Audio News for November 13, 2015

Audio Cassettes Are Not Dead – This dated audio format has had a comeback with the under age 35 group. Growing up with compressed MP3s and earbuds and thinking that’s what music sounds like, they first heard an older relative’s cassettes or open real and were exposed to real analog music for the first time. Those who hear both formats tend to prefer the analog one. Lots of alternative rock groups are doing only audiocassettes for release now, or sometimes a cassette plus a card for a free audio file download.

The poor fidelity of the original Norelco audio cassette (designed only for dictation) was brought up to date by Nakamichi and others, and metal and chrome blank tape plus the various Dolby cassette codecs – ending in Dolby S – helped to get amazing fidelity out of the 1/8-inch, 1 7/8 ips format. Like most audio release formats of today, it had convenience and lower cost. It is still a major format in third world countries, and National Audio Company in Springfield, MI, made over ten million audio cassettes last year, their biggest year ever! Cassette sales are growing over 20% per year. Their custom-length cassettes are sold to small indie labels, artists and others and are listened to by young people who also listen to MP3 files. Most do not listen to their cassettes on high end decks such as a Nakamichi or the Aiwa XK-S9000 – a Sony portable cassette player is available online for only $25. Fixing damaged splices is not fun but is certainly easier than on 8-track tapes, and the most frequent fault is that the little felt piece that presses against the playback head falls off and has to be glued back. (I reviewed audiophile prerecorded cassettes for an audiophile magazine for many years. Metal tape really made an improvement in fidelity and Dolby S resulted in cassettes that vied with CDs for fidelity, but came way too late in the game…Ed.)

Packaging for Ultra HD Blu-ray Announced – The Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) has developed new artwork and design elements for the new UHD Blu-ray disc. The idea is to create greater overall consistency in merchandising and messaging. The new “Elite” package will have a carbonized black color with metallic silver text and logo. The Ultra HD Blu-ray logo will be on the spine, back cover and disc. Sales of UHD sets are expected to reach 100 million units by 2019. There will be an option for combo packs which will allow both UHD and standard Blu-ray HD versions of the movie or TV program. The design will allow for High Dynamic Range (HDR) and the new object-oriented immersive audio formats. Launch of the first Ultra HD Blu-ray players will be early in 2016 and many of the manufacturers will promote the new format.

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