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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. The name "Elcaset" may simply mean L-cassette, or large cassette, since the 1/4" tape inside was double the 1/8" width found in standard cassettes. They were divided into six tracks.
The cassette itself looked very similar to a standard cassette, only larger—about twice the size. Like the earlier RCA tape cartridge it contained 6 mm (0.25 in) tape running at 9.5 cm/s (3.75 in/s), twice the width and twice the speed of a standard cassette, providing greater frequency response and dynamic range with lower high-frequency noise than the compact cassette. Another notable difference from compact cassettes was that the tape was withdrawn from the cassette when run through the transport mechanism so that the manufacturing tolerances of the cassette shell did not affect sound quality. The top-of-the-line Elcaset decks also had all the features of deluxe open reel decks, such as separate heads for erase, recording, and playback, remote control, and heavy duty transports for low wow & flutter.
The system was technically sound, but a 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 standard 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 standard cassettes was adequate, and the benefits of the expensive Elcaset system limited. Audiophiles turned away from Elcaset and towards high-end cassette decks from companies like Nakamichi, which began making very high-quality tape decks using the regular audio cassette in late 1973. The tapes they made could be played on any standard cassette machine. Also, the machines were expensive. Elcaset began a fast fade-out in 1978.
- 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. …
- [Anon.] (1977). "The Sony Elcaset". Electronics Today International. 6 (3): 26–29.
- Kees Stravers. "The Sony Elcaset cassette tape machine" (an enthusiast's page). Kees's Computer Home. Last accessed on 14 August 2007.