I must say I got a serious buzz of excitement when I finally unearthed this. I knew I had at least one old 1983 Memorex HBII (High Bias II) audio cassette kicking around somewhere, but my huge hoard of old possessions is in such disarray that searches have long since fallen into needle-in-haystack territory.
This is the HBII 60 – offering 30 minutes of record/play time per side, and it undeniably looks highly attractive with its gold piping, as opposed to the silver which adorned the more lowly Memorexes such as the MRXI and dB Series. However, you have to smile when you look back at how these things were marketed back in the early to mid ‘80s. If you’re old enough, you may remember the catchphrase: “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”… Er, it’s definitely and very obviously Memorex. To be clear, there was NO WAY in the reign of Henry the Eighth’s immortal spirit, that a recording made on a Memorex HBII audio cassette could ever be mistaken for live music.
The HBII was not like any other high bias cassette I tried. I’m not sure what the formulation was, but it didn’t sound like a CrO2 tape at all. The rendition was much thicker with quite a bloated midrange, and there wasn’t much going on in the high frequencies. The tape has the right sort of colour for chrome, but it doesn’t look shiny enough. There is a chrome type smell, but it’s very faint. I’m guessing the formulation is a hybrid of some sort. The fact that Memorex made a separate tape with Chrome branding also suggests that the HBII was not pure CrO2.
Essentially, a good Type I tape from another manufacturer would beat a Memorex HBII for definition, and as for the lifetime guarantee the company attached to this product (literally guaranteed FOREVER, lol), I can only assume that over the years consumers have either forgotten it existed, or simply left the company alone out of pity. Typically for a Memorex of the period, this cassette has all but seized up and is not in what could be described as good health at all.
But, I still, for some reason, can’t dislike the Memorex brand, and undeniably, what this cassette lacks in mechanical prowess, it makes up for in visual impact. It’s a great looking cassette, and because of the material recorded on it (my first real ‘band’, circa 1983), it brings back some golden memories. Thankfully, I moved the recording into the digital domain long ago, so it’s now safe, however much further this cassette degrades. But the tape served its purpose, and it’s helped preserve a piece of the distant past which I love to revisit. But once again, I categorically affirm – this is Memorex. It’s definitely, DEFINITELY, not live!