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Best blank audio cassette tape?

I am getting back into home recording and i like the hands on analog cassette recording for local bands and friends and alot of home use stuff.And i would like to know who makes the best blank cassette tapes,Maxell XLII-S,TDK SA-X or Sony UX-PRO?I can get anyone of these tapes in bulk online but niether of these tapes are available in my local area so that i can buy one of each to test.I have two decks a 1984 Nakamichi Dragon and a New Sony TCKA-3ES,both are three head closed loop dual capstan decks.So which of these three blank cassette's are best?Thanks so much for any help or suggestions..Keith H..PEACE.



M Brane Mon, 04/21/2003 - 16:05

I always preferred TDK SA-X. The Maxells sound just as good at first, but seem to develop more problems over time. At least that's been my experience. Same for the Sonys. They just don't seem to hold up as well as the TDK. I haven't bought any tape for a while though so things could have changed.

As always, YMMV :D

Mark Burnley Mon, 04/21/2003 - 16:29


I've been using the Maxell XL-II's for years. I actually found the TDK's more troublesome. I've got XL-II's from about 5 years ago which are still working fine. Haven't tried the Sony's.

When I push a lot of level onto the TDK's they can get a bit ugly :d: . I suppose it depends on the deck/program source.

And people said cassette was dead.

It's amazing what a decent deck can do!


"Oscillators don't, amplifiers do....."

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Kurt Foster Mon, 04/21/2003 - 19:44

I have always had problems with TDKs.. Seems there is a lot of high end dropouts. makes everything sound grainy. Maxell is ok but my favorite has been BASF chrome in the shape shells. You can only get thes in bulk loads. Kurt

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jdsdj98 Mon, 04/21/2003 - 19:53

Cassettes aren't dead, but there are only a handful of manufacturers left putting out cassette pancakes. I wouldn't be surprised if at least a few of the brands mentioned here are actually using the exact same tape loaded into a shell with their name stamped on it.

Your best bet is to find a duplication house that sells bulk blank cassettes, as Kurt mentioned. I've always favored BASF tape stock in a shape shell as well. Flip through the classifieds at the back of any recording mag and you'll be sure to find a cassette duplication house that'll ship you some blanks. If you go this route, be sure to specify shape shells, as they have a pressure pad assembly that does a much better job of maintaining proper alignment in the tape path than a regular shell. Also try to keep the length to a minimum (c-62's, +/- a little bit, maximum). Cassette tape stock comes in varying thicknesses to accomodate longer loads. A c-64 will be loaded with thicker tape stock than a c-100. The thicker the tape, the hotter you can push it. Not to mention the fact that thick tape stock is physically sturdier than thin stock, meaning less chance of it wrapping around a capstan or getting damaged some other way.

I can name at least one place to get these if you PM me. Hope that's not against the rules here..........

cjenrick Mon, 04/21/2003 - 20:06

You used to be able to get these cassete master blanks. They were short, like 10 or 15 minutes on each side, and were suppose to be made of a better quality tape, but it might have just been a sales scam,, fourth the tape at twice the price!

I think that certain brands of tape match up with certain machines/ststems. I only recorded on Fuji one time, and that tape still sounds different from all the rest...good or bad? I don't know, just different...

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Don Grossinger Tue, 04/22/2003 - 06:24

Back in the day when I was recording to cassette, I always preferred to use the Sony UX-Pro tape. Maxell was second choice & TDK a distant third. I have had problems with TDK binder that required "baking" like Ampex R to R.

Masterdisk also used to buy Sony by the case. I made some cassettes from 1630 masters that sounded phenominal.

I know that with the Dragon, the matching problem was minimized by their setup proceedure. At Masterdisk we had Tascams (122's ???) and adjusted bias & EQ for each run. This was key.

Recording Engineer Tue, 04/22/2003 - 09:12

Perfect timing... Just got a call about someone needing to come-in to record a violin piece to send-in a cassette for an audition... This will be the first time I've dealt with cassette in about 3 or 4 years...

So what if I need to buy just 2 or 3 cassette tapes? What and where do I buy them? No mail order prefered due to it not being worth the hassle or extra shipping expense in this case.

By the way, I'll be using a Denon DN-770RM deck.

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Don Grossinger Tue, 04/22/2003 - 09:52

Dennon cassettes were also good, DR-8 (top of the line hi bias).

Around here Tower still stocks cassettes, maybe Best Buys also, but I'm not sure. And street vendors in Chinatown.
Try Burlington Tapes in Oceanside, NY or Terrapin Tapes, also in NY for mail order.

a dying breed.

joe lambert Tue, 04/22/2003 - 11:15

The best cassettes are DATs!! And even those arent that great. Come on.. you got to at least record to a dat. I can't imagine recording anything to a cassette at this point. We work too hard to put the results on a noisy cassette.

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Kurt Foster Tue, 04/22/2003 - 12:13

Hey Joe!
I saw your ad in this months Audio media! Nice ad!
I have been going through a lot of archive stuff I have on cassette and I have been surprised at, 1) how good much of it sounds and 2) how well it has all held up. I'm running it down to CD through the workstation and burning it to CDrs and and filing it away on the hard disk of my internet computer for a second copy back up. I'm going so far back that there was no such thing as DAT when this stuff was done. I may have some of the reel to reel tapes somewhere, but really the cassettes sound very good. I am amazed! Kurt

realdynamix Tue, 04/22/2003 - 12:57

:) I was using a lot of the TDK. They worked well with the bias in the machines I had at the time, so I just kept using it and they still sound good today.

Check out the small HD multitrackers. The prices are dropping all the time.

What format will die next? :confused:


cjenrick Tue, 04/22/2003 - 20:24

What format will die next?

Probably the 8 track cassette. Seriously, there is a guy in Auburn,Calif that collects and sells 8 tracks!

I have a GE mono radio in the bathroom with an 8 track slot. ZZ Top's De Guello has been stuck in that slot for about 5 years now. Still plays! With all that humidity, and fumes, that's one tough radio! Used to be on the back of my mountain bike! Way tough. I actually think 8 tracks sounded better than casettes, more compression or something, and less highend. But that crosstalk! And putting the match book underneath the tape to get it to track right in the car, jeez. What a hassle. But at least they lasted for about two weeks before clogging the machine. I wonder how many traffic accidents were caused by people messing with their 8 tracks while they were driving? Hey Kurt, they opened The Rack back up.

joe lambert Thu, 04/24/2003 - 08:18

Thanks Kurt. Good to know people are seeing it. I always enjoy when engineers romantasize about old technology. Cassette had its day and some formulations do hold up well (not well enough for you not to dump it into digital though :)

I just don't think that there is any place for it in the recording studio at this point.

I do remeber when I was a 11 year old and my uncle showed me his cool new 8 track machine. He had a Zep record and it changed tracks in the middle of the song. I looked at him and asked what happened? He told me the track...
I told him it sucked, how could you listen to that? He said this is the newest thing. I said it still sucks. Needles to say I don't have any old 8 tracks kicking around.