The cassette or rather the "Compact Cassette®" was invented by the Dutch company Philips in the early 60's. Originally intended for voice recording and therefore designed with no regard for sound quality it nevertheless quickly gained acceptance with hobby recordists
Interestingly the humble cassette has gained more from the technical advancement of the last 20 years than any other analogue medium, some 10 years ago I was by no means ready to accept the budget cassette recorder as a hi-fi medium and considered the format to be a convenience format since it was the only format you could count on being playable in every household. But the performance of even budget dual decks that sell locally for under 100 UKP (around 130 USD or €) is nothing short of stunning, at the very least if you compare it with what they were a few years back. Since getting a decent cassette recorder the Compact Disk Recordable unit has been relegated to making archival copies of CD's only. The user friendliness, generality and reliability of the cassette makes the more modern format seem somehow awkward and time consuming.
There are some technical descriptions in the text that have been making problems for some of you out there so I will give a short explanation of a few here. Bidirectional means that the deck can record on all tracks at once, thus cutting the recording time in half if you are copying cassettes, this has no effect on other recordings.
Please note that we only list hi-fi recorders here and in most cases only recorders. Personal stereos are not listed unless they have a recording facility of a reasonable quality.
BTO This company makes the Plusdeck 2 which is something of an oddball, it is basically a transport from a car cassette deck housed in a 5,25 inch wide casing intended for installation in a PC (e.g. a casing of a same size as a common CD-ROM drive), it features line level outputs which ca be connected to a audio system or a soundcard via a plate that will fit the back of a computer and is controlled via a serial port connector hooked up to the same plate (but will work with USB serial converters if you are running a system without a Superchip). The interesting bit is the MS Windows only software that comes with the machine, but allows the automatic transfers of cassettes into Wave or MP3 files and automatic or semiautomatic transfers of computer audio onto cassette, initial releases of the software had a number of issues but it has improved considerably since it's original release and is now quite useable and in fact can be a considerable time-saver in a number of cases and as such make this an interesting product for a number of people. The Plusdeck 2 is being sold for a not unresonable USD or Euro 150 or just over 90 Pounds, is not a bad value as such, it's main weakness it the tape transport which is a tad noisy and it lacks NR or support for Chromium or Metal tapes, if the convenience features are not of a particular importance to you can get a much better sounding deck for the same price that in addition will support Noise Reduction Systems and high bias tapes. Funnily enough most peddlers of this product advise you to buy it for moving your old cassettes to a "permanent" digital format, since the average lifetime of an archived cassette is considerably longer than of most available digital formats this is obviously nonsense, there are plenty of other motivations for moving your cassette collection to a digital format however.
Denon The Denon range of consumer decks has just been augmented with the introduction of 2 new decks, namely the DRM-595 (text in German) which is an update of the much beloved 555 and only slightly more expensive, the DRW-695 (text in German) dual deck is similarly an updated version of the 585, the older models however remain available at slightly lowered prices more info on the DRM-555 here, it's an affordable single deck has Dolby B, C and HX Pro, bias adjust, MPX filter, auto tape sensing and CD synchronisation , the DRW-585 is a dual deck with very similar technical specifications and features as the 555 but slightly worse audio specs, all of the above decks are auto-reverse n.b. and are much beloved by the British Hi-fi press. The 585 and the 555 is also available as DRW-585P and DRM-555P respectively, the only difference between the P versions and the domestic models appear to be that you can get a rack mount kit for the P version.
Denon also has a range of cassette decks as optional choices for their range of style systems, such as the DRR-M30 for the M-30 and M-50 style systems and the DRR-M31 for the M31 system (the same unit as the DRR-M30 but with a different colour on the front plate), and the DRR-F101 for the F-101 style system (again same recorder, this time in a different box), all of these are horizontally loaded auto-reverse decks that have a fairly basic specification. The DDR-201SA that goes with the 201SA style system and the DDR-F100 that mates with the F-100 style system are again the same recorder with different facades but have both a better audio specification and added features in respect the the three mentioned above, such as Dolby B, C and HX Pro (the other decks have only B).
