Continuing in the spirit of cassette tapes, here are two more cassette items.
Cassettes that Hold Your Change
Completely useless, but somewhat amusing: Designboom’s Cassette Wallet recycles old cassette shells into zippered money holders. If you’re looking to get your retro chic on, they’re $43. Or, if you find some lame tapes as you’re rooting throw your collection for the Cassette Jockey Competition at Maker Faire, you can try to figure out how to recycle it into something like this and sell it for $43. Via the Spanish-language JP-Geek, Sweden’s English-language Fosfor, and a site you already know about.
Cassettes for Analog Resampling
In the domain of the musically functional, Roland from Munich wonders if cassette players with pitch control could be the perfect addition to a digital studio.
Just saw your post about cassette players and wanted to ask if you know of any old commercially-available players that allow you to set the playback speed manually (maybe some professional model?).
Could really use that for sampling since I am not a big fan of the digital algorithms available.
I’d love to hear some reader thoughts on this.
I know of many cassette players that have pitch control. Most that I’ve seen that have a readily-accessible manual adjustment are portable players. The higher-end portable Marantz and Sony recorders I’ve seen all have pitch control. I’ve also seen them on some handheld recorders, like a US$60 Sony recorder I used for voice lessons in college. Sure enough, Sony still makes a complete line of what they call “standard cassette recorders” (as opposed to microcassette or flash memory-powered):
… though it looks like they may have discontinued some of the nicer ones they used to make. Quality there is not the best, but most of the rack-mounted tape decks I’ve seen have only two speeds; i.e., 1 7/8 ips standard and 3 3/4 ips high speed. You can use these to achieve pitch changes, though, which I’ve also done on pro Tascam decks: record at high-speed and play back at standard to lower pitch. But it’s not really variable, because that control is usually designed for finer calibration. (In studios, what most people usually do is go out to a reel-to-reel, though that’s not space-practical in a home studio.)
Does this sound better than digitally changing the speed? Yes, it does — even on a cheap portable Sony, the added noise is still outweighed by a more accurate pitch shift when it comes to radical changes. There’s just not enough data in a standard-resolution audio files to effect big speed changes. Not to mention, there’s something satisfying about the ritual of working with tape, and you might want some of the coloration of tone your recorder provides.
I suspect your options are really wide open here, so let’s ask the readers: got a cassette recorder that’s handy for pitch changes?
And for the record (erm, tape?), yes, I do know some people who still listen to cassettes, without any pretentions of retro chic.