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Author Topic: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset  (Read 18057 times)

Fenris Wulf

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consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« on: January 25, 2011, 07:17:16 am »

I've been enjoying the station's huge vinyl collection but NOT enjoying the surface noise and scratches. I started thinking about the compact cassette (which was designed for dictation, not music) as a delivery medium, and why someone didn't make a better version with twice the width, twice the speed, and a proper transport instead of a little felt pad holding the tape against the head.

It turns out someone DID. It was called the Elcaset, it was technically brilliant, and it was a complete failure in the marketplace.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elcaset

So if you ever wonder why digital has gone BACKWARD since the introduction of the CD thirty years ago and nobody seems to care, there's your answer. Convenience is everything.
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ssltech

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2011, 09:33:22 am »

Oh, I remember Elcaset quite well.

It's a great example of how -given a choice between better quality or greater quantity- people will always ignore quality, once it passes the 'acceptable' point.


Keith
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MDM (maxdimario) wrote on Fri, 16 November 2007 21:36

I have the feeling that I have more experience in my little finger than you do in your whole body about audio electronics..

ktownson

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2011, 09:38:57 am »

I remember the Elcaset. It didn't live long.

As I recall, it didn't offer aural improvement over the reel to reel and cost about the same, so the hi-fi nuts stuck with open reels.

It was too expensive for the general public, plus we were still enamored with the cassette because it was so much better than what it replaced:  the 8-track. A cassette was golden by comparison.
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Fenris Wulf

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2011, 10:42:30 am »

Elcaset would be equivalent to a quarter-track 3 3/4 ips machine. We have a few of those around and they sound pretty good, especially the Akai with a crossfield head design that makes 3 3/4 sound like 7 1/2.

Elcaset would have been a pretty fine release format, IMO. More pleasant than CD, cleaner than vinyl, smaller than VHS, and more durable than any of them. 1/4" tape doesn't really wear out unless it's abused.

I was telling the previous station manager of my disdain for all forms of digital technology, and he offered digital watches as a counter-example. I said, "Actually, I have three or four digital clocks and NONE of them keep accurate time. If digital watches had never been invented, and all the R&D went into mechanical watches instead, we'd probably have cheap and reliable mechanical watches by now."

Short of supervillain tactics (like designing a virus that eats rare earth elements and disables all the world's digital devices), it'll never happen. But one can always dream.
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kats

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2011, 11:44:52 am »

I think that the conclusion drawn from this example is narrow. Clearly there is more than one environment that people want to experience music in.

One is a mobile environment. Cars, beach, gym, etc. In this environment convenience (and rightly so) trumps all. There is no real benefit with fidelity racing down the hi-way with your windows open tunes cranked. As a matter of fact your better served with less dynamic music as well. So competing with a mobile playback system by offering fidelity at an expense of convenience is a mistake. And apparently proven to be so.

The other environment is a fixed listening environment. Home theatre, home stereo, etc. Now unless a new product can trump an existing one in fidelity and features, it's a tough sell. And you have to know your market, especially in today's society where this market is becoming more and more "niche".

I think a product that tries to balance the two will always fail. I do wonder how the Elcaset compared sonically to vinyl? That would give a better understanding as to it's failure. Obviously it would have lacked the perceived value vinyl can offer in the artwork and add ons department.

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Tony K.
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Fenris Wulf

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2011, 12:29:01 pm »

kats wrote on Tue, 25 January 2011 16:44


I do wonder how the Elcaset compared sonically to vinyl?


Ampex 456 was introduced the year before, so I would say quite well (aside from sticky shed) Sad The main quality bottleneck would be the necessity of high-speed duplication.

Just imagine, a consumer format that doesn't wear out or become unplayable (aside from the occasional eaten tape), replaces the DAT and the Portastudio, and helps keep analog tape manufacturers solvent.
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mgod

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2011, 01:21:35 pm »

Vinyl has proven to be highly durable storage medium when not abused. Far more so than CD or tape.
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Jay Kadis

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2011, 01:22:15 pm »

Fenris Wulf wrote on Tue, 25 January 2011 09:29

kats wrote on Tue, 25 January 2011 16:44


I do wonder how the Elcaset compared sonically to vinyl?


