Memorex, Sony, TDK — most of the names once associated with selling blank compact cassettes to consumers have since discontinued production. But one holdout still making tapes is Maxell – and their social media manager does not what you to forget it.
Some electronics brands have changed hands, but this is the original Maxell we’re talking, short for “”Maximum capacity dry cell,” and officially Makuseru Kabushiki-gaisha. It’s Maxell Corporation of America, the USA subsidiary, that has gone on a social media tear about cassette tapes on Instagram and X. Maxell is also working on some more future-proof tech, going back to their roots – think batteries for markets like electric vehicles – but they’ve continued production of at least one consumer cassette brand alongside other audio accessories and, uh, t-shirts, evidently. They do this under the mysterious slogan “Within the Future.” (Sounds like me, responding to when I’ll make a deadline. It’s better than the tagline for the USA which, while referencing an older campaign, sounds like someone trying to talk someone off a ledge: “It’s still worth it.“)
So, first, the good news, tape lovers: you can buy honest-to-goodness Maxell blank cassettes if you really want to. That’ll be the UR series of compact cassettes, type I / normal bias. These tapes are produced in Indonesia, and they’re not just excess stocks – they’re reportedly in active production. The bad news is, only the type I ferric tapes are available, not type II or type IV formulations that were preferred for their slightly better audio quality. I’m guessing the reason for that is manufacturing cost rather than consumer demand, such as it is. (You can linkhole your way through reading about tape formulations if you like.)
Maxell has kept posting pictures of their other cassette models on X, though, much to the chagrin of people who want to buy parts other than the UR. But that means you can gaze into these nostalgically, marvel at their beautifully designed shells, and hopefully forget that cassette tapes aren’t the best medium as far as audio quality and longevity. (Sorry, I mean – someone had to point that out. But hey, you can try using Dolby C noise reduction, as this YouTuber suggests, and these cassettes should sound fine.)
Maxell has also been posting some history:
And this VHS ad, which – oddly enough reminds me of the one thing I really hated about editing on VHS:
And interestingly, it’s Maxell partnering with Supreme on their branded tapes, not another maker:
You can buy Maxell cassettes on Amazon (Maxell USA also points you there) – including not only the UR, but some of the discontinued stocks, too, if you do covet metal:
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Maxell cassette tapes on Amazon.com (search)
The biggest manufacturer worldwide is not Maxell, but a company you’ve likely not heard of (unless you tracked who did the tapes for Guardians of the Galaxy) – National Audio Company:
Of course, if you need someone to point out compact cassettes sound awful, I give you The New York Times doing just that. We knew they were always killjoys, though.