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Whats the lifespan of the cassette medium

Posted on March 10, 2017 at 08:27:42

Posts: 1241
Joined: July 22, 2003
I tried to reuse some 30 yr old cassettes and the firt thing I notice that I cannot set bias on them correctly anymore. I tried to record some albums that I have on these old timers and it just sounds awful: garbled on one channel and reduced output on the other. I've tried a few old cassettes like that with the same results. New cassettes show no such problem so I know it's not the deck. Majority of the tapes were TDK SA znd I think they were treated fairly, kept in a dark plastic cassette storage system with 6 drawers with each drawer holding about 15 cassettes. They were kept out of sunlight snd away from magnetic fields produced by speakers and such snd krpt at room temperature. Thats why I'm surprised. What is the average lifespan of the cassette as a medium?


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Whats the lifespan of the cassette medium, posted on March 10, 2017 at 10:14:42

Posts: 719
Location: AK
Joined: December 11, 2003
My experience is the opposite. I have cassettes that I recorded in the late 70's and early to mid 80's that play fine. I have a few pre-recorded and they have held up as well. Deck is a stock Nak ZX7 and I am the original owner and it works like the day I bought it. Everything works great on it and I thought it would have gone to CA to be refurbished by Willy by now but as long as everything works I just keep it in the mix. I use Maxell and TDK primarily and both have held up for the long haul.

My reel to reels have been like your experience with cassettes. Tape shedding, muddy (sorry-MUDDY playback). Everyone I tried just sounded horrible. I had a German press circa 1972 White Album that I put on reel to reel that was pristine and playing it back just hurt as I would have loved to keep that copy. I have a Teac X2000 into Sam at present and he said a problem I had was tape build up on the heads. I had cleaned them and tried to re-record a tape (ONE) before boxing it up for him. Just trying one tape gunked the heads (it does have other issues) and when it is fixed I am just going to dump my entire reel to reel as they are toast. Going to have to pony up for new ATR I guess.

I would have guessed that the reels would be good and the cassettes binding, squeaking, and full of drop outs and loss of fidelity. In my case I guessed wrong and my cassettes sound fine and my reels are toast.

Just my experience, Happy Spinning!


I can only comment on playback, posted on March 10, 2017 at 12:21:36

Posts: 11266
Location: New England
Joined: October 12, 1999
October 23, 2016
-- and I can offer anecdotal information only.

Tapes I recorded in the second half of the 1970s (on the deck shown below -- a decent deck, tho' far from a great one), and which have been generally stored -- shall we say -- capriciously, still sound fine.


So I don't know the root cause of the OP's issues.

Could be the specific tapes (perhaps, e.g., storage conditions).
Could be dirty or magnetized heads/tape path.
Could be alignment.

Media used were mostly TDK SA and Maxell UDXLII. Good tapes.

I haven't done too much recording on old tape, though. Not cassette, at any rate.

all the best,


RE: Whats the lifespan of the cassette medium, posted on March 11, 2017 at 09:25:22

Posts: 1194
Location: Montana
Joined: July 30, 2005
December 0, 0000
Can't speak to recording, but playback on most of the tapes I recorded in the 70's to the 90's playback well.

There has been one that played well on side one, but faded and became muddy intermittently on side two. After several fast forwards and fast reverses playing on side two has been not perfect, but much better.

It may be that age fiddles with how freely the reels turn, and running the cassette back and forth frees things up a bit.


Bad pressure pads? -nt, posted on March 11, 2017 at 12:17:24

Posts: 5448
Location: S. Florida
Joined: July 21, 2005


No problem in my end..., posted on March 11, 2017 at 14:13:13

Posts: 5928
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Joined: October 16, 2007
April 6, 2008
as I'm able to record over and rebias old tapes that I have in my collections, which were dated back to early 80's. Most of the cassettes that I use were by Maxell UD XL II and TDK SA Type II brands. And as far as I'm concerned these two brands hold their end very well compared to the other cassette tape brands such as JVC, Memorex, BASF just to name a few that I have in my collections.

Mind you I'm using the Revox B215 machine, so perhaps that has something to do with those tapes astounding longevity.

If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well


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