What's so bad about 8 track tapes?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by youraveragevinylcollector, Jan 26, 2016.

  1. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    It's too bad RCA bungled the release of their giant cassette format back in the '50s. It would have been so much better than 8-tracks...

     
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  2. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    I agree. The format looked better than the compact cassette in just about every aspect other than the size. However, I didn't see size as an issue since it should have been focused for use as home, much like the LP and 45 were. At that time, portable audio was just starting to be a thing. Plus, the RCA Tape Cartridge and the Compact Cassette could have existed side by side, with the RCA Tape Cartridge for use at home and the Compact Cassette for portable use.

    However, one issue that worked against it was the time it took to duplicate tapes. Even at high speed it still takes a little bit of time to duplicate a tape (a 45 minute tape would take about 45 seconds to duplicate at 60 times speed) while you can stamp out an entire record in a few seconds. This advantage carries over to other disc formats like the compact disc.
     
  3. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Even that giant cassette could have been made to fit into a car fairly easily, though. Especially the giant cars of the '50s and '60s. That would have been portable enough.

    I'm sure they could have also made portable players the size of the old portable 8-track players, with a speaker or two.

    One place where RCA dropped the ball with their cassette was not supporting the faster tape speed of open reel in that format. That pretty much doomed it with hifi enthusiasts, and at those prices they're the ones who would have driven the adoption of a new format like that. I know they wanted to make it simpler for users, but maybe they could have found a way to auto-detect the speed a tape was recorded at and set it on playback without user intervention. I wonder if you could detect the bias frequency and use that to lock on to the speed the tape was recorded at, or possibly shift the bias frequency slightly between standard quality and high quality modes?
     
  4. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    It is possible that the introduction of play-only units for portable use might have made it possible to make smaller players, much like one of the reason Sony Walkman players could be made so small (one of them was barely larger than the tape itself) is they were able to dispense with the recording parts of the machine, plus they dropped the internal speaker and replaced with headphones. It would also allow better battery life (imagine if the portable player used four C batteries that gave it several hours of playback time).

    I don't think automatic speed selection would be necessary. People were already familiar with setting the speed when playing LPs and 45s, so it shouldn't have been an issue with tape. All that would be needed is to clearly indicate what speed the tape should be played at on the cover (just like they did with reel-to-reel tapes, putting the speed and the type of heads [in-line or staggered] on the tape's box), and make the speed selection a simple matter of setting a switch.

    Concerning the tape speed, I think that an option of 7.5 inches per second (IPS) would have been possible. The choice of speed would depend on the type of content, with 7.5 IPS for music and 3.75 IPS for spoken word recordings.

    I checked Wikipedia and format allowed for 30 minutes of playback per side at 3.75 IPS. That would have allowed 15 minutes per side at 7.5 IPS and if they used thinner tape (which I think would be feasible since the tape is not handled) it might have been possible to get the same playing time as an LP on an RCA Tape Cartridge. Consider that a 90-minute compact cassette playing at 3.75 IPS would give you 45 minutes of playing time on one tape.
     
  5. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    I don't know if it was necessary, but for a format built around convenience, it sure would have been nice.

    In the video I posted I thought Techmoan said it allowed for 2 hours per-tape, so 1 hour per side. That would have translated to half that, or 30 minutes per side, at 3.75 IPS. But that might have been for mono, using all four tracks separately.

    Thinner tape probably wasn't an option at that point, although it certainly became an option as the years went by. That's how 120 minute cassettes became a thing, although they were always a dicey proposition - cheap decks in particular had problems using them because the tape was so thin and prone to jamming.
     
  6. Lincoln79

    Lincoln79 Active Member

    Location:
    Halifax
    So this is a general question about 8 track tapes. I was listening to Van Halen(First Album) on 8 track tape and I noticed that in all the songs the instruments sounded louder than the singer in the band. Is this problem associated just with 8 track tapes of albums just released by new bands or is this the 8 tracks fault since I replaced everything in it. Sounds great other than the singers voice sounding softer than the instruments. I had this happen before on other 8 track tapes.
     
  7. Dude111

    Dude111 An Awesome Dude

    Location:
    USA
    My ZZTOP cartridge is like that (1983 album - ELIMINATOR)

    I guess thats how its suppposed to sound in analogue --- THE 8TRACK SOUNDS MUCH BETTER THAN THE RECORD OF THAT ALBUM! (To me anyway)
     
  8. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Auto detect would've been easy enough via infrasonic test tones -or- mechanically by holes or slots on the spine of the tape, sensed by lever switches (same as cassette sensing type II or type IV tapes) RCA was a pioneer of the era. I wonder what would've happened if RCA partnered with Ford or Chrysler to equip their new cars with players? Dinah Shore in her 120 minute commercial, driving a '59 Chevrolet, see the USA in a Chevrolet with RCA's new revolutionary STEREO cassette player?
     
  9. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Holes or slots wouldn't allow you to change speeds during the recording, though. It would be much better if the tape itself indicated continuously what speed it was currently being recorded at. Then you could shift playback speeds on the fly, the way you could on videotape years down the road.
     
