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Published on October 8th, 2015 | by Alan Cross

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Top 11 Reasons Cassettes Suck

Sorry. Another rant about the uselessness of this bogus cassette revival that so many people apparently want to see happen. It’s nostalgia that’s been manufactured and propagated in some corners of the media. It’s gotta stop.

I was reminded of the idiocy of cassettes as I walked the senior bull terrier last night. On the side of the road was a ruined Maxwell, its disemboweled tape innards ripped out and useless. I know the scene well: someone was playing this cassette when the player began emitting that unmistakable *uuuuuur-uurrrr-uuuuuuuurrrrrrr” sound indicating that the transport mechanism had failed and many metres of tape was now wrapping itself around the capstan of the player. That’s how cassettes die. Beyond a certain point, there is no hope.

Here’s why cassettes suck.

  1. Compared to CDs, vinyl and MP3s, they sound awful. There’s nothing romantic about poor frequency response and tape hiss.
  2. After a while, the glue holding the metal particles on the tape dries out and they fall off, taking sound with them. All magnetic tape eventually dies this way.
  3. Cassette cases have hinges that are only slightly less fragile than those we have on plastic CD cases.
  4. Not a single automobile manufacturer in the world offers a cassette player as standard equipment anymore.
  5. If have an old car with a cassette player, the tapes inevitably end up on the floor of the passenger side, which is very annoying to anyone sitting there…
  6. …or you leave them in the sun, causing them to lose shape. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before the cassette meets the Capstan of Death.
  7. You don’t look ironic using a Walkman. You look like a doofus.
  8. And how many people have access to a working Walkman, anyway?
  9. The tediousness of fast-forwarding and rewinding.
  10. In fact, how many people still have any kind of cassette machine at their disposal?
  11. Who has time to put together a mix tape in real time? I know, I know: devoting time to such a project shows a special sort of care. But i you have that much spare time, come help me file my CDs. There’s plenty of work to be done there.

I’m sure I could think of more reasons, but you get the drift. Yet for some reason, cassettes are making some kind of revival.

Please, people, stop this madness. If you’re going to invest in a retro technology, make it vinyl. You’ll be much better off.

And now, if you must, a video.

 




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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5 Responses to Top 11 Reasons Cassettes Suck

  1. My wife and I rented a van in Hawaii in 2012 that actually had a cassette deck in it. I had almost completely forgotten what a car deck even looked like.

  2. aimt says:

    I don’t think there are many folks within the cassette revival movement who argue that tapes “sound great.” Clearly it’s more about collecting and owning a physical artifact. It’s about putting something unique on your shelf. Physical media is merchandise in the modern era. Sure, plenty of people listen to their vinyl and tape collections, but I think most younger people who collect this stuff do the majority of their listening digitally and use the physical media as a memento to associate with the listening.

    If you peruse Bandcamp, you’ll notice that many tape releases are limited runs of 50 copies or less. And you can often buy such tapes for as low as 6 or 7 USD. That’s where the appeal is. You get the digital download; you get the physical memento; and you get to collect something that only 49 other people have. It’s cheap and most of your money goes right into the hands of the artist or label who released it.

    I just feel like criticizing the tape revival for the reasons you mention is like saying distortion on an electric guitar is “dirty” and “doesn’t sound clear” and therefore should go away completely. Of course tapes degrade over time and don’t sound great. But that delicacy is another part of their appeal.

  3. R.K. says:

    Gads!!!
    Ok,these r valid reasons .
    Obviously I don;t think it,s possible for a cassette to do 96,000KHZ,etc….
    However I guess when all is send and done;it,s a physical sale,
    Just like you would have liner notes and lyrics at times with Vinyl,you get the same thing
    With cassettes! Not as large as with Vinyl covers but ….well you get the picture.
    And CDs the same thing.What do you get with a digital download?(ITunes occasionally had pictures and Lyrics,graphics,etc pkg you could print but mostly not ,unless it,s changed recently)
    At one time cassettes allowed you to keep your Vinyl in more pristine shape ,by recording to cassette immediately(I got a friend who did that with all his vinyl.)

  4. R.K. says:

    PS
    I,d love to get Vinyl again!
    just have make some room.

  5. Tyler says:

    F off with your vinyl records and turntables, I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say… let’s evolve, let the cassettes fall where they may.

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