Your Guide to Cassette Audio

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Your Guide to Cassette Audio

Cassette audio is not just a relic of the past. Many businesses use cassette audio for recordings and a good number of retro music aficionados turn to it as a vintage collectable. Learning about the various components involved in cassette audio can help consumers find the best options, many of which are available on eBay.

 Cassette Tapes

First developed as a more convenient alternative to reel-to-reel tape, the cassette tape hit its stride in the late 1970s as the go-to distribution media for music. There are three main types of cassette tapes: Type I, Type II, and Type IV. These different categories use different materials in the recording tape and have different tab structures at the top of the cassette tape.


Tape Type

Tape Material

Tab Type

Type I

Iron oxide/ferric

Closed write-protect tabs

Type II

Chrome and cobalt

Closed and open write-protect tabs

Type IV


Type II style tabs and additional centre tabs

On certain cassette players, the additional tabs on the Type II and IV cassette tapes signal to the player that it should adjust bias and equalisation to improve audio performance. Type I tapes were the dominant option on the market for many years but are now primarily vintage media. Consumers looking for cassette tapes can find blank cassettes for recording or pre-recorded tapes.


Cassette Players

Cassette players come in portable, personal and deck-style designs. The most widely used personal cassette player for many years was the Sony Walkman. This handheld personal player is not much larger than the cassette tape itself. Portable cassette players are boombox-style players with large, integrated speakers. They may also come with additional decks, such as a CD deck or a second tape deck, and often have AM/FM radio as well. Deck players are the most advanced from an audio perspective and can feature two decks and equalisation features for optimising sound. Cassette decks typically serve as components players in home audio systems. All types of cassette players may feature a record function for capturing audio.


Cassette Audio as a Retro Medium

As with vinyl, more and more music aficionados are returning to the cassette to enjoy music. While digital music focuses on singles and skipping from track to track, cassettes encourage the "long play" format of the traditional LP. For this reason, in addition to the kitsch value of using a retro medium, many music devotees consider cassette tapes as relevant today as vinyl records.

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