Harman Kardon The company only has one deck in their catalogue, a dual one called DC-520 but that is actually a fairly well specified and reasonably good sounding deck, has Dolby B, C and HX Pro amongst other features and looks remarkably similar to an Hatai.
JVC Make 2 dual auto reverse decks that actually are rather good for the price, the more expensive one retails for around USD 200 and is called TDW-354BK and has very generous features for the price such as automatic calibration and tape selection and unusually for a consumer deck, a pitch control, very useful feature if you are playing back tapes recorded on a dodgy old deck, and of course it features the more usual Dolby B, Dolby C and Dolby HX Pro. The more budget TDW-254BK has all the same features as it's big brother with the exception of automatic calibration. The Japanese market also gets the TD-W313 MkII deck (page in Japanese), this is a slightly newer design than the other 2 as it was introduced in 2001 but I cannot find any English page on it.
Kenwood The contraction of the audio market has hurt the Kenwood company harder than most others, in the UK the company has exited the audio and AV markets altogether and in America and Asia they have for the most part exited the hi-fi separates market, that leaves mainland Europe as the only place were you will find cassette recorders from the company, the KXF-W1030 is a basic dual deck that actually may be out on it's way as well. Additionally the company makes 2 decks as optional components for their mini/style systems, the systems, the S-SG7 is unusually well specified for such as deck it features Dolby B, C and HX Pro and auto reverse while the stunning X-VH7 is slightly more basic technically and offers only Dolby B and C.
Marantz As with so many other manufacturers Marantz has not had a lot of home hi-fi recorders recently in their line up, currently it's only the SD4050 dual deck that the company offers, mind you that is however a rather well specified deck with Dolby B, C and HX Pro etc. .
Onkyo Has quite a line-up of recorders, but they can be a bit difficult to find on their homepage, but it includes the TA-6211 model that sports Dolby B, C and HX Pro, manual bias calibration & an MPX filter amongst it's features. There is also the dual TA-RW244 deck, it has Dolby B and C etc., and to mate with their mini systems are the K-505TX that sports Dolby B and C in addition to the usual and the K-505X that adds auto reverse and Dolby HX Pro.
Pioneer This is the only company that seems to be spending any money on consumer hi-fi cassette deck development these days and as such should be your first port of call when shopping for a new recorder. Note that there is no model from the company with Dolby S that is because the company's Digital Noise Reduction technology manages to give a similar amount of noise reduction using only Dolby B, C and HX Pro, actually, technically the DNR gives better results than S when measured, but let your ears be the judge, another notable thing about the decks from the company is that aport from the 106 they all have a real time counter which is unusual on budget dual decks. The company has only one single well deck in their lineup, that is the low/mid priced CT-S250 it does not feature the DNR but does have analogue variant of the FLEX technology, in fact it's very similar in specification to CT-W505R below but because of it's a single deck and lacks auto-reverse it has a much better audio specification, it also has a small but extremely neat touch that I wish other audio manufacturers would implement as standard, you can turn off the noisy fluorcent display (yes you can hear the difference).
Of the double becks the cheapest model is typically only distributed in Asia and Africa and is the CT-W106, this model is as basic as they get with only Dolby B and support for type I and II tapes but actually sounds quite reasonable especially considering the rock bottom price, next up is the CT-W208 and that deck is available globally and is much more like it feature wise with Dolby B, C and HX Pro and support for all tape formulations. The classic CT-W404R dual deck that was originally introduced in the early 1994 is still being supplied to the mainland Asian market as the top of the line deck, it has a very similar feature set to the 208 but a slightly better audio specifications and a real time counter. Next up is the CT-W505R auto reverse deck, it sports the usual Dolby B, C and HX Pro but also a couple of unusual feature such as the ALCA and FLEX, these are systems that are designed to compensate for bad NR tracking or poor sound quality on tape playback, and actually work reasonably well, this deck also features a real time counter. The CT-W606DR is Pioneers best selling deck, it has the brilliant DNR system and incoperates the same FLEX and other playback compensation systems as the 505 but does so via the same digital processing as DNR and this results in more accuracy, all in all a very effective system and an improved transport and heads also means that the deck has a much better audio specification than the 505, the CT-W806DR expands upon this concept by using better digital electronics and converters in addition to having 2 motors on each deck, has a digital input and it's able to record on both decks, this deck has been reviewed by Hi-fi Choice and you can read the review here but you should note that the street price of this model is closer to 200 than the 300 £ price stated in the review, the USA model called CT-05D appears to be exactly the same as the 806 except that the word "Elite" is printed on it's front panel.
