Echo and reverb are now electronic audio effects done in a computer or an integrated circuit, but originally they were achieved through mechanical means. Reverb units used springs, and echo units used loops of magnetic tape. As a musician hankering after a mechanical tape echo unit, [Adam Paul] was left with no choice but to build his own. We featured an early prototype, but now he’s back with a finished version that’s intended to be replicated by other musicians.
The unit takes a cassette mechanism from one of the last still-manufactured players available through the usual sources. It splits record and play heads, with the normal cassette replaced with a tape loop made from extra-thick computer tape. A custom PCB replaces most of the electronics, and the auto-reverse system is disabled.
The benefit of 3D printers is that they have made it relatively easy to reproduce just about any little plastic thing you might happen to break. If you’re one of the diehards that still has a cassette collection, you might find these 3D prints from Thingiverse useful to repair and maintain any broken tapes you may have.
If you’ve ever stepped on a cassette tape, you’ll know it’s easy to crack the housing and render it unplayable. If you find yourself in this position, you can always 3D print yourself a new cassette tape housing as created by [Ehans_Makes]. The housing design only covers the outer parts of the cassette tape, and doesn’t include the reels, screws, or other components. However, it’s perfect for transplanting the guts of a damaged cassette into a new housing to make it playable once again. The creator recommends using Maxell cassette parts with the design, as it was based on a Maxell cassette shell.
For the modders and musique concrèters out there, [sveltema] designed a simple 3D printed guide for creating tape loops of various lengths. Simply adding a few of these guides to a cassette shell will let you wind a longer continuous loop of tape inside a regular cassette shell. Meanwhile, if you simply want to jazz up your next mixtape gift, consider this cosmetic reel-to-reel mod from [mschiller] that makes your cassettes look altogether more romantic.
Many called the Compact Cassette dead, and yet it continues to live on with enthusiasts. Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about keeping your cassette deck operating at its best, we’ve featured a masterclass on that very topic, too!
While packing merch for a recent gig, I realised I had the opportunity to do something a little fun. I’d released an album on tape, and spent a little extra to ensure the cassette itself was a thing of beauty. It deserved to be seen, rather than hidden away in a case on a shelf. I wanted to turn this piece of musical media into a necklace.
Of course, cassette tapes aren’t meant to be used in this way. Simply throwing a chain through the cassette would lead to tape reeling out everywhere. Thus, I fired up some CAD software and engineered a solution to do the job! Here’s how I built an adapter to turn any cassette tape into a cool necklace.
In our no-nonsense journey through the world of audio technology we’ve so far have looked at digital audio and the vinyl disk recording. What’s missing? Magnetic tape, the once-ubiquitous recording medium that first revolutionised the broadcast and recording industries in the mid-20th-century, and went on to be a mainstay of home audio before spawning the entire field of personal audio. Unless you’re an enthusiast or collector, it’s likely you won’t have a tape deck in your audio setup here in 2021 and you’ll probably be loading your 8-bit games from SD card rather than cassette, but surprisingly there are still plenty of audio cassettes released as novelties or ephemeral collectables.
The Device That Made The Sound Of The Latter Half Of The 20th Century
The first magnetic recordings were made directly on metal wires, but metal fatigues as it bends. By coating a flexible plastic tape in ferrous particles, the same simple technique of laying down an audio signal as variations in the magnetic field could be made smaller, lighter, and more robust. But the key to the format’s runaway success is the technical advancements that differentiate those 1950s machines from their wire recorder ancestors.
Whether it is a humble cassette recorder or a top-end studio multitrack, all tape recorders are very similar. There are two reels that hold the tape: the playback reel that houses the recording, and the take-up reel that stores the tape as it plays in the machine. The take-up reel is lightly driven to run faster than the tape speed, and the playback reel has a slight braking force to keep the tape under tension at all times. Continue reading “Know Audio: Mixtapes, Tape Loops, And Razor Blades”→
At the beginning of the home computer revolution, the humble compact cassette was far and away the most popular choice for microcomputer data storage, especially on the European continent. As a volunteer at the Museum of Computing, [Keith] was instrumental in recovering and archiving the early works of Roger Dymond, a pioneering developer of early computer software in the United Kingdom.
In his video, [Keith] goes to great lengths detailing the impact that Roger Dymond had on the early home computing scene. After being let go from his council apprenticeship, Roger turned his attention to developing games for the ZX81, and later the ZX Spectrum. With the help of his family, he went on to run a moderately successful mail-order games publishing venture for several years. Increasing advertising costs and a crowded development scene saw Roger’s business become nonviable by 1983, but not before developing several gambling-style games and a standout Space Invaders clone.
Fast forward to 2021, and while some of Roger’s Spectrum software had been archived, much had been marked as ‘missing’ by online archivists. After further research, [Keith] realized that another potentially important tape had been forgotten about. ‘Games Compendium’ for the ZX81 had been completely lost to time, with the only evidence that it had ever existed coming from a 1983 advert in ‘Sinclair User’ magazine. Being written for the earlier model ZX81, the compendium would undoubtedly be of interest to software archivists and game historians.
Sometimes we are vaguely aware of the inexorable march of technological progress. Other times it thrums steadily under the surface while we go about our lives. And sometimes, just sometimes, it smacks us right in the face.
Honestly, sometimes we just have to sit back and be amazed at the kind of computer power that can be packed into such tiny packages. The Pi Zero isn’t the smallest or the most powerful of options, but it is far more capable than the computer it is emulating here. So whether they’re hiding inside outdated storage formats or powering a stock-looking sleeper PSP, we just can’t help but be impressed.
The audio cassette was the first music format that truly championed portability. It was robust, compact, and let people take music on the go to soundtrack their very lives. It was later supplanted by the higher-quality CD and then further digital technologies, but the format remains a nostalgic highlight for many. It also inspired this excellent lamp build from [Fab].
The lamp consists of 8 clear cassettes assembled into a rough cube-like shape on a 3D printed frame. The cassettes are edge-lit from below by a set of WS2812B LEDs, letting them glow in full-color splendour. The real magic of the lamp is the interface, however. A pencil can be inserted to turn the tape reels, just like rewinding a real cassette. However, in this case, they’re attached to a pair of rotary encoders, which are used to vary the color of the LEDs. As a bonus, the entire lamp runs off a Wemos D1, making it possible to update the lamp remotely over the Internet.