Decks and plugs and rock and roll: Tascam CD-A750 cassette and CD combo

I'll give you my tapes when you pry them from my cold, dead hands


Anniversary review The recent El Reg feature on the Compact Cassette's 50th birthday had many a reader commenting on some of the format's former glories. Names mentioned among the dewy-eyed included Aiwa (a favourite in UK studios) and the audiophiles’ choice, Nakamichi, with both producing state-of-the-art recorders with three heads and a lot more besides.

Tascam CD-A750 compact cassette deck and CD player combo

Winning combination? Tascam's CD-A750 compact cassette deck and CD player

Admittedly, these days, the format is as good as dead, but with so much material recorded on cassette, there remains a need to be able to play the content even if it is just to transfer it to a digital format. A few companies continue to supply cassette recorders in various guises from pocket friendly cassette-to-USB gadgets for 20 quid or less to rather more sophisticated offerings for a good deal more.

Teac makes some interesting models that have a CD-writer and cassette combo, but one of the shortcomings that rears its ugly head here is that only audio CDs can be used for recording. Not all CDs are created equal, and the writeable audio version is effectively tagged as OK for Hi-Fi use, and costs more - an indiscriminate copy tax. The Tascam CC222SL mkII is more forgiving, but to use any writable CD, you have to pay for the privilege – it's £879.

So rather than get all hot and bothered about that money grabbing legacy of the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA), a purist approach seemed appropriate. Forget the CD burning, let's focus on the cassette recorder itself. And as it happens that decent models tend to be paired with optical drives, what we have here with the Tascam CD-A750 is a player that doesn't make a fuss about CD formats and will play whatever you stuff into it, including MP3 discs.

Tascam, the Teac professional division, does endeavour to show some studio credibility with the CD-A750. This model looks the part with its rack mounting ears and a peek around the back reveals XLR connectors for +4dBu professional balanced line level interfacing. It also features RS-232 and parallel connectivity, for a range of machine control options that go beyond the infrared handheld remote supplied with the unit.

Tascam CD-A750 compact cassette deck and CD player combo

Rack mountable with balanced XLR audio connectors plus RS-232 and parallel control capability

It's this attention to detail that is likely to see this model installed for education, galleries and even boardroom purposes so that slick operation from something like a Crestron or Extron control panel can be enabled.

Would you really want to go to these lengths for cassette use though? Well, maybe CD playback would be the more obvious choice, but if you were busy transferring copious quantities of cassette content for repurposing on digital media, then hooking up some kind of machine control from your digital audio workstation is going to be favourable to pinkie prodding panel games or waving a remote around.

Tascam provides detailed information on how to get the RS-232 side of things all up and running here, with the owner's manual outlining parallel port use. The latter has tally options – a feature which enables remote status lights to be configured in the setup. So that's some of the quirky stuff the CD-A750 has available, what else?

Quiet times

As far as the cassette deck is concerned, personally, it's disappointing to see only Dolby B supported here. Yes, it was the most widely used noise reduction system and dominated Musicassette duplication. Still, Dolby C, which if memory serves me right never appeared on mass produced titles, nevertheless became a feature on all decent hi-fi decks and, being an improved system, was used by many taping enthusiasts. OK, so I have a load of stuff with it on and I'm sure I'm not alone. Dolby B can be used for Dolby C playback instead, but isn’t ideal.

Alas, there's no escaping the fact that this deck doesn't match the technical prowess of a bygone era. You won't find three heads here – record (sync), playback and erase – just the usual doubling up of record and playback duties on the one head with an erase head too, of course. Also, Metal tapes can only be replayed, not recorded, which seems a bit remiss.

For chromium dioxide tapes, the frequency response figures in the manual quote 50Hz~12.5kHz ±3dB. Maybe I’ve spent too long in the digital domain but this doesn’t look very impressive. A nose at the spec of the Tascam 122 mkIII, a stalwart studio offering from yesteryear, shows similar output variations yet a vastly improved frequency response: 25Hz~19kHz ±3dB with a CrO2 tape.

Tascam 122mkIII compact cassette deck

Hero of the age: Tascam's 122 mkIII compact cassette deck was pretty much an industry standard in studios

It’s an interesting comparison because there are similar remote and professional audio interfacing options on this old model and it also scores highly with its flutter spec. This measurement determines how reliable the playback speed is and how prone it is to minor variations – in effect, frequency modulation.

On the old 122 mkIII, flutter is down to 0.04% whereas the CD-A750 clocks up a mildly seasick 0.25%. Much above 0.3% and people start to notice, and 0.4% was the limit specified by Philips 50 years ago, so this figure gives the impression that Tascam isn't trying very hard here.

Next page: The analogue age

Other stories you might like

  • Apple's latest security feature could literally save lives
    Cupertino is so sure of Lockdown Mode it's offering $2m to bug hunters to break it

    Apple's latest security feature won't be used by most of its customers, but those who need Lockdown Mode could find it to be a literal life saver.

