Now, cassettes hold spare bills — you know, the things you used to save up to buy tapes.

Continuing in the spirit of cassette tapes, here are two more cassette items.

Cassettes that Hold Your Change

Completely useless, but somewhat amusing: Designboom’s Cassette Wallet recycles old cassette shells into zippered money holders. If you’re looking to get your retro chic on, they’re $43. Or, if you find some lame tapes as you’re rooting throw your collection for the Cassette Jockey Competition at Maker Faire, you can try to figure out how to recycle it into something like this and sell it for $43. Via the Spanish-language JP-Geek, Sweden’s English-language Fosfor, and a site you already know about.

Cassettes for Analog Resampling

Photo credit: Flavietto via Flickr. From the days when tape was king. And yes, while the world has moved on from tapes, that shouldn’t stop you from finding useful applications in a digital studio. (Other than converting them to change purses or birdhouses or something.)

In the domain of the musically functional, Roland from Munich wonders if cassette players with pitch control could be the perfect addition to a digital studio.

Just saw your post about cassette players and wanted to ask if you know of any old commercially-available players that allow you to set the playback speed manually (maybe some professional model?).

Could really use that for sampling since I am not a big fan of the digital algorithms available.

I’d love to hear some reader thoughts on this.

I know of many cassette players that have pitch control. Most that I’ve seen that have a readily-accessible manual adjustment are portable players. The higher-end portable Marantz and Sony recorders I’ve seen all have pitch control. I’ve also seen them on some handheld recorders, like a US$60 Sony recorder I used for voice lessons in college. Sure enough, Sony still makes a complete line of what they call “standard cassette recorders” (as opposed to microcassette or flash memory-powered):

Sony Portable Electronics

… though it looks like they may have discontinued some of the nicer ones they used to make. Quality there is not the best, but most of the rack-mounted tape decks I’ve seen have only two speeds; i.e., 1 7/8 ips standard and 3 3/4 ips high speed. You can use these to achieve pitch changes, though, which I’ve also done on pro Tascam decks: record at high-speed and play back at standard to lower pitch. But it’s not really variable, because that control is usually designed for finer calibration. (In studios, what most people usually do is go out to a reel-to-reel, though that’s not space-practical in a home studio.)

Does this sound better than digitally changing the speed? Yes, it does — even on a cheap portable Sony, the added noise is still outweighed by a more accurate pitch shift when it comes to radical changes. There’s just not enough data in a standard-resolution audio files to effect big speed changes. Not to mention, there’s something satisfying about the ritual of working with tape, and you might want some of the coloration of tone your recorder provides.

I suspect your options are really wide open here, so let’s ask the readers: got a cassette recorder that’s handy for pitch changes?

And for the record (erm, tape?), yes, I do know some people who still listen to cassettes, without any pretentions of retro chic.

  • I used to have an older version of this mid-fi JVC model which has pitch adjust on one deck. I can't imagine it would sound that great. What you need is an old reel-to-reel player.

  • The actual cassette case makes a good wallet as is. They are also a classic for carrying hand rolled jazz cigarettes.

    I'd be down for cassette tape battles if each person had to kick it on their own ghetto blaster. That would be really cool.

    Those change purses are fraudulent.

    I second the whole reel-to-REAL suggestion. Now that would be majestic! Plunking down your Teac with the ten inch spinners in a battle, YEAH BOYEEEE!

  • I have the Tascam CD-A500 and I love it – it allows only ±12% pitch adjustment, though.

  • You could check out the <a href="; title="X-15 multitracker by Fostex" rel="nofollow"> looks like they are pretty cheap on ebay.

  • opps, something went wrong. ^ That should say "X-15 multitracker by Fostex"

  • Mixtapes on tape are way way sexier than mix cds, especially if you do a lot of crossfading, mixing two sources, using some of your own music.

    (worked for me! 😉 )

  • license

    Used Portastudio, anyone? Shouldn't be too hard to find one for even cheaper than your handheld Sony, plus you get the bonus of twice the tracks and being able to do reverse tricks!

  • I picked up this old Studer reel to reel at an old BBC studio. It is the heaviest piece of studio gear I have and it took two strong men to get it up into my studio. Now all I need to do is get it calibrated.

  • I've got a Yamaha MT44D that I've had for ages – it's a cassette 4-track with +/- 10% speed control. Works great for adding a bit of noise warmth to digital tracks, plus the pitch shift is a blast. I keep meaning to take it apart and see if I can increase the shift range.

  • Michael Una

    yeah, you can pitch change to match tempo, but then you're also changing the pitch.

    Unless the intention is to tune the pitch using a tape deck, then record it in to your DAW and timestrech to fit your track?

    I guess I'm not sure what the reasoning behind this is.

    That said, I have a reel-to-reel that I use to record/playback sounds on to add warmth to my electronic instruments. Adds noise, sure, but totally worth it. Plus, the overdriven tape-saturation sound is unparalleled.

  • DrBunsen

    I used to have an Ibanez Rock'n'Play that had a half speed switch and about +-50% pitch. Reproduction was pretty crapulous – hissy in the top end with no NR, so I EQd it right down on the desk. It more than made up for it by having an instrument input with it's own volume knob, distortion and chorus, and two headphone outs. I used it to spin spoken word and sound effects samples.

  • The Cat Herder

    I picked up a tape deck at the thrift store which was originally used by people who are blind or have vision problems. It has a selector switch which has three different speed settings and an additional slider for even finer control. This combination gives a very wide range of playback speeds. As a bonus the buttons are all brighly coloured and have large characters and brail on them. It is a sea foam green sort of colour and the power cord wraps up in a hidden compartment at the back.

  • Scott

    What a coincedence. I just ran across an Ibanez Rock and play. I couldn't pass it up.

    As mentioned, they're versatile and a lot of people stole a lot of licks with these things. Great practice tool. The 1/2 switch and pitch are great.

  • ds

    i also have a player for the blind. i think it was from the national library or something like that. picked it up on ebay for cheap

  • Team Toothpaste

    does anyone know if it's possible to fit a pitch control to a standard cassette deck?

  • duncan

    best way to find one is get your hands on an older tape 4 track. ex. fostex or tascam. pretty cheap these days and most of those older models have a manual pitch wheel