Sherwood Makes a line of dual decks but only has info on 2 of them online the DD-5080c model that sports Dolby B, C and HX Pro and the high end DD-980 model that features Dolby S in addition to what the cheaper deck has, have not had the opportunity to audition these but have heard good things about them, did get to test the D480 a deck broadly similar to the 5080 but a bit older and it's good for the price but might have problems in competing with the Pioneer and Sony decks after the latest round of price cuts, have not been able to find better information on it on the manufacturers website however.
Sony Despite the fact that Sony is one of the instigator of the Compact Disk Recordable and the inventor of the Mini Disc the company does nevertheless have the biggest consumer cassette deck line-up of any manufacturer but note that not all of the models listed below are distributed globally. Starting with their ES line of single well decks there is the mid priced TC-K1ESA, a fairly cheap 3 head deck with Dolby B, C, S and HX Pro that can be a cracking good buy if you can find it at a good price, there is a favourable user review of it here, and then there is Sony's top of the line ES deck, the stunning TC-KA3ES and the similar (if apparently slightly better specified , difficult to check since Sony does not publish specs)TC-KA6ES, probably the best specified deck on the market currently. The "normal" range of single decks consists of the recently introduced 2 head, 2motor TC-KB920SS that features Dolby B, C, S and HX Pro and auto calibration, what is interesting about that deck is although it is cheaper and has less features than the KE500S it actually has much improved audio specifications over that deck and in fact over any Sony deck outside of the KS3ES behemoth, next up in the line is the TC-KE500S a 3 head deck that has in fact similar specs to the TC-KA1ES and the choice between those 2 might come down between price and warranty. It should be noted that ALL the Sony single transport decks have a mid-ship transport, mechanically isolated from the rest of the deck with Sorbothane, unusual amongst the more budget decks and helps to give them a slightly better WRMS specs than similarly priced products from other makers.
If we take a look at the dual decks the line-up starts with the budget TC-WE305, your basic auto reverse deck with the usual Dolby B but by spending a little more for a TC-WE475 we can get the more useful Dolby B, C and HX Pro and wide range pitch control, the European variant of it is called TC-WE475B/S adds CD synchronisation (in the S version) and a couple of additional minor features, next up is the TC-WE675 and has all the features of the 475 plus auto record levels, bias and recording calibration in addition to a host of convenience features. The ES line of double decks has been trimmed down to only one deck the TC-WA7ESA but that deck is something of a bargain since it features Dolby S on both decks in addition to the more usual Dolby B, C and HX Pro, automatic calibration and auto reverse. You should note that all Sony models named ES have extended warranties (length differs between countries but usually 3 to five years) and sometimes the only difference between a ES model and normal one is the front plate and the warranty. Sony dropped the high end recording walkmen from their linup last year but they do have one recording Walkman model in their catalogue that actually has respectable audio specs, the WM-GX788, the WM-GX400 also has a recording capability and a reasonable audio spec but no noise reduction and is a bit odd, try before you buy.
T+A This as far as I can gather the only company still making recorders in Europe, even their newest upgrade of the M-Line has a cassette component available that is called CC 820 M, more info on it here, it's a fully featured AR deck with Dolby B and C and a fairly automatic bias adjustment etc.., but the most interesting feature of the deck is that it can sense when and if it goes out of alignment and it will then instruct you to take it to a service clinic. Another interesting product from the company is the K 5 system, not a standalone tape deck but probably one of the last high end music system to feature a cassette recorder.
