Vinyl Record

Compact Cassette

Audio cassette tapes contain exceptionally thin and narrow tape, which causes them to be more susceptible to damage than most other tape formats – particularly during playback.  The tape in cassettes up to C90’s tends to be more durable as it is thicker than that in longer playing cassettes.  If a cassette of a duration longer than 90 minutes is acquired it is advisable to copy it as soon as possible to shorter run cassettes or, if possible, a more durable format.

If buying cassettes for recording purchase tapes by a reputable manufacturer and also try to buy cassettes where the shell is secured by screws rather than glued.  Cassettes have a tendency to `snag’ in the machine during playback.  The shells secured by screws are easily unfastened and the tape can be removed, spliced and returned to the shell.

On acquiring recorded cassettes always ensure that the tabs are knocked out of the shell to prevent accidental erasure.

The leader tape in cassettes often becomes detached from the actual recording tape.  This is easy to remedy with cassettes splicing tape.  Leader tape can also become detached from the tape hub.  Once again this is easy to remedy as most cassette tape hubs have a removable section into which the leader can be replaced.

The longer run cassettes above C90 are not recommended for long term storage of sound recordings and should therefore be copied to a more permanent medium as soon as possible.

Some cassettes, particularly AMPEX, are showing signs of sticky tape syndrome (see separate chapter).  Cassette can be baked in the same way as tapes as the temperature for baking will not deform the shell.

RISKS  The compact cassette has proved to be one of the more reliable storage mediums over the years.  Nevertheless there are some problems with cassettes particularly the failure of cassette mechanisms and the shoe-stringing of tape on faulty playback machines.  Cassette players need good maintenance. Extremely thin based tape such as found in C120 cassettes needs particular care in handling and there is a case for re-recording the contents onto a thicker based tape or to a digital format.  Some thin based tapes are subject to print-through, although generally print-through is not a major problem with cassettes because of the low tape speed.  The leader tape can often become detached from the tape and the leader can also wind off the spool.  If purchasing cassettes try to buy cases which are screwed rather than glued to allow easy access for repair.

CONSERVATION PRACTICE  If repairing damaged tape, or reattaching leaders always use a cassette splicing block and proper cassette splicing tape.  Clean the tape heads and guides regularly and also demagnetise the heads at regular intervals.

HANDLING  Cassettes tend to be a sturdy format.  Avoid touching the tape with fingers as the grease left on the tape can encourage mould growth.

STORAGE  Store vertically in the cassette’s original library case as this will ensure a semi micro-climate within the case.  If possible store the cases in acid-free boxes.

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