How does my car's tape player do this ?

I got a car, finally. The one I’ve got now has a tape player in it, when I pushed the button to fast forward, it went to the next song on the tape. That’s pretty cool !

How does it know when one song ends ? I can’t do that, I just keep hitting the button and hope I’m close.


My guess is that it’s also reading the tape as it fast forards, and when it gets to a point in the magnetic tape with no informatin on it, it stops, and odds are, that will be right before the next song.

The tape head stays in contact with the tape as it’s being fast-forwarded, looking for (1) the fade-out at the end of some songs and/or (2) the loss of signal between tracks. When it senses these, it stops the fast forward and engages playback. Many audiophiles hate auto-search because it causes more wear & tear on the tape heads and requires more frequent head cleanings. It may also wear out the tape itself at a faster rate.

If the tape head detects new signal before it can stop the fast forward, the electronics knows that the tape has not stopped quickly enough and sometimes you can hear the mechanism doing a quick rewind as it attempts to go back and find the start of the track.

Older decks used to partially mute the playback signal during auto-search, allowing the listener to enjoy the screaching instruments and chipmunk voices. I think today’s decks mute the signal in full.

bouv is right. This feature has been on tape decks since the 1970s. It senses the gap of silence between songs. This is not in Fast Forward mode, though, its going to have a variation on the name of Scan, Music Scan, Music Search, etc. In this mode, the tape does not disengage from the playback head as the motor moves the tape rapidly in either direction. When it comes to the next blank, it slows down, stops, reverses to the blank and resumes play. In true FF or REW, the head physically disengages and the search function is disabled. I’m pretty sure that if you hit that button twice, it’ll search ahead two songs, and so on.

You can tell that the search is for a physical gap between the songs by playing a home-made tape in which the songs are designed to abut one another. The search function can’t handle a gap that small and will just keep going.

Interesting. So would the search function also screw up on a professionally-made tape where the songs run into one another, without a proper pause in between?

Yes. You could scan through a tape of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” without it stopping anywhere, because there are no gaps.

CDs also have the same problem identifying track starts on older albums where the songs were designed to segue into one another.

I don’t know the technical details of how they solved it, but if you look closely some songs begin with -0:03, -0:02, -0:01, 0:00, 0:01 etc., clearly done in order to create a proper separation where none existed.

Was going to mention this myself, except just Pink Floyd in general, because there are not often breaks between tracks on any of their albums.

I’ve also found the search function has trouble with some classical music, stopping at quiet spots in the middle of songs.

I’ve never had that problem. However it does happen when ripping songs where there is no dead space between tracks - all of a sudden space gets inserted.

The OP should experiment with an album like “Are You Experienced” or “Magical Mystery Tour” where there is dead space inside a song. I’d guess it would fast forward to the end of the dead space.