With formats that came later, CD-recording remained expensive until personal computers were becoming widespread, and while CDs could be ripped or mp3s could be remixed on computers, you needed software that was often commercial and rarely included.
Digital audio then de-emphasized removable storage, re-introducing friction between exchanging music and listening to it on a portable player. Nowadays, most music exchange happens online, but the appeal of exchanging music in person endures even for generations that grew up with the Internet.
Cassettes had excellent usability for sharing: ease of duplication, ease of remixing, more rugged than vinyl, easier to hold than CDs, and maintaining its playback position at rest . Couple that with authentic nostalgia, or yearning for an aesthetic and mood of times past. While the vinyl revival is centered around the deliberate experience of browsing, playback, and large-size album art, like enjoying an artisanal product made by skilled craftsmen, cassette revival celebrates the versatility of the format, its lack of restrictions, the opportunities for creativity, and its physicality on a very human scale.
There's a reason nobody has a cassette deck anymore. It's not some conspiracy, and it's not because the kids don't understand. It's because they aren't very good.
None. But my wife has over 200; many of them new releases in the last two years.
When was the last time you gave someone a cassette?
Last week when I recorded one of the albums my wife bought on iTunes onto a blank tape so she could listen to it on her tape player in the backyard.
The backups are made in linear time
So what? It's not like you have to sit there and turn the spindles. You push a button and walk away for an hour or a day or whatever and when you come back it's done. Also, many tape decks duplicate at double speed.
you can only share them with someone who is physically next to you
Again, so what? What's so horrible about sharing with actual friends instead of pretend internet friends?
it's a giant pain to edit cassettes at a specific point in time, mashups are impossible because you have to have very expensive analog equipment to beat match, and pitch shift is then a problem
Using the incorrect tool for a specific job doesn't mean the tool sucks. A cassette isn't a 24-track studio recorder. It's music for the masses.
you can only have as many as you have room for bulky cassettes.
Being able to touch something is a feature, not a bug. Nobody ever lost their entire cassette music collection because of a hard drive crash or a virus or a bad SSD chip or a power surge.
There's a reason nobody has a cassette deck anymore.
And by "nobody," you mean you. If nobody wants tape decks, then why are new ones still being manufactured? The director or IT for the multi-billion dollar company for which I work has a tape deck and a CD/MP3 player in her car. She uses tapes because they can take the abuse of an automotive environment better than digital media. And if the tape starts to wear, she just records a new copy.
It's because they aren't very good.
They are very good for the purpose for which they were created. Just because that purpose does not fit into your mindset does not make them universally bad. It makes you small minded.
More and more - as we are incessantly buried in overabundance, indifference, and loss of focus - I realise these were features, not bugs.
When was the last time you gave someone non-technical a song that's only on a streaming service?
Yeah, you can send a link, and it can disappear any time, forever. Might be blocked in their country, and so on. Meanwile, I still have cassettes of me and friends just derping around, ages ago. If I give you music that way, at least you actually have it. It decays, sure, but no worse than it does for people who don't know what a file is, who are at the whim of platforms.
Sometimes marketing is a conspiracy. To sell you something crappy.
But if all you wanted to do was create mix CDs. While not especially cheap, parallel port CD writers were available for PCs for less than $300 by 1999 and bundled with Eazy CD Creator. This was also around the time where ISPs were giving away PCs to sign up for dial up.
Even after the transition from parallel port to internal burners, disc burning was largely a crapshoot.
It's nice these days being able to listen to music and not simultaneously feel like you're treading a slow path to destroying the music you're hearing.
And then, ubiquitous mobile internet (including to the most common portable music players) happened and re-removed that friction. DRM-free digital files are a lot simpler and lower friction to edit and share than audio-on-cassette ever was.
For audio, look up a really old program called alsaplayer that could play forward, backward and at any speed.
It's not "digital" that makes rewinding and fast forwarding crap on crap devices and services, it's the lack of care for user experience.
