NAC is making a new audio tape

2 weeks, 3 days ago 0
Posted in: Cassettes

I’ve talked several times (here, here…),  here about National Audio Company, which is a US maker of audio cassettes. They manufacture cassettes for small bands and even big names (like the Guardians of the Galaxy OST) and they sell blank tapes too.

Who makes these new cassettes? Interesting question, indeed, because no company that were interested in making them in the past (SONY, TDK, BASF, Maxell…) is interested in making them now. Well, they are not making any tape since years.

They are actually making three different audio cassettes: 731/831 ‘Music grade’, 751 chrome high performance and 799 Studio master super Chrome.

actual blank cassettes nac

The first one is made by Saehan, a korean company that is famous for making the first one MP3 player in the history, the MPMan. As you can guess, it’s not someone that has a long experience in making good tapes as the big names in the 80s and 90s, but I’m not sure when did they start to make magnetic tapes. I have one of this that I’ve received from a mixtape exchange and it sounds ok, but it didn’t surprise me much with its quality. As Alex from ANT Audio said, it features a MOL (Maximum Output Level without distortion) of +4dB, -56.5dBA ground noise (so the Dynamic Range is 60.5 dB). That looks as a pretty good tape, much better than a TDK AD for example but not as good as a TDK AR. It stays somewhere in the middle.

The 751 is the chrome tape. NAC doesn’t disclose where do this tape come from but I’ve read that they get it from old TDK SA stock that they bought years ago when other companies left the business. I don’t have any info about SA generation it is, which would be very interesting, due to big differences between several generations. Alex measured this tape too and said it has a MOL of 1.5 dB and -58dBA noise, leaving a DR of 59.5 dB.

From the information I have, ’86 generation has a MOL of 1.4 dB and a hiss of -57dBA (1986 HI-FI Choice blank tape test issue) which is pretty much the same as the 751.  So the 751 could be a ’87-88 SA generation, or at least a tape that performs very close to it…

TDK SA '86

An excellent TDK SA from 1986

As a reference, the ’92 TDK SA has a MOL of +3.7 and 62.6 dB of DR (WHAT HI-FI blank tapes Supertest, september-1992 issue), which is higher than the 751. These are clearly lower values than one of the best TDK SA-X, which has a MOL of +5dB, -59.5dBA noise (thus, 64.5 dB of DR).

The 799 is made using BASF Super Chrome, which is a very good tape. It is possible that they use ’95 stock which is probably one of the most recent and easily to get:

basf chrome super 2

Image of the Chrome Super II, by Vintagecassettes.com

This latest tape is probably better than the 751. As a reference, the ’92 Chrome Super II has a MOL of +3.8 and a hiss of 59.3dBA, which are quite high values.

But the interesting thing about this is that they said they are preparing a new formula for a high performance ferric tape (see minute 2:56):

 

 

And they have published some info at Tapeheads.net forum that the work is ongoing and they’ll be releasing it somewhere in the near future. So far so good we know that:

  • It will be a high quality ferric type I tape.
  • It will be reasonably cheap.
  • It will be tested for extreme heat.
  • They will ship worldwide

So, all in all it looks promising.

NAC gear to make new tape 04

Here’s some of the gear NAC bought to make this project.

I give them my support and hope that this story ends well, because old tape stock is limited and sooner or later we will run out of it. I’ll try to test their new tape and share my thoughts here. Good luck NAC, and thank for all you’re doing for the community!

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