Information File and Frequently Asked Questions List
FAQ Version 1.7 - Updated: June 5, 1996
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
(New!) means New to this version ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Compiled by Malcolm Riviera (Malco@interpath.com) with excellent assistance from Abigail Lavine, Our Lady of the 8-Tracks (firstname.lastname@example.org), Eric Wilson (email@example.com) and Ronald Bensley (RBensley@gnn.com). Please send all additions, corrections, and suggestions to Malcolm Riviera at Malco@interpath.com. Special thanks to Russ Forster for allowing me to lift freely from his fine publication "8-Track Mind" for many of the answers found below. Answers taken directly from the pages of "8-Track Mind" are denoted by [8TM - author name] at the beginning of the answer. This file is intended to provide a general information base and answer some frequently asked questions about 8-track tapes and other analog audio formats that are discussed on alt.collecting.8-track-tapes. It is hoped that this file will be useful to newcomers to the group and help fill in information gaps in the minds of experienced trackers. This FAQ is posted monthly to alt.collecting.8-track-tapes as well as to news.answers and alt.answers. Table of Contents ============= 1. 8-track tapes on Internet? Are you kidding? 2. Who invented the 8-track tape? 3. A. When did they stop making 8-tracks? B. Why did they stop making 8-tracks? 4. What is "8-Track Mind"? 5. How does an 8-track work, anyway (when it works...)? 6. Where can I buy 8-track tapes and players? 7. How can I fix broken 8-tracks? (See new stuff!) A. How do you replace the foam backing pads on tapes? B. How do you replace the metallic sensing strip? C. How can I open the cart without damaging it? D. How to Open an Ampex/Lear Jet Cartridge. E. Is there any hope for an 8-track in which all of the tape is just in a big pile (untangled)? Is there any way to spin it back on the reel? 8. Can I sell my 8-track tapes on alt.collecting.8-track-tapes? 9. What about that 8-track movie....? 10. Are my 8-tracks rare or valuable? How can I tell how much they're worth? 11. Why do 8-tracks break and/or jam so easily? 12. What is that black gunk where the pinch roller should be? 13. Was any punk rock released on 8-track? 14. What's the deal with quadraphonic 8-tracks? 15. What about 4-track tapes? 16. What about the 8-track tape WWW site, "8-Track Heaven"? 17. And what about Dolby 8-track decks and tapes? 18. Players A. I have an 8-track that plays too fast; is there any remedy? B. What's the best method for cleaning 8T tape heads? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ANSWERS 1. 8-TRACK TAPES ON THE INTERNET? ARE YOU KIDDING? Up until the creation of this group on April 28, 1995, the only resources for those curious about the continuous-loop cartridge format called 8-track tape were stuck with a list of Beatles 8-tracks and a few home page mentions of music collections. There was nothing that we could use. No definitive representation of American pop culture in the past 20 years would be complete without at least some mention of the ever-present 8-track tape. It's like people are ashamed to admit they ever bought one. Well, as someone I know likes to say, it's not a CONTRADICTION, it's a PARADOX. What possible place could clunky old mechanical has-been 8-tracks have on the fast-paced, up-to-the-minute high tech Information Superhighway? I'm glad you asked. Well, I guess the first point worth making is that the Internet is really not all that much more modern than the 8-track. If you know your cyber history, you'll recall that the Internet emerged out of Arpanet, which was born in 1969, when 8-tracks themselves were still very young. Doubtless many a Defense Department computer scientist enjoyed those twin pillars of technological progress - email and endless-loop cartridges. While the sudden popularity of the 'net could scarcely be missed by anyone, perhaps you were not so aware that the 1990's also ushered in an 8-track renaissance. 8-tracks were rarely considered or discussed in the late 1980's except as a cruel joke, but the turn of the decade brought an accelerating interest in 'tracking which continues to this day. There is a fanzine, a feature-length movie, lots of attention from the mainstream media and even several brand-new independent releases available on 8-track. Countless numbers of 8-track fans worldwide have "come out of the closet" and let their 8-track interests be known. Many more have been introduced for the first time to the wonders of the endless loop. The Internet provides the means for these people to get together, as it does for so many other groups. But what about the rest of you, the ones who are reading this in amused or horrified silence? Well, 8-tracks have something to say to every computer user and most particularly to everyone who uses the Internet. Have you ever wanted to throw your computer out the window or against a wall? Have you ever been confounded by the sheer number and variety of things that can go wrong with your machine? Ever spent hours trying to tell if the problem was in the hardware or the software? Then you have something in common with the 8-track hobbyist. Imagine a product for which the only manuals available are old and increasingly hard to get. Imagine if every possible technical support number stopped answering the phone years ago. What, you say you don't have to imagine, that I have just described the plight of the computer user as well as the 8-tracker? My point exactly. Some 8-trackers are making a statement with which computer users cannot help but sympathize. What more eloquent protest against the forces which make consumer goods obsolete before they even go to market than buying your technology in thrift stores? If you get nothing else out of a.c.8-t-t but the realization that there is more than one way of looking at the world, then you have gotten the point. 