Do all prerecorded cassettes sound equal? Indeed not.
Back in the 80s I bought my first prerecorded cassettes (which in my country were called ‘musicassette‘), mainly from hard rock bands like AC/DC and a few others. I always thought that musicassettes sound well, sometimes a bit better that my own recordings with my own boombox, but not much better.
My knowledge about sound quality has been becoming wider in the latest years as I’ve been very active in searching for the ultimate quality. Now I can say I know how good can sound an excellent recording on cassette. And how bad musicassettes did sound. Really bad.
I decided to do a test comparison between the spanish version of the very ame song and the american prerecorded cassette. As I got a big lot of american cassettes recently, I just had to search for the spanish version. I decided to pick a song from Brothers in arms album by Dire Straits, as the recording quality is top-notch and I also have vinyl version.
So I put both cassettes in my beloved Pioneer CT-F1250, and played them through my JVC NR50 noise reduction unit, to precisely adjust Dolby decoding so I loose nothing at all but noise.
I recorded it in my computer and could made an MP3 version of it. Here it is:
Note: I already warned you: it sounds terrible.
The sound was recorded with Adobe Audition (a professional audio editor) using my Creative X-Fi Elite Pro input at 48kHz and 32 bits, being played on my Pioneer CT-F1250 with Dolby B.
Now I understand why every people in my country (and I guess all over thw world) believes cassettes did sound bad: because musicassettes sound very bad. At least in my country.
But in other countries it’s another completely different story, because the quality can go from fair to very good. This time I want to talk about the american version:
Does it sound the same? At all! This cassette sounds really well, light years ahead of the spanish version. Well, yes, it’s not the very same album but I picked the same song which is common to both: Brothers in arms. Both cassettes are recorded in type I ferric tape and both with Dolby, but this one has been recorded with proper levels and high quality equipment, the spanish one seems to have been recorded in a crappy and cheap ‘no-brand’ chinese boombox. Really.
This is how it sounds the american cassette (just a 3 minute selection of the song):
As you may quickly notice, there’s a big difference in the sound quality and the distortion. This one sounds waaay better.
So, yes, a cheap ferric type I tape can be used to make very good recordings even that most people believe the opposite. Here’s a proof of that.[Update] Here’s the MP3 version as a reference (about 160kbps VBR):
Available for download: uncompressed version of this latest one (the crappy sound of the spanish doesn’t need an uncompressed version…).