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My hobby collecting music cassettes

Started by Johnnie F., September 21, 2020, 09:04:41 PM

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Johnnie F.

Collecting LP albums about everyone of my friends had as one of their hobbies, where I grew up. We had tape recorders and kept swapping those vinyls, as they're referred to now, for recording. Saturday mornings we went to the flea market to sell what we didn't like anymore or had already "secured" on Reel-to-Reel tape for future consumption and could trade again. Then the cassette tapes came and replaced the R-R. They were handier and became a collector's item themselves, recorded by oneself or purchased prerecorded.

Then the Compact Disc came at prices at least twice the vinyl. And they weren't traded at the flea market as much. Investing in a CD required careful consideration.

At age 35 I moved to Thailand. My vinyls remained in Germany, my cassettes and CDs I brought over here. CDs were even more expensive over here and (especially in Korat) hardly available. Cassette tapes (pirate copies) were sold for about 35 Baht. Good selections were available on Yamo market or on New Year's market. Their sound quality wasn't always the best. But I bought them to find out, whether I would like the music before I invested the 450 Baht for the CD. Later, when the CDs were more common and also sold as pirate copies for 100 to 120 Baht, the pirated cassette tapes vanished. The record companies sold now original tapes for about 80 Baht. I got used to buying those now, before I made up my mind for the CD.

And now I'm so accustomed to cassette tapes that I prefer to listen to them more often than to my CDs. Streaming music hasn't become my big interest, either. I haven't cancelled my Spotify subscription (129 Baht per month), yet,  but only open it once in a while for info. Cassette tapes are a part of my lifestyle!

There are many people on the web who associate this lifestyle with having a supergood tape deck. Difficult to get a Nakamichi or the like in Korat. After my TEAC gave up a couple of years ago and nobody in Korat felt qualified to fix it, I played cassettes only once in a while on a SONY portable. Last year I managed to find a fairly good ROTEL at Lazada. My interest in tapes got awakened again.

Just a few weeks ago I bought an EZCAP 218 for about 400 Baht at Lazada. That can be used as walkman with batteries inside and earphones. But the feature I'm using it with is connecting it with a USB cable to my computer. With "Audacity" capturing software running and sound modifying with DFX Audio Enhancer I can play my tapes in surprisingly high quality and auto-reverse over my computer and Hi-Fi. It cannot record though.


Hi Johnnie, thats good to see, they say it's Healthy to have a hobby and i'm sure it improves the quality of life. So much different doing things for pleasure. you get the fun out of it. hey do you remember the first tape twindecks that came out years ago, they tried to make them ilegal as people could copy music to a blank tape, my how we have moved on since then.

I liked the 8 track days blasting the Everly Brothers, oh! the memories. ::)

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Johnnie F.

Quote from: thaiga on September 21, 2020, 11:19:27 PM
my how we have moved on since then.

Downloading with Audials or the like as file on your harddrive or usb stick is just too easy. How can I value that music, if there is about no work or effort of myself (or expense) involved in the copying? My cassettes need some maintenance and weren't for free. I can identify those as mine. If that's materialism, materialism isn't as bad as some say.


Quote from: Johnnie F. on September 22, 2020, 12:17:08 AM
I can identify those as mine. If that's materialism, materialism isn't as bad as some say.
materialism - yes amazing you can get a lifetimes collection of music, cd s, cassettes on just a small usb stick. but we know which one holds the value to the owner most. like the effort one puts in collecting them, holds the value. Happiness can't be bought in a store

good story here on materialism, part post below from psychologytoday.com

Our appetite for wealth and material goods isn't driven by hardship, but by our own inner discontent. We're convinced that we can buy our way to happiness, that wealth is the path to permanent fulfillment and well-being. We still measure success in terms of the quality and price of the material goods we can buy, or in the size of our salaries.

