Kickstarter Campaign Aims to Fund Cassette Player

In December we wrote about Mixxtape, a Bluetooth-enabled digital music player from U.S.-based Mixxim that doubles as a cassette said to play in “most tape decks.”

Today Paris-based Mulann SA launched a Kickstarter campaign under the brand RecordingTheMasters to fund development of a portable cassette player it calls Mystik.

This latest attempt to revive the audio cassette, which enjoyed massive popularity in the 1970s and 1980s and all but disappeared by the turn of the century, is an effort to build a “next-generation” Bluetooth-enabled device that plays and records cassettes.

Looking like it 1980s-era personal player you might find at your local flea market, Mystik is not much bigger than the cassette it plays and built around a “revamped electronic board” designed with the help of former Thomson/RCA audio engineers. The player is powered by a rechargeable battery and boasts a built-in microphone for on-they-fly recording and a 3.5mm line input for “higher fidelity recording.”

Of course, there’s also a headphone jack and a switch to turn its stereo Bluetooth transmitter on when you want to wirelessly stream your latest mix tape to a nearby Bluetooth speaker.

As of Monday morning, the company had already raised $23,441 of its $57,000 goal. The money will be used to perfect the prototype player shown above with the goal of bringing it to market this fall at a retail price of around $110. A limited number of early backers who pledge $93 will be among the first to receive a player and a blank 60-minute cassette — assuming the project is fully funded in the next 28 days.

RecordingTheMasters is quick to note that Eminem, Jack White, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Sufjan Stevens, Lana Del Rey, and other artists have recently released albums on cassette and says sales of cassettes is outpacing sales of vinyl LPs.

Mulann, a manufacturer of magnetic stripes and smart cards, started producing Fox C60 blank cassettes under its RecordingTheMasters brands in 2018 and claims to be the worldwide leader in reel-to-reel tape manufacturing. The tape used in the Fox cassettes is manufactured at Mulann’s facility in Normandy, France using chemical formulas from magnetic-tape specialists AGFA and BASF.

For more information, visit Click here for more on Mulann SA and here for more on its RecordingTheMasters brand.

DennyH's picture

I don't really see the point of this device.

vqworks's picture

A lot of mainstream consumers were skeptical about the comeback of the vinyl format. Yet, here it is today supported by a lot of operating pressing plants (on hiatus due to COVID-19). Vinyl was never really dead because it was sustained by a moderate but extremely loyal following of analog audiophiles long enough for some mainstream consumers (particularly a new generation of listeners) to learn about it and love it. In the UK it has taken over streaming music sales two years ago.

The cassette format faces a greater challenge. In its pre-recorded form, its sound quality is generally subpar for audiophile standards, with restricted highs, high-end compression due to overly-aggressive recording levels and high-speed duplication. Its sound quality can best be described as laid back with a muddy bass and compressed highs. Hiss isn't an issue because of the overly aggressive recording levels.

The cassette format was popular back in the 70s and 80s because it was convenient, portable and cheap for the masses who used boomboxes. On the other hand, most analog audiophiles didn't like it during its heydays because it could only produce good sound quality if you recorded your own LPs or CDs. Even then, you needed high-quality cassette decks that sold from at least $250 to well over $700 to truly produce audiophile-worthy results but only after calibrating the deck to the particular tape being used and carefully setting recording levels. Many audiophiles didn't bother learning or practicing these requirements and just blamed the format for subpar results.

The transport used in Mulann SA's prototype cassette player is only produced by one manufacturer. Unfortunately, the transport is a relic of a transport used in the lowest end boomboxes and personal stereos of the 80s and 90s. Virtually all personal stereo cassette players have small capstan flywheels that are too small to provide stable sound (for sufficiently low wow & flutter). To top that off, there's no basic Dolby noise reduction circuitry in the electronics because Dolby Labs has apparently stopped licensing the circuit. This is why the latest Tascam (professional division of Teac) cassette decks that are still available on-line do not contain any noise reduction.

My personal take is that unless the quality of Mulann SA's personal cassette player can meet a certain level of sound quality to attract a younger generation of curious mainstream consumers, the consumers will continue with their vinyl and streaming services.

The only way the cassette format can truly make a comeback, is for a large manufacturer such as Technics to eventually take the initial risk to take advantage of its large-scale production facilities using its robots to produce the kind of low-cost, high-quality cassette decks that they produced back in the 80s and 90s using its own transports. Dolby needs to get onboard by reviving its licensing of its Dolby NR circuits (B, C, and S). If the market responds in a positive way, then other manufacturers can supplement the market with higher-end offerings containing auto-calibration facilities.

That's a lot of "if's". So the current effort to resurrect the cassette format using the Bluetooth feature is clever and admirable but a long shot.