TEAC Has probably the widest range of cassette decks of any of the current manufacturers if we count both their consumer oriented Teac brand and their professional Tascam branded ones, but note as with so many other manufacturers no all models are available globally, check with your local dealer. Their line of dual consumer decks includes the W-518R and the W-600R, these are both dirt cheap and have a respectable rather than good specifications but unlike most low budget models from other manufacturers the 518 does at the least have support for metal tapes, actually the cheaper 518 does have slightly better specs than the 600 but is fully mechanical while the 600 has logic control. The W-790R is quite a jump up in terms of features and audio specifications, it allows for bi-directional recording and playback, Dolby B, C and HX Pro, auto tape selector and a 10% pitch control along with a very good audio specification for the price and a host of convenience features, the next up in the line is the W-860R and that is basically a variant of 790 that can record on both decks (and simultaneously) but note that it has only Dolby HX Pro on deck 2 and pitch control on deck 1
The company's range of single decks appears not to be distributed in the USA, note that the links to the single desks here below are in Japanese but you can find English information on those models on the TEAC UK homepage, those are also geared more towards home recording fans than the dual decks, they are all auto reverse but the single decks are not and have other features or lack of them indicate that market segment, they are also rather keenly priced. The cheapest single deck from the company is R-565 it features Dolby B, C and HX Pro and good audio specs, unusual at this pricepoint but is a bit spartan featurevise, next up is the V-615, it has a similar feature set and audio specifications to the 565 but has a better transport and comes with a remote, top of the line is the V-1050 which is the cheapest 3 head recorder on the market and has much improved audio specifications over the V-615, note that the model sold in the west usually has a black front panel and not a golden one like the Japanese model shown, for a review online see this review by Hi-fi Choice in the UK.
The Teac Mini Hi-fi "style" system line is called the "reference" and available in three basic versions called 100, 300 and 500 (and variants thereof). While the range does not come with cassette decks as standard the company sells decks that will fit into the line namely the R-H500 for the Reference 500 line and R-H300 for the 3xx lines, both are single decks that sport auto tape sensing and Dolby B, C and HX Pro, they are in fact the same decks mechanically the only difference being that the R-H 500 supports bi-directional recording. For the Reference 100 line the company makes the R-H100 an auto-reverse deck also sports Dolby B and C but no HX. Note that none of the reference line shares the same form factor so you cannot mix'n'match components without making it look awkward, also note that the specification for those decks are quite a bit lower than for other consumer decks from the company so you should not be tempted to buy them for anything else than the Reference series.
Technics Basically has one single deck left in their lineup, the RSBX501Y that features Dolby B, C and HX Pro along with auto calibration, this is a bit of an odd deck, it's fairly cheap, fairly average as a recording device but excellent as a playback machine making it an ideal choice if you do a lot of playing back old recordings but seldom record, in fact this slight imbalance makes me suspect it has lithographed heads lifted from a Digital Compact Cassette source (much superior to ordinary heads as playback devices and cheap to manufacture), this deck is called RSBX501EG-K on mainland Europe and you can find the technical specifications in German. The company also has 2 dual decks in their lineup but for some reason you can usually only get one or the other model in any given geographical market, never both, oh well, the decks are the RS-TR373Mk2 and the RSTR474M the only difference I can see between them is that the 474 has Dolby B, C and HX Pro but the 373 does not have the Dolby HX Pro, feature wise and specification wise they appear very similar however.