It's funny they were included in this list, because they are strongly against including a good rewind feature. Modern video codecs refer back to previous frames a lot, so it has to be decoded forwards. It would take a ton of RAM to keep the decoded frame data for "previous" frames so you could play them in reverse. With some video files you won't notice a delay while skipping around, but some you will.
I feel we reached transparency for professional analog recordings some time in the 1980s, and I would argue that this applies to analog film as well. Pee-Wee Herman's Big Adventure (1985) and Top Gun (1986) don't look blurry or grainy at all. Analog media kept improving until they were made obsolete. Everyone was trying to approach digital perfection long before it actually existed. Actually wanting artefacts and colouration is more of a recent phenomenon.
The original Type I tapes have the same frequency response as an old person with hearing issues. Type II Chrome is a bit better, but the low end has a hump and rolls far short of 20Hz, and the top end is nowhere close to the ruler-flat response of a 44.1k WAV or FLAC.
You needed $$$$$$$equipment$$$$$$$ to get real hifi out of cassettes. The only brand that really solved the hifi problem was Nakamichi. The engineering on their high-end decks was legendary, but so was the price - the Dragon would be around $6500 in 2019 dollars.
But... the terrible fidelity makes the sound more interactive. I started listening on cassettes, and when I moved up to a more revealing mid-fi vinyl system I was surprised to find that sometimes I liked the music less.
With cassettes, I could interpolate and imagine details I wanted to be there. When I moved up to hearing the details that really were there, I didn't always enjoy them as much.
Some 16-bit consumer sound cards had outputs with way more hiss than the better tape decks.
As for the high end, the differences aren't exactly easy to pick out. I don't know where these peaks and troughs are in the spectrum, but I'd have to listen for them explicitly to pick them out, because I have no idea what you're talking about.
I mean, I've heard bad cassette audio with warbling and pronounced hiss and high end loss, but if you take a brand new high quality tape and record to it from a CD and play it back from the tape, it's damn close to sounding identical.
I have a fair bit of experience with audio. I have a home studio. I can pick out subtle quality differences between sound sources. I stand by what I have said.
Not sure what you mean by 'transparency'. Either way, go back and look at an 8k scan of 'Lawrence of Arabia' or 'The Sound of Music'. The image quality is robust and resolves everything perfectly.
Even an '80s title captured on 35mm that is scanned properly will hold up against something shot on an Arri Alexa today. The 'blurry' reputation comes only from the subsequent formats like broadcast television and VHS that people caught a lot of these titles on.
I found this out when I was trying to archive some books on tape and had to resort to buying 20-year-old decks, as opposed to new electronics which I naively assumed would be better. There are some decks with something equivalent to dolby B which I believe was a 9db roll-off.
But since it's only a simple high frequency boost/cut it probably wasn't ever patented, just protected with trademarks to the point where if you can only call it 'generic NR' and not 'dolby B' or 'dolby C' noone would be interested.
S and HX Pro were more complex, but S was rare on consumer gear, and HX Pro is more than just NR.
When I was in my 20s, I could easily hear the difference between cassettes and vinyl on the same stereo. The cassettes had an annoying SSSSSS and the crispness of the notes was mushed over. The 12" vinyl singles sounded even better, especially the "promotional" ones.
Now that I'm older, I no longer hear the difference and so it doesn't matter to me.
"Cassettes - better than you don't remember" https://youtu.be/jVoSQP2yUYA
It would serve no purpose beyond being a skeumorphic conversation starter and visual reminder of your media. Of course, it'd have an app that allowed the user to vary the logic used to choose the titles to be displayed by genre, chron, or some social purpose, i.e., I want to look smart or I want to impress a date, I don't want a political fight on Thanksgiving, etc.
Physical shelves already suffered from that a bit (people would use them to display books they were prod of), but it being a purely display and not necessary storage would do the rest.
Or pulling a cork out of a wine bottle vs opening one with a screw top. The screw top is superior in every way in terms of its ability to protect the wine from spoiling, but people still prefer corks because of the romance of the de-corking ceremony.
On the upside, streaming is sup for discovering new music.
