Costing on average twice that of Normal Type I cassette tapes are High Bias Type II cassette tapes the most cost effective upgrade for the budget conscious audiophile?
By: Ringo Bones
During the 1980s – and in fact well into the 1990s and the first decade of the year 2000 – audiophiles who still use cassette tapes in compiling their own “mix tapes” for personal listening via Walkman or car stereo will probably gravitate towards TDK’s Super Avilyn cobalt-doped series of high bias Type II cassette tapes despite that on average these costs twice as much as Normal or Type I cassette tapes. But is the improvement in sound quality really worth the cost?
In my actual experience on the matter, CD players were still a relative rarity in the 1990s and no CD potable – then and now – even approaches the sound quality capability of the famed Marantz CD 63 SE Ken Ishiwata Signature. But inexplicably, if you are lucky enough to own or have access to a good sounding CD player and an excellent audiophile tape deck, like a Marantz CD 63 SE connected to those Technics “Thin Film Tape Head” series of cassette decks, recording your CDs onto a TDK Super Avilyn blank cassette even without resorting to speed doubling could make your still functional 1980s era Sony Walkman sounds as good as a Marantz CD 63 CD player.
To me at least, my primary raison d’être for using high bias tapes over normal tapes is that not only that high bias tapes like TDK SA can record better high frequencies in comparison to normal cassette tapes but also of their low noise or tape hiss. Walkmans and car stereos are usually equipped with Type II High Bias 70 μ second / Type I 120 μ second switch. Switching the setting to Type II 70 μ second usually results in a noise reduction that’s better than Dolby B without the dulling effect of low cost cassette playback equipment with a not optimally set Dolby B noise reduction system . And I bet others' preference of other high bias tapes than the TDK SA over normal Type I tapes may be largely due to tape hiss issues.