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Cassette Recorders

We would not advise that you use cassette recorders for oral history interviews. Good digital recorders start at £80 and the quality of the recording is so much better than anything but the best cassette recorder that it would be a false economy not to use one. We have left the information below for reference but refer you to the solid state page for information about digital recorders.

Cassette recorders have been with us for around 40 years, and cassette decks will be with us for a few years yet. If you are going to buy a new one, the Sony TCM939 (pictured) or the Phillips AQ6355 are probably your cheapest options at £25-£30. However, the quality of recording can be variable. If you have more money to spend then Marantz recorders cost around £190 (mono) and £300 (stereo). Unfortunately it will be increasingly difficult to find these as the latest news is that Marantz are to stop making them.

People also sometimes use handheld dictaphone-type machines which use normal size cassettes. One example is the Sony TCM20DV which allows you to plug in an external microphone. Once again the quality of recording can be variable. Results using cheap cassette recorders are rarely better than adequate and, although the interviewer may understand everything perfectly, trying to hear through the hiss ten years later can often pose problems for archivists.

An important principle is to always use an external microphone (see our microphones page). Check before you buy any new tape recorder that you can plug in an external microphone. An internal microphone will pick up the sound of the recorder's motor.

If you are using cassettes, use C60 tapes, which are thicker and less likely to break, and use Dolby B if it's available, as this is most commonly available on other machines. Also, Ferric tapes are less prone to deterioration than Metal or Chrome tapes.

Where to buy cassette recorders

If you are thinking of buying a cassette recorder you may wish to visit the following companies. They should not be considered to be approved or recommended by the East Midlands Oral History Archive.



cheap sony radio/tape
A cheap radio/tape recorder. Only use if you have to and if it has an external mic input

cheap sony recorder
Sony TCM939 tape recorder.

Marantz tape recorder


Last updated: 31/08/2018
East Midland Oral History Archive Web maintainer
This document has been approved by the head of department or section.

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