Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OLD IS STILL GOLDEN - BATTING FOR AUDIO CASSETTES.



Sitting in front of my several old music players and the collection of gramophone records, I used to wonder about the vast changes that has taken place in listening to music since the invention of Phonograph by Edison and, especially for me, since my father purchased a U.M.S. Radio in 1960 and I purchased a Philips transistor radio (VICTOR) in 1970. The hand wound gramophones of Victor, Columbia, HMV and other brands, the common music players of my childhood days, were replaced by the electrically operated record players, mainly of HMV and Philips. The picture of the lovable dog, Nipper by name, peering into the horn of the hand winding gramophone was one of the most familiar( now nostalgic) and famous logo of all time for music lovers. In fact, for many including the not so old, the word gramophone instantly brings this picture in their mind. Many old timers will also remember the small tin container with the needles of the gramophone.

The electrically operated record players like HMV Fiesta (combo) and several other Philips players were followed by Stereo Systems in the early 70s. Stereo players, Amplifiers and speakers were flooding the market for about two decades. Again Philips and HMV were dominating the local markets for players and speakers and Cosmic, Sonodyne, Panatronic, Murphy, Bush etc., for amplifiers. HMV's Super Stereo with separate amplifier and speakers and Philips' Hi-Q International were very popular in those days.

At the beginning of the 70s Compact Cassette players started arriving with brands like Sharp and Bush making them in India. Cassette players of Sony, National Panasonic, Hitachi, Akai were also available in grey markets. Cassette players, became hugely popular with its cost effectiveness and easiness to handle.I first bought a 'Sharp brand' cassette player and was thrilled at the easiness with which I could record songs with it. Later I got a similar National Panasonic set . While this set is still with me in good working condition, I don't know where the 'Sharp' set is at present. At first Indian made Cassette tapes were not available. Cassettes
of Sony, BASF, TDK, Hitachi, Philips etc., were the ones available. But much later Indian Cassette tapes like T-Series, Meltrack, Coney etc also arrived bringing down the cost down. Two-in One sets (Radio with Cassette player) of Sony, Panasonic , Akai etc were also a rage in those days. NRIs arriving with impressive foreign made sets was a common sight and such sets were on proud display in drawing rooms like a status symbol. Radiograms (Radio cum record Player) from HMV, Philips, UMS etc were also available in many drawing rooms. There were even Three-in One sets (Radio, Cassette player, Record player combo set) available. A friend of mine from my school days, Mr. Damodaran to be exact, had purchased such a set in the 70s and we used to listen to it for long hours in those days. A couple of months back, i.e.,after about four decades, he brought it to me in a state of disrepair with major parts missing . It was lying with him all these years uncared for as his efforts to get it repaired were in vain. He told me that he had lost his old radio, HMV radiogram and other musical gadgets which were familiar to me also. Well, the Three-in-one set has now been brought back to good working condition, of course, after a lot of efforts and expenditure. This portable Radiogram is cute and looks like a briefcase when closed.

By the middle of the 90s CD players and CDs arrived in the market in a big way and we have since seen rapid changes in equipments and listening tastes. Big music systems, Home Theatre Systems, DVD players, portable music gadgets like MP3, MP4,Mp5 players and mobile phones with music players have come to stay. USB flash drives and MM/SD Cards loaded with music are also there. Naturally Cassette players have almost vanished from the scene like its forerunner, the record players.

Like some of us who are still nostalgically bound with old valve radios and gramophones, I am sure there will be several music enthusiasts who still love their cassette players and would prefer to listen to music on them and to record their favourite songs from the radio directly on tapes. It is true, tapes may get caught in the pinch rollers, old tapes may produce hissing noise and tapes may get affected by moisture in the air etc. But , to them, the music coming through them will still be heart warming and true. Besides, for recording purposes, the Compact Cassette player is still the easiest. Original casssetts released by HMV,Music India, Music Today, Tharangini etc., offered a store house of authentic information about the song, its composer, lyricist and singer on their inlay cards. Apart from listening to them once in a way, it is precisely for this reason that I preserve my audio cassettes. For the real cassette lovers this is the time to get their old equipments repaired/serviced and kept in good condition as more and more repairers are becoming indifferent to repairing them eventhough spare parts are still available. They will also do well to buy and keep on stock a few blank cassettes before they vanish from the markets.

Well, happy listening with cassete players!!!




P.S.Please click on the photos for details.


16 comments:

Haddock said...

That was a good walk down memory lane.
The LP and the EP were my favourite.

JSN said...

Thanks to Internet, cassettes can be bought more easily.

The worlds' largest length audio cassette is 150 minute (2 1/2)length, most common of these are Maxell UR150 which is sold through the Japanese website "Rakuten.com". This is long enough to fit 3 standard music albums. TDK AE150 is also sold on Rakuten.

One can record music from MP3 to audio cassettes. You may probably need Audacity software to boost the bass a bit and then record.

The last few years have seen quite a few sets having this record feature: Probably the best is Philips AZ1852. Similar sets are available from Sunstech, VOX, JEC etc. You could get some of these in Ebay.

MP3s have caused a full circle with audio cassettes. More blank tapes are sold today and sales are up again. A look at websites like Ebay, Rakuten, Amazon etc. reflects this picture.

