How I Listen

The Cassette Tape Makes A Comeback

1It looks like vinyl isn't the only retro audio format getting a second wind. The National Audio Company, one of the largest manufacturers of cassettes, has revealed that it sold almost 10 million of these old school tapes in the past year. The question is, who's buying them?

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Guest Post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

It looks like another format that was left for dead is making a dramatic comeback. Believe it or not, the cassette tape is selling better than it has in years, and new tape decks are again being made.

According to National Audio Companythe largest of the companies still involved in cassette manufacturing, the company sold nearly 10 million units last year (remember that vinyl only did 13 million with a lot more hoopla about it).

2Of that number, a surprising 70% was actually production copies made for two of the major labels Sony and Universal, along with a few small indie labels. The other 30% were blank tapes.

The company sees such an upturn in cassette sales that it persuaded Teac/Tascam to reintroduce tape machines long out of production.

So who's buying most of the tapes? You'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't).

Just like vinyl, it's the under-35 crowd who's gravitating back to the format. After listening to digital music all their lives, they've found they preferred analog.

Although many have looked down on the cassette as an inferior playback format, a fresh tape in a well-aligned machine can actually provide surprisingly good performance.

That's too much to hope for in this new resurgence, but it's nice for people to experience analog audio once again.

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8 Comments

  1. Grew up with cassettes spent the 80s and 90s around these babies at the time to me they were a menis I was so glad when cd came along then again I was a young teen with no money to buy good decks and so no real sense on how to get the best from a tape lol, fast forward to 2015 my entire music collection is vinyl and tapes, its only in the last 2 years that I’ve really gotten into tapes big time and like the article said if you have a good machine where where by you can set up a tape getting it calibrated just right with the bias, Dolby and rec levels then its going to sound flipping awesome as I found out, also keeping your deck clean with never result in chewed up tapes, I’ve just recently taken the cd player out of my car and put in a high end Kenwood cassette player and it really sounds brilliant.
    Most of my vinyl collection is been transferred to tape now i would much rather listen to my music on tape i love the warm if cassette and it saves my vinyls from getting knackered, I’ve become a real tape enthusiast!

  2. I just bought a used vehicle this week, and it had a cassette deck and no CD player. My neighbor gave me a box of cassettes a few years ago, and they’ve been just gathering dust… until yesterday. I’m now rocking out to The Eagles, Bob Dylan, and a few other chestnuts from the age of cassettes. They sound real good.

  3. Just as vinyl, cassettes should also come back. The vicious cycle of digital upgrades are a big headache. A lot of time is wasted in the run for upgrades and finding better equipments. Though digital has it’s pros, yet it also has a lot of cons.

  4. As someone who’s experienced the frustration of having to replace an aging tape collection I am just shaking my head over this. Give me WAV files anyday.

  5. I still have cassettes and vinyl from the 1980’s that I listen to on a regular basis. My old Technics M 260 deck still works like a champ and I wasn’t surprised to find it’s actually considered one of the best cassette decks ever made.
    Yes, cassettes have a shelf life. But if kept in a quality controlled environment (as opposed to the seat of my car in the 80’s where I surely lost some to the harsh environment), they can last for a very long time.
    As for the argument of vinyl and cassettes having superior sound over digital files, well there are a couple of things that play into this. First, the right equipment for any format is just as important as the source material. Vinyl or cassettes on terrible equipment is no better than compressed MP3 files. The bigger issue with those of us who still want to own hard copies of music might be based on nostalgia but I think it also has to do with the value we place in music. Digital formats make music seem disposable. This actually started with cd’s when jumping from track to track became as easy as pushing a button and in seconds you were on to the next track. Titles were replaced by track numbers and before long we lost the opportunity to experience a song or an album because we developed an ADD approach to music.
    If you’re on the subway or bus or at the gym, then digital music is suitable. But when you’re at home and you want to take the time to actually sit back and experience an album… nothing beats putting on a record (or cassette) and sitting back on your couch and just listen. You can take the LP cover or cassette insert and read the lyrics, check out the artwork and value music in a way you simply can’t with your ipod or smartphone.

  6. My Aiwa ad f250 died years ago.During a clear out of my flat
    I found that i have 150 tapes i can’t play,mainly recorded from
    records,some of which i no longer have.I went on ebay and found an electronics engineer who refurbs old gear and sells it at good prices.So now i have a nakamichi cr 1e,a basic deck but awsome
    sound.I’m now one happy 69 year old dude.

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