Has anyone mentioned here that 4 track cassette machines and all cassette decks for that matter, need the internal rubber belts to be replaced and or cleaned after many years, and also all moving parts and motors need to be oiled properly ? Just like your vehicle, aduh', you need to keep it clean and learn how to properly lube it from time to time.Any one who buys used gear off eBay should know this by now. That is why when you buy a used car or anything it is sold "AS IS".
Obviously you should not own or buy any mechanical electronic device if you don't have a clue on how to maintane it properly. Of course most people can't even change a car tire, let alone figure out how to repair a mechanical device.......but you need to learn how, some day you just may need it.
There is plenty of info online about cassette deck and tape restoration so I suggest you check it out. Cassette decks can be more reliable than even CD players. The internal CD burner lense mechanism has a finite lifespan, hence a short one. Cassette decks when maintained can last well over 30 years. Even when subjected to vehicle road vibrations and bumps.
I have had solid state digital gear even go out, and once it does you pretty much throw it in the trash.
The cassette decks will always have a certain sound quality, but digital will always be dated because the next best digital format is always around the corner. Just like Vinyl, Cassette tape lifespan is estimated around 70 years, and also the decks that play them will still work as long as you have rubber belts and 110 volts. And some machine oil.
Any true Audiophile knows that MP3 players sound worse than CD's, even a good cassette tape recording sounds better. Even the so called Loseless IPOD format does not sound as good as CD. However Reel to Reel tape deck recordings will blow away even the best Vinyl Records, CD's and even 24 bit DVD Audio. 2" wide Mastered Studio Reel to Reel Analog Tape recordings can not be matched by even the very best digital formats.
So what is the life span of CDR and DVDR media these days ? Seven years maybe if your lucky.......and who knows about hard drives and memory sticks ??? Maybe that is why Professional Archivist still use the Tape Medium in addition to digital methods to back up their critical stuff. Besides analog tape just sounds more warm and cozy.......
In the end though, for me, cassette technology just isn't worth it--i'd had a Fostex 4 track and made recordings on it and my buddy had a Tascam, and neither were optimal ways to record after digital technology and computer based recording came around. It's just plain logic--indeed, cassette is tape, but it simply does not have enough magnetic particles to capture the sound that 1" tape, for example, has. Anyone is fooling themselves if they think that they can get the same quality out of cassette that they can out of a big Studer or Otari machine.
There is also no way that cassette (in my opinion, of course) sounds better than recording on 44.1/ 16 bit digital--i've heard the actual monitored sound on something like a Tascam 238 (in it's day one of the best cassette based units), and with cassette, there's always an extreme balance between reducing tape hiss and actually staying somewhat faithful to the actual monitored sound. I don't like Dolby B with cassette, because it took out so many highs that maintaining top end clarity was an issue. Even the 238 had DBX, which imparted weird, unnatural compression to 1/4 cassette tape. I did not like that at all, but it was either DBX or wild tape hiss, because with considerably less magnetic particles on 1/4 cassette tape, it's foolish to think that if 1" tape captures the sound well, that 1/4 would perform at anywhere near the same results in signal to noise ratios, or monitored versus recorded sound (much like the comparisons to MP3's coded at 128 KBPS versus 320 KBPS--some sonic information just gets held back in the reduced format, and I consider 1/4 tape to be the 128 to the larger tape's 320).
I personally don't like an end medium that changes
the monitored sound. Digital gets bashed (and certainly early 80's digital had a long ways to go in terms of it's internal processing), but the main reason for that is that it doesn't color the signal, it just gives you back what you put into it. I work very hard to get it right going into the machine, so I never blame the final medium for whatever deficiencies that I have as an engineer or producer. Tom Dowd (an old respected engineer/ producer that has since passed away) had been an active guy for digital, because I remember in an interview that he didn't like the way that tape changed the way he'd sent the monitored sounds into the board. I think that it's up to me to color the signal (through compression/ EQ/ effects), personally. Alot of people like to wait, but I try to print the sound as close as I want it to sound in the end (barring some taste things or other options in the mix).
With 44.1/ 16, I hear so little difference between the monitored sound and the actual recorded sound that there is no way in hell that i'd go back to 4 track cassette if someone PAID me good money. I use a Neve Portico preamp for maximum mic input fidelity, and there's no way i'd sully my recordings by going back to 4 track cassette. I think that 16/44.1 is a great, near lossless format (I only really hear some difference in the 15-20 kHz, personally), and that 24/ 44.1 is outstanding. Regarding digital, I find far more merit in increased bit size, seeing as that Nyquist theories (double the highest frequency) sort of dictate that going beyond 20 kHz (and therefore 40 kHz or 44.1 kHz, anyways) is getting into theoretical "better" things, but which have limited or no results.
I'll agree that digital archiving isn't the greatest idea, though. You do have to watch even what you record on. AVOID Seagate hard drives, because I had one brick on me and lost several songs, and i've heard others that had their Seagate hard drives brick--some with recovered results, some without. Regarding cd lenses, they do have a lifespan, but some people also forget that they need maintenance, as well. Sometimes they're perceived as "done", but when cleaned, work properly. My car's cd player appeared to be done, but i'd cleaned it and it works properly and the car is 11 years old. And i'll also agree that (and i've said this here in vinyl versus cd threads), that there is nothing that sounds better than the original master, whether that's on tape or digital.