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Michael Hagerty

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That certainly is possible. I've never seen a timeline for cassette labeling with A&M. Some had AMPEX on the paper label, others didn't, and then the tapes with the printing right on the plastic. It kind of makes sense that they would find it less expensive to print right on the shell, and that it might have followed the tapes with the paper labels.
I assumed (but have no proof) that the ditching of paper cassette labels coincided with A&M's move to recycled paper for its LP inner sleeves.

I always thought the black A&M 8-tracks looked very cool. Sorry to hear they were unreliable. Mike, were there similar issues with other colors? If I recall correctly, most were white until A&M went black, and then suddenly a lot of labels were using a lot of colors.
 

Rudy

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I assumed (but have no proof) that the ditching of paper cassette labels coincided with A&M's move to recycled paper for its LP inner sleeves.
I don't know if it's that, or if it was just the duplication industry finally finding a reliable way to print on plastic. I didn't buy many cassettes, but the few I owned from later years I believe were all printed directly on the shell.
 

Michael Hagerty

Well-Known Member
Contributor
I don't know if it's that, or if it was just the duplication industry finally finding a reliable way to print on plastic. I didn't buy many cassettes, but the few I owned from later years I believe were all printed directly on the shell.
I was a latecomer to cassettes---1984. I kept an 8-track in my cars until January of 1979, when I got a car with an AM/FM stereo radio standard, and there were enough good radio stations in the area that I didn't feel deprived. For the next five years, I was strictly vinyl. When I traded that car in '84, I had an Alpine AM/FM/cassette deck installed in the new one and that's when I started buying and making cassettes.
 

Rudy

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I mostly made my own cassettes for car use starting around 1980, when I installed a little under-dash cassette player in the car. And I'd been recording my own cassettes prior to that. I did have a phase of a year or so where I was getting mainly prerecorded cassettes vs. vinyl, but with the sound being sub-par, it didn't take long for me to replace those cassettes with vinyl (or CD in a few cases). I still have dozens of cassettes I recorded, but very few prerecorded.
 

Harry

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I was working for a cash-poor radio station in 1974 and since they couldn't do Christmas bonuses, they raided the prize closet instead for the employees. My "bonus" was an Akai stereo cassette deck. It looked a good bit like this:

1613160604850.png

I think the input and output jacks were on the front, but you get the idea. This was my first taste of anything remotely "high-fi" in the cassette world. One of its niceties was that it had a really quick start-stop by using a pause button. Don't see one on that picture, but it was lightning quick - instant stop and start again at the press of a button. That enabled me to do some really quick editing on the fly. I recall using it to try to edit down the "Lobo" track from the Herb/Hugh album to something resembling a single radio edit.

I also had a little portable cassette recorder/player, and once I figured out that I could take the thing in my car, I started using the Akai to make what came to be known as mix tapes. Then I'd hook the small player in the car up to an old stereo speaker from a defunct record player, and I had a cassette player for riding in the car. The sound was a little weak sometimes, but it was a good introduction to something other than radio in the car.

In all of my years, I think I've purchased less than 10 pre-recorded cassette tapes. Maybe 15, but no more than that. I always made my own cassettes with the good Maxell XL-II tapes and when I finally got a car with both CD and cassette players, I was set. The mix tapes sounded pretty good - except when riding on excessively bumpy roads - and in Pennsylvania, that was a very real scenario.

I numbered my tapes - some for me, some for Marie - and they were good company on long trips. My "programming worked out so well that just last year, I found those old tapes and re-did them on CD - yes, our cars still play CDs since they're so old! Tracking down some of those records was a chore at times, but I managed.

I never used or even handled an 8-track tape.
 

Rudy

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I had a job with a company car back around when the economy imploded in 2008-2009, and it only had cassette (it was probably an '04 or '05 model). I wound up going to a thrift store during a lunch break, and bought a dozen or two cassettes for a dollar each, if that (might have been a 2-for-$1 sale). That was the last time I bought any. I quit buying blank cassettes in the 80s; I still have some sealed and unused. Now that they're worth something, I should sell them off. 😁

My grandfather had a Realistic tape deck that didn't look much different from that Akai--it's possible Akai made it for them. I still have it in a box here, in fact.

I never got rid of my Harman/Kardon CD301 cassette deck--their decks (especially the top "400" series decks) were considered nearly the equal of the Nakamichi decks back in the day, for less money. The CD401 would have been the top model in the generation I own, and the CD491 was the next generation that was their penultimate deck, with the following generations (the TD series) being cheapened up and lacking in sound quality (I owned one of those for a few years--a sturdy unit, but it couldn't match the sound quality). What made them stand out was that the bias level and Dolby calibration levels were adjustable from the front panel--you'd record a test tone and get the meters to a certain point to ensure it was electrically adjusted to the individual tape brand you were using.

I'd get a CD491 today if it weren't so expensive. And I think those were the first generation to come in a black finish. They normally were a frosted silver front panel that was unique.

