Sharoma Cassette Tape

Cassette Tape

My favourite of all the audio formats. You can't beat FLAC for clarity. Digital lossless will always be the superior way to archive and listen critically. When it comes to pure listening enjoyment however, for me nothing can beat the cassette tape. The form factor is a work of art. The sound has that appealing analogue warmth. The recording process always reveals interesting differences to the source. The stereo separation just sounds more pronounced.

Trades

I've traded literally thousands of compact discs since the year 2000. Mostly Clash and post punk related, I also occasionally swapped vinyl, tapes and MiniDiscs. CD/wave/FLAC was always paramount for obvious reasons. Now that I (and hopefully you) have finally acquired everything there is and my collection is all in FLAC, it's time to turn to pure pleasure listening and the novelty of tape trading! It's quite simple. Contact me if you want a tape containing anything you can find on the site (or anything you know I listen to). If you send me two blanks, I'll return one with content and pay postage too. If you send me one blank, I'll return it with content but you'll pay postage and packaging. I prefer the two tape idea as it's easier all around and will keep me in blanks.

Equipment History

I've had lots of audio equipment in my life and sadly most of it is long gone. I still remember all the amps, receivers, EQs, tape and MiniDisc decks, CD players and turntables. Now that I am back into tapes after an absence of a decade it is time to reflect on the equipment of my past. I owned a variety of equipment which forms a usesful cross section of quality, features and age. My current tape deck is a brand new (in 2021) TEAC W-1200. To judge how satisfying a component it is will require extensive recording, listening and comparison-from-memory of all the equipment listed below.

TEAC W-1200

I'm still testing this unit but so far I am happy with it. The year of manufacture is 2020. Some positive features:

Extended Test Thoughts

I've used the W-1200 quite heavily over the last few months and have noticed a few quirks:

  1. The level meters almost always move in full blocks but when recording a sine wave earlier to make a test recording I noticed that it is possible for half of a block to illuminate. That was the first time I witnessed this in many months of recording and playback. I'm still also unsure which 'level' the deck prefers when using type I tapes. I follow the manual and don't go beyond the peak level. This usually works well but some tapes you lose level and it sounds much too quiet on playback. Two blocks into the red I definitely detected high end distortion when recording electronic music.
  2. One time the left deck wouldn't eject when I had a tape in there. I took the cover off the unit to see what was going on and couldn't get anything to release. When I plugged the unit back in and powered it on, the mechanism released the tape and ejection was possible. Not sure what caused that because I never turned the deck off while it was still playing or engaged. Also, the metal cover on mine wasn't level, it was warped slightly. This was noticeable when looking at the unit and annoying enough that I manipulated the worst bends out of it before reattaching it. I also took the the opportunity to put a shield around the PSU even though I personally haven't heard the 50Hz hum VWestlife detected. It was easy enough though, so why not.
  3. The left deck yesterday played a tape with the left channel significantly louder than the right, when playing a tape I had made with the machine. I tried the same tape in the right deck and it played fine. When in the left deck the level meters were indeed showing a reduction on the right channel. Even though I couldn't see any dirt or marks, I had to clean the heads twice to get it back to being level (although it still sounds slightly off, could be my imagination - the sine wave recording proved they were level again). I'm thinking this could be a number of things but I'm hoping the head isn't out of alignment already.
  4. The mechanism isn't powerful enough to play very old tapes that are sticky, so don't bother trying as you'll just get debris on your roller. I clean the heads, pinch roller and capstan about once a week and quite a lot of material comes off each time. I only use newly purchased pre-recorded or blanks cassettes with this deck, excepting the one time I tried some early '80s ones as a test and it struggled to play them at the correct speed.
  5. The USB out is superb. Even with Linux it gets recognised and all you have to do is record the input in Audacity. The sound quality is excellent. If the deck had a digital out to connect to my receiver it would be useful, but redundant since this is an analog medium anyway. Since modern receivers don't have tape loops a front aux-in for recording from phones and laptops would be a helpful feature - perhaps use the mic in jack and include a switch to make it line level. This would save having to unplug the connections to your receiver. I know some of us must make mixtapes using YouTube, etc. I personally use the analog-out on my Vero 4K+ and even though this is not marketed to be high quality, I find it to be more than satisfactory, more so since my digital music is all in FLAC.
  6. The bay doors have a very satisfying 'clunk' to them when they close. The unit overall is very good quality considering how badly most things are now made in 2021. If you've tried those portable players on Amazon you'll know just how cheap things now are. The race to the bottom has been going on for about 20 years.
  7. Auto reverse isn't needed because I tend to load both decks with a tape. Once one side is played you can use the remote to play the A-side on the other deck, meaning you can have 90 minutes of music without having to get up. The remote is a very useful feature. When I'm making a tape I find it necessary because I have the deck close to the floor in my stand and bending low down on knees is uncomfortable. Thankfully you can do pretty much everything with the remote, except turn it on and off.
  8. The unit isn't heavy enough to not move when you push the power button on. I had to put a bit of blu-tac under each support to stop it moving when I turned it on. A minor quirk only.
  9. The speed with which the mechanism engages and disengage surely deserves more praise considering how maligned the mechanism is just for existing. It responds much faster than my Sony deck which is very slow and loud compared to the TEAC.
  10. Finally, I can't fault the playback quality. For cassette it really does sound excellent. When recording tapes, I find it more than acceptable but like most here I do wonder 'what if' regarding the ability to calibrate bias levels. It's the only feature that I think keeps this deck from being high end. The transport and lack of Dolby I am fine with. Regarding the Dynamic Noise Reduction, it's very effective but I prefer not to use it because I don't mind hiss and I definitely don't want any high end sounds being reduced. I have a tape of Kero Kero Bonito material I made with this deck on a TDK SA90 and the quality is astounding. I can't fault it in any way. The deck generally likes the Fox C60 although like the NAC ferric, sometimes they sound fine, sometimes they sound dull. I think these new tapes vary from one batch to the next because I do get different results when all else is equal. When I first tried a pack of ten NAC tapes, a faint 'tapping' noise was detectable when playing them in the TEAC but not in my other decks. This was present when playing the blanks from new or when playing them with material recorded on them. Then, just as remarkable, this noise stopped altogether.

