Cassette Decks Product Guide
Cassette decks, one of the oldest audio components, still remain an almost essential device to complete any home audio system.
Cassette decks are analog units that allow you to record audio from CDs, records, and other devices onto cassette, and duplicate them too. For a reasonable price, you'll be able to choose from our wide selection of featured-packed decks. Cassette decks come as single or dual and have neat functions like high-speed dubbing, auto-reverse and relay-play modes, music searches and more. Hook-up is easy, too. Here's a quick guide to the features and functions of cassette decks.
A cassette deck is a device that allows you to play and record cassette tapes. These decks have a variety of different inputs, and you may basically hook up to any source (CD player, DVD Player, record player) and record audio onto cassette tape. Cassette decks connect to your home audio system via a receiver. Most decks today come with headphone jacks, and include some kind of control panel where most functions are. Some may even have a microphone input. Cassette decks usually do not come with remotes, but are remote compatible.
Types of Tape Decks
Besides different styles and colors, there are many more important choices you need to make when choosing a cassette deck. Cassette decks come single or double. If you need to dub cassettes, you'll need a dual cassette deck, if not, than stick with a single one.
If you don't plan to do any kind of cassette dubbing (recording from one cassette to another), a single cassette deck should be sufficient. What's the good of having a single cassette deck? Well, you can still record from several different sources onto cassette. Enjoy all the various play modes like Intro-Scan, Synchro Start, and Music Search among others.
Double / Dual Deck
These are more common than single decks. On a dual deck, you have the convenience of dubbing from one cassette to another, usually with the option of recording it in various speeds. Functions on a dual deck include the ones on a single deck, plus more editing and playback options.
Dolby B, C, and S
Unlike digital audio, analog audio picks up a lot of noise when being recorded or dubbed. An annoying hiss may be heard on the recording. Dolby Laboratories came out with a technology to try and minimize these hisses. Dolby B, which emerged years ago, reduces high-frequency hiss by 8 to 10 dB. Dolby C works over a wider frequency range and reduces noise by 15 to 18 dB. Dolby S is the latest and most powerful version of all, and it covers the full range of audible frequencies, reducing noise up to 24 dB in the higher frequencies, up to 10 dB in the lower frequencies. Dolby S is the most sophisticated in noise reduction encoding methods and offers a much purer signal to be recorded and reproduced. Definitely shop for a deck that has Dolby S, if you plan to record on your deck often. Some cassette decks even allow for automatic audio level adjustments, so you don't have to worry about your recorded audio being too loud or too quiet.
Dolby HX Pro
This feature works along with noise reduction technology, and is yet another attempt to compensate for the loss of high frequencies. Dolby HX Pro uses a different technology to reduce the effects of tape saturation, which then makes it possible to record loud musical passages with fewer high-frequency losses and less distortion. It is available in higher-end cassette decks and is also widely used by the recording industry to improve the quality of prerecorded cassettes. This technology is found in almost all modern cassette decks.
Audio heads on cassette decks have less to do with quality than with output. There are 3 main functions that any cassette recorder head contains: record, play and erase. With 2-head cassette decks, one head is a combination play/record head and the other is an erase head. 3-head decks use separate heads for play, record, and erase, which means that you may monitor "what's being recorded" rather than just "what's being played." You'll hear exactly what your recorded tape sounds like. 3-head cassette decks are slightly more expensive than 2-head decks.
Bias is an inaudible frequency tone, which mixes with an input signal while recording, to make hearing levels accurate. Every recording has a perfect setting where the levels are ideal for recording. Controlling the "bias" determines how accurate this level is. If too much bias is used, high-frequency response will not be audible, causing the recording to sound dull. If too little is used, high frequencies will be emphasized, causing the recording to sound harsh and maybe even distorted. Cheap cassette decks come with an automatic bias adjustment, which means when you pop in a tape, the bias is set after sensing what kind it is. More expensive decks allow you to adjust the bias, and may have an automatic feature as well.
There are three basic types of cassette tapes available. Your choice of which cassette to use should depend on how important quality and clarity are to your recording.
Normal tape (also known as Ferric) is the most basic and most inexpensive of cassette tapes. They work best when recording non hi-fi recording for portables, like a lecture or interview. Normal cassettes come as both "normal bias" and "high bias."
Chrome (short for Chromium Dioxide) is the most common and widely used of all cassette tapes. These tapes are reasonably priced and are good for recording most music applications. These are high bias tapes.
Metal tape was introduced about the same time as the CD and is specifically designed to capture the energy and the high notes from well-recorded CDs and to make studio-quality recordings. Metal tape is more expensive but is the tape of choice for the highest fidelity recordings. To record or playback chrome or metal tape your deck must have a CR/MTL switch, for proper sound quality. There are also high bias tapes, and are particularly good when used over and over. Cheaper or lesser quality audio cassette tapes tend to not hold up with re-recording audio.
The various functions of a cassette deck vary widely on which brand and what type of deck you purchase, but here are some of the basics that you may feel are necessary when buying your deck.
Whether you have a single or dual deck cassette player, an Auto-Reverse function proves very practical. This function plays (and/or records) both sides of tape automatically, without having to get up and flip the tape over when it's done.
This applies only to dual-cassette decks. When one tape is playing or recoding, once it is finished, the deck automatically switches to the tape in the other.
Also handy when recording is a Synchro-Start feature where pushing one button allows the source to be played the same time that you begin your recording.
Decks with Music Search allow you to fast-forward the blank spots on a tape to where there is music, and play it from there. This makes finding songs very easy. Programmable Music Search is a variation of this function that lets you skip forward or reverse to whatever song you want... the 4th...the 6th...etc.
This function searches for each song, plays for 15 seconds or so and then searches for the next selection. This is a very convenient way to find the song you want to hear on a tape. Some CD players also use this technology.
Recording from one cassette to another can be a time-consuming process. If a dual-cassette deck has a "high-speed" dubbing function, you can cut that recording time in half on many players. Some players are faster than others.
All cassette decks have recording level controls that let you adjust how loud you want your recorded music. If your levels are too high, your tape will sound distorted. If they are too low, hiss and noise can be audible. These levels are usually indicated by two lines (for the left and right channels) of flashing lights. Every time music hits the peak level, it should change a different shade or color, indicating that you've reached the peak. Occasionally touching the peak is okay for recorded audio. It's when the level is always in peak, or well below peak, that there will be a problem.
A cassette player needs to connect to a home audio receiver. The connections are with standard RCA cables. To learn how to connect your cassette deck, check out JR.com's Monster Cable Connection Guide for color diagrams, articles and tips.
Wow & Flutter
Wow & Flutter measures indicate speed fluctuations. The percentage of wow and flutter measures the number of low- and high-frequency speed fluctuations present in the recording. The lower the percentage, the better sounding the audio and the more accurate and stable the speeds. The rating is and should always be less than 1%
Of all your home theater components, a cassette deck is the one that needs to be cleaned most often. All tapes shed oxide to some degree when played and this oxide can form a gummy residue that will degrade your tape deck's performance and may cause your tape to be grabbed and get stuck inside your player. Cleaning may be done manually with a cotton swab and isopropyl or with specially-made cleaning cassettes (also available at JR.com). You should try and clean your cassette decks after 20 hours of play or record time.
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