Back in the album days, an artist needed a song or two or three on the album that would would have wide appeal and be easy to quickly like, so that they might become hits. These would get played on mainstream radio, and based on them people would buy the album. They would listen to that album for those songs, but because it was a pain to skip around on an album they would listen to the whole album.
Artists could put deeper, more complex songs on the album. Songs that people might not instantly like. Songs that people only come to appreciate after hearing many times. Songs that eventually become people's favorite songs on those albums.
With streaming, a lot of people will just jump to the newest hit from another artist instead of listening to the less immediately accessible songs from the previous artist whose hit they just checked out.
People who jump from hit to hit will always do that. Don't worry about them. People who seek new and interesting music are immensely helped by risk-free streaming.
I've literally no clue what this means or why it might matter. I love music, but it comes off an album and is produced by an artist. I could not care less about the album, or the artist (other than to pay them for their work).
What is this 'relation' thing and what is it's relevance?
Many times albums were created as works themselves, with songs as components. Rock operas like Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Who's Tommy as obvious examples. Each produced great singles, but the album was the creation. Even less cohesive albums were created with a song order in mind, so listening to them as a unit was the artist's intention. A small example: ELO's "please turn me over" lyric at the end of Mr. Blue Sky, telling you to turn the record over.
The fundament of it for me is I like particular tracks, not albums, not artists, not genres (although I have preferences in each). I listen to what I like, I skip what I don't. I couldn't care less about the artist's intention, song ordering or anything - they are so peripheral I have never thought about them. That's all.
I think what put my back up about the original post was "...super easy for them to skip/change, and lots of what was "relation to artist/album" is lost". I don't expect everyone to necessarily understand the musical tastes of others, but should always respect them, which this quote seemingly didn't.
If you are going to get defensive about someone pointing out something you didn't know, that might be a sign of insecurity.
I can't see what it is I don't know, or am getting defensive about, and implying "insecurity"? That's a childish comeback.
I'm going to ignore the monthly internet/mobile bill, because music streaming is a fraction of what it's used for.
Cassettes records, and the equipment used to listen to them eventually wear out, so you'll have to rebuy them at some point (or limit how often you listen to them).
Are you counting only the things you listen to for the first time each month? Because once you buy it, you don't need to buy it again.
> Cassettes records, and the equipment used to listen to them eventually wear out, so you'll have to rebuy them at some point (or limit how often you listen to them).
Sure, though purchased music that you can (both legally and practically) make lossless digital copies of to insure against that is very much a thing. Heck, some of the platforms offering all-you-can-eat streaming arrangements with their catalog also let you sync and stream your owned-music collection, and will even sell you DRM-free, copyable music, so that you don't need to rebuy or limit listening.
My phone is much more portable than a cassette, record, or CD player.
Well, they're kind of related. You won't be able to if Spotify terminates your account for whatever reason (which happened to me once, due to claims on their end the payment ran into some issue, which I could never verify) or if it goes out of business.
You can also rip your CDs so that the music is no longer tied to the physical media.
If you are willing to spend it you can buy second hand CDs or vinyls for less the 10 dollars at the record store, and they usually have a good enough selection such that you can most likely pick up that record you never found in the thrift store.
I only buy new music from newer artists (mostly from Bandcamp) and yet a CD is usually around $10-15 with vinyl maybe $5 more (+ shipping). But I take comfort that this money goes to supporting the artists, so it is worth it.
Usually I spend about $20-30 dollars on music a month (with some months spending more on expensive records). But with every new album I buy, it is added to my collection so I can listen to it again without needing to buy it again.
No, the math works out even if you're a less-than-average consumer or casual listener.
An album is at minimum $10. If you listen to more than one new album a month, you're coming out ahead if you use a streaming service. If Spotify shuts down, there's at least two other competitors in this space for me to go to. But none of them look like they're going anywhere.
> But with every new album I buy, it is added to my collection so I can listen to it again without needing to buy it again
Until the record wears out, or gets stolen, or breaks for a variety of reasons.