  10. Lincoln79

    Lincoln79 Active Member

    Location:
    Halifax
    I find it strange. I guess the ones that are electronically recorded don't have this issue. Thats odd that sounds better on 8 track than record! Haha.
     
  11. Dude111

    Dude111 An Awesome Dude

    Location:
    USA
    I guess it depends on what master they use... I suppose it could be mixed seperate for analog and digital but if it was only mixed digitally,then that would be on all copies regardless of the platform......
     
  12. 199211

    199211 Well-Known Member

    As a stereo repairman once joked to me, 8-track players and tapes became junk the minute you took them out of the box.
     
  13. Dude111

    Dude111 An Awesome Dude

    Location:
    USA
    Ah man!!
     
  14. WLL

    WLL Popery Of Mopery

    ...I was rather into the 8-track scene in the 90s, I got and had some letters printed in that EIGHT-TRACK MIND fanzine but I didn"t have anything to play them on:cry:.
    I made a comment about Beatles eight-tracks:yikes: in that " Beatles On Cassette " lime but I only thought of looking for threads on 8-tracks after writing that and I suppose the Forts would not look kindly upon me repeating what I wrote here\:rolleyes:.
     
  15. Lincoln79

    Lincoln79 Active Member

    Location:
    Halifax
    Why didn't you ever buy a player?
     
  16. WLL

    WLL Popery Of Mopery







    ..
    I didn't have one in the 90s. I had one years before, in the 80s.
    I had a cheapo gift record player/radio-8-track player, a gift from my parents, I suppose given to me in early 2982 or so, the absolute sunset for 8-tracks I guess. It was utterly cheap and I think folks here would be HORRIFIED:yikes:! by it! More later. In the 90s I felt, at least, like I didn"t have enough money at once, or space, or connections..
    and I have always tended to have sub-nil elevtronics/mechanical skills:shake: -and tools.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  17. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Scotch a retail only brand, think again. 3M/Scotch was a big brand in tape duplication. And was from the very beginning of pre-recorded tapes. In every format too. Scotch 150 and Scotch 176 were very widely used in tape duplication on open reel, and Scotch had lube tape widely used in the 8 track duplication business (sometimes Ampex even used it in their 8 tracks), and also in cassettes. A major supplier to the duplication industry, for many years, folks.
     
  18. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    People, NAB broadcast cart machines were far more precision, far better built, and built to far higher standards than consumer anything ever generally was. Likewise the carts themselves. Failure in this business meant MakeGoods. A spot commercial advertisement must play on time, or must be MADE GOOD. Or legal trouble can occur. Advertising agencies and local advertisers are paying for those spots. AutomatedElectronics knows what he's talking about on this one. Got to deal with repairs and maintenance on those cart machines, and those Harris 55 elevator cart decks, and the IGM Instacarts on the FM side too. If they failed, or had issues, it was my problem to repair it.
     
  19. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Vinyl playback involves moving parts as well. Some turntables are far more pleasant to service and maintain than others. Not all turntables are simple either. Ever had to do major overhaul on one? I've dealt with that on many a complex automatic, and all the major German makes and some of the best and worst Garrard ever foisted on the public.
     
    sunspot42 likes this.
  20. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    Sorry I wasn't clear. I was referring to the vinyl record itself and not the device used to play it. Off the top of my head, I estimate that a compact cassette tape contains at least 12 parts (including the tape itself), with four of them moving, while a vinyl record has no moving parts.
     
  21. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    A typical welded pre-recorded cassette tape includes:

    1. upper shell
    2. lower shell
    3. upper slip sheet
    4. lower slip sheet
    5. supply reel
    6. takeup reel
    7. supply roller
    8. takeup roller
    9. pressure pad
    10. spring for pressure pad
    11. the tape itself

    Some really cheap cassettes eliminated the slip sheets and used fixed plastic posts instead of rollers, but these tend to jam up, and are the ones you sometimes saw thrown out of a car window and spilling the tape on the roadside.
     
    sunspot42 likes this.
  22. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    How about that you got to choose what music you wanted to listen to while driving. Before Stereo 8 became popular, your choice was generally what was on AM Radio. And in some areas, you didn't get much choice, especially when the station you wanted to hear had to reduce power at night, and had to be directional. If Stereo 8 hadn't been successful, you might not ever have had a popular alternative to the car radio.
     
    katstep likes this.
  23. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Also, the mechanical tolerances on a cassette have always been tighter. And less room for error on azimuth alignment, and wow/flutter was a major problem with cassettes, and magnified in cars and didn't begin getting solved until the 1970's.
     
  24. Brodnation

    Brodnation The Future Never Dies because Tomorrow Never Knows

    Location:
    Canada
    The topic is about why 8 Tracks haven't seen a revival. I really don't see how your point makes sense in that context. Could you elaborate? :)
     
  25. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    How about the fact that 8 track was the first successful music format in cars. It's the father of the choices you enjoy today. 8 track has seen a small revival, mainly to the vintage car community.
     
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