Mixed tapes. They served a few purposes. Storage devices for the original playlists. A way to produce your own “greatest hits” collection of favourite artists. I remember a few blokes from my youth giving “mixed tapes” to romantic interests. Blank tapes were how heavier music made their way into households in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Music stores at the time in my hometown did not carry the heavier sub-genres of metal that would define much of my youth, and still continue to inspire me today.
There was something really fun about having a “recording session” assembling those songs onto tape. It required thought and work. For the tapes themselves, I took the type of cassette just as seriously as the songs that would be recorded on to them. Only rarely did I end up buying some blank tapes that were of poor quality. My parents would get blank tapes when they were on sale and split them up between me and my brother. We used a few for recording our own “radio shows”, or jam sessions with our respective instruments. My closest friend and I recorded what became known as “funny tapes”, containing our radio shows. Those shows would be mostly improvised bits. Several of our mutual friends did the same types of recordings. To this day, we talk about moments from those tapes that sent us into hysterical fits of laughter. Those were my earliest moments of laughing so hard it turned into tears.
Through some searching, I located a few of my favourite blank tape brands over the years and what were great about them.
These BASF tapes were the most commonly seen at various department stores in and around my hometown. I remembered seeing BASF tapes among my Uncle’s collection of cassettes so the name always stood out to me. They had acceptable sound quality. When my tape collection was at its’ largest, most of the blank tapes were from BASF.
Maxell cassettes were among the best in my view because of how they recorded everything overall. Even the lesser-quality versions of their tapes did great with audio and songs. This particular High Bias line was the best of their line in my opinion. They were great for recording from CD, tape and radio. A good quality stereo with a microphone made these tapes great for recording jam sessions in a garage or other small setting.
TDK High Bias were my personal favourite. The gold label for me was the gold standard. The reason I ranked these higher than the Maxell golds was because they retained their quality even decades later after heavy play. Most of my favourite mixed tapes were made with these cassettes. Minimal to no drag, and crystal clear sound even through the shittiest stereo.
I’m sure there are a few more that could be included here as honourable mentions. If you have any to share, comment below.