Looking and feeling very much like the high-end Type II XLII-S of the same year, this 1987 Maxell MX 46 audio cassette was the range-topping Metal position offering. If you could afford them, these were great cassettes. A strong, frequency-rich sound, and a formulation which was able to take some pretty extensive re-recording before the signs of wear would start to manifest themselves in the sound. It’s fairly evident from the photo that this one’s been well used.
Type IV Metal tapes didn’t arrive on the scene until the end of the 1970s. They came onto the market as the ultimate in recording accuracy, with an exceptionally good signal to noise ratio. But there were a number of problems – not least the fact that they required yet another specialist bias selection to be built into any recording equipment with which they were to be used. Famously, the metal formulation also gained a reputation for inflicting undue wear on tape heads, prompting efforts by manufacturers to improve both the Metal tape formulation and the heads themselves.
Metal tapes sounded different from the Type II Chromes, which were gaining momentum on the consumer market as the Type IVs arrived. But the difference was nowhere near as pronounced as that between a typical Type I and a typical Type II. To me, Metal tapes tended to sound less ‘pretty’ than Chromes, but more ‘filled out’ and even across all the stages of the frequency spectrum. Metals were also generally a fair bit louder because their optimum record level was higher, and manufacturers would advise consumers to literally put more volume onto the tapes. Type IV cassettes never really stormed the market in the way Type IIs did during the 1980s. High price was a component in that, versus the fact that many consumers just wouldn’t have been able to perceive any significant difference between a Type IV and a Type II.