Yamaha Corp. Yamaha continues to make quality cassette recorders and unlike most other makers they have single decks in their range, note that the prices listed on the pages linked to here below are "recommended retail prices" and have only a tenacious connection with reality but more pertinently you should note that the company has a limited distribution of cassette decks around the world, the North American division will not admit to distributing any decks at all although some dealers seem to have a limited range of models in stock and the top of the line model appears to be made for the UK market exclusively, also note that some of the links below may be outdated but the availability of the decks was however confirmed by various Yamaha reps in the summer of 2006, however the only unit avialable worldwide was the KXW-321 (see below). The single decks are KX-393 a very well specified budget desk that has Dolby B,C & HX pro, manual Bias control and a Dolby compensation system that Yamaha calls "Playtrim" but that system adjusts for the very real differences in the actual specifications amongst different cassette recorders (and thus tapes), it should be noted that the 393 is the only single transport model sold in a number of markets. The KX-493 an interesting mid line deck that has the same basic specifications as the 393 but has an integrated timer and some of the manual functions on the 393 have an automatic option on the 493, this model appears to be only distributed in Europe, more info on the 393 here or here if the previous link is down, further info the 493 here. Yamaha's top of the line desk is the KX 580SE, it improves on the specifications of the 493 and adds Dolby S to the feature set along with auto tape tuning and manual bias control this is actually a rather interesting deck, it started life as the 580 in the 90's and was often awarded a best buy in it's price class back then, but when Yamaha axed the top of the line range for cost reasons around the turn of the century they needed a cassette deck with audiophile pretensions, what they did was to take the low/mid range 580, improved tracking and the electronics resulting in the 580SE which sounds quite a bit better than the deck than it was based on. Hi-Fi Choice has reviewed the KX-580SE here. The reviews in the English hi-fi press suggest that 580SE is one of the better sounding decks in it's price class and I notice that this deck is being heavily discounted by a number of dealers currently making it a bargain, but the lack of off-tape monitoring makes it unsuitable for serious home recording, it may actually be produced exclusivly for the UK market these day's.
Yamaha's range of dual decks includes the budget KXW-321 that includes Dolby B & C and this is the only double deck from them appears to be distributed more or less globally, next in line is a slightly better specified KXW-421 that adds Dolby HX Pro, PlayTrim dolby compensation system (alvailable on both deck and a version for high speed dubbing as well) and a host of convenience functions, more info on the 421 here and the 321 here. Their top of the range dual deck is the KXW 592 and apart from slightly better audio spec in respect to the 421 it offers DSS active stabiliser.
Yamaha also makes cassette recorders as optional items for their stylised hi-fi ranges, namely the KXW 10 that is a dual desk intended for their "Classic" line and is actually fairly well specified with PlayTrim and Dolby HX Pro, for the "Pianocraft" line Yamaha offers the KX-E100 that has a fairly basic feature set but actually a very good audio specification, and the company introduced a new option for the Pianocraft line in 2003 with the KX-E300 that has an improved feature set vis-a-vis the 100 model but a quite similar specification.
Professional cassette recorders are intended for the broadcast and sound reinforcement industries mostly and have features such as balanced outputs, buffers, large range pitch controls, advance control circuitry and I/O for remote control and automation purposes. Some of them also feature sturdier trasports than are shipped with the average home units but that is not a rule. Some of them do however have a built in amplification.
Denon Interestingly the company purged all of the professional series of decks from their catalogue in early 2003, leaving only the DRW-585P and the DRM-555P which are not really pro style decks in the same manner as they have been selling hereto but rather consumer decks with 19" rack ears (see below). Then it introduced the DMR-780 (link in German) in the summer of 2003, a high end pro style dual deck with a host of advanced features including a serial and parallel ports, and optional balanced inputs, in fact this machine is better specified than any of their previous decks but also more expensive, go here for an English language pdf. And so is Denon out of the "affordable" pro decks market segment? Well, not quite, the professional division of the company also introduced 2 decks that integrate a CD player and a cassette recorder, namely the DN-T625 and the DN-T645 both seem to share the basic cassette and CD mechanism with features such as balanced I/O synchronisation bus, serial port and a 10 second playback buffer but the DN-T645 adds the more advanced controlling functions from the DMR-780 such as a parallel port, those machines are actually cheaper than the 780 despite having a pro spec CD player etc..
Inter-M Makes a rackable professional dual deck, more info here and and here, this is a mono deck aimed squarely at voice recording applications and radio stations. Also manufacture a stereo cassette recorder with a built in amplifier called POP with a much better audio specification as.
