The Only Cassette Player Worth Owning in 2019

Vinyl has the audiophiles to keep it relevant, and CDs still have the people who are scared of streaming music, but who mourns for the cassette tape? Yesterday we would have said nobody, but now that [Igor Afanasyev] has unleashed his latest creation onto an unsuspecting world, we aren’t so sure anymore. A portable tape player that started as a $5 find from the Goodwill is now an outrageously gorgeous piece of electronic art thanks to 3D printing and a liberal application of LEDs.

After freeing the tape mechanism from the original enclosure and extraneous electronics like the AM/FM tuner, [Igor] got to work designing a retro styled enclosure for the hardware which would show off the complex electromechanical bits which would traditionally be hidden. With the addition of a clever 3D printed holder, he was even able to add microswitches under the original player’s buttons so he could detect the player’s current state without having to modify the electronics. This lets the finished player change the color of the RGB LEDs based on what it’s currently doing.

[Igor] came up with a very clever way of integrating light-up icons into the case by placing bright LEDs behind specially crafted thin sections of the print. It looked awesome in his tests, but after the considerable sanding, priming, and painting it took to turn the 3D printed parts into a production-quality enclosure, the LEDs are no longer visible on the final product. Even though they didn’t work in this particular case, we think it’s a brilliant technique worthy of stealing further research.

The detail that [Igor] but into this build is phenomenal. Seeing all the individual components he had to design and print to make the final product come together is really nothing short of inspirational. Projects like these are where 3D printing really shines, as trying to replicate this build with traditional manufacturing techniques would be an absolute nightmare.

If you can’t quite shake the feeling that you’ve seen this name or attention to detail before, it’s for good reason. Last year we covered another build showing the knack [Igor] has for turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.

64 thoughts on “The Only Cassette Player Worth Owning in 2019

  1. I resent the comment about people who still buy CDs as being scared of streaming. Firstly, CDs actually cost less than most digital downloads in Australia. Streaming services are great, but lossless streaming is expensive. And when you buy a CD, you also buy a perpetual license to listen to that music – streaming services can remove music at will.

        1. I liked Napster and Bearshare… though was like Limewire was the bomb! Torrent sharing seemed neat also. Not sure what’s the thing to do now days. I notice Astalavista and Warez stuff isn’t so much anymore.

          Paranoid… nah… these are like victimless crimes unless you’re grandiose and delusional war profiteering on crap that is not required even and most likely is even brain damaging… by others that aren’t profiting from “copying”.

          Stuff to be paranoid about is in my latest update:
          http://dewdefenseprojects.blogspot.com/2019/03/neuroscientist-dr-james-giordano-on.html

    1. I think buying a CD is preferable to buying a download. When I pass away, my kid can inherit my CDs. Ask Bruce Willis how that worked out for his extensive iTunes purchases.

    2. You beat me to it.
      I have an extensive collection of CDs, all of which have been ripped into my computer for convenience. I don’t have to worry about ads, revoked licenses, or companies going out of business. Also, CDs generally sound better (to me) than streamed music, which is important when listening to artists such as Dream Theater and Devin Townsend.

      1. yeah, CDs will sound better than any streaming copy of the same material, except for lossless streaming, in which case it should sound about the same. (Anyone tried Pomo?) Streaming is an improvement in “convenience”, not an improvement in sound quality.

        Back on topic… it’s neat, but I’m sorry, the only cassette deck worth owning is a SONY Pro Walkman WM-D6C.

    3. Exactly, I prefer to buy CDs and DVDs or Bluray instead of digital copies. Although I haven’t figured out how to handle Bluray, the other two formats are easy to convert into digital files for playing on the computer or portable.

    4. In the (near) future when all ISPs start capping bandwidth, my CDs will come in handy. I buy them used and I don’t think I have paid more than $5 for one in about 10 years.

      1. I see the physical medium as a bit like a licence key. If I buy a used and damaged CD or DVD, I feel I have the right to download a digital copy rather than rip the unrippable disk.
        Just me?

    5. Wait, are we talking about streaming services or digital downloads or both? I get music mostly from bandcamp and some from itunes. But I always pay to have at least the digital files, and sometimes it comes with physical media.

      Streaming services are “great” for the stream service providers, record labels, and consumers. The artists not so much.

    6. Steaming music comes usually in some mp3 or other compressed crap format.
      No thanks I buy the CD rip it for use on my telephone and copy the cd to leave in the car or other place.
      The original is my backup and for playing at home,i also like the nice booklets that come with it.

    7. Another big advantage is that you are not tied to a specific hardware, CD being standard things, so the risk that finding a player becomes impossible is tiny compared to a Zune or some dead player type.
      Not to add the effect when you find the old CD you have bought 20 years ago and totally forgotten them…

    8. I think the author probably meant digital music files, not simply streaming. You can buy digital audio and own a perpetual license. The blade cuts both ways. CDs are physical, but they can burn up in a fire, get stolen, etc. Music files can be backed up. Different strokes for different folks.

    9. Absolutely…Spot on. I still buy CDs but have Spotify anyway. Also the need to always have internet or Mobile data to listen to music ..sucks.. especially as smooth listening depends on decent connectivity…
      Sure digital downloads are fine but CDs are cheap and can be ripped .

        1. You spun the tape on a bic pen to fast forward or rewind without flattening your crappy zinc-carbon batteries. If you had mains power you didn’t need to worry about a pen.

