The TDK AR60 was one of the better Type I audio cassettes. The sound from Type I tapes could vary enormously, going from a woolly blob of poorly defined warbling at the low end of the market, up to a frequency-rich and high fidelity experience in the more expensive echelons. Not that Type I cassettes could ever be described as expensive in themselves, but if you used a lot of them and bought in bulk, there’d be a dramatic difference in price between a batch of low end Type Is and the high end alternatives. Continue reading
The early to mid 1990s TDK SA-X 60 audio tape was the upmarket high bias product in the range. TDK had notably used their own Super Avilyn tape coating for high bias Type II cassettes right through the era when chrome was the most popular Type II formulation. But by the time this cassette was manufactured in the early 1990s, most rivals had dropped chrome and followed the TDK path, adopting a cobalt-ferric mix of some sort. Continue reading
One of many incarnations of the famous TDK D normal bias Type I audio cassette – in this case a 1995 version. This lightbox view of the tape takes advantage of the transparent casing to show both sides of the product, but more importantly, the innards. You get a good sense from this image of how simple compact cassettes really were/are. Other than the two reels and the length of tape travelling from one to the other, it’s just a set of guides, and a soft pad (bottom centre) which gently pushes the tape against the record and play heads in the tape machine.
If you look between the ‘spokes’ in the reels, you can even see where the ends of the magnetic tape have been pinched into the plastic to hold them in place. Quite a primitive system, but it’s remained essentially unchanged throughout the historical lifespan of the compact audio cassette. A tribute to a brilliant design which was pretty much right first time as a basic concept.
It’s hard now to imagine how life would be without fast PCs and intuitive operating systems. Even though it was made in the Internet era, this tape predates the release of Windows 98 (imagine that). So we’re back in the territory of Windows 95, and a climate in which most consumers were only just learning what USB was. The computers on many people’s desktops still didn’t feature CD burners, and so there was still a big market for blank audio cassettes. Continue reading