With its ability to boost bass levels without saturating tape, is the Aphex Aural Exciter Type C² With Big Bottom the ideal cassette tape bass enhancer?
By: Ringo Bones
Is it just me or is anyone’s primary or initial motivating factor of becoming an audiophile was having the ability to playback those deep gorgeous low frequencies often denied on lesser gear. And with the humble cassette tape, more or less, becoming the egalitarian hi-fi medium of choice from the late 1970s till the end of the first decade of the year 2000, should it be able to reproduce those low frequencies with aplomb at beer-budget prices?
After seeing it advertized in most “musician oriented” magazines back in the early 1990s – i.e. Keyboard, Guitar Player, Bass Player and Guitar World magazines – I’ve always coveted the Aphex Aural Exciter Type C² With Big Bottom so that I will be able to record those gorgeous low frequencies onto cassette tape without the resulting muddy sound that results when you put to much low frequencies into cassette tape during recording. As promised by its advert, the Aphex Aural Exciter Type C² With Big Bottom allows you to do just that – record ridiculous levels of bass onto cassette without the resulting muddy result. And as an added bonus, when used as a preamplifier between your cassette tape deck and your main power amplifier, the unit has the ability to make your 8-inch woofer sounds as if it is a 15-inch woofer! But does it work as promised?
Back in 2011, I had the good fortune of finding an Aphex Aural Exciter Type C² With Big Bottom on sale at our local pawn shop for around 79 US dollars so I snapped it up immediately for testing. As a cassette tape recording preamplifier, the resulting recorded low frequency sounds reminded me of those Luxman tape decks with a 12AX7 vacuum tube based buffer preamp – a gentle compression of the very low frequencies and adding a sense of warmth to upper bass and lower midrange frequencies – it is as if you are recording sounds onto cassette using single-ended triode vacuum tube circuits. As a playback preamplifier, it made the “solid-state sounding” solid-state power amplifier you are currently using sound as if it is a vacuum tube amplifier – at least in the bass frequencies. As for the actuality of the advertised claim of the unit’s ability of making your 8-inch woofer sounds as if it is a 15-inch woofer? Not quite but the Aphex Aural Exciter Type C² With Big Bottom did manage to lower the “listening fatigue effects of listening to budget solid-state gear on prolonged periods of time.