Make Your Music Simpler With The User-Unfriendliest Cassette Deck Ever

Call us crazy, but music was a whole lot more fun when it was on physical media. Or perhaps just easier to use, especially in the car. Whether your particular vintage favored CDs, cassettes, or even 8-tracks, being able to fish out that favorite album and slam it in the player while never taking your eyes off the road was a whole lot easier than navigating a playlist on a locked phone, or trying to control an infotainment system through soft buttons on a touch screen.

It seems like [Jarek Lupinski] is as much a Spotify Luddite as we are, since his “tape-deck” project is aimed to be as user-unfriendly as possible. It’s just an auto-reversing cassette deck movement stripped bare of all useful appurtenances, like a way to fast forward or rewind. You just put a cassette in and it plays, start to finish, before auto-reversing to play the other side in its entirety. It doesn’t even have a volume control — his cheeky advice is to “listen to louder or quieter albums” to solve that problem. Pretty easy, really, and not a EULA or advertisement in sight. Build files are available if you hate yourself enough to build one of your own.

All kidding aside, this is kind of a nice reminder of how much things have changed, and how much complexity we’ve layered onto the simplest of pleasures. If you like the minimalist approach of this project but not the deconstructed aesthetics, we’ve got you covered.

17 thoughts on “Make Your Music Simpler With The User-Unfriendliest Cassette Deck Ever

    1. Who else here has tried playing a record by taping a piece of paper into a cone, placing a pin sticking out the point and twirling the record on a pencil?

      I liked that as a kid,.

  1. As a teenager I remember being jealous of a friend’s car stereo that had a per-song fast-forward feature. You press a button and it would fast forward until it detected the silence between the current and next song I think. It felt kind of like a poor-man’s CD player being able to “skip” tracks.

    It’s kind of opposite to this build but from time to time I still think about that and with today’s open source hardware… I start thinking about an open source tape deck.

    I’d love to build it into a 5 1/4″ enclosure, mount it in my desktop and have my desktop control it. Barring that an external enclosure plugged into the PC. I’m not sure I would even care about record, it’s purpose would be more for recovering things off of legacy media. Although if I could have record without too much effort I would do so just because.

    Oh.. the things I would do if I didn’t have responsibilities to eat all my time.

      1. Yah. Some time back I got on a kick that I wanted something exactly like that. But it’s out of production. I did find they occasionally sell on FleaBay but can be expensive. And are old.

        And casette decks. at least the ones that insert that way have so many fiddly complex mechanical fixtures inside that eat your tape when something is out of adjustment. Sticking media I am trying to archive into a device that might eat it does not make me excited!

        So then my mind went to the idea of an open source cassette deck that uses things “we” are all familiar with today like 3d printed parts, lead screws, etc.. and whatever read (or read/write) head is still most common and easy to source.

        I suppose eliminating all that complex mechanical stuff means it isn’t going to be an end-insert design which means it isn’t going to fit in a 5 1/4″ bay. Oh well. An external unit that plugs in via USB is acceptable as well.

        But that’s just yet another idea I have no time for. So… thought dropped. Not before daydreaming about an optical scanner for records and/or wax cylinders. (also not going to happen)

        How hard could building a magnetic wire player possibly be?
        Not that I have EVER come across a wire to play!

    1. Rewind and fast forward with the head in contact with the tape even if not using the skip feature, this broke the cassette at the quality level it had all along. Wear the hell out of your tapes and the head, I had to warn friends back then.

      The one feature that had me buy was Pioneer’s play after rewind, and no auto reverse which is 2 poorer drives in one and wondering which side is playing.

  2. I remember super janky cassette players that only had fast forward, no rewind. You had to turn tape over, FF, then reverse it. Pretty quickly you learned the points in the songs on the B side to make this work OK. Talk about aggressively user unfriendly.

      1. Those existed. They were called the Digisette Duo-MP3. I had one in the early 2000’s. I still have it somewhere, but the batteries are toast.

        I also have a cheap no-name mp3 player that is in a cassette case that can be played in a cassette player, as well as a Bluetooth cassette.

        The Digisette had a metal shell, and used the fast forward and rewind on the cassette deck to skip tracks. The others don’t.

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