Tape Guide (Q and A) (Feb. 1977)

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Cartridge-Cassette Quandary

Q. I am considering the purchase of a tape player for my car as well as a tape deck for home use. Many of the dealers I have spoken to have recommended cassettes, while others have recommended cartridges. 1 don't know what direction to take... cassette or cartridge, and I don't want to sacrifice fidelity for convenience. In the past I have been exposed to inexpensive cassette players and have been unimpressed with their performance.

-Thomas Mantini, Havertown, Pa.

A. If fidelity is uppermost in your mind, then I suggest cassette, as things now appear, since the performance of the better cassette machines outdistances that of most all cartridge machines and rivals that of many good open-reel tape decks. To get a good home cassette machine, you will probably have to pay upwards of $200.00, and perhaps double that, particularly if the machine incorporates the Dolby B noise reduction in order to achieve a really good signal-to-noise ratio.

Tension Choice

Q. In shopping for a tape deck, which pressure mechanism is best, pressure pads or tape tension?

-Gary Thoburn, Lexington, Mass.

A. For the best combination of minimum head wear, minimum flutter, and good treble response-tape tension rather than pressure pads is generally the preferred means of obtaining good contact between the tape and the heads.

Fidelity Quandary

Q. Some time ago you stated that FM stereo is capable of higher fidelity than discs. However, FM frequency response is limited to 15 kHz and discs can easily surpass this. Hence your statement is confusing.

-Peter Neuhaus, Los Angeles, Cal.

A. Requirements for high fidelity include not only frequency response but also low noise and low distortion.

With good transmitting and receiving equipment, FM noise and distortion can be kept lower than on discs. On FM a dynamic range of 60 dB is possible, whereas the typical range on a disc is usually more nearly around 45 or 50 dB, also distortion can be kept under 1 percent on FM, but not very easily on a disc. With respect to frequency response, very few of us can discern between flat response to 15 kHz and to a higher frequency. Most adults hear little if anything above 13 kHz or so, while many have difficulty distinguishing between an audio system flat to 10 kHz and one flat to a higher frequency.

Selection Specs

Q. I am undecided between which of two tape decks to buy. Both are priced at $200.00, but one has 0.1 percent wow and flutter while the other has 0.09.

-L.D. Crow, Jackson, Miss.

A. A difference this small in wow and flutter is trivial and not a basis for choosing one machine over another.

More important are the differences in frequency response, signal-to-noise ratio, and distortion.

Bulk Eraser Effectiveness

Q. I would like to know if a bulk tape demagnetizer is capable of erasing tape to below erase head levels.

Are there any disadvantages to using a bulk demagnetizer?

-Joel Jevotovsky, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A. Ordinarily a bulk eraser does a superior job when compared to an erase head. However, there are some tapes which if recorded at a high level may require extra runs past the erase head in order to permanently remove all recorded material. I don't know of any disadvantages to using a bulk eraser, except that it erases the entire tape instead of permitting one to selectively erase the desired tracks.

(Source: Audio magazine, Feb. 1977, Herman Burstein)

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