The era of the physical media era is behind us, but there remains some fondness for that antiquated concoction of plastic and tape, the cassette.
The quality was sometimes poor by today’s standards — and who doesn’t remember occasionally having their stereo “eat” their cassette? However, the cassette taught us to share music, even if you had to wait patiently by your tape deck with your finger over the pause button to get the timing between tracks just right. Imprint cassette masterpiece with a title like “Jason’s Rad Summer Jamz ’95″ and you’re off to the races.
Giving these as gifts was a personal gesture. Today, we think almost nothing of passing music along to a friend. Share buttons are ubiquitous. Selecting songs literally by hand given way to playlists, Facebook scrobbling, and YouTube URLs. Hand-making cassette mixtapes is a lost art form.
This nostalgia angle is fairly played out, and we’re as sick of it as anybody else. Besides, most people don’t actually want to go back to the cassette, or they would.
Still the cassette has not lost all its charm — in fact, you can still use it to spice up your digital music in four fairly awesome, by our estimation, ways. Let’s go “reel to real”:
Kaseta.co (Free; Web, Mobile Web)
Dozens of apps cobble YouTube videos into playlists and most of them are fairly useless. That’s why we don’t bother covering stuff like this.
What sets Kaseta apart is customization and a cassette format. The site treats each playlist as a mixtape with a stylized cassette cover image. Your “Kaseta,” should you choose to make one for sharing, is limited to 90 minutes.
It’s easy: search for and add the songs, decorate your cassette with a bevy of customization options, and publish it. You can share Kasetas on Facebook, of course, and “like” other people’s mixes. The highest-rated ones await your listening pleasure on the front page.
It works on smartphones, sorta; If you go to Kaseta.co and play a tape there, it will spawn each song as a YouTube video — in other words, it runs a bit smoother on a real computer.
You can even embed Kasetas on web pages.
DeliTape – ($1; Android, iOS)
One of the coolest things about cassettes when they first came out, was that they were mobile. So is Delitape, which converts your Android or iPhone into a retro-styled “walkman.”
As you listen to the music stored on your phone, you can idly watch the reels of tape on your digital cassette spin. It may sound a little gimmicky, and sure, it is, but Delitape has enough functionality to replace your default media player for a while — or at least long enough to show off to your friends or any nosy subway snoops.
The iOS version includes over 1,000 internet radio stations (this feature is coming to Android). The free version offers a few basic cassette designs, but if you pony up a buck, you get access to the really cool ones.
Cassette to iPod Converter by Hammacher Schlemmer – ($80)
Cassettes, and all kinds of magnetic media for that matter, have a fixed life span. Don’t look now, but some of your favorite cassettes of old may already be degrading.
If you’d like to preserve the ones that haven’t for posterity and nostalgic purposes, here’s your solution: the Cassette to iPod Converter, which basically looks like a Walkman with an iPod dock. Insert your iPod or iPhone, and it automatically converts your tape’s audio into MP3s and puts then on the device.
You might need an adapter, however, if you’re using a device with Apple’s new Lightning connector, and the iPhone 5 probably doesn’t fit, although we have yet to verify that.
The Tape by Reloop – ($129)
The Tape is a no-hassle recording interface that allows DJs to record their sets easily, sans computers or software — but really, you could use it to make digital “mixtapes” of any audio source (i.e. converting vinyl), storing them on USB sticks. It’s shaped like a chunky cassette tape, which means it’s also easy to slip into your gig (or any other) bag — however, it’s not yet for sale.
The Tape works in three steps:
- Connect USB Drive;
- Connect mixer and input cable (or whatever other sound source you’re trying to record from); and
- Press Record (128 Kbps and 320 Kbps options are available).
Hey, DJs: You can still use this even if your mixer only has one output, by passing the sound through The Tape on its way to wherever it’s going.
Once you’ve recorded your set, you can transfer the files to a computer or just hand off your USB drive to a friend directly (in other words, this thing has all sorts of convenient applications for sound hounds). Just one thing: It doesn’t go on sale until January 2013.