    The functionality, coming with iOS/iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura, dramatically shrinks an iDevice's attack surface by disabling many of its features. It's designed to protect the small number of Apple users who, "because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from NSO Group and other private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware," Apple said in a statement. 

    Lockdown, thus, effectively reduces the number of potential vulnerabilities spyware could exploit to compromise a device, cutting the possible routes into surveillance targets' kit.

    Continue reading
  • Has Intel gone too far with its Ohio fab 'delay' stunt?
    With construction unceremoniously underway, x86 giant may have overplayed its hand

    COMMENT The way Intel has been talking about the status of its $20 billion Ohio fab project, you would be forgiven if you assumed that construction on the Midwest mega-site has been delayed in light of Congress struggling to pass a large subsidies package that would support new American chip factories.

    When Intel delayed a groundbreaking ceremony for the Ohio manufacturing site two weeks ago out of frustration over the subsidies inaction, some headlines may have given you the impression the semiconductor giant was putting off construction entirely.

    However, an Intel spokesperson made it clear to The Register and others at the time that the start date for construction had not changed.

    Continue reading
  • Hive ransomware gang rapidly evolves with complex encryption, Rust code
    RaaS malware devs have been busy bees

    The Hive group, which has become one of the most prolific ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operators, has significantly overhauled its malware, including migrating the code to the Rust programming language and using a more complex file encryption process.

    Researchers at the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) uncovered the Hive variant while analyzing a change in the group's methods.

    "With its latest variant carrying several major upgrades, Hive also proves it's one of the fastest evolving ransomware families, exemplifying the continuously changing ransomware ecosystem," the researchers said in a write-up this week.

    Continue reading
  • What do you mean your exaflop is better than mine?
    Gaming the system was fine for a while, now it's time to get precise about precision

    Comment A multi-exaflop supercomputer the size of your mini-fridge? Sure, but read the fine print and you may discover those performance figures have been a bit … stretched.

    As more chipmakers bake support for 8-bit floating point (FP8) math into next-gen silicon, we can expect an era of increasingly wild AI performance claims that differ dramatically from the standard way of measuring large system performance, using double-precision 64-bit floating point or FP64.

    When vendors shout about exascale performance, be aware that some will use FP8 and some FP64, and it's important to know which is being used as a metric. A computer system that can achieve (say) 200 peta-FLOPS of FP64 is a much more powerful beast than a system capable of 200 peta-FLOPS at just FP8.

    Continue reading
  • Meta's AI translation breaks 200 language barrier
    Open source model improves translation of rarer spoken languages by 70%

    Meta's quest to translate underserved languages is marking its first victory with the open source release of a language model able to decipher 202 languages.

    Named after Meta's No Language Left Behind initiative and dubbed NLLB-200, the model is the first able to translate so many languages, according to its makers, all with the goal to improve translation for languages overlooked by similar projects. 

    "The vast majority of improvements made in machine translation in the last decades have been for high-resource languages," Meta researchers wrote in a paper [PDF]. "While machine translation continues to grow, the fruits it bears are unevenly distributed," they said. 

    Continue reading
  • Tracking cookies found in more than half of G20 government websites
    Sorry, conspiracy theorists, it's more likely sloppy webdev work rather than spying

    We expect a certain amount of cookie-based tracking on retail websites and social networks, but in some countries up to 90 percent of government sites have implemented trackers – and serve them seemingly without user consent. 

    A study by IMDEA, a research facility in Madrid, Spain, evaluated more than 118,000 URLs of 5,500 government websites – think .gov, .gov.uk. .gov.au, .gc.ca, etc. – hosted in the twenty largest global economies (the G20) and discovered a surprising tracking cookie problem, even among countries party to Europe's GDPR and those with their own data privacy regulations.

    On average, the study found, more than half of cookies created on G20 government websites were third-party cookies, meaning they were created by outside entities typically to collect information on the user. While the proportion of cookies issued by third-party trackers ought to be zero on a government web site, some (in Russia for example) had as many as 90 percent of the cookies come from known third-party cookies or trackers.

    Continue reading
  • Iceotope attracts funds for liquid cooling from global investors
    Round led by Singapore's ABC Impact, which sees growing market for the technology in Asia

    UK-based liquid cooling company Iceotope has scored £30 million (c $35.7 million) in a funding round led by Singapore's ABC Impact private equity provider, which sees a growing market for the technology in Asia.

    The investment syndicate providing the funding comprises Northern Gritstone, British Patient Capital, Pavilion Capital, and an existing investor, Edinv. Also included is SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust, an investment company dedicated to energy-efficiency projects.

    According to Iceotope, the investment syndicate also includes nVent, a specialist in heat-management systems and enclosures. In addition to investing, nVent has formed a trading agreement with Iceotope on modular integrated solutions for datacenters, edge facilities, and high-performance computing (HPC) applications.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022