1613167733997.png
 

Moritat

Well-Known Member
I bought their first lp just after it was released and thought it was great. But over the next few years, I thought "Equinox" and "Fool On The Hill" were even better. They certainly had a new and refreshing sound, perfect for the A&M label.

I think most compilations and greatest hits lps (or cds) are lousy. Since everyone's taste differs, the only way to have a greatest hits cd of any artist or group is to put it together yourself.
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
Back in 1991, I bought a car with a cassette player in it for the first time. The first cassette tape I ever made at home was all Brasil 66 on both sides. I used all the songs that I truly liked and it was a 90 minute tape.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
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Back in 1991, I bought a car with a cassette player in it for the first time. The first cassette tape I ever made at home was all Brasil 66 on both sides. I used all the songs that I truly liked and it was a 90 minute tape.
Didn't we all?! :)
 

Mike Blakesley

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I had a similar "cassette path" that Harry did -- hardly bought any pre-recorded ones, but recorded dozens of mix tapes. Usually "best of" by one artist. Occasionally I would do theme tapes, like I had one with all female vocals that I liked a lot. I kept up the tradition when home-burned CDs came into play. I haven't made one in a few years thanks to "playlists" becoming the new compilations.

I don't remember my first cassette project, but my first homemade CD was definitely a Sergio Mendes collection. I called it "Celebration," which is kind of funny since Sergio's own best-of collection used that same title. (I think my version is better though!)
 

Moritat

Well-Known Member
I don't remember my first cassette project, but my first homemade CD was definitely a Sergio Mendes collection. I called it "Celebration," which is kind of funny since Sergio's own best-of collection used that same title. (I think my version is better though!)
Your own "best of" collection will always be better!
 

Mike Blakesley

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Back when I was getting ready to start our mobile DJ business, we had purchased a Cerwin-Vega DM-1 mixer board, and some friends and I decided to "practice" by making a mix-tape with me DJ'ing between the songs. We had such a good time doing that that we continued to do it, and over the next 20 years or so we made at least 50 tapes, mostly on Maxell UDXLII and mostly 90 minutes. Of course lots of beer was involved. All of those tapes still survive today... when the CD-R era arrived, I ripped them all to the computer and made CDs out of them.

We tried to play music other than the big hits that we'd heard a million times, but the cool thing was that I was pretty good at picking out the future hits from albums. So those tapes have more hits on them today than they did when we made them.
 

Rudy

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I went with various mid-grade TDKs (SA, SA-X, even the D-90s) and finally, the Sony UCX-S90s, and neither of those had issues over dozens upon dozens of tapes I made. (On the deck at home, it was mainly TDK MA-90 or the metal Sony ES90s that sounded the best, but I never played those in the car due to cost.) Any Maxells I ever tried in the car would either get creased lengthwise or crinkled on the edges, or jam up in the decks. Never had that with TDK or Sony. Yet I liked Maxell's UD35-90 and UD35-180 reel tapes better than most others. 🤷‍♂️

With any car deck I'd ever used (even a top of the line deck), I was having to pull it from the dash every few months to do an azimuth adjustment. Even if I locked the adjustment into place with a dab of adhesive (like they came from the factory), it still drifted, and I was continually wedging matchbooks under the tapes to get them to play back with any semblance of treble information.

I used to buy all blanks mail order, through a little ad in the back of Stereo Review. I think it was called Tape World. Really good discount prices, inexpensive shipping. I always looked forward to a few new boxes of tapes once or twice a year.

I do miss making the mix tapes, but I was glad to see cassettes fall by the wayside. I kind of enjoyed them at home, but car usage was always love/hate. I was glad to see them go.
 

Harry

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I used to buy whatever "good" tapes were on sale when I needed some. The Maxell's worked fine for me as did the high end Sony tapes, or even a Fuji here and there.

My tape-making started in earnest in the mid-80s. CDs were just starting to come in and our cars of the day were just starting to have a standard tape player. We had one of those converter units that allowed any other kind of electronic with a 1/4" headphone jack to play through the cassette deck, wires hanging out and draped all over - and we could use that to play our portable Sony CD player in the car. But that usually required a lot of work ands forethought to make it reality, and with a daily drive to work and back, regular cassettes seemed a better idea. Besides, you didn't want to leave all that wiring and equipment exposed to the thieves of the day. (Note: to date, I've never had anything stolen from a car - ever, in my life. Could be a thread...)

I would use all of the tools at my disposal at home to make great tapes. Like Mike's they were usually artist-specific compilations. For the Herb's and Sergio's and Beatles, full album dubs in order of release, with and non-album sides thrown in chronologically between the albums. For space saving, when one album finished, I'd start the next one until the tape side ran out. Occasionally luck would allow a record to finish at the end of a side, and tape length played a part there too. As I added CDs to my collection, I'd fill in on my cassette tapes with the CD version to get that cleaner sound. When that Sergio VERY BEST OF came out in the UK in the late 90s, I was able to get a whole lot of Sergio's stuff onto tape from CD sources.

