1997 BASF CMII Chrome Maxima Audio Cassette

1997 BASF CMII Chrome Maxima Audio Cassette

I wonder how many of the people buying BASF CMII Chrome Maxima cassettes in the late 1990s realised that they weren’t buying chrome tapes?

There seemed an almost desperate desire (across numerous manufacturers) to keep consumers believing that high bias Type 2 tapes defaulted to chrome formulations, long after chrome tape had become a rarity. BASF held onto the chrome formulation longer than other companies, but even they had joined the ‘sleight of semantics’ by the time this product was made. Not that the manufacturers were doing anything technically wrong. Chrome Maxima didn’t necessarily have to mean the tape was formulated from chrome. It could just be the name of the product, like Kodak Gold photographic film. And that, of course, is exactly what it was. However, whereas a consumer would not typically think Kodak Gold film was formulated from real gold, high bias audio cassettes were well known for having chrome formulations, and therefore, inevitably, large numbers of people would think the BASF Chrome Maxima was a real chrome tape.

I bought this BASF Chrome Maxima in 1997 to master what was almost a live recording. I used MIDI sequencing to run a drum and bass part live, then added one stereo track of guitar, recorded across two tape tracks on a MIDI-sync’d Portastudio. To make the master I simply played back the above, whilst singing, and playing a second guitar part, live. The result was that only one component in the mix (a guitar) had to be recorded onto tape before mastering.

That sounds like an unnecessarily taxing process today for a home recording, but any possible means of keeping the sound components lossless until mastering was worth the effort. Desktop digital audio recording was possible by 1997, but I didn’t have a computer capable of doing it, so for me, any audio recording still had to be done on cassette tape. This BASF CMII has made the very best of that almost live recording. It may not have been real chrome, but it certainly wasn’t inferior.