  2. Awesome… cool build.

    When I see tape players (thinking for projects) I always think about hacking the system to have an option to turn off auto gain control (AGC), making a tunable AGC or wondering if they just don’t have.

    I think these links affirmed my thoughts regarding recording signals, whether up or down converted or not:
    https://theinspireproject.org/default.asp?contentID=28
    http://www.home.pon.net/785/equipment/recorder/index.htm

    Background regarding:
    https://www.maximintegrated.com/en/app-notes/index.mvp/id/3673
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_gain_control

    1. Always had to pay a lot more to get a tape recorder without AGC, or at least an AGC OFF switch. Most of them were useless for recording stuff like AC/DC because the AGC clamped down too hard and turned it into mush.

  3. i am triggered by the memory of all of the audio equipment of the 80s and 90s that had uselessly-angled cases so that you couldn’t use it as a part of a modular system because it doesn’t have a flat top for stacking

  4. Gorgeous build that evokes mid-century tape decks and studio consoles (although I can’t find an image of a tape deck that isn’t strictly vertical or horizontal except for a new model solid-state unit)

  5. Oh yeah people out there still like cassettes. Like punks and stuff. The one that’s truly dead is eight track. Like I’m not a hundred percent sure that one ever really existed anymore or if that was just a trick played by faulty memory and drugs.

    This is a really neat little object though.

    1. There is literally nothing useful to build. We are all detritus circling the drain. The universe marches slowly yet steadily towards heat death. Our fidgety machines are an obsessive-compulsive distraction to pry our attention away from knowing our emptiness, knowledge we can never put back in the tube. Listen to some nice cassette tapes and forget it all for a while.

      Just kidding–but seriously, why shit on somebody like that man?

    2. With some modifications can collect some analog signals of perverts that should be lined up and shot, that layer malicious destruction of personality and property sounds on naturally occurring sounds as well as pulverizing property sounds in the perimeter of their victims they gang stalk causing violence activist aggressively to most forensically clean… and maybe with sensitive enough microphones and even other biometric devices… catch them hacking into our bodies to maliciously destroy them. Then digitally process the signals if the playback in analog isn’t audible recreating the sounds heard. I mean… is that what you mean. No shit, they need to be rounded up in public and beheaded or shot. This looks like a start.

      1. Nope reg must pre-approve all hobbies and if they don’t meet his standards then he will a new assign worthy project … (I don’t get people who get off on telling others what to do, especially when I haven’t even seen them post any of their own projects, the irony of talking about having no substance)

  6. nobody mourns cassette tapes because they’re still a current product.

    I don’t like this project because it’s based around the same type of crappy, bottom of the barrel tape player that convinced everyone the format sounds bad. Putting it in a fancy case just makes it a cassette tape crossley. I bought a nice three head deck with Dolby NR for five euros, and it sounds great.

    1. Cassette mechanisms of questionable quality put in fancy cases existed eve whent the format was all the rage. But at the time excellent mechanism with good electronics were built, from Nackamichi, TEAC/TASCAM, Technics, Sony and so on that also made cheaper systems.

      Making compact cassette tapes sound good was anyway a big engineering feat, because the original tape was built as a dictation device and not for music. But the system was relatively cheap and easy to use compared with an open reel tape. and required less maintenance.

      The bad mechanism in fancy case is happening also today with the resurgence of 33 and 45 with a lot of cheap and bad quality record players, and some absolute horrible things like the toy bus record player or the fake retro but with blue leds things.

      1. I’m well familiar with that one specific turntable mechanism that shows up in everything since the early 90s. It’s an abomination. That people get suckered into paying sometimes over 200 euros for it is fraud to me. The companies that sell it should be shut down and their executives to prison.

  7. “Yesterday we would have said nobody”

    Then I suggest you do a bit more of a search on the world wide web. There is thing called a ‘Google’, it shows many of us liking cassettes ;)

  8. The best use of a cassette today is in preserving what original content it may have on it. I have a huge cassette collection of live radio, concerts and Blues shows in 3D binaural. No record label cassette is worth playing more than once. I have a dual capstan dual roller single direction deck that will tension the tape and play smooth even when the little pressure pad in the cassette is missing!

    The treble third of the audio spectrum is “pixelated” on a CD. Of course it’s worse at a tenth of a CD’s bit rate 128kB vs.1,414kB. Only high def media can match the clarity of a good home recorded cassette. The RIAA is mucking up the high def world, trying to kill itself. They did better when Hole-e-wood got in bed with Rock and Roll (MTV) and movies replaced music as purchased media.

    This model in the post is a player only unless that is a magnet erase type. In that case don’t use it at all. Someone else here curses those old ALC decks, old Sony’s and such and they went away. The last of the cassette era made use of a magnet to erase the tape when recording. This made it very noisy, far worse than no Dolby process. Those were junk from the start.

    1. The treble third is pixelated on a CD? Can you explain what you mean by that?

      If you’re referring to the sample rate of bit depth causing “blockiness” of the waveform, that’s a myth that needs to die.

  9. I thought it was going to be a refurbished Nakamichi Dragon. Cool little project but didn’t mention any actual audio hacks. Did the builder add a linear power supply? Did they swap parts to play higher quality tape types? Does the author know that CD wasn’t as significant an sq upgrade from cassette as people remember? Does the author know that mp3 was a significant sq downgrade from CD? Is there an adult there that maybe has used speaker cables before? Maybe has at least one pair of headphones that actually plug into something? Can that adult write any future audio articles please?

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