Former

With the exception of the TC-WE475 and the Prosonic, the equipment listed below is either long-gone, donated or traded in.

'Unknown'

As a four to five year old my entry to personal music consumption came courtesy of a handheld silver tape recorder, the brand of which I sadly cannot remember. In around 1988 I recorded my first ever tapes and played them back on this unit in my bedroom. It was mono but at age 5 the sound quality was not a concern compared to the delightful novelty of my own music player. I have a distinct memory of listening to The Beatles' cover of Please Mister Postman (I had taped With The Beatles) while having a bath. My dad came upstairs to investigate the noise!

Panasonic SG-3000

This music centre was in the family living room until 1991 when the unit below replaced it. From '91 onwards it became mine! Perhaps the finest HiFi equipment an eight year old ever inherited? A genuine 1970s music centre: a record player, a capable AM/FM receiver, two decent sized wooden speakers and best of all, a tape recorder! My obsession took hold, I quickly began acquiring recordings from the LPs downstairs and sometimes the radio too. This was a high quality unit and I have many fond memories with it, such as having to turn the bass down when listening to Wings Greatest on tape one evening - we had a guest over.

In the picture you'll see a three year old me enjoying an episode of Rainbow with a pair of Pioneer cans from the '70s.

Sanyo MGP-29

Purchased for me during a childhood hospital stay (1992) by my grandma, for £15. I recall enjoying listening to my early mix tapes on it and being impressed by the three band equalizer. This was my intro to the Sanyo brand which at first reminded me very much of Sony, albeit a bit cheaper.

Sony MHC-2500

Made in Japan. I can still remember the day my father acquired this unit and immediately began blasting one of his first CDs, Stars by Simply Red. It was the family's first CD player and the SG-3000 was moved to my room! What joy for an eight year old. The MHC-2500 was an extremely well made midi system. The texture of the plastic was very pleasing and this extended down to the tape player's logic buttons, which also had little LEDs in them! A superb system which came with three-way speakers and a phono input - no aux in sadly.

Sony LBT-D117

Made in Malaysia and to my ten year old self, immediately not up to the quality of the MHC-2500. Everything felt lighter and cheaper, the tape buttons weren't logic and the speakers were only two-way. On the plus side it had an aux in, meaning I could finally hookup the Matsui portable TV in my bedroom. This wasn't a bad all-in-one system though the turntable it came with ran a little too fast, leading to some unique Clash rips. I replaced the turntable with an Aiwa unit, which Wooly ended up with. The fate of the D117 itself is unknown, but it was probably donated.

Aiwa HS-TX377

Purchased from Argos in 1998 for £35. I used it for radio before I used it for tapes, but when I did it enjoyed stellar service for the next three years. I remember listening to a very old Thompson Twins cassette on this unit whilst camping in the Lake District. Fate: unknown.

Sony CMT-M100MDS

A micro system which had a USB output. I bought this in 2002 mostly to experiment with an all-in-one system which boasted cassette, radio, CD and MiniDisc. With the addition of a turntable there were many possibilities. The tapes it made sounded decent enough though there was no recording level adjustment. My friend Wooly ended up with this system and I don't know if he still has it.

Kenwood KRC-235

This car unit played all of my cassettes, from the childhood collection, teen through to early adult mixes. In the front were the usual Pioneer car speakers. In the boot I placed the speakers from the LBT-D117 noted above. The bass response was excellent. This proved to be a reliable and great sounding unit. I don't know what happened to it after I scrapped the car. Memory fails me.

Sony TC-K61

Ah! The one that got away. This mint condition beauty was sold to me on eBay in 2004. His elder relative had cherished it since new, and I continued the tradition. It was built like a tank. When I played Joy Division's Substance on pre-recorded cassette to Wooly, he was astounded and declared it superior to the CD. Sadly, I do not know what happened to this fine unit. When I returned home from Canada, it had vanished. I hope it went to a good home. (I will be able to detect it, since the previous owner had left two clues on the panel.)

Denon DR-M33HX

This was the best deck I ever owned, simply because it was from the peak era for the format. I purchased it secondhand from Q-Lectronic in Victoria, BC and made a number of tapes on it. At the time I was more interested in MiniDisc, however. My only deck to include a fine bias adjustment and three heads. It made exceptional recordings as you would expect. I used Maxell XLII for the duration of its run and this collection too has been lost.

Sony TC-WE475

I rescued this from a thrift store in late 2020. Once it was re-worn in, it's performing to standard. Deck A's door is considerably stiffer than B, as though it hasn't even been used. The year of manufacture is 2008. It's a decent enough deck, though I don't think the design is great and the mechanism is very loud compared to the TEAC W-1200. Still, at least it has HX Pro.

Prosonic PQR-9850

A recent lucky purchase from Tony at Cassette Comeback Canada. This antique is in excellent condition with a working cassette recorder and a capable radio. Although Prosonic was apparently a Korean brand, this unit was made in Japan. It has three way speakers which offer a pleasing amount of clarity. There's also a line in which future proofs the device if the cassette deck fails. I can see myself using this as desktop computer speakers at some point.

Last updated: May 2nd, 2021.