Why it's so hard to find a good tape deck these days

Originally published at: Why it's so hard to find a good tape deck these days | Boing Boing


I have a pristine professionally serviced Kenwood 3-head cassette deck that I can’t even give away. It’s mainly an issue of nobody wants to bother with the fuss.


does the purchase include the manual tape slack taker-upper tool (read: #2 pencil)?


The appeal of cassettes these days clearly has nothing to do with good audio quality; a micro SD card the size of your thumbnail can hold a quarter million cassettes’ worth of music with much better dynamic and frequency range.
It’s something about the tangible aspect of holding a little plastic box with a delicate ribbon of rust-coated polyester that somehow contains music. Your parents littered the car with these things when you were a kid.




Why it’s so hard to find a good tape deck these days?

Think that’s hard, try finding a working reel to reel recorder/player, been looking for years…

Added for clarity:
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I do occasional work for an award winning film editor who I consider a friend (hint: he’s currently finishing an edit in Paris with the director), but I did raise an eyebrow when I visited him recently and he proudly showed off his collection of cassette deck separates.
I mean, vinyl I can kinda understand, but cassette tape?
It was only ever really successful because it was the only means home users had when it came to music (and 8 bit computer game) piracy.
The quality was always pap.


Can make a mixed tape on a vinyl record…


The good old days of having a beloved $20 album on cassette get chewed up in the tape deck. Ahh the memories.


They were also the only viable portable format for a long time; I don’t recall the discman being affordable until the late 90s.
These articles self-select an audience that actively care about fidelity. Most people are fine listening through laptop speakers or whatever.


I used to have a 4000D…


I am currently sharing some cassettes with a flickr.com guy… who lives in the states…

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True, but even that’s such an alien concept these days, thanks to MP3s, music subscription services and playlists.

I do remember them fondly though, and I suspect the effort required and more personal aspect of them had a great deal to do with that.

Giving crushes tapes filled with sappy love songs, being introduced to new music through illicitly shared tapes, it did all seem to have more impact.
But it was never about the quality, and we never fooled ourselves into thinking so.

I particularly remember one given to me by a dear friend who’s no longer with us that had Dio’s Holy Diver on one side and Aerosmith’s Pump on the other.

I suspect tape also gave me an appreciation for music despite the quality of the production, something which again is all too easy to forget these days. It’s very easy to get hold of studio-quality recording hardware and software now.
It’s something I actually don’t like about modern production values. They’re so… perfect these days, that some of the story is lost. Some of my favourite albums have awful production, and you can tell the bands recorded them on a shoe-string budget. It adds to the character.


My first only recorded in mono, then I landed a full studio edition Grundig TK 340 Hi-Fi that blew the doors off of my home recording capabilities. The search goes on…


And let’s face it… discman suuuucked… they always skipped.

Maybe to you kids with your rock and roll! :wink:

But seriously, it’s not the same as making a mixed tape for your friend or a crush, because you can just drag and drop…

Episode 1 Premiere GIF by RuPaul's Drag Race

It’s not always about sound quality, tho…


I will seriously take it pay for shipping!


I had a really nice Sony double deck, two separate motors, that died after being transported cross country. I went to ReStore and found a great Yamaha deck in good working order. I still have mix tapes from college, Dead shows that aren’t on archive.org, dubbed tapes from junior high, and even some tapes two of my brothers and I recorded when we were little kids. The sound quality mostly sucks but there are so many memories tied up in the sounds. I occasionally make a mixtape and send it, along with a tape player, in a wood box around the country to different friends to listen to and send along.


Tape has always been a “good enough for now” medium. The tape itself wears out with repeated use, even master tapes were only meant to last long enough for production. It is convenient tho, for a long time it was by far the easiest way to record and/or take a recording with you.

You can argue vinyl vs. CD/digital all you want but cassettes were only ever meant for portability. Before CDs, serious music collectors bought vinyl and made their own tapes for the car or the walkman.


Unless your speakers are floor-standing size, they likely can’t reproduce much below 40 Hz.

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My dad had an Akai reel to reel. I think he finally got rid of it - as it had a broken part for nearly 35 or 40 years.

I still have my Fisher “Boom Box” which looks cool, but I never thought it sounded great. With head phones it sounded better. It probably doesn’t help I’d buy the shittiest tapes as a kid to dub tapes :wink: Eventually I got fancier Chrome tapes, but, uh, i don’t think my tape player was supposed to use those. Oh well!