Ampex 456 was introduced the year before, so I would say quite well (aside from sticky shed) Sad The main quality bottleneck would be the necessity of high-speed duplication.

Just imagine, a consumer format that doesn't wear out or become unplayable (aside from the occasional eaten tape), replaces the DAT and the Portastudio, and helps keep analog tape manufacturers solvent.
This might make you happy (if you don't look at the price.)

http://www.tapeproject.com/

mgod

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2011, 01:50:53 pm »

Yeah! I've talked to Paul about selling me 1" versions.

If I ever have money to spend on music again.
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kats

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2011, 02:06:32 pm »

Fenris Wulf wrote on Tue, 25 January 2011 11:29

kats wrote on Tue, 25 January 2011 16:44


I do wonder how the Elcaset compared sonically to vinyl?


Ampex 456 was introduced the year before, so I would say quite well (aside from sticky shed) Sad The main quality bottleneck would be the necessity of high-speed duplication.

Just imagine, a consumer format that doesn't wear out or become unplayable (aside from the occasional eaten tape), replaces the DAT and the Portastudio, and helps keep analog tape manufacturers solvent.


I wonder how the tape would fare considering the consumer playback systems ad storage would be a loose cannon and could wreak havoc over the cassettes. I can't imagine the cassettes really being that durable.
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Tony K.
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Mike Cleaver

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2011, 04:11:35 pm »

We called it "El Kabong."
The radio station where I was working was one of the first in Canada offered demos from Sony.
We tested them in the newsroom for a couple of months but they had problems, the least of which was durability.
They just weren't designed to stand up to constant use.
Some radio stations did order and install them but most got rid of them pretty quickly.
They would be fine in the average consumer situation but if you wanted to edit tape the old fashioned way (wax pencil, razor blade) they were a pain.
For all the great products Sony released, they've had a few bombs.
Betamax was the better format for video but Sony's reluctance to license the format to other manufacturers proved their downfall with that project.
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Dominick

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2011, 04:15:14 pm »

Anyone who has heard hi speed duplicated 1/4" 1/4 track 3 3/4 ips tapes (open reel, elcasette or Muntz cartriges) would never call them high fidelity.

Real time recordings at 3 3/4" 1/4 track don't pass muster as hi fidelity either.
Limited HF dynamic range, signal to noise barely -50dB..
Try making a 3 3/4 ips 1/4 track real time copy from vinyl without loud HF program content being squashed or distorted and low level HF program content buried under hiss.

Use any machine you want. Akai X field, Revox A77. Use Dolby.
I've a Studer A820 here with a 1/4 track head assembly.
Even with this machine it would be a waste of tape trying to make a "hi-fi" recording at 3 3/4  

If 3 3/4 ips 1/4 track is so hi fi why didn't we master using this format?
15ips 1/2 track is so wasteful using 8 times as much tape!
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Dominick Costanzo

Fenris Wulf

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2011, 08:12:35 am »

Well! I'm going to mix a project onto the Akai machine just to spite you.  Very Happy  You have a point though.

I admit I like CD's because the manufacturer CAN'T screw it up in duplication. Cassettes and records have a wide range of quality depending on materials and duplication/mastering speeds.
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Dominick

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2011, 08:34:01 am »

It won't sound like what's coming out of the console but mixing direct to 3 3/4 ips could compliment certain program.
I could hear it doing good mojo to a 70's funk groove or Sabbath-like stuff.

Back in the 60's I'd record the band I played in with my Sony 250 at 3 3/4 ips
7 1/2 ips seemed a luxury I could not afford (limited tape budget).
Those recordings certainly have a "sound" partly due to what 3 3/4 ips did.

Curious how it will work for you.
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Dominick Costanzo

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Re: consumer indifference explained: Elcaset
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2011, 07:25:17 pm »

Here's a sad truth: sound quality was never the primary (if any) reason for the adoption of a consumer format.
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