The vintage tape formats that certain people love to get their hands on these days include, in rough order of popularity, 8-tracks, reel-to-reel tapes, 4-tracks, and 2-track PlayTapes. Many music lovers are into multiple categories.
8-track tapes arose in the mid 1960s, beating out 4-track tapes to become the tape format of the early 1970s. (8-tracks were then in turn crushed by cassettes. Ah well.)
4-track tapes looked just like 8-tracks, but had a different pinch roller system and were around for a shorter time. The bad news is that the tapes are older and scarcer than 8-tracks, and it can be tough to track down a really comprehensive collection of an artist or type of music. The good news is that since they were only around in the late 1960s, many titles that you do find are good. The Beatles, Ray Charles, The Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, etc etc — there is a hidden world of treasures among 4-tracks.
Reel-to-reel tapes became quite popular in the 1970s, especially for audiophiles. Many today still swear that this is the best-sounding home music format ever devised. Reel-to-reel tapes were made in limited numbers for a large variety of albums, either recorded at 3 3/4 inches per second (IPS) or 7 1/2. (Players could usually switch between both types.)
PlayTapes were a short-lived late 1960s format. The cartridges looked like tiny little 8-tracks, and only held about 20 minutes of music. But artists such as The Beatles had PlayTapes released, and there were a few types of players that are the attention of many collectors in today’s marketplace.
Whatever format(s) you are into, vintage tape formats are fun to hunt and collect, and especially to listen to. For those who love music and love a good treasure hunt, this is where it’s at!
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