How does new music sound on an 8-track tape?

Originally published at: How does new music sound on an 8-track tape? | Boing Boing


a friend of mine in college had an 8-track unit he had bought at the end of a couple of years working in the oil fields. but it was not just any 8-track player, it was the top of the line kenwood 8-track unit with a built-in 4 band equalizer. within months of buying it, the format was abandoned and within a year it was as if 8-track had never even existed. it was kind of sad.

during the 70s, while i was in high school my sister and i would take turns with the 8-track in mom’s car. on the way to school we would listen to one of my 8-track tapes generally either physical graffiti by led zeppelin or moonflower by santana. on the way back we would listen to my sister’s dolly parton tapes or her barbara mandrell. good times, good times.


It appears to sound great, but dog help him if it still changes sides in the middle of a song, as some of our 8-track recorded albums did when I was young.


As a teen I bought a shiny new AM/FM stereo receiver with built-in record changer, cassette, AND 8-track, just in time for the music industry to abandon the 8-track format.

No big loss there, as it turned out, and I DID get some good deals on closeout tapes including people like Nick Gilder and Redd Foxx.

At times when I listen to Gilder’s “City Nights” I still anticipate the mid-song fadeouts and mechanical kerchunk of the track changes.


Mark Wahlberg Television GIF

ETA: I also remember the wobbly sound when the roller started to wear down and didn’t track straight anymore if you played an 8-track too many times. At least there are folks who have the desire and expertise to help!


7:22 in the video



I deejay with two Victrolas and a rotating light made from a third one. I can relate to this.


frustrated frustration GIF


He talked a little about how 8 Tracks would split songs between tracks which reminded me of a J Geils live album recorded in 1982 in my backyard.

The last track on side one of the album and cassette is the intro to Love Stinks, Peter Wolf goes on for 5 minutes and when he gets to the Love… You had to flip the record or cassette to hear …Stinks, and then the song starts.

Same thing on the 8 Track but that was a little more seamless. From the day I bought that album I never understood why the didn’t rearrange tracks to get that entire song on one side. It was a live album but it was heavily edited to begin with.

I also had one of these as a kid.


Dang, that deck is some fine vintage stereo porn.


Relatedly, there is a Radiolab series on cassette tapes… I just finished this episode from my local NPR station…

Here’s a link to the whole series, which seems worth the time…


Yeah I don’t get it, why even release on 8-track if you’re not going to take advantage of the one thing that makes it better than a cassette tape, which is the ability to switch to different tracks? Here the tracks are just random points in the overall album.

I mean, the obvious answer is novelty, but it could have been useful novelty, showing off the coolness (what little there is) of the 8-track tech.

Me listening to this synth music via youtube compression on 1" diameter desktop speaker cones…

“Oh yeah, I can hear the limited fidelity…”


in the later 90s i found a stereo with a built in 8-track recorder. I used it to record over some old tapes i had with my band’s music. Apparently you could just do that. i don’t even think there was a copy protection tab thing like cassette tapes. It was kind of a fun novelty. But the sound quality was not great.


I remember those! Jimmy Walker from the TV show Good Times was featured in the advertising using his catchphrase “Dy-No-Mite!”

Everyone seems to be talking about the clunky domestic listening experience but the format outlived this as a staple in radio stations as a go to for sound bites and audio stings. When you re-engineer the format to be 2 tracks then you have a hell of a lot more sound fidelity as well as the fact that they could be easily converted to use looping tape, a sampler playback if you like. Big chunky tapes/cartridges that you could slam into a playback device and hit go actually made this format live on in radio for many years.


One more reason I enjoy this era of music distribution, because you can avoid audio stings, shock jocks, and deejays who talk over the songs if you choose to (on publicly available media). :+1:


How it sounds depends on whether it’s the first time playing it, second time, or third time. There is no fourth time, as I recall.

(actually I don’t remember how many plays we could usually get out of an 8-track tape but ours all died pretty young)


The 8 track in the dash of our 75 VW van when I was a kid.