Jay's music world said...

Thanks for reading the post and for giving the tips about cassettes.

JSN said...

Just an update : The best cassette recordings can today be obtained by means of a free software called "Mp3Gain".

The software volume boosts normalizes an album to maximum of 105 dB or so on a standard laptop computer.

Unlike Audacity there is no nasty distortion or clipping except for Mp3/digital formats own limitations.

Once the album songs are volume boosted using Mp3gain, you could use a USB to tape recorder system such as Philips AZ1862, Mitashi MX2011 or MX2009 or one from Sunstech (I think Philips recording is the best).

You get the same volume as any prerecorded tape except for the digital technology's own limitations.

As to why one may look to keeping tapes - they remain the only self bookmarking technology that do not require power. USB can only achive that if it is solar powered, that is not going to happen - until then you will tolerate being reset when you move the stick to another system. CDs will never be book marking. Another thing about the tapes, is that it still retains the "live effect" in spite of digital limitations - magnetic tape linearizes the sound to a certain extent - the thing about Mp3 players tend to over boost drums (often quite jarring to the ear) often masking the finer sounds. Anyway for most of the market, that is what they think is good music. But for those who want back that live feeling, better to keep cassettes.

JSN said...

Just an update : The best cassette recordings can today be obtained by means of a free software called "Mp3Gain".

The software volume boosts normalizes an album to maximum of 105 dB or so on a standard laptop computer.

Unlike Audacity there is no nasty distortion or clipping except for Mp3/digital formats own limitations.

Once the album songs are volume boosted using Mp3gain, you could use a USB to tape recorder system such as Philips AZ1862, Mitashi MX2011 or MX2009 or one from Sunstech (I think Philips recording is the best).

You get the same volume as any prerecorded tape except for the digital technology's own limitations.

As to why one may look to keeping tapes - they remain the only self bookmarking technology that do not require power. USB can only achive that if it is solar powered, that is not going to happen - until then you will tolerate being reset when you move the stick to another system. CDs will never be book marking. Another thing about the tapes, is that it still retains the "live effect" in spite of digital limitations - magnetic tape linearizes the sound to a certain extent - the thing about Mp3 players tend to over boost drums (often quite jarring to the ear) often masking the finer sounds. Anyway for most of the market, that is what they think is good music. But for those who want back that live feeling, better to keep cassettes.

urbangirl said...

My mother owns a HMV Fiesta gramophone,which she wants to repair. Would you knw anyone in Mumbai who would help me out with it? I've already spoken with a gentleman from the Maharashtra Watch & Gramophone Company, who couldn't help. Would you know anyone who specialises in repairing them?

Jay's music world said...

I don't know anybody in Bombay. But if you are very particular to get it repaired you can parcel it to Sri Muhammed Shafi at Calicut(Kozhikode)kerala. His details are available at web site www.gramophoneworld.com You can first contact him over his phone and make arragements.

Regards.

Kannan said...

Hi jay,

Your Post on the evolution of Music Players from Gramophone to Cassette Players, 2-in-1 and 3-in-1 made interesting reading. I am a diehard fan of old Trumpet Gramophone Players and old 78 RPM Vinyl Records. In fact I started with a HMV Fiesta Record Player way back in 1974 and went lightyears backwards to own an original 1936 Model HMV Trumpet Gramophone Player. If you find the time, you can read about my expedition to buy the same in my blog:

www.ponnappa.blogspot.com

Cheers

Ram

krishnanguruvayur said...

i think the biggest problem of audio cassetes was the tape getting stuck unfortunately at very important places .it involved taking it out and then rewinding it with a pencil

Gina Neile said...

Thanks for posting this!
It would be extremely helpful if you could post how to operate these instruments. See, I have found an HMV Fiesta gramophone in my attic and I am not able to play it.
I would really appreciate it! :)

Kannan said...

HMV Fiesta Record Player is one of the finest record players made by HMV India Ltd in the mid 70s.

Check whether the Plastic Tonearm has a stylus in it. The stylus should have two sides, one for playing LP and EP records and the other for playing old 78 RPM records.

The Player has a Speed-selector with 3 different rotor speeds i.e. 33 RPM for playing LP records, 45 RPM for playing EP Records and 78 RPM for playing old Vinyl records.

Detach the speaker in the front and connect it to the player through the wires provided.

Connect the Player to the Power outlet, place the record on the turntable and switch-on the simple on/off switch. Select the speed depending upon the type of record you want to play. Once the turntable starts rotating, gently place the plastic tonearm on the edge of the record and enjoy the music. Happy listening!!

SushilJoshi said...

I have a hmv fiesta record player , i need metal pulley of it , where can i get the same.

Jayasankaran S.V. said...

You can contact Sri Muhammed Shafi at www.gramophoneworld@yahoo.com. You can talk to him over phone also. His number is 09995017065

Rateesh said...

im interested in some good condition audio cassettes of rafi , kishore , asha , hemant and great speakers if anyone has 9821983527

John Huggett said...

I would just
like to say that HMV stands for HIS MASTERS VOICE

Rohit Minton said...

I have a National Panasonic portable cassette player. Though working but needs a bit of servicing. Any references in Bangalore for the repair will be very helpful and appreciated.