A Cassette Decks Buying Guide

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A Cassette Decks Buying Guide

Used for playing the cassette tape, one of the popular recording mediums of the 1980s well into the 1990s, the cassette deck has had a long a career as a music and audio accessory. Cassette decks were an integral part of both the history of music and home stereo set-ups for several years. In the present day, the cassette has been replaced by digital media in music distribution, but it is still widely used for personal audio and visual projects. Cassette decks,, also referred to as tape decks, are still sold as collector items amongst audio enthusiasts and as pragmatic tools to use in preparing audio materials.

As one begins shopping for a cassette deck, it can be useful to know a bit about the history of this device and its audio properties, the media with which it works, and some of the technical aspects of cassette decks. It is also helpful to know how one can utilise the online auction site, eBay,, to purchase a cassette deck.

An Overview of Cassette Decks

The cassette deck purchasing process can be greatly informed by understanding the history and technical aspects of cassette recordings. This can help consumers understand the nature of the media and how a cassette deck may be integrated into their lives.

The History of Cassette Decks

The original technology behind the cassette deck was actually invented for use in the business world rather than for music production. In 1965, a compact-style cassette was developed for use in dictation machines, providing secretaries with an easy way to record and transcribe dictation without shorthand. This first iteration of a cassette tape was not particularly high-fidelity oriented and registered a lot of distortion and buzz in its recordings.

By the mid-1970s, however, cassette decks and cassette technology had not only made marked technological improvements, but they also had transitioned into the commercial entertainment market. Many homes at this point were using cassette decks as part of a home entertainment system. Cassette decks had level controls and VU meters, which allowed home users to optimise the audio quality of a cassette deck’s performance.

Cassette Decks in the 1980s

The mid-1980s marked the peak of cassette deck technology. Commercial cassette decks at this point were available with dual cassette designs, as well as auto-reversing features which allowed a tape to automatically begin playing the other side without a user having to physically flip the cassette. Another game-changing feature was the addition of a series of Dolby noise reduction solutions. These features compressed the high frequencies on cassette recordings, greatly reducing the hiss that often presented in playback.

A Cassette Deck vs. A Cassette Player

When shopping for a cassette deck, it is important for consumers to understand the distinction between a deck and a cassette player. A cassette player is a self-contained unit which contains its own amplification system, allowing it to play without the aid of external speakers. Cassette players were often designed for portability, as well. A cassette deck, on the other hand, does not have internal amplification and is a large, stationary unit. It is intended for use with external speakers and is often integrated into an entire stereo or hi-fi system.

Types of Cassette Decks

The cassette decks available in the marketplace fall into two main categories. Each of these types has its own set of advantages that can make it a good fit for certain preferences.

Single Deck Cassette Decks

Single deck cassette decks handle one cassette at a time. These decks are recommended for consumers who are interested in just playing cassettes or recording to cassette media from other media, such as CDs.

Dual Deck Cassette Decks

Dual deck cassette decks have two decks, allowing users to record content from one cassette to another. Some units within this type of cassette deck have multiple recording speeds for transferring content from one cassette to the other.

Car Cassette Decks

Car cassette decks are designed to integrate with the sound system in a vehicle. While cars in the past often had a cassette deck as a built-in feature, many modern vehicles do not. Car cassette decks can appeal to car enthusiasts who need replacement parts for classic vehicles or for consumers who still have cassette collections and want to enjoy them in their vehicles.

Types of Cassette Tapes

Consumers who purchase cassette decks need to invest in the right kind of media. Cassette tapes come in three main categories, each with different technical and audio features.

Normal or Ferric Cassette Tapes

Normal or ferric cassette tapes are a basic answer to a cassette deck's media needs. These tapes do not offer high-fidelity recording or playback and should be used for non-music applications, such as recording lectures and dictation.

Chrome Cassette Tapes

Chrome cassette tapes are the more common type available on the market. The term "chrome" is actually an abbreviation of chromium dioxide which is the primary element used in manufacturing these tapes. Chrome cassette tapes are high bias tapes and can be used for making quality recordings of music.

Metal Cassette Tapes

Metal cassette tapes were created as a high-fidelity response to the CD. This form of tape medium provides a high quality of recording and can capture much of the sonic quality produced by a CD. These tapes also stand up well to multiple recordings, meaning that they can be used over and over again without as much reduction in quality as the other types of tapes. To use a metal cassette tape to its full advantage, a consumer must have a cassette deck with a CR/MTL switch.

Functions of Cassette Decks

Cassette decks come with a variety of functions for the benefit of the user. Some decks may have some or all of these features. The table below lists these features and provides a brief explanation of each feature's benefits.



Auto Reverse

Flips the tape from one side to the other, allowing for continual play.


On dual deck cassette decks, relay-play automatically begins playing one deck, after the other has reached its end.


Starts playing the source media as soon as "record" is pressed on the cassette deck.

Music Search

Allows users to fast forward song-by-song on a cassette tape.

Programmable Music Search

Allows user to fast forward to a particular song number on a cassette tape.

Intro Scan

Gives a deck the ability to fast forward to a song and play the beginning of that song before fast forwarding to the next. This allows the user to find a specific song on a tape.

High-Speed Dubbing

Allows decks to record at twice the regular playback speed of a tape.

Familiarising themselves with the features in cassette decks can help consumers in the search for an appropriate product. By focussing the search on the desired features of cassette decks, a consumer can find the right device that meets the needs.

Buying Cassette Decks on eBay

The online auction site eBay has a large catalogue of cassette decks available for purchase. The site also offers a large used marketplace as well, giving you access to quality second-hand cassette decks. Looking for cassette decks on the website is facilitated by the search bar located on any page on the site. You can enter a search term you like in the search window and click search to pull up relevant listings. A specific term, such as "dual cassette deck&", can pull up a more refined list, while a general term such as "cassette deck" can pull up the entire catalogue of options on the site.

When buying new and used electronics on the website, you can benefit greatly from taking some time to evaluate the seller with whom you are interested in completing a transaction. Visit the seller’s page by clicking on the vendor’s name from the listing. On the seller’s page, you can view past auctions and feedback that other customers have submitted. This can help you determine whether a seller's offerings and level of service can satisfy your needs.


Even with the advent of digital music, cassette decks still have a place in the lives of many consumers. Cassette decks can provide a way to enjoy an older music collection and offers pragmatic solutions to recording media. There is a wide variety to the cassette decks on the market today, spanning from single to dual deck units. These products incorporate many features that facilitate the enjoyment of music, such as synchro-start, auto reverse, and intro scan.

Finding and purchasing cassette decks is greatly facilitated by the online auction site, eBay. As an aggregator of both new and used electronics, eBay provides consumers with a consolidated point from which to access almost any type of cassette deck. Consumers visiting the site to purchase a cassette deck just have to enter a search term to begin looking through cassette deck listings. By taking the time to communicate with and evaluate the sellers offering cassette decks, a consumer can quickly and easily find the cassette deck that can complement an existing stereo system or media centre.

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