2. WHO INVENTED THE 8-TRACK TAPE? [8TM - David Morton] The 8-track tape has roots that extend into the motion picture industry. Endless loop motion pictures were made from the 1920s on for advertising or other special purposes. With the appearance of inexpensive reel-to-reel tape recorders in the late 1940s, several inventors adapted the endless loop motion picture idea for use with the new German-style plastic recording tapes. Of these inventors, only one, William Powell Lear, gets much attention Long before he set down to work on the famous Lear Jet, Lear had made a name for himself developing instruments and communications equipment for airplanes. In 1946 Lear Purchased a California company that had tried to market a steel-tape loop recorder based on the old Western Electric/AT&T Technology [from their 1933 "Hear Your Own Voice" endless loop recorders]. Bits of this technology made its way into his own design for several models of wire recorders announced in 1946, including an endless loop wire recorder. But Lear's early experiments did not result in a line of investigation that led directly to the 8-track. Instead, Lear dropped the project and subsequently was out of the loop for many years while he concentrated his efforts on aircraft. In the mean time, the focus of endless loop technology shifted from wire to tape and from Lear's Chicago headquarters to Toledo, Ohio. There, Bernard Cousino, the owner of an Audio Visual equipment and service company, became interested in endless sound recordings. He won a small contract to build a "point of sale" device -- that is, a store display that played a recorded message over and over endlessly. Cousino, aware of the widespread use of short motion picture film loops for similar purposes, began experimenting with an 8-millimeter endless loop film cartridge marketed by Television Associates, Inc. of New Hampshire. Cousino soon developed a cartridge specifically adapted for audio tape that he marketed in 1952 through his company, Cousino Electronics, as the "audio vendor." The little cart could be used with an ordinary reel-to-reel player -- the cart fit over one reel spindle and the exposed loop of tape was fed through the heads. Later, Cousino would develop the Echomatic, a more advanced two-track cartridge which, like the later 8-track, required a special player. In the meantime, another inventor named George Eash designed and patented a similar cartridge that came to be known as the Fidelipac. Following Cousino's pattern, Eash designed and patented a cartridge with similar specifications, later modifying it to include a more complex reel braking mechanism. Eash's cartridge was the basis of dozens of commercial applications of the endless loop, two of which were particularly successful. Eash's Fidelipac design became the basis of several new recorders adapted for radio station use; by the early 1960s, many radio stations had put some or all of their music, spot announcements, and station i.d.'s on carts that could be quickly inserted and played and which could be automatically stopped at the beginning of the recording. The second main commercial application was in the field of auto sound. Earl "Madman" Muntz was a former used car salesman who became something of a local celebrity on the West Coast by opening a chain of television retail outlets selling TV sets that were manufactured by his other firm, Muntz Television, Inc. When he discovered the Fidelipac in the early 1960's, he threw in his lot with the endless loop, never to return to the television business. Muntz had inexpensive Fidelipac players custom manufactured in Japan, and licensed the music of several record companies for duplication on carts. Even though the players were intended to be installed in cars, Muntz sought to enhance the appeal of his product by adopting stereo tape standards established by recorder manufacturers a few years earlier, and his players used the new, mass produced stereo tape heads being made for the home recorder industry by firms like Michigan Magnetics and Nortronics. These heads but two stereo programs, a total of four recorded tracks, on a standard 1/4 inch tape. Muntz players caught on quickly, starting an autosound fad in California which slowly spread east. By 1963 Muntz players were to be found stylishly adorning the underdash regions of Frank Sinatra's Riviera, Peter Lawford's Ghia, James Garner's Jaguar, Red Skelton's Rolls Royce, and Lawrence Welk's Dodge convertible. During 1964 and 1965 a number of major labels began issuing new releases and old favorites on 4-track, and the Fidelipac looked like it was going to be the next big thing in consumer audio. A number of home players even appeared. Suddenly Bill Lear appeared on the scene, newly world famous for his Lear Jet business plane, and announced in 1965 that he had developed a cartridge with eight tracks that promised to lower the price of recorded tapes without any sacrifice in music quality. Lear's enthusiasm for loops had not faded after the failure of his endless wire cartridge of the late 1940s. In 1963, he became a distributor for Muntz Stereo Pak, mainly in order to install 4-track units aboard his Lear Jets. Dissatisfied with the Muntz technology, he contacted one of the leading suppliers of original equipment tape heads, the Nortronics Company of Michigan. He specified a head with much thinner "pole-pieces" and a new spacing that would allow two tracks (or one stereo program) to be picked off a quarter-inch tape that held a total of 8-tracks. Although a departure from the Muntz player, the technology of the closely-stacked multi-track head was by the early 1960s well established in fields like data recording. Lear in 1963 developed a new version of the Fidelipac cartridge with somewhat fewer parts and an integral pressure roller. During 1964, Lear's aircraft company constructed 100 players for distribution to executives at the auto companies and RCA. Just how Bill Lear got his products from the drawing board to the dashboards of Ford Mustangs and Fairlanes is a little unclear. Certainly Lear carried with him the cachet of his successful business jet project, and had many personal contacts in industry. And in a roundabout kind of way, he already had ties to Ford. In the 1930s Lear and his partner Paul Galvin had together built Motorola into a leading manufacturer of car radios, and Motorola was now affiliated with Ford. Whatever the details of Lear's selling job, the keys to its spectacