QCASS: Astrocom Model 307 Quadraphonic Cassette Deck

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jaybird100

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Philips has repeatedly suggested that the way to four-channel cassettes must involve a further reduction of track width. Specifically, this is eight very narrow tracks all within the width of a little more than 1/8inch...


So...it was a Philips idea, I suppose that the Astrocom 307 could have allowed Dolby B for Stereo cassette recording, but not for Quad cassette recording (possibly pacifying Dolby Labs).

(My interest in Audio began with receiving a compact cassette recorder for Christmas 1969 [a Craig 2610], so I followed developments in the compact cassette format closely)


Kirk Bayne
Thinking about how narrow those tracks would have to be on a quad cassette, Philips's way, it would be very tricky to keep those heads properly aligned. I realize Philips wanted to make all cassettes playable on all cassette players, but this would have been the one exception to the rule.
 

LuvMyQuad

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It makes you wonder if the course of Quad acceptance might not have fared better had there been a readily available casette based format to easily record and play Quad vinyl just like stereo casettes. Use in cars alone would have been a major factor I think.
 

kfbkfb

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One possibility I thought of (back in the early 1970s) after reading about the discrete Quad compact cassette proposal:

Borrowed from the CD-4 concept - the existing stereo cassette tracks would contain L=LF+LB and R=RF+RB and the tracks used for side 2 would contain LF-LB and RF-RB (the play head would play all 4 tracks), the same math functions done for CD-4 would retrieve the original 4 (discrete) channels.

The only problem would be twice as much tape would be needed for a Quad album as compared to a Stereo album.


Kirk Bayne
 

doity

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If they could had somehow figured things out with Phillips this could had really been the thing to sell Quad sound. Chrome tape was introduced about this time and that would had helped with the fidelity issue. Also Dolby was just around the corner if not already available to consumers. Most people would had gladly went for it and it could had lessen the confusion of all of those different matrix schemes. The audiophiles could still have their SQ and CD4 records, while the average Joe would had gone the cassette route. Maybe to lessen tape hiss and crosstalk they could do what RtR did with offering two different speeds and have the faster speed versions as a two tape set? No?
 

kfbkfb

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Philips has exercised tight control over the development and growth of Schoenmakers' invention...


(also mentions some Quad compact cassette proposals, odd for an article written in 1980)

Double speed compact cassette machines had to wait until the Philips IP protections began to expire.


Kirk Bayne
 

Soundfield

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I realize Philips wanted to make all cassettes playable on all cassette players, but this would have been the one exception to the rule.
But surely Philips proposal was not an exception - it was the only one that could have maintained mono and stereo compatibility.
 

kfbkfb

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The JVC Quad compact cassette proposal (from the 1980 HF article) was close to what I thought of, for some reason, JVC, of all companies, didn't think of the sum and difference scheme for Stereo compatible discrete Quad compact cassettes.


Kirk Bayne
 

doity

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Did the Lear Corporation hold the 8 track patents? Because you would think that the manufactures who WERE interested in Quad cassettes could had pointed to 8 tracks and proved that it could be done. Granted, 8 tracks have more room to work with but if we had a man on the moon by then I am sure that the engineers could had figured it out. Just like there are tabs to determine tape type, there could had been tabs to determine mono/stereo and quad tapes.

Not sure how patent royalties were collected in the case of gear and blank media. Maybe Phillips could had gotten a license payment for each quad tape deck after it met their approval. A win-win for everyone. But noooooo........they had to go and ruin everything for us 😂.
 

Soundfield

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But noooooo........they had to go and ruin everything for us 😂.
Yeah, what use would standardisation have been? What quad really needed was another load of incompatible formats to confuse the public even further.
 

doity

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What really blows my mind after skimming this article is how Phillips was so concerned about Dolby sounding rough on non-Dolby cassette players. Hello.....does anyone remember how cassettes sounded in the early 70’s without Dolby? Like crap, and they are lucky that people were willing to take the format seriously beyond its intended use as a dictation media. I can see them being protective of their patents if the sound was good from the get-go, but it wasn’t until the late 70’s before the technology finally allowed the cassette to produce a decent sound quality.

