I'm the kind of record buyer that always reads album credits, and starting in the early 1990s, with the Pixies' "Surfer Rosa," Nirvana's "In Utero," and PJ Harvey's "Rid of Me" I noticed that all of these great sounding recordings were engineered by Steve Albini. The man is extraordinarily prolific, and to date has worked on 2,000 albums! I reached out to him a few weeks ago to talk about his work.
Cassettes, like LPs are enjoying something of a "comeback," but I can't say I was ever a big fan of the format. Sure, with a great Nakamichi or high-end Pioneer cassette deck the sound of recordings made from LPs could be pretty decent, but the prerecorded cassettes put out by record companies were always iffy. The main advantages cassette had over LPs and CDs was they were a little cheaper, and considerably more portable. They were the MP3s of the 1970s, '80s, and early '90s, and were as fragile as LPs. I mostly used the format to … Read more
There's no sense denying vinyl's imperfections. First there are the noise issues -- pops, clicks, and rumble -- and they all get a little worse every time you play an LP. Then there are problems with speed stability, off-center pressings, warped records, less than accurate vinyl and phono cartridge frequency response curves, poor stereo separation, and limited dynamic range. That was all true back in 1983, and digital has only improved since then. So why are vinyl sales up year after year since the early 2000s?
Most formats wither and die soon after the replacement format takes over … Read more
Did one or two of your childhood crushes ever make you a treacly mix tape? Chances are good you listened to it -- over and over and over again -- on your Sony portable cassette player.
If so, it's time to get sentimental. Last week, a nondescript announcement out of Sony's Japanese division sounded a death knell for the portable cassette recorder/player -- a product category that helped the company rise to prominence decades ago.
The consumer electronics giant detailed how its current line of portable cassette recorders -- including the TCM-400, TCM-410, and TCM-450 -- stand as the company's last and will be discontinued by January. In a side announcement, a Sony representative noted that the company plans to continue selling blank cassette tapes, tape decks, and boomboxes with cassette support -- for now. … Read more
Conan O'Brien recently had a little fun on "Conan" trying to envision what one notable director's interpretation of the recently announced "Star Wars: Episode VII" might look like. The director in question? Wes Anderson. I think you can tell where this one is going...
I love old analog media. I'm holding in my hot little paws a stereo 8-track of a 1973 recording by Hiroshi Itsuki, a Japanese enka singer. It's several times larger than my iPod Touch but contains only 12 songs.
Sadly, this fabu converter from Ion doesn't take anything that ancient, but it will magically change your dusty old cassettes into MP3 files for your iPod or iPhone.
Is $10, or the price of a few Starbucks lattes, really too much to pay for an album? Is $10 really too much to support musicians well enough they'll want to record more music? I still play LPs I bought when I was a teenager, and I can't think of anything else I still use from that part of my life. Those records are, if anything, more valuable to me now then they were then. I'm old enough to remember when record companies were freaking out about kids making cassette copies of albums, but producer and engineer … Read more
There was a time when Sony was the first name in consumer electronics. The company's Trinitron TVs dominated the TV market for decades. In 1975, Sony's Betamax was the first widely adapted consumer video recorder format. The Walkman hit the market in 1979 and changed the way people listened to music, creating the personal audio market category. In 1982 the CD, which the company developed jointly with Philips, changed the way we listened to music even more. Sony extended its reach when it purchased CBS Records in 1988 and Columbia Pictures in 1989, and scored a triumph in … Read more
Before the iPod and iTunes supposedly changed everything, we listened to records, CDs, tapes, and radio in our cars, on the street and in mass transit. Music was nearly as portable as it is now, but iPods and other MP3 players radically increased the quantity of music you could take with you. Looking back to the dawn of the iPod/MP3 era, sound-quality improvements weren't part of the agenda, just the quantity of music that was transportable. Apple's early ads touted the advantages of having "1,000 songs in your pocket," which struck me as an … Read more
Unlike your old vinyl record collection, those VHS tapes you stored away in the back of your closet aren't going to see a resurgence in popularity. There are no videophiles extolling the superior experience and fidelity of these analog tapes. No, VHS is a dying medium that fully deserves to be put in its grave.
But before your tapes turn to goop or VCRs become as rare as eight-track players, let's take a moment to archive any sentimental home movies you still have on tape. Honestly, those really should be the only VHS tapes you're still holding … Read more