were sold in the UK last year. This was the highest figure since 2003 and an increase of 94.7% in 2019 sales.

According to Nielson reports, sales of cassette tapes in the US have increased by double-digit percentages in recent years and now number in the six figures annually.

"Since 2015, the number of cassette releases added to the Discogs Database has increased almost every year. Part of this growth can be attributed to the number of new cassettes being released. Incredibly popular artists like Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift have all released their recent albums on cassette in addition to vinyl, CD, and digital formats. We've also seen a return to cassettes in underground music. Bands like Poison Ruïn have kept the DIY cassette alive by self-releasing their own recordings, while labels like Sacred Bones offer cassette versions of the latest Molchat Doma and John Carpenter albums," reports Discogs.

So, what are the 5 main reasons for the cassette renaissance?

1. Nostalgia

It brings back everything from our youth when we used to have big collections of cassette tapes.

Cassettes are like music diaries. Years later, you will find them in a box and be reminded of a specific time. Or discover someone else's cassettes. They are documentation. Digital traces (like a playlist on a streaming service) will more likely get deleted or undiscovered.

"We've been detached from music as a physical thing for long enough now that vinyl and cassettes don't just feel nostalgic; they might feel almost otherworldly," says John Kannenberg, director and chief curator of the Museum of Portable Sound.

Paradoxically it is a novelty for young people. They can touch it, see it and even bite it, which are unusual experiences in the digital age.

2. Analogue sound

The difference between a cassette and a CD might not be very noticeable to the average human. But audiophiles can notice differences in sound recording depending on the device used. This means some people can immediately distinguish between a CD and a cassette. Of course, there is a long debate about digital vs analogue.

In the world of compressed and watered down, MP3 formats listened through mobile phones, analogue cassettes, and records produce a warmer, more natural, live sound. You don't have to have a gifted musical ear to hear deeper mid-range and bass tones booming through the speakers.

30-40-year-old prerecorded cassettes and recordings I've made on standard quality type I cassettes sound now absolutely fantastic. It blows my mind because I remember how bad they used to sound on crap equipment I had as a teenager and young adult. When I play back these cassettes on my Nakamichi decks, connected to my high-end audio system, I can't go wrong with them...

3. Fun

Cassettes are a lot of fun. They're tactile and physical and fit neatly into your hand.

There's nothing cuddly about a flac or wav and it's very difficult to invest the same emotional attachment in software on a hard drive in the same way as a you can with the humble cassette.

Just read some statements from a forum:

"I'm 26, and I have 60+ cassettes in total. I love collecting them, and I've always used tapes ever since I was a kid. It's a whole vibe, and it's a different experience. I'll continue to collect and use cassette tapes until I die."

"I love cassettes because of the vibe, you know? The aesthetics and the fact I can put whatever I want on them and make my own J cards with whatever I want."

4. Pandemic

During the pandemic, many people have reported feelings of digital detachment and alienation. It doesn't seem unreasonable to suggest that a desire for something we can actually feel, embellished with a nostalgic glow from a COVID-free past, may also explain the resurgence of the audio cassette, nearly 60 years since its Berlin debut.

5. Audio cassettes are relatively cheap

Audio cassette tapes are cheap to produce and great for independent musicians to sell as merchandise. You can buy old prerecorded cassettes for a reasonable price.

How we record music on audio cassette?

We use True Analogue Recording technique for music recording. Music is captured by a single pair of AKG C 414 Limited Edition microphones directly connected to a Nagra IVS reel-to-reel tape recorder. We prefer RMG SM468 tapes (which is the best choice for Nagra). The recorder is operated at 15 ips speed and switched to Nagra Master equalization. The dynamic range is 74 dB.

Why Nagra IVS? First of all, Nagra is portable. Nagra is silent, and Nagra produces a very clear and natural sound. That means Nagra IVS does not add anything to the recording.

How we finalize the master tape?

Because the music was recorded direct to stereo, there is no opportunity for mixing or manipulating it after the recording has been made. Our experiments revealed that ANY manipulation decreases the quality of recorded music. We always use live recording and record entire pieces of music. We do not edit the tapes to create a track from different separate recordings. We do not want to kill music.

Creating copies of the original master tape on audio cassettes

At first, we have to clarify the term of 'master tape' as it is although widely used but often misinterpreted. The so-called 'original' master tape is typically a mix-down tape that may already suffer from several re-recordings, especially if a multi-track overdubbing was involved. That means a master tape might be a 2nd to 5th generation tape.

Nakamichi BX-300Tone-Pearls Records' original master is actually a direct-on-tape session master. For that reason, even a 2nd generation transfer from the original tape will have fewer deviations from the original performance, compared to any first generation transfer from a typical production master used by a typical record label. Practically, our master copies do not show any noticeable difference compared to the original session tape.

We have tested several cassette tape recorders. Finally, a completely refurbished Nakamichi B300 was found as the most appropriate recorder for our purposes.

 

How can you buy master audio cassettes?

Please contact us.