Since it was a imperfect technology to start with you would think that they would had allowed any and all innovations to come forth and let someone else absorb the R&D. The losers would had fallen by the wayside and the cream of the crop would be left. Which is what eventually happened but by then serious music listeners had outdated notions of what the cassette was capable of.
 

Soundfield

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By sticking to its guns and strictly enforcing a common standard Philips ensured that the compact cassette became a massively successful worldwide format that lasted and progressively improved for decades. It still hasn't entirely disappeared.
 

jaybird100

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One possibility I thought of (back in the early 1970s) after reading about the discrete Quad compact cassette proposal:

Borrowed from the CD-4 concept - the existing stereo cassette tracks would contain L=LF+LB and R=RF+RB and the tracks used for side 2 would contain LF-LB and RF-RB (the play head would play all 4 tracks), the same math functions done for CD-4 would retrieve the original 4 (discrete) channels.

The only problem would be twice as much tape would be needed for a Quad album as compared to a Stereo album.


Kirk Bayne
I could still see problems with this concept. It looks great on paper, but then, so did CD-4. I doubt, too, that it would pass muster with Philips, considering their concept of what compatibility cassettes should have with mono and stereo players.
 

doity

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By sticking to its guns and strictly enforcing a common standard Philips ensured that the compact cassette became a massively successful worldwide format that lasted and progressively improved for decades. It still hasn't entirely disappeared.
Yes but how many people out there have a positive view on cassettes beyond a few fringe types still clinging to them? Believe me, you don’t have to preach cassettes to me as I am one of their biggest proponents with a massive collection (probably the largest) of rare pre-recorded audiophile cassettes and numerous high end decks in my collection. Just within my small room here I have 8 of them while at home the number is probably close to 50 or more easily. We’re talking decks, not tapes.

Instead it is the everyday consumer that has or had a dim view on them. They will always give you a story about how they used to break or jam their deck whereas this rarely happened to me. And audiophiles scoff at them generally and talk about wow and flutter, limited frequency range, or tape hiss. So basically cassettes have a bum rap from just about everyone. Only a few people had a open mind about them and kept using them after the CD became mainstream.

Yes, Phillips might had tried to enforce a common standard but a lot of good that did. Sure, they sold gazillions of them for a couple of decades but now they are relegated to history by and large.
 

Q-Eight

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The correct path, and the tight timeline made for some pretty strange bedfellows. For instance, instead of embracing a 4-pickup cassette head for decks thus enabling them to play either direction.... no.... they instead wasted time focusing energy on strange mechanisms that flipped the head, or, more entertaining still; the Akai "Invert-O-Matics" that actually grab the cassette, truck it backwards, physically rotate the tape 180° and then truck it back to the playback area. After all that, somebody suggested using a 4-track head and the entire notion became moot. But by that point, it's what.... 1983?

But imagine if they'd have decided on a 4-track head in 1973? Well then you could either have unit capable of playing either direction without flipping tape OR make it Quad compatible, but play only 1 direction. Cassette's held 90 minutes in stereo, that's 45-mins per side. 45 minutes is enough for 98% of the albums out there. I really don't understand what the issue would have been. Tape costs would be passed along to the customer. Although I imagine a specific Quad shell would be best so that the unit would automatically select 4-channel mode once the tape is placed in the machine. Big deal. Phillips really had a bug up their bum, didn't they?

There was even talk about Quad Elcaset and I've been told that one WOULD have embraced a 4-track head, since it used 1/4" tape anyway.... at 3 3/4 i.p.s. with nearly zero wow or flutter.... that would've definitely taken a chunk out of the Quad 8-track market for sure.
 

Soundfield

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Phillips (sic) really had a bug up their bum, didn't they?
Luckily yes. It resulted in the most successful and long lasting domestic audio tape format ever. Nothing else came remotely close ( even in the video tape domain VHS was a flash in the pan in comparison).
 

par4ken

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What really blows my mind after skimming this article is how Phillips was so concerned about Dolby sounding rough on non-Dolby cassette players. Hello.....does anyone remember how cassettes sounded in the early 70’s without Dolby? Like crap, and they are lucky that people were willing to take the format seriously beyond its intended use as a dictation media. I can see them being protective of their patents if the sound was good from the get-go, but it wasn’t until the late 70’s before the technology finally allowed the cassette to produce a decent sound quality.

