Did you know reel-to-reel is the earliest form of magnetic tape audio recordings?
If it’s the oldest, then surely it isn’t the best, right?
Before we jump to conclusions let’s compare reel-to-reel audio to cassette tapes. You might be surprised to find out which one has better sound quality.
Reel-to-reel was first invented in Nazi Germany in the late 1920s. The technology was hidden from the rest of the world until it was discovered in the 1940s and later commercialized in the 1950s.
In 1962, the cassette tape was invented in Belgium. The tapes were introduced to the US market a couple years later and quickly became the most accessible audio recording product due to its compact size. Reel-to-reel tapes were very bulky and couldn’t do justice to the convenience of cassette tapes.
By 1983, cassette tapes overtook vinyl and reel-to-reel sales and became the most popular option for audio recordings. So does this mean cassette tapes sound better than reel-to-reel?
Believe it or not, reel-to-reel came before cassette and other forms of magnetic tapes and the audio recording has reigned supreme for audiophiles ever since. Goes to show that reel-to-reel is a classic example of “if it’s not broken, why fix it?”
But why is reel-to-reel sound quality superior to the cassette? Reel-to-reel audio has a greater dynamic range and less signal processing than cassette tapes. In fact, the sound quality even surpasses vinyl.
Nonetheless, reel-to-reel lost prominence in the music world for its price and bulk. While audiophiles like record producers or radio DJs held onto the relics, the rest of the world quickly turned to cassettes, vinyl, and CDs.
If by chance you do have an album on both reel-to-reel and cassette, you’ll receive a better quality sound from your reel-to-reel version. So the next time you’re trying to impress dinner party guests, or just sit back and relax to some tunes, give reel-to-reel another chance! Your ears won’t be disappointed.