Famed as the maker of the world’s finest cassette tape decks during its heyday – but did you also know that Nakamichi also entered the audiophile prerecorded cassette tape manufacturing during the mid-1980s?
By: Ringo Bones
Even though it was a sad day when they closed up shop back in the late 1990s because making the world’s finest cassette tape decks is no longer economically viable most audiophiles under-50 probably don’t know that during the mid 1980s, Nakamichi entered the world of audiophile prerecorded cassette tape deck manufacturing. Understandable, since – in my own experience at least – audiophile prerecorded cassette tapes are probably one of the rarest hi-fi related items one could find in a typical garage sale or flea market.
In an October 14, 1984 issue of The New York Times, there was an article about Nakamichi going into the cassette recording business and has just issued the first two-dozen tapes in what was then the company’s new undertaking. Calling its new tapes the Reference Recording Series, Nakamichi has licensed recordings from some major audiophile disk manufacturers and duplicated them on TDK metal tape, with each tape recorded while in its final shell, rather than doing what was then a common industry practice of recording bulk tape first and then wound them into plastic shells.
At the time, Nakamichi says its audiophile prerecorded music cassette tapes have a flat frequency response of 20-Hz to 20,000-Hz and a dynamic range or signal-to-noise ratio of over 90-dB. Quite impressive since most commercially produced mass-market prerecorded music cassette tapes at the time can barely crawl past 16,000-Hz and can achieve a signal-to-noise ratio of 70-dB only if the “wind is blowing in the right direction”. Each Nakamichi manufactured cassette is available either with Dolby B noise reduction – which was standard on most cassette tape decks at the time – or Dolby C, a newer and improved system at the time. Further and of special interest to those with automatic-reverse decks, the tapes are designed so that there is little or no blank space at the end of either side. The tapes will be sold through Nakamichi’s equipment retailers. According to those fortunate enough to experience the heyday of the audiophile cassette tape firsthand during the early 1980s, it was the increasing sophistication of car stereo systems at the time that became the raison d’être of the “audiophile prerecorded music cassette tape industry“.