What's so bad about 8 track tapes?

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

  1. Brodnation

    Brodnation The Future Never Dies because Tomorrow Never Knows

    Fair enough. Thanks for elaborating :)
    McLover likes this.
  2. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    A better question - and I suspect we raised this upthread an eon ago - is could 8-track have ever been good? Like, what technological advancements could have been made to make 8-track suck less than cassette? Could the format have somehow survived?
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  3. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Culture killed the 8 track, more than its flaws did. Western culture thrives on (competitive) new technology, smaller packages, and lower cost. The word "new" has always attracted buyers.. still does!

    That aside, the 8 track could have been improved by conversion to 1.875 ips four track stereo format (like cassette but a wider track) and advanced type II tape formulation. The slower speed would decrease tape friction, and increase longevity. The wider track on 1/4 inch tape would beat the audio cassette for higher MOL (maximum output level) and lower noise, less need for noise reduction.

    Another tech improvement would be the opposite.. higher speed to 7.5 ips, and the same 8 track format. The problem with this.. it does not correlate to new tech.. the cartridge would be the same old package, and heavier (more tape) more costly to ship to retail stores. The improved sound quality would never offset the inconvenience of longer FF time, and higher retail prices.

    The cassette was fortuitous for the introduction of high bias tape. So the cassette evolved into a seriously competitive format vs the 8 track (for pre-recorded tape) and surpassed in making home recordings. Sony developed AMS (automatic music search) as an extra convenience, and of course auto-reverse. Although these conveniences offered zero (or negative) offset on sound quality, the mass consumer loved them.

    I have nothing better to do than talk about 8 tracks? :nyah: Even worse, I could be listening to one! I do have several boxes of 8 tracks, all in nice shape, some of them in need of pressure pads and foils. I have likewise one quad player (Lafayette) and two other 8 track players (Pioneer and Craig) fully operational!
  4. CharlieD

    CharlieD Well-Known Member

    Lancaster, NY
    8-Track made our music portable, for the first time. Quality was not a priority, but convenience was.

    It was a stepping-stone to something better... which ended up being the cassette tape.
  5. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    I'm more thinking about technology that could have made its clunky 4-program hack less confusing and obtrusive, although improving the fidelity of the format to bring it up to the cassette standard in the late '70s would have also helped. Technically 8-track should have been competitive with cassette in that regard even at that late date - the tape moved faster and if memory serves the individual tracks were wider - but alignment issues plagued the format, along with tape handling issues.

    I wonder if auto fine-tracking could have been implemented somehow, maybe by locking in on the strength of the tape bias signal? Likewise, could the bias frequency be used to track speed variations?

    Looking at this chart, 8-track sales peaked in '78, so the industry had until '77-'78 to rectify some of the more glaring issues with the format.


    But I'm not sure who was going to want to work on that. It seems like the Europeans and Japanese put much more effort into the cassette during the early to mid-'70s instead, perhaps because 8-track was an American format. Sony even developed the ill-fated Elcaset during this period as a successor to open reel tape, but its performance specs - great but decidedly below the best reel to reel decks of the day - probably doomed the neither fish nor flesh format. If they'd had metal tape to work with at that time, it might have been more successful...
  6. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Commerce, GA
    I find it funny, by 1977-1978, cassettes were starting to really sound good. By 1980-1982, is when I'd say people began to "see the light."
  7. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    I forgot about the rollers and the slip sheets, but in my count I was also counting the four screws used to hold the two sides of the shell together. Adding those to the above, it means a total of 15 parts.
  8. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    Some cassettes had more than the 4 screws, didn't they?
  9. 199211

    199211 Well-Known Member

    True. But even in cars, the performance of the tapes/players could be very uneven given the extreme temperatures. If you left them plugged into a player inside an 103 degree car on a summer day, the heat and sunlight would effectively destroy an otherwise perfect tape. Cassettes--at least as far as I remember--weren't as sensitive to the elements.
  10. EdogawaRampo

    EdogawaRampo Forum Resident

    Just a vague early '70s memory -- I remember 8-tracks sounding really good in my parents' car, a lot better than the cassettes I heard in other people's cars. I also seem to remember 8-tracks failing and getting chewed up in players far more often than cassettes.

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