JBR Technology Makes a cassette playback unit that is intended for forensic professionals but has a number of unusual functions made possible by the use of a custom built 11 track head, so it might be used by archivists as well.
Marantz Their professional line does offer a few interesting decks, primarily their PMD line of portables but Marantz is along with Uher the only company that has had any real success with professional portable cassette recorders in the last few years. The mono models are : PMD 101 and PMD 201, PMD 221 (USA only) and PMD 222, check out this PMD series prospectus for further info, mind you of those 4 only the 101 and the 201 appear to be distributed in Europe but the other models are available on special order. More interesting is the stereo model, the CP 430 is a 3 head deck with Dolby B and DBX noise reduction and quite respectable audio specifications. These recorders are much loved by location sound recordists since they feature functions seldom seen on cassette decks such as variable speed, DBX type II noise reduction (better than Dolby on voice) and are more rugged than just about any other cassette recorder out there
The full size professional range from the company includes the PMD 501 & PMD 502 models, those are both single decks that feature a synchronised start and Dolby B, while the 502 shares the same basic transport it adds a whole host of pro functions such as varispeed, Dolby B, C and HX Pro, variable output levels, optional balanced I/O kit, front panel I/O and more. The PDM 510 is a dual deck that shares all the technical specifications and options as the PDM 502 across both decks, both decks are fully independent, in other words you can record and playback on each deck independently of the other and the unit has I/O for each. There is also the PMD 511 which is basically the same deck as the 510 but with improved control and search functions that are intended for the broadcast industry and this unit is possibly only available in the USA as is the PMD 520 a three head variant of the 511 with a mind boggling feature set. The 501 actually makes a nice home deck, just remove the rack mounting hardware. There is also available a professional variant of the SD5040 called SD4050pro (what else) it shares all the specifications as the standard version and adds a +/-10% pitch control and detachable lids.
NEAL No longer make generic cassette recorders but manufacture professional recorders and transcribers much beloved by the English police.
Pyle Audio Has 3 low budget dual cassette recorder intended for the professional market namely the PT-649D, the PT-669D and PT-689D, all have fairly modest specifications and features but it should be noted that in the USA were this machine is primarily marketed the retail price of the machines are typically around half of the RRP prices that the company quotes on its homepage and as such these machines are more than adequate for a number of semi professional uses. Note that on the service page of the company's homepage it states that downloadable manuals are not available for the cassette recorders, this is not corrects as they can be downloaded from the pages linked to above..
Sony The company manufactures one "professional spec" rack mount dual deck, namely the TC-WR565RM it has a couple of unusual features such as a wide range pitch control (+-30%) but very basic I/O. A for portables, Sony appears to have dropped the Professional Walkman from their lineup last year (shame, shame, shame) but they do manufacture the professional portable called TCD5PRO2, it's dead expencive and obviously intended for broadcasting applications with balanced I/O Dolby B, C and HX Pro etc., the Pressman, or rather the TCM-5000EV is a recorder similar to the famous Marantz portables, it's a mono model intended for the broadcast market.
Sunbeam Makes a semi-pro recorder available in single and dual configuration, with and without an amplifier, this is intended for PA applications and such but is a stereo model rather than the usual mono.
TEAC Teac has an interesting semi pro range of units that can fit in a 19" racks like the Tascam units here below but offer similar functions such as pitch control at lower prices but exclude control features. The AD-600 is a combination of a 6 disk CD changer and an bi-directional auto reverse cassette deck, the deck sports Dolby B and a +-12% pitch control, this line also includes racked but othervise identical variants of the W-860 R and W-790R recorders. The Tascam line-up of rack mountable "professional" recorders starts with the Model 102 MkII a 2 head deck that sports Dolby B, C and HX Pro, auto tape tuning and BIAS fine-tune amongst other things but is noticeably the only deck in the company's professional lineup that does not have pitch control, next in line is the Model 130, it is a 3 head deck with pitch control, this model is newer than the rest of the lineup and as such has better audio specifications than even the dearer decks even though it does not have the all their features, the Model 112 MkII is the real thing however, it's a 2 head deck has an advanced servo controlled direct drive transport, gear and clutch input controls, optional have balanced I/O, -+12% pitch control and Dolby B, C and HX Pro, this deck is very much built for operational stability rather than advanced control functions, and the Model 112R MkIIR is a 3 head "reversible" variant of the 112, "reversible" is auto-reverse to you and me, it allso adds music search functions. The top of the line deck is the Model 122 MkIII, a 3 head deck that has BIAS and level calibration and built in oscillators to aid with that calibration, balanced I/O as standard, and a whole host of advanced control functions and I/O.