Also when buying new albums it is not unreasonable to expect the artist to get some money for their work. And its quite hard to reason that they do if they have to share your $10 subscription fee every month.
CDs do sort of straddle the boundary between background and intentional listening. I own music that I treasure on CDs that I don't own on vinyl. While it's more convenient than records, I sometimes put it on with the intention of focusing on the music.
What's interesting is that a few recordings work better on CD than LP for me. I came to love the Allman Brothers Band in University, and Mountain Jam spans two sides of a Eat a Peach on LP, requiring an interruption to change the record and hear the whole thing. On CD, it flows seamlessly.
 I got into them backwards from most people. Blues Part II by Blood Sweat and Tears got me into longer-form rock, and I found Mountain Jam by searching for mp3 files over 10 or 15MB on the school's network. I have since bought perhaps half a dozen albums I'd have never discovered otherwise.
 The Eat a Peach version is the definitive version. The July 5th version from Live at the Altlanta International Pop Festival remains my favorite, but I digress.
Cassettes can be operated by even the most baked person with little risk of damage to the cassette or the tape deck.
My first rock album was a CD copy of Nevermind, which I found in a roadside ditch while walking home from school one day. It was so scratched up and many tracks were damaged or not playable. I listened to that broken CD for years. Opened my eyes to a whole world beyond the country I was raised with.
I'm surprised someone hasn't tried to kickstart a high end cassette deck
?? Compression doesn’t mean lossy. Nuanced, does that mean introduction of sound artifacts due to the mechanical nature of the medium?
It's the dynamic range compression  that makes everything louder, makes everything "pop" more, so there are no nuances left. This is, of course, a mixing / mastering step. But vinyl records of 60s-80s applied it much less than the CD records of 90s-2010s. Those who produce vinyls now still follow the tradition, and the customers expect it.
I'd then record the vinyl and burn it onto CD for the car. :)
A mainstream master, intended for an ordinary consumer, is created with low dynamic range to sound "loud", which is perceived as "better". Also, mastering engineer knows that most of listeners will listen to this on a very shitty speakers and adjusts frequency balance accordingly.
However, when you do a separate vinyl master, you can safely assume that your audience will not compare this version to others on youtube or radio, and that they will have better equipment - so you relax the compression settings, switch off L2 maximizer and allow the track to breathe a little.
Thus different frequencies have intentionally different noise floors.
Even on the CD version of that album, I still "hear" the scratch. The unscratched perfect version sounds wrong. Can't get it out of my mind.
At least, that’s how I understand it.
This is engineering education of the highest quality.
I was about to take up arms and start explaining Nyquist to the parent comment, but I’m glad I chose to watch this video instead.
Thank you for posting it.
How are the Xiph guys doing? I followed them closely during the early days of their new video codec attempt. I’ve fallen out of the loop since then.
Excellent, and in my view mandatory viewing for anyone interested in audio and signal processing.
Read up on reconstruction filters.
In fact, musicians used these things for recording demo tapes, well into the 1980's, using equipment like the Tascam Portastudio (a four-track recorder using both directions of the tape at the same time).
Check out some of the notable users, like Bruce Springsteen and Weird Al Yankovic.
Footnote: from hearing certain songs in the same order many times, like on my best & most-played tapes, I eventually grew to expect the next song upon hearing the previous one end. So even though I quickly and enthusiastically abandoned the technology of cassettes, I did recreate some of those mixes as digital playlists.
I hope this kind of sickly-sweet format necrophilia gains further ascendancy, making it easier to offload some of the defunct media on the bay to unsuspecting users; who want to justify this kind of 'authentic' experience.
The resurgence of Vinyl, Cassettes etc are all tied to the same core principle I think. It's incredibly easy nowadays to have a perfect or flawless copy of something stored digitally, that people are looking for and celebrating imperfections in the analogue counterparts.
After all, it's only a few clicks away to Spotify/Bandcamp etc to receive a digital copy. It's more effort to get a physical copy, let alone one on an older medium.
I think you should do it and provide access to others - I'm sure countless like-minded people would love it.