Since it was a imperfect technology to start with you would think that they would had allowed any and all innovations to come forth and let someone else absorb the R&D. The losers would had fallen by the wayside and the cream of the crop would be left. Which is what eventually happened but by then serious music listeners had outdated notions of what the cassette was capable of.
Dolby made those early pre-recorded tapes more listenable by boosting the treble a bit, they sounded decent without decoding. The fact that pre-recorded tapes were high speed dubbed was not a recipe for great sound. I always thought that my portable mono cassette recorder could make better sounding tapes than the pre-recorded ones of the early and mid seventies! Sound did improve over the years but not all that much, the fact that pre-recorded cassettes outsold LP's before the introduction of CD's just shows that the general public is more concerned with convenience than with great sound. Those same cassette users are likely the mp3 users of today.
 

par4ken

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The correct path, and the tight timeline made for some pretty strange bedfellows. For instance, instead of embracing a 4-pickup cassette head for decks thus enabling them to play either direction.... no.... they instead wasted time focusing energy on strange mechanisms that flipped the head, or, more entertaining still; the Akai "Invert-O-Matics" that actually grab the cassette, truck it backwards, physically rotate the tape 180° and then truck it back to the playback area. After all that, somebody suggested using a 4-track head and the entire notion became moot. But by that point, it's what.... 1983?

But imagine if they'd have decided on a 4-track head in 1973? Well then you could either have unit capable of playing either direction without flipping tape OR make it Quad compatible, but play only 1 direction. Cassette's held 90 minutes in stereo, that's 45-mins per side. 45 minutes is enough for 98% of the albums out there. I really don't understand what the issue would have been. Tape costs would be passed along to the customer. Although I imagine a specific Quad shell would be best so that the unit would automatically select 4-channel mode once the tape is placed in the machine. Big deal. Phillips really had a bug up their bum, didn't they?

There was even talk about Quad Elcaset and I've been told that one WOULD have embraced a 4-track head, since it used 1/4" tape anyway.... at 3 3/4 i.p.s. with nearly zero wow or flutter.... that would've definitely taken a chunk out of the Quad 8-track market for sure.
There were some decks that had 4-pickup heads (for auto reverse). The only problem with them was that if the head was aligned for one direction it could be off a bit in the other direction. Instead of adhering to better tolerances many developed wild schemes to flip the head or tape, instead!
The Elcaset could of been good for Quad, but I always thought (right from the beginning) that formatt was a non starter. If you wanted convenience and portability you would stick to cassette, likewise audiophiles would stick with reel to reel, even if a bit more inconvenient.
 

kfbkfb

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...rare pre-recorded audiophile cassettes and numerous high end decks in my collection.


Have you joined this discussion forum (there have been a few discussions about Quad/Surround Sound cassettes)?


Kirk Bayne
 

surround.sound.enthusiast

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By sticking to its guns and strictly enforcing a common standard Philips ensured that the compact cassette became a massively successful worldwide format that lasted and progressively improved for decades. It still hasn't entirely disappeared.
Too true. I was in my local Bullmoose the other day taking a quick peek at records, and right above them? Recent production, pre-recorded cassettes. With newer titles than I saw the last time I paused on them. In fact, their website is currently listing 53(!) available releases. Yikes!

Now I'm a child of the 80's and grew up with cassettes as the mainstay - LP's only a nostalgic side note, and CD's unheard of to me until the 90's. But I'm really surprised at this embryonic resurgence of cassettes. With LP's I wasn't, I was just like "everyone else has finally caught on to the fun of playing records and looking at artwork full size". But cassettes? It seems like a major swing in nostalgia from artists my age who remember them from their childhood, or the much younger who never knew them before they shrunk from the market place. I've still got my dual cassette deck and tape collection with no plans of getting rid of them.

Remember the 80's? Remember Tape World? I do!

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