The dual decks from Tascam are Model 202 MkIII that features bi-directional recording, Dolby B, C and HX Pro and bias control, then there is the Model 302 that has auto reverse, synch reverse and cascade pitch control and recently the company added a top of the line dual deck in the form of Model 322, it has RS-232 and RC-322 digital control I/O, optional balanced I/O, independent recording and I/O for each deck and a host of automation functions. Finally the division has a few specialised combinations such as the T-3000 triple deck duplicator, the recently introduced combination 3 disk CD changer and cassette deck called the CD-A630 and it has some interesting functions like continuos CD to cassette playback, independent I/O for each section -+12% pitch control for both CD and cassette sections, the and CD-A700 adds balanced I/O to each section in addition to independent pitch control for each section but the CD section is a player not a changer, and finally they make the very useful and brand spanking new CC-222 a combintaion cassette and CDR/RW recorder, CDR section well specified but cassette section a bit basic but interestingly the unit has a built in RIAA phono preamp.
Uher Make 2 professional stereo cassette decks, that is in addition to the specialised dictaphone cassette recorders that they make, you can get more info on them on their homepage. Mostly designed for broadcast and other industrial applications the CR 1600 offers a 2,38cm recording/playback speed in addition to the more usual 4,75 cm, voice activation, Dolby B, and can be powered by any mains voltage or from an internal NiCad battery, a dry cell or can even driven by a car battery. The CR 1601 model adds a 1,19cm speed in addition to what the 1600 models offers giving the capability of recording up-to 6 hours on a normal C90 cassette with sound quality more than acceptable for voice recording, both models also feature automatic level control, a built in monitoring speaker and a host of automatic features intended to aid you with voice recording. A time code unit can be added to the 1601 model as well, note that unlike most other similar decks these are stereo and hi-fi.
You should be careful when choosing recording tape, machines may need to be aligned to a specific tape to get the most out of it (unless they feature auto alignment). Many of the consumer cassette machines made today or in the last 15 years are aligned with TDK SA tape in Type II (Chrome) situation but for Maxell tapes in a Type I (Ferric) situation, however there is a slight problem there since the actual high quality Maxell tape formulation most manufacturers specify went out of production in early 2003, this is in contrast to the professional analogue recorders that are usually lined up for Emtec tapes, also note that some Fuji and a couple of other Japanese chrome tapes need pretty extreme BIAS adjustments that may not be available on older recorders (but are fine on even low-budget modern recorders), this is especially the case with Nakamichi recorders, on the other hand Emtec cassette tapes were always designed with compatibility in mind, which is probably why most professional machines are aligned for them. Sadly the manufacture of FerroChrome tape has been stopped by all manufactures, a damn shame since that was a very clever tape formulation and sounded better than either ferric or chrome to my ears, and Metal formulated tapes are only being made by Raks.
Certron Makes the HD type normal position tape and CTX chrome tape. Price/Perfomance ratio good in the USA were these tapes can be bought cheaply in general stores, but audio performance not spectacular and some dropouts found on test batches.
Dena Cassette This Iranian manufacturer makes blanks in basically 2 formulations, Ferric and Chrome but has quite a few variants of tape and mechanisms qualities, some of them quite good and these tapes turn up in the strangest of places, "paki shops" in the UK, Hi-fi stores in Russia and in the international airport in Lybia :-).
Denon Makes the ferric (or noramal/type I) type tape called CDo1.
