Make your own free website on
Audio Home
4-Track Tape
8-Track Tape
- Decks
- Articles

The Elcaset

Welcome to my page on one of my very favorite audio formats - The Elcaset.  There is not much information on the Web about the Elcaset.  So here is some of the information I have managed to collect on this largely forgotten format.

The Elcaset was a consumer audio format introduced in 1977 designed to offer both the convenience of the compact cassette and the high sound quality of open-reel tape.

Here are a few pictures of the Elcaset tape itself:

All the blank tapes I have seen are Sony, but apparently some were produced under the Technics brand name.

The Elcaset was quite a bit larger than the compact cassette.  The picture below is supposed to give you the dimensions of the Elcaset tape, but it's hard to make out the numbers. The actual dimensions are 152 x 106 x 18 mm (6 x 4-1/8 x 3/4 inches)

To give some perspective, the Elcaset was about the size of a Betamax video tape (another failed format championed by Sony).

The tape itself was 6.3 mm (1/4 inch) wide and driven at a tape speed of 9.5 cm/s (3 ips, as opposed to the 1-7/8 ips for the compact cassette). This resulted in extended frequency and wider dynamic ranges (noticeable in the higher audio range) than those of the compact cassette.  The four-track tape width in the Elcaset, which was almost twice that of the compact cassette and nearly equal to the four-track open-reel tapes, also resulted in achieving the excellent signal-to-noise figures open-reel tapes were able to obtain.  This picture shows the tape used in an Elcaset compared to that of a standard compact cassette. 

With a conventional compact cassette, the tape was guided by a tape guide pin in the cassette itself, and the accuracy of tape travel was very much dependant upon the precision of the cassette shells. This has been an obstacle in achieving high performance with the compact cassette.

Another problem with the compact cassette is that a multi-head (3-head) system has been difficult to use successfully since heads of recorders are put into the very limited space of a cassette. In the Elcaset, tape is in a case, but it is automatically pulled out by the transport mechanism of the recorder. Therefore, there is no influence over stability of tape travel by the lack of precision in cassette shells. As a result, characteristics such as wow and flutter, modulation noise, cross-talk and level changes are also remarkably improved.

These next pictures show the tape path in the Elcaset.  They show how the tape was actually pulled up outside the shell to come into contact with the heads.  The first picture demonstrates an Elcaset tape being played on a two head machine (like the Sony EL-5), while the other pictures demonstrate a three head machine (like the Sony EL-7).
ElcasetMechanism.gif (21085 bytes)      

The Elcaset had the same tape format as the compact cassette. This means the tape was divided into two halves for side A and side B, each side permitting 2-track stereo or monaural recording and playback.  There was also a pair of "control" tracks running down the middle of the tape, separating the two tracks of side one from those of side two. Each control track is less than half the width of an elcaset audio track. The purpose of the control tracks was never made clear, but there was speculation that they could have been used for slide synchronization, cueing, or even selection finding in next-generation decks (unfortunately, the format died before that ever happened).  This picture shows the track pattern on the Elcaset.

Elcaset tapes came 60 and 90 minute lengths.  They also came in three different types:  TYPE I had the feature of low noise output (called SLH tape by Sony).  TYPE II had the same performance as FeCr tape by Sony.  TYPE III was the equivalent to CrO2 tape.  Elcaset decks had a tape selector switch which should be set to match the type of tape used.

The next two pictures show the hole pattern in the Elcaset shell which indicates the type of tape used.

The Elcaset has tape protectors at left and right front ends. When the Elcaset is out of the tape deck, protectors are closed to protect the tape. Protectors are opened automatically by the tape deck for threading tape when the Elcaset is inserted and a function button is depressed.  Here is a close-up of the top of the Elcaset shell which shows the tape protectors.

Nevertheless, the tape runs along the tope of the shell, and it is fairly exposed.  Thus, Elcaset tapes required more careful handling than a standard compact cassette.   This picture shows how an Elcaset tape was handled and loaded. 

The Elcaset also had reel stoppers which would lock the rotation of a reel hub to prevent tape from coming loose when the Elcaset is out of the deck. The stoppers were automatically unlocked by the deck when the Elcaset tape was loaded.

With the compact cassette, recorded tapes are protected from accidental erasure by removing a tab on the cassette shell. But once the tab is removed, the cassette cannot be erased or re-recorded without covering the broken slot. By contrast, with the Elcaset, the protection is achieved by sliding tabs.  The first picture below indicates where the sliding tabs are located.

Most Elcaset decks could automatically sense the tape leader that existed at both ends of the tape and thereby initiate an automatic shut off - in both play and record mode.

And finally, the Elcaset decks could automatically sense tapes on which Dolby noise reduction was used in the recording.  This picture shows the location of the notch indicating whether Dolby was used.

ELCASET specifications

Tape speed 9.5 cm/s (3 ips)
Tape width  6.3 mm (1/4 inch)
Time constant  3180 micro-sec. +70 micro-sec.
Reference recording level   185 nwb/m
Types of tape TYPE I, II, III
Dimensions 152 mm x 106 mm x 18 mm

Much of the above overview came from the description of the Elcaset format found in the Sony EL-7 owners manual.  Click here for the original version of that overview.

Click here for pictures of the various Elcaset tape decks
Click here for some articles on the Elcaset

Back to the Home Page
Back to the Vintage Audio Home Page

Last Updated 22 July 2005
Copyright 1999