March 21, 2011

The End Of The Road, Vis-A-Vis Hipster Cool...

by Chris Randall

My main purpose in putting this up, aside from strictly historical interest, is to make James from RetroThing wet his pants with jealousy. Jeff Laity from TASCAM (who posts as synthetic here) sent me this little gem completely out of the blue, because he knows this is the sort of thing that makes me all giggly like a little girl.

What it is: the TEAC Open Reel cassette system. Check it. You've got an empty shell of a cassette, and you can swap out the reels of tape as if it was a reel-to-reel. There's a take-up reel included with the system, and each roll of tape has its own little plastic case that screws apart. I think, from a commercial standpoint, that it's interesting this was ever released at all.

The construction quality of the reels themselves, and their little holders, is top notch, just as nice as a roll of Quantegy 2" or some such. The cassette shell thing is kind of not-as-awesome, but it'll get the job done. There's a slot in the side of the shell that you slide the reel in to, and then you spool the tape over to the take-up reel, and Bob's your uncle.

As far as I can tell, the point of this system is to be able to just leave the shell in your Walkman (or TEAC-branded version of same) and then you've got these little spools instead of a rucksack full of cassettes. They're much, much tinier, of course. A pretty cool concept all in all, but I wish (oh, how I wish) there was a tiny little 1/8" reel-to-reel deck they went with. No such luck.


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Mar.22.2011 @ 5:53 AM
@huggie - Looks like you've got about a day to pick this one up: link []

Mar.22.2011 @ 6:06 AM
Mad Al
As a concept, I love it. I'm a little dubious on the practicality; I'd be worried about losing things smaller than cassette tapes (case in point, MiniDiscs... I've misplaced several of those in a backpack).

It does amaze me, however, that they would release something that highly engineered without an accompanying reel-to-reel deck. Those tiny reels look like they should be the center of a whole product line.

Mar.22.2011 @ 7:32 AM
It must be a product of my relative youth, but I don't miss cassettes one bit. That being said, I saw an unwound cassette lying on the corner of tenth avenue the other day and realized it was a sight I haven't sign in probably ten years.

Mar.22.2011 @ 8:14 AM
The people who are into that Nagra kit do *not* mess around on eBay... it's like the same thing as those Casio keyboard-in-a-ghettoblaster things. The price on that stuff just goes into the stratosphere.

As far as using cassettes goes, I like to send stuff out of the laptop and into an old bell and howell cassette recorder, let the tape get a little melty in the sun or on a radiator (though, AZ strength sun would be a bit much), and bring it back in for that slightly hazy in-and-out of tune BOC effect. Pain in the ass, for sure, and not something you'd want to use a nice little reel to reel cassette for.

Mar.22.2011 @ 8:37 AM
Chris Randall
Did anyone ever make a full width cassette machine? The Nagra machines use 1/8" tape, but they use the full width of the tape for a stereo pair. (Or sometimes one track of audio and one track of sync, or stereo + sync.) This, aside from their ludicrously high construction quality, is what gives them an edge over the normal cassette format, sound-wise, since a normal one squeezes four tracks on that width.

I mean, for 1/4" machines you can get mono full width, 2 tracks of mono (each direction), stereo full width, two tracks of stereo (each direction), and four track full width. It's surprising the same convention isn't available in cassette format. Obviously the 4-track full width is available, and the stereo (each direction) but a stereo full width would have a fairly large improvement in sound. It would be essentially the same as a 2-direction 1/4" machine in tape width, although the tape in a cassette is somewhat thinner.


Mar.22.2011 @ 9:28 AM
I used to use cassettes like that back in ye olden dayes.

While they looked great, they were not particularly awesome. If the construction wasn't top-notch, the reel flanges would stretch the tape and/or make horrible screeching noises.

Mar.22.2011 @ 10:34 AM
Mad Al
Ah, memories of wobbly cassette tapes, and wondering why the Beatles were singing about a her being "not a girl who misses Mitch".

Mar.22.2011 @ 11:19 AM
@CR: Custom tape heads are very expensive to make, and you have to make a buttload at a time. That's why we don't make 4-track heads (or any others) anymore. Ditto DAT and Hi-8 transports. Even standard cassette transports are getting difficult to source. So a full-width cassette would be very expensive to build, and for no real purpose. Might as well build a reel-to-reel at that point.

Mar.22.2011 @ 12:46 PM
Adam Schabtach
I remember a consumer version of that cassette, sort of. It wasn't supposed to be taken apart, but it had little reels like that and a clear shell. There must be a photo around somewhere... Ah yes: link [en.wikipedia.or...]

(still has mounds of old cassettes and a 3-head deck)

Mar.22.2011 @ 1:53 PM
I seem to remember seeing these things in a lot of TASCAM's Portastudio ads back in the day.

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