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In 1976, it was widely felt that the compact cassette was never likely to be capable of the same levels of performance that was available from reel-to-reel systems, yet clearly the cassette had advantages in terms of convenience. The Elcaset system was intended to marry the performance of reel-to-reel with cassette convenience, but be more of a compromise on size between the two than the RCA cassette is. The name "Elcaset" may simply mean L-cassette, or large cassette, since the 1⁄4" tape inside is double the 1⁄8" width found in compact cassettes. They were divided into four tracks.
The cassette itself looks similar to a compact cassette, only larger—about twice the size. Like the earlier RCA tape cartridge, it contained 1⁄4 inch (6.4 mm) tape running at 3 3⁄4 inches per second (9.5 cm/s), twice the width and twice the speed of a compact cassette, providing greater frequency response and dynamic range with lower high-frequency noise than the compact cassette. Another notable difference from compact cassettes is that the tape is withdrawn from the cassette when run through the transport mechanism so that the manufacturing tolerances of the cassette shell will not affect sound quality. The top-of-the-line Elcaset decks also have all the features of deluxe open-reel decks, such as separate heads for erasing, recording, and playback; remote control, and heavy-duty transports for low wow & flutter.
The system is technically sound, but a nearly complete failure in the marketplace, with a very low take-up by a few audiophiles only. Apart from the problem of the bulky cassettes, the performance of compact cassettes had improved dramatically with the use of new materials such as chromium dioxide, Dolby B noise reduction, and better manufacturing quality. For most people, the quality of compact cassettes was adequate, and the benefits of the expensive Elcaset system limited. Audiophiles turned away from Elcaset and towards high-end compact cassette decks from companies like Nakamichi, which began making very high-quality tape decks using the compact audio cassette in late 1973, even three years before the Elcaset was released. The tapes they made could be played on any compact cassette machine. Also, the Elcaset machines were expensive. Elcaset began a fast fade-out in 1978.
In 2017, musician Jeremy Hieden released his album Blue Wicked on Elcaset, making it the first ever prerecorded album released on the format. Hieden released the album on several other older formats, including MiniDisc, Digital Compact Cassette, and Compact Cassette.
- "Elcaset EL-5 Owner's Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 23 Oct 2019.
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- Kees Stravers. "The end of the Elcaset". The Sony Elcaset cassette tape machine. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
…A Finnish company won the auction (by Sony international) and later sold those machines with 25 cassettes at a very low price: EL-5 + 25 cas. 795,- FIM and EL-7 + 25 cas. 1295,- FIM. It was mentioned in the ad that plain cassettes would cost normally about 1200 FIM. I think that US$ was in those days about 4,50 FIM, nowadays it's about 6 FIM. And you can believe it was a real sell-out. They sold about 2000 decks in Finland. …
- Guttenberg, Steve. "This album is coming to nearly every audio format". CNET. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
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- Kees Stravers. "The Sony Elcaset cassette tape machine" (an enthusiast's page). Kees's Computer Home. Last accessed on 14 August 2007.