What always bugged me about *listening* to cassettes in the car had to do with the bumpiness of Pennsylvania's roads. Every time I'd go over a rough patch, a playing tape would exhibit a bit of a warble in the sound. And PA's roads were - and are - full of rough patches and potholes. One of the benefits to CDs in the car is that they played rock solid with no warbles, so once in-dash CD players became more common, so did my CD play. But still, I had a lot of effort put into my compilations and mixtapes - and often that's what I wanted to listen to, so tapes still got a lot of use right up until the day that CD-R discs became common and I could use THOSE instead of tapes, as they sounded better on those bumpy roads.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
I suppose I started dubbing LPs to cassettes in the mid '70s round about 6th grade. By the early '80s, I was transferring all LPs straightaway to UD-XL II tapes. I wanted to preserve the LP, so I had cassettes of all my LPs. By the mid '80s I stepped up to this nice specimin (note the on-board dbx) -- which I still use to this day -- though, truth be told, it lives in the dungeon with all the B-squad LPs, CDs and audio equipment I no longer use. (The NPR affiliate I worked at back then had the same deck; except theirs had a speed selector allowing the user to double it to 3¾ ips.)

DSC01593.jpg
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
I used to buy whatever "good" tapes were on sale when I needed some. The Maxell's worked fine for me as did the high end Sony tapes, or even a Fuji here and there.

My tape-making started in earnest in the mid-80s. CDs were just starting to come in and our cars of the day were just starting to have a standard tape player. We had one of those converter units that allowed any other kind of electronic with a 1/4" headphone jack to play through the cassette deck, wires hanging out and draped all over - and we could use that to play our portable Sony CD player in the car. But that usually required a lot of work ands forethought to make it reality, and with a daily drive to work and back, regular cassettes seemed a better idea. Besides, you didn't want to leave all that wiring and equipment exposed to the thieves of the day. (Note: to date, I've never had anything stolen from a car - ever, in my life. Could be a thread...)

I would use all of the tools at my disposal at home to make great tapes. Like Mike's they were usually artist-specific compilations. For the Herb's and Sergio's and Beatles, full album dubs in order of release, with and non-album sides thrown in chronologically between the albums. For space saving, when one album finished, I'd start the next one until the tape side ran out. Occasionally luck would allow a record to finish at the end of a side, and tape length played a part there too. As I added CDs to my collection, I'd fill in on my cassette tapes with the CD version to get that cleaner sound. When that Sergio VERY BEST OF came out in the UK in the late 90s, I was able to get a whole lot of Sergio's stuff onto tape from CD sources.

What always bugged me about *listening* to cassettes in the car had to do with the bumpiness of Pennsylvania's roads. Every time I'd go over a rough patch, a playing tape would exhibit a bit of a warble in the sound. And PA's roads were - and are - full of rough patches and potholes. One of the benefits to CDs in the car is that they played rock solid with no warbles, so once in-dash CD players became more common, so did my CD play. But still, I had a lot of effort put into my compilations and mixtapes - and often that's what I wanted to listen to, so tapes still got a lot of use right up until the day that CD-R discs became common and I could use THOSE instead of tapes, as they sounded better on those bumpy roads.
I had made a number of cassette tapes and used them a huge amount of the time in travels. I also picked some up at thrift stores and through the record clubs. When they started to disappear, I starting buying cd's at Planet Music as they had a good membership discount program. One of the first was the Rebound issue of Fool On The Hill. My brother gave me a cd adapter to the cassette player so I could play the cd's in the car. Sergio Mendes and Brasil' 66 get the most play in my travels.
 

Rudy

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I bought this one in the early 80s and still have it:

1617755875611.png

(Picture stolen from the Interwebz, since I have no red shiny curtain in my possession.)

The H/K decks performed like the Nakamichi decks but without the high price tag. (They were still not inexpensive, but they weren't into the four digits like the Naks of the day.) The only thing I would ever do is possibly get the penultimate deck, the CD491, which I posted a few posts back in this thread.

The Nakamichi Dragon was the deck everyone wanted back when it came out, since it had automatic azimuth adjustment, which corrected azimuth errors in any tape being played back, in real time, and would correct them on the fly as needed. That was really needed for pre-recorded tapes!

The deck also used a dual capstan system that pushed the tape's pressure pad out of the way, and provided tension on the tape by having the supply capstan spin at a very slightly reduced speed (0.2%) from the take-up capstan in order to create that tension. It worked, since the Dragon had the best specs of any deck on the market, and nobody ever really challenged it with a competing product. In 1982 dollars it sold for over $1,800, and was later raised to nearly $2,500 by the end of its run in 1994.

Here's a "reprint" of the review Craig Stark wrote for Stereo Review back in the day, which also explains how the auto azimuth alignment functioned:


Nak also made a Dragon deck for the car. And the Dragon model also made its way to turntables where the record was perfectly centered before playback, using an automated system. Those turntables, as you'd expect, are very much in demand these days.
 
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