Our mad materialism would be more forgivable if there was evidence that material goods and wealth do lead to happiness. But all the evidence fails to show this. Study after study by psychologists has shown that there is no correlation between wealth and happiness. The only exception is in cases of real poverty, when extra income does relieve suffering and brings security. But once our basic material needs are satisfied, our level of income makes little difference to our level of happiness.

Research has shown, for example, that extremely rich people such as billionaires are not significantly happier than people with an average income, and suffer from higher levels of depression. Researchers in positive psychology have concluded that true well-being does not come from wealth but from other factors such as good relationships, meaningful and challenging jobs or hobbies, and a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves (such as a religion, a political or social cause, or a sense of mission).

Explanations for Materialism ...
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Johnnie F.

Back to the topic cassette tapes collecting, maintaining and playing.

At retirement age with hefty pensions we're able to buy tape machines we could only long for through shop windows when we were young. Nakamichis, Technics, Harman Kardons, TEACs etc are available on Ebay second-hand in good condition at for us now affordable prices. So we might finally go for that Nakamichi Dragon we'd always dreamed of.

Those of us who were in tapes and home recording for a long time know about a problem called "headwear", that exists  especially with old tapes and cassettes, that work like sandpaper on the heads until those don't reproduce high sounds anymore. That's why in my opening post I introduced this EZCAP. A big tape machine apart from the mechanical features like tape transport mainly has its advantage at the reproduction of the sound, producing a good analog signal for amplification in our Hi-Fis.

Though that EZCAP looks like an ordinary Walkman, and even can be used as such, it has another feature: directly after the head it converts the analog signal from the tape to a digital signal, which then travels via a USB cable to the computer. Your computer then can process that digital signal, make good analog sound of that again and, if you have a good Sound Card, gives that signal in high quality analog or digital to your Hi-Fi.

My point was, that with your computer, that you already got for reading this forum or whatever, and just a cheap peripheral you can use your old tapes again without ruining your hi-class tape deck; your computer can take over part of the functions of that. All you still need is that small peripheral that looks like a Walkman, besides some software, which can be downloaded for free or at little expense. And for the price of all that I don't need to fear headwear. It won't make me poor to buy a new player, if the heads are worn out. Replacing the heads on a hi-end tape deck, if I find the parts and a mechanic who can do that in Korat, might cost a vast multiple.

Johnnie F.

Time for a follow up on my cassette-hobby!

Back in the 1980s we liked cassettes also for playing in portables, by then called Ghetto-Blasters. Nowadays they're called Boomboxes and play CDs besides radio and tapes, some even play MP3 files from USB stick or TF cards or SD cards, or connect to wifi and play Spotify or Youtube etc. There are plenty of models around, but only a few are good for playing tapes.

If you look around those audiophiles' forums, many advise: "Get a second-hand Ghetto-Blaster from the 1980s and fix it up." After my experience of being told by the repairshop Amorn in IT Plaza that they cannot put a new belt in my Superscope (Marantz) portable, that had Dolby and recorded and played Metal tapes, I didn't risk to venture into that.

Looking for a brandnew in shops and internet shops in Thailand, I didn't find anything nearly suiting my interests, just PANDA made in China or SONY made in China. First I bought a SONY CFD-S70 for about THB 2.400. Better than nothing, but not really good sound playing tapes. After a few months the CD player stopped playing. Too lazy to run around for a warranty repair! Only THB 2.400? So I ordered another. Didn't take more than three or four months and CDs didn't play anymore, either! So I gave up on portables for a while. Then I made another attempt with the only available SONY CFD-S70. It still works;  but that could be due to me hardly using it.

About 3 years ago SONY brought out a new Boombox, the CFD-S401, but it was/is only sold in Japan. The imported Japanese version was offered in Thailand for about THB 15.000. Now, for that price SONY must have made something good again. But I didn't fall for it at that price. When it got down to about THB 8.000 I ordered one to import. Took a long time without getting delivered, and then the purchase was cancelled and refunded by the market place (LAZADA) for the reason of "sourcing delay".  Ok, I thought, maybe this is so highly demanded, and ordered again. Took a long time of no delivery again. I didn't expect it anymore.

