Will Magnetic Tape Eventually Go Full Circle ? Re.

(This is a repost of my response to a forum question of the same title posted on 2-17-04)

Does anyone remember the EL cassette? It was a large cassette that resembled a video tape. I think the tape was 1/4" or maybe larger. The "concept" was basically a cassette that had reel to reel tape loaded into it. I remember seeing one around 1975. Obviously, it was a marketing failure but I think that the concept was sound, in fact I have seriously considered the marketability of a similar machine using vhs cassettes. The player would be a two track two channel machine that used analogue style convential tape heads and not vhs rotary heads. So, now we are talking about 1/2" tape ran at 30 i.p.s. or higher on a mass marketed media that is available everywhere!!! I think that there would be a large demand for high quality pre-recorded tapes. When you consider what the best digital transports, upsamplers and D.A.C.s cost, plus all the required cables $$$, and most people still say that a budget turntable sounds better than all of that if you can even afford it, I think my idea starts to seem reasonable. If that is not exciting enough, realise that it is a RE-recordable format, analogue to analogue or digital to analogue and is backwards compatible with all blank vhs tape. It might in fact sound so good that people would want to make digital copies from the analogue source for their cd,mp etc.players;) P.S. Does anyone besides me realise that the real reason for 5.1 SACD is for automobiles and not home theatre? It is just my opinion, I may be wrong...
No, we'll never go back en masse to magnetic tape. Analog tape is all but dead, and digital tape (even in the IT industry) is right behind it.

Re: MC SACD in automobiles - the problem with this is that automobiles are too noisy for SACD in its current form. In order to do well in the automobile environment, dynamic compression would have to be applied to overcome the masking effects of all the environmental noise. Dynamic compression defeats the whole purpose of SACD.
The EL cassette ran at 3 3/4 IPS. I strongly doubt that 30 IPS in any kind of cassette would be possible. Tape of any kind is a dead issue.
Look at ther Wall Street Journal from Tuesday (I think - give or take a day or 2). There was a fromt page article about the last remaining analog tape manufacturer in the country going Chapter 11. The small percentage of studios / artists still using tape are trying to scoff up all the remaining tape from this manufacturer as possible. The company hopes to reorganize and stay in business. There is still tape available from China, but supposedly not as high quality. Interesting article.
Take a look at the front page story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. The only domestic manufacturer of 2" audio tape filed for bankruptcy and closed its plant on December 31.

The story was about those bands, producers, etc. that are dedicated to recording to tape and what they are going through to get supplies of tape.

Interesting side note. Archival data from sensors on the space shuttle are also written to 2" tape.
Yeah, I remember El-cassette! As I recall, the cassettes were about the same size as today's VHS cassettes, and I'm sure that some of the VHS tape technology derived from this extinct format.

There were three advantages to the El-cassette vs. regular cassette:

1) Wider tape, which was also a 2 track recording (only 1 side, couldn't flip them over) NOT 4 tracks allowing for higher recording levels, (less noise).
2) Faster speed (2x) for higher frequency response.
3) The entire tape drive was handled by the machine, NOT inside of the cassette! In an El-cassette, the tape was pulled from the cassette, and tape guide components were in the machine. With a conventional cassette, the tape drive path is handled inside of the cassette. This can result in huge azimuth alignment problems, with a severe loss of high frequencies! The cheap plastic shell supports the entire tape guide path, and different brands, manufacturing lots, or temperature variations can all affect azimuth! And azimuth alignment even varies when placing the same tape in different tape decks! Nakamichi was the only manufacturer (to my knowledge) that offered an azimuth adjustment!

Pre-recorded cassettes are usually duped not in real time, but at several times actually speed. The high frequency response goes right in the crapper. Pre-recorded El-cassettes would not be cost effective, since they would have to be duped in real time or to develop a duping machine, running at least 120 IPS, which may be an impossibility. Running an El-cassette at 30 IPS, with a conventional non-rotary head, would limit recording time to about 10 to 15 minutes. The transport and braking motors needed to run at 30 IPS would make an El-cassette machine excessively large, heavy, and expensive, if at all possible. It is interesting though, that I have an older Mitsubishi Super VHS machine (U-71), from the early '90s. One of the applications listed in its manual, is using S-VHS tapes for high fidelity audio only recordings.

When all is said and done, the old method of mechanical analog recordings (dating back to Edison's wax cylinders) may survive all of the newer formats. Now that's going full circle!