Variable-speed playback cassette players were already the cool kids on the block. How else are you going to have any fun with magnetic tape without ripping out the tape head and running it manually over those silky brown strips? Sure, you can change the playback speed on most players as long as you can get to the trim pot. But true variable-speed players make better synths, because it’s so much easier to change the speed. You can make music from anything you can record on tape, including monotony.
[schollz] made a tape synth with not much more than a variable-speed playback cassette player, an Arduino, a DAC, and a couple of wires to hook it all up. Here’s how it works: [schollz] records a long, single note on a tape, then uses that recording to play different notes by altering the playback speed with voltages from a MIDI synth.
To go from synth to synth, [schollz] stood up a server that translates MIDI voltages to serial and sends them to the Arduino. Then the DAC converts them to analog signals for the tape player. All the code is available on the project site, and [schollz] will even show you where to add Vin and and a line in to the tape player. Check out the demo after the break.
There’s more than one way to hack a cassette player. You can also force them to play full-motion, color video.
Continue reading “Reel In The Years With A Cassette Player Synth”
My DEF CON Safe Mode badge just arrived in the mail this afternoon. The Vegas-based conference which normally hosts around 30,000 attendees every year has moved online in response to the global pandemic, and the virtual event spins up August 6-9. Known for creative badges, North America’s most well-known infosec con has a tick-tock cycle that alternates electronic and non-electronic badges from year to year. During this off-year, the badge is an obscure deprecated media: the audio cassette.
This choice harkens back to the DEF CON 23 badge which was an vinyl record — I have the same problem I did back in 2015… I lack access to playback this archaic medium. Luckily [Grifter] pointed everyone to a dump of the audio contents over at Internet Archive, although knowing how competitive the badge hacking for DEF CON is, I’m skeptical about the reliability of these files. Your best bet is to pull the dust cover off your ’88 Camry and let your own cassette roll in the tape deck. I also wonder if there are different versions of the tape.
But enough speculation, let’s look at what physically comes with the DEF CON 28 badge.
Continue reading “Hands-On: The Pandemic DEF CON Badge Is An Audio Cassette”
The see-through electronics craze of the ’80s and ’90s clearly had an effect on [MisterM], and we can totally relate. Those candy-colored components inside undoubtedly launched a few thousand kids in the direction of electronics, as we can attest.
Though the odds seemed very much against him, [MisterM] was able to fit all the necessary components for a scrolling IoT notifier inside a standard cassette tape. It took a bit of surgery on both the Raspberry Pi Zero W and the donor cassette in the name of getting all the components to fit in such a tight space. We’re glad he kept at it, because it looks amazing.
The Raspi uses Adafruit.IO and IFTTT to get all kinds of notifications — tweets, weather, soil moisture, you name it — and scrolls them across an 11×7 LED matrix. A vibrating disc motor gives a buzzing heads up first, so [MisterM] doesn’t miss anything. Hit the break button and flip this thing over, because the build video is all queued up on the B-side.
If you’d rather play around with cassette decks, add in some playback speed potentiometers to mess with the sound, or go all out and make a Mellotron.
Continue reading “IoT Cassette Scroller Never Needs A Pencil”
Digital delay pedals are pretty good nowadays and even the cheaper ones do a pretty good job at emulating the sound of old analog delay effects. And that’s good, because the original delay effects can run you a pretty penny. If you’re in to DIY electronics, though, analog delay effects can still be built without breaking the bank, and, as an example, [Matsound] has made a tape delay using an old tape deck and regular cassette tapes.
The core of the build is a portable 3-head cassette recorder, in this case a Marantz PMD430. The circuit has been around for a while – it was originally found in an issue of Stompboxology in the 90’s. The basic idea is that with a three-head recorder (erase, record, play) the distance between the record and play heads creates a delay and you increase this delay by slowing down the recorder’s motor. You combine the output from the recorder with the dry signal from your input and, viola, tape delay.
[Matsound] added a cool feature where you can control the speed of the motor with a control voltage, so if you connect it to a keyboard and produce different voltages from different keys, you get weird, spacey effects. The video gives an overview of the features and some details of the build process are in the video’s description.
A nice build built into a nice case and a great effect! Maybe you wouldn’t take it out gigging with you, but it sure sounds pretty good! Other delay pedals have been mentioned on the site before, like this digital delay pedal and here’s another take on the cassette tape delay.
Continue reading “DIY Cassette Tape Guitar Delay”
[Gijs Gieskes] is certainly no stranger to hacked cassette players, but his latest triumph may well be the most approachable project for anyone looking to explore the world of unorthodox tape unspooling. By attaching a fairly simple add-on PCB to a modern portable cassette player, the user is able to modify the playback speed of the tape at will. The skillful application of such temporal distortions leads to wonderfully abstract results.
The board that [Gijs] has come up with uses four potentiometers and matching push buttons to allow the user to set different playback speeds that they can engage with the push of the button. There’s also a fifth potentiometer to augment the “global” speed as well as an override switch. During playback, these controls can be used to arbitrarily tweak and augment the sound of samples contained on a the looping cassette.
If that’s a little hard to conceptualize, don’t worry. [Gijs] has provided some examples of how the the rapid adjustment of playback speed offered by this “Zachtkind” can add a fascinating level of complexity to sounds and melodies. The assembled player is available for purchase ready to go, but he also provides kits and a detailed installation guide for those who’d rather build it themselves.
Going all the way back to 2005, [Gijs] and his incredible creations have been a staple of Hackaday. From the Arduino video sampler to the array of oddly musical analog clocks, we never cease to be in awe of this exceptionally prolific hacker.
The audio cassette is an audio format that presented a variety of engineering challenges during its tenure. One of the biggest at the time was that listeners had to physically remove the cassette and flip it over to listen to the full recording. Over the years, manufacturers developed a variety of “auto-reverse” systems that allowed a cassette deck to play a full tape without user intervention. This video covers how Akai did it – the hard way.
Towards the end of the cassette era, most manufacturers had decided on a relatively simple system of having the head assembly rotate while reversing the motor direction. Many years prior to this, however, Akai’s system involved a shuttle which carried the tape up to a rotating arm that flipped the cassette, before shuttling it back down and reinserting it into the deck.
Even a regular cassette player has an astounding level of complexity using simple electromechanical components — the humble cassette precedes the widespread introduction of integrated circuits, so things were done with motors, cams, levers, and switches instead. This device takes it to another level, and [Techmoan] does a great job of showing it in close-up detail. This is certainly a formidable design from an era that’s beginning to fade into history.
The video (found after the break) also does a great job of showing glimpses of other creative auto-reverse solutions — including one from Phillips that appears to rely on bouncing tapes through something vaguely resembling a playground slide. We’d love to see that one in action, too.
One thing you should never do with a cassette deck like this is use it with a cassette audio adapter like this one.
Continue reading “The Hard Way Of Cassette Tape Auto-Reverse”
We were just starting to wonder exactly what we’re going to do with our old collection of cassette tapes, and then along comes art robotics to the rescue!
Russian tech artist [::vtol::] came up with another unique device to make us smile. This time, it’s a small remote-controlled, two-wheeled robot. It could almost be a line follower, but instead of detecting the cassette tapes that criss-cross over the floor, it plays whatever it passes by, using two spring-mounted tape heads. Check it out in action in the video below.
Some of the tapes are audiobooks by sci-fi author [Stanislaw Lem] (whom we recommend!), while others are just found tapes. Want to find out what’s on them? Just drive.
Continue reading “Tape-Head Robot Listens To The Floor”