screeching audio tape

I have lots of old audio cassette tapes (20 years old!) I would like to transfer say to CD. But now playing them I find that many screech and groan and some of the screech seems to come over onto the audio signal. They seem to want to be lubricated in some way. Any body had any luck in getting old cassettes back working again?

I worked at a low rent radio station for some years and we had to deal with some cheap cassettes that did this. About half the time, this worked:

Put the tape in the palm of your hand. Slap it sharply about ten times. Worth a try.

If the material is important to you, you might try disassembling the cassette and transplanting the reels into a new shell (practice this on a worthless cassette or two to get the hang of it; it’s not that hard, especially if the cassettes in question are held together with screws).

Is the screech mechanical or electrical? I.e., is it coming from the reels or thru the speakers?

The former Hoops deals with. The latter is a much nastier situation. The binding material used to hold the magnetic particles to the tape can bleed thru and rise to the surface of the tape. This makes a really horrible screeching noise. Some people suggest baking the tapes in a low oven to bake the material back in. I suggest throwing the tapes out. There really are likely to be unusable no matter what.

      • If it’s something absolutely priceless to you, call around to local professional recording companies and ask them if they can do anything for it, or can tell you who can. They won’t do much for free, but they might give quick advice and opinions for free.

        -Or look around on the net for recording forums, like this one:

This guy knows his stuff

Try fiddling with the head of the cassette player. Sometimes that gets loose too. You can loosen or tighten that screw to change the screech.

hoops, I find that whacking the tape temporarily works, so I should be able to transfer the music a track at a time. I will also try transfer the tape to a new cartridge. The screech is coming through both audily and through the speakers, which suprised me, but whacking seems to stop both.

the tapes really are not worth sending to a professional.

Great link PhilAlex.
Sometimes you get screeching because the tension on a tape has gotten too high from repeated play. Rewind them a few times.