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Sony's Elcaset was a high-quality audio-cassette system introduced in 1976. The intention was to combine the performance of open-reel tape systems with the convenience of the Compact Cassette1.

Fundamentally, the Elcaset and Compact Cassette were designed around the same concept; take the spools of audio tape found in open-reel systems, and enclose them in a convenient and protective plastic shell, or 'cassette'.

However, the major differences were in the execution:-

  • The cassettes themselves were far larger, measuring 15 x 10 x 2 cm. This was almost as large as a VHS video cassette (19 x 10 x 2.5 cm). By contrast, the compact cassette measured just 10 x 6.5 x 1 cm.
  • During playback and recording, the tape was pulled out of the cassette and guided along the player's own mechanism. This made playback and recording quality less reliant on the manufacturing quality of the cassette shell. By contrast, the Compact Cassette system integrated much of the transport mechanism into the shell, and the tape stayed inside the cassette at all times.
  • The tape itself was 6.3 mm wide and moved at 9.5 cm/s (roughly twice as thick and twice as fast).

These differences resulted in audio performance far above the Compact Cassette systems of the time. In particular, frequency and dynamic ranges were extended, and levels of wow, flutter, crosstalk and modulation noise were reduced.

Unfortunately, the relatively high price-point, combined with major improvements to the Compact Cassette, resulted in the commercial failure of the Elcaset system, and it was pulled from the market after a couple of years.

Towards the end of 1979, Sony auctioned off the remaining machines. A large proportion of these were purchased by a company based in Finland, and were later dumped at rock-bottom prices on the Finnish market.

1 The 'Compact Cassette' is the proper name of what most people know nowadays as 'audio cassettes', or simply 'cassettes'. However, as the Elcaset is also an audio 'cassette' system, I'll refer to it by its full name to avoid confusion.


Bibliography and Further Reading:-

  • http://home.iae.nl/users/pb0aia/cm/elcaset/
  • http://home.iae.nl/users/pb0aia/cm/elcaset/el-end.html
  • http://mhintze.tripod.com/audio/elcaset/default.htm
  • http://www.informationblast.com/Elcaset.html
  • http://www.geocities.com/grundigradioboy/c410.htm

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