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What Sound Looks Like

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I’ve passed the logo for this long-ago audio company on the 101 south of San Francisco many many times, but these tapes (hand me downs from a friend) are the first time I’ve owned the product. These date from around 1994, apparently.

An ongoing series cross-posted from

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tag: / Comments: 5 ]


  1. G
    [ Posted November 14, 2016, at 3:59 pm ]

    Ampex were huge in reel tapes but for cassettes most I knew were using Maxell,TDK and BASF chromes. Are those 15 minute? For singles maybe? Boring point #2, my son asked for instructions on how to make a mix tape… I was so proud :-)

    • Marc Weidenbaum
      [ Posted November 14, 2016, at 4:10 pm ]

      Thanks for that. Yeah, I think of Ampex as reel-to-reel, so the cassette form really surprised me when I pulled them out of the bag of tapes they were in. They are 15 minutes each. I don’t know the intended use. Someone joked about computer programs. They were bought in 1994, but maybe they indeed were a remnant from a decade earlier. I just checked the small print and there’s no year on the tapes anywhere that I can see. (And that is indeed reason for pride. Well done, fellow parent.)

  2. Willaim Scot Besseme
    [ Posted November 19, 2016, at 1:33 am ]

    Well, given that the 472s were chromium (hinted at with the “high bias” mention) tapes, they couldn’t have been older than maybe 1987. Ampex was hard to find here in Oklahoma, so I can’t speak to the age based on any personal experience apart from when chromium arrived in the cassette tape market at large.

    Regarding the length, I’m immediately reminded of the cassette single. Heh. The “Cassingle” as some companies tried to brand it, hoping a catchy format name would make it sell better… I remember seeing Denon tapes back around 1990 that were 25 minutes or so. So, I suppose this is still in that range and would have a similar utility value.

    As for data cassette suggestions, it logically could have been used as such. However, personal c0mputers were the only units I can find that used cassette drives, and were rarely sold in the US. But, it was still the same form factor. Cassette drives seem to have even fallen mostly out of use in Europe (the biggest market, apparently) by the late 80s, though. So, yes it could, but it probably wasn’t.

    My money is still on the cassette single “craze” companies tried to start.

    • Marc Weidenbaum
      [ Posted November 19, 2016, at 8:06 am ]

      Thanks for this. That’s interesting to know the date of the use of chromium. Cassette drives came with early US PCs, like the TRS-80, which I had and used from roughly 1978 to 1984.

  3. G
    [ Posted November 20, 2016, at 5:39 pm ]

    I had completely forgot about “cassingles” even though they still take up residence on a shelf in the next room :-) Found an interesting site on tape history if your bored… apparently chrome appeared in early ’70’s with metal following in the late ’70’s. I was also talking with a friend who was a radio jockey in the early 90’s and some stations were using short cassettes for spots and segues in lieu of the cart(Fidelipac) system. Did you try to play those? Could be some rare material from some morning zoo ;-)

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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