EMTEC Magnetics Have reduced their range of tapes down to 2 models, their budget line consists of the Ferro Extra I and the Chrome Extra II which both feature a fairly basic but still reasonably rigid shell with a good quality ferric and chrome formulated tapes wound on them, however since sales of budget C90 tapes have dropped recently they are currently only available in C60 lengths. The CEII is, currently the authors favourite tape since it can be had quite cheaply and is very good for the price, and he had the forethought of stocking up on C90's when they where still being made. The Chrome Super II is Emtec's top of the line cassette, it features a better formulated chromium tape and a much improved anti-resonant casing, noticeably the Chrome Super II is available in both C60 and C90 lengths (the CSII is their best selling tape which shows how much things have changed in the last few years), more info on their range can be had here here.
Fuji-Magnetics Has a large range of tapes, mostly ferric formulations in the lower ranges of the market but also a couple of high spec ferrics and a large range of chrome formulated tapes both budget models and more upmarket ones such as the K 1 & 2 and the excellent Z II, the company however stopped making metal formulated tapes in 2002.
JVC Appears only to have the budget G1 ferric tapes in manufacturing at the moment.
Maxell Make the UR ferric (normal) budget tape and the XL_II mid priced chrome, the XL_II is better than most budget chrome tapes that we have tried. You can get that formulation also in a better shell in the form of the Audio Pro MS casssette, it's meant for studios so not often seen on the consumer market. The company also has a couple of variants that are only sold in Japan such as the Music Gear, Colour Club and MY which are budget lines of normal and chrome formulated tape in colourful packaging, and Jukebox which is a bargain priced short tapes (10 & 20 min) intended for children.
Memorex This used to be the biggest supplier of blank cassettes in the UK but today only makes one type of cheap ferric tape and only distributes that in the USA.
Quantegy (Ampex) Quantegy makes a AVX/IRC line of ferrics they are both loaded with the same tape and their brochures do not make clear what the difference between the 2 shells are but I imagine the IEC has the same shell as the chrome formulated 472 tape.
Raks Has a large range of cassettes, anything from cheap ferrics best suited to voice recording to excellent quality units like the SP Metal tape (Link in Turkish :), these are keenly priced as well, although the range from this company is more difficult to get in the west than it was a few years back, I have to admit that I really like some of this company's tapes.
Sony Their line-up of blank tapes including the ferric HF tape (called FX in Europe) and the superior CD-IT that is much better suited to music recording due to a better shell fabrication this is available in Europe in a slightly different variation as CD-It 2, the company has discontinued the production of high quality tapes.
TDK Probably the largest manufacturer audio tapes in the world, TDK has an unusually large line of cassette tapes, but for some reason their European and Japanese ranges is smaller than the range that they supply in the US and the rest of Asia so not all of the types listed here may be available near you. Ferric formulation tapes from TDK start with the AE tape, this is a basic ferric tape that is clearly intended for voice recording and is indeed available in extended lengths or up to 150 min, the European equivalent of this is the PE and this tape is not sold in NA, next up is the D the most popular ferric formulation from the company and quite suitable for music recording and the top ferric tape from the company has an improved formulation and casing and is sold as T1 in Europe but as CDbass in the USA (used to be sold in Europe as CDing1), the reason for the "Bass" portion of the name is that ferric formulations have a better bass response than chrome tape and this tape is therefore sold as a high quality alternative to low/mid price chrome formulations for those that are into dance and reggae music for instance. Chrome formulated tapes are the CDing2 budget chrome and the SA mid priced chrome, CDing2 is nota bene sold as CDPower in NA, in addition the US arm sells an upmarket variant of the SA called SA-X and professional chrome formulated cassettes namely the SM & the SM-X, the main difference between the SM and the SA variants lie in the superior anti-resonant casing of the SM, many users maintain that these are actually superior to the company's metal tape especially in older recorders. They finally make one metal formulated tape: the MA. All the more upmarket tapes from TDK have anti resonant shells and you can find information on lengths and other technical info here.