Then I saw a video on Youtube of a guy testing, explaining and recommending the PANASONIC RX-D55, a 10 year old model, still produced in Indonesia. No, I couldn't find that in Korat shops or on Thai internet marketplaces. Finally I got to PCHome Thai, that exports from Taiwan to Thailand, who offered it for THB 5722 including shipping and tax. I ordered and already got it about a week later. Surprise! That machine is really good and definitely worth its price.  But one surprise usually doesn't come alone: I got notice from LAZADA now that the ordered SONY CFD-S401 was on its way to me. No problem: then I have just one more portable. And I still expected a good machine at more than the triple price of the shitty SONY CFD-S70s.

And then it came! It has some ok. features like soft touch controls, skip function, a big clock display with digital tape counter etc. And it sounds better than the cheap SONY – CFD-S70, not quite as thin and scratchy. And ok, it is a lot lighter to carry than that PANASOMIC RX-D55, but still doesn't get near that in performance. That's life. But it's just a hobby, and I don't feel sad about having spent so much for something I now find not worth as much. Just hoping it were something for my cassettes was in vain. It's ok for that bunch of 128 kbit MP3 discs, I bought in Korat about 20 years ago. It seems to be made for that.

Johnnie F.

Collected items gain high value upon demand, especially if those items are limited, because they're no longer produced. They're called vintage then.

Vintage cassette tapes have become collectors' items and gain value rapidly. As little example these:

The used on the left (TEAC studio 52X, where the X stands for extra advanced tape formula, produced in 1988/89) is now considered the most expensive cassette in the world; I bought 3 of those about 28 years ago in Korat for 280 baht each. They're very, very good. If you record them from an SACD or DVDA they sound better playing the tape than playing a CD. I haven't seen anybody selling one on Ebay for years now. Even the last for sale I saw went as used for 3-digit USD amounts. The originally wrapped on the right (TEAC studio 52G, where the G stands for the golden color of the reels) is the model before that. Once in a while you can still see some offered on Ebay between $150 and $200.

When I had my first tape recorder I never liked the C-120 tapes, because they got mangled in my recorder so easily. But that doesn't keep collectors from demanding them. Used or still originally sealed they also often go for 3-digit USD amounts.

Another highly demanded classic is the TDK tape in a metal shell, which was favored in studios as master tape for its weight giving stability to the tape run. Originally sealed it goes for about $100.

So a hobby like this can also be an investment gaining value.

Johnnie F.

The cassette-tape-comeback is rolling, but there is another problem to it: to get a superb sound from a cassette tape you also need a superb cassette deck.

Portables are slowly showing up again on the shelves. But what about a decent cassette deck for my hi-end stereo? Buy a second-hand? There is a huge supply!

For example have a look at kaidee.com, where you'll find the finest machines from the last century at ridiculous prices. They might come well maintained and fully functioning to you, but what, if a problem occurs shortly thereafter?

Take it to the repair shop AMORN at IT Plaza (former Nor-East City)? Around 20 years ago they had many qualified mechanics there and fixed my Sansui deck and my Superscope portable, when they needed new belts. But two years ago I brought both there in vain: "No can do!" With that experience in mind I decided not to order one of those second-hand machines from Kaidee.

As I kept looking for a good new old stock tape deck in Thailand I found only a 1995 model mid-range deck at Lazada: ROTEL  RD-960BX for 6,900 Baht, reduced from 12,900. Better than none!

But I kept looking. Finally I found one I like at ubuy.co.th, an international market place: a 2002 SONY TC-WE475 made in Japan. Importing that from the US to Thailand of course did cost a huge lot more: about 32,000 for the tape deck with shipping plus almost 9,000 for customs, tax and handling in Thailand.

The big advantage is, that I can take it to the SONY Servive Center in Korat, if it needs repair or maintenance, not having to carry it home again after an idiot answer "No can do!" The manufacturer's branch would send it to a place that could do it. Still I keep fingers crossed!

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