Cassette Synth Plays With Speed Control

Tape may not sound that great compared to vinyl, but cassette players can be tons of fun when it comes to making your own music. See for instance the Mellotron, or this relatively easy DIY alternative, [Rich Bernett]’s Cassettone cassette player synth.

The Cassettone works by substituting the trim pot that controls the speed of the tape player’s motor with a handful of potentiometers. These are each activated with momentary buttons located underneath the wooden keys. In the video after the break, [Rich] gives a complete and detailed guide to building your own. There’s also a polished Google doc that includes a schematic and the pattern pieces for making the cabinet.

Speaking of which, isn’t the case design nice? It’s built out of craft plywood but aged with varnish and Mod-Podged bits and bobs from vintage electronics magazines. This really looks like a fun little instrument to play.

Would you rather control your tape synth with a MIDI keyboard? Just add Arduino.

Thanks for the tip, [midierror]!

10 thoughts on “Cassette Synth Plays With Speed Control

  1. This is such a fun synth. Thank you for the nice tutorial. I’m going to have to build one for myself, and it’s also given me some ideas for a different project I’m working on

  2. This is a terrific project. It’s a very simple hack, electronically, and of course there have been tons of cassette player speed mods done, but the thought and polish put into making this a complete device really show, and the key movement is a great design.

    I plan to build my own, though I’ll probably need to modify things for the cheap walkman I already have — and I’d advise anybody looking at doing this to look at tape loops instead of going to the trouble of recording 30-45 minutes of sine wave per cassette side.

  3. “Tape may not sound that great compared to vinyl”

    The best tape recordings can sound better than the best vinyl recordings, when using a high quality tape recorder and tape. A nice 30IPS reel to reel sounds excellent.

    The problem is in the sound quality of the compact cassette…

    1. Specifically, the cheap, consumer grade compact cassette, like what we’re all used to.

      It’s worth mentioning that those old Beatles and Zeppelin albums were all recorded onto reel-to-reel tape before they were cut and pressed to vinyl. If tape really sounded worse than vinyl, then you would still hear the bottleneck in fidelity on all those old records.

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