I miss 8-track. I really, really do!

In this thread, MrBlueSky opines that 8-tracks deserved to die. Now, obviously the marketplace agreed with him, and I’ll concede that their bulk and the difficulty in locating the tune you wanted to hear made them less convenient than other media.

But it seemed to me that compared to cassette and LPs, at least, they had fattest sound and the best stereo separation going. I wasn’t into classical music then, but one of the last 8-tracks I bought was the soundtrack to Star Wars, and I recall being completely enveloped in the orchestra. And that, at least, I did have the chance to compare to LP.

Am I imagining things, or did 8-tracks really have aural advantages?


PS: Next week’s thread - 101 reasons why my Commordore 64 was better than the PIII I currently use! :wink:

The guy who invented 8track invented something else famous.

I just saw it on the History channel “Inventions” program and then forgot it. Perhaps the microwave oven?

The Lear Jet.


The sound quality was less than a standard audio cassette as they were fitting a lot more information in the same space. The enjoyment you probably experienced “being enveloped” was probably due to the good listening environment it was in compared to your other listening environment for other media. An example is that a lot of popular music was engineered to sound really good in a car, the artists would put it on a cassette and take it out of the studio and into their car. This was because the music was marketed to sound good for AM radio. (And yes, I know this does not apply to Star Wars).

No, not true. IIRC, Cassettes were 1/8” wide, while 8 tracks were 1/4”. 8 tracks had 4 stereo channels (8 mono tracks) recorded across the width, while cassettes only had 2 stereo channels (4 mono tracks). So in width they were about even.

But cassettes ran at half the liner speed (1.875 ips compared to 3.75 ips? I’m not sure anymore). So cassettes actually had less area to store the same music.

Largely because of the higher tape speed, 8 tracks (in their heyday) had better frequency response than cassettes, and particularly better high frequency response.

8 Track’s (and 4 track’s before them) major problems came from their physical setup. A never ending loop that spooled out from the center, and wrapped back around the outside. To make this work, the tape had to constantly slide over itself, with each layer of the tape rubbing against the layers both under it and on top of it. Inevitably, the tape pack would “tighten up”, and this had several bad effects. More flutter, more abrasion of the tape magnetic emulsion, and eventually, the tape pack would tighten so much the tape was trapped in the center, and wouldn’t spool out at all, thus making the tape unplayable. Most folks threw them away at this point, but many of us opened them up, pulled out a few loops of tape to loosen the pack back up, cut & spliced the tape to remove the (now extra) twists, and put them back in service.
Also because of the way the tape was looped, you couldn’t rewind, you could only run the tape forward. And high speed fast-forward tended to tighten the tapes even faster then normal, so a fast-forward speed was usually only a couple of times faster then normal play.

Advances in recording/playback head technology and tape emulsions is what made the cassette a viable music recording medium, where it had previously been only good for voice. Once the sound quality got better, it’s smaller size and other physical advantages killed the 8 track.

But originally, 8 tracks had better sound, by far.


Can you imagine young folks today, trying to understand the concept of listening to a studio-issued recording of some band’s music, that fades out in mid-song, clicks tracks, and fades back in?

Okay, okay, I don’t miss THAT part of it! :wink:

I’d forgotten about the fades. But I only owned a couple of eight tracks for playing in the family travel trailer.

What? That CLUNK was the best part of 8-tracks! That’s what woke you up out of a stoned haze, and reminded you to drive down to the 7-11 for a Slurpee!


Hated it then. Don’t miss it now.

[sub]And everyone knows that the munchies and dry mouth were what reminded you to run to the 7-11![/sub]


Well, you should have said somthing when you registered here! Angie & I would’ve let you have our 8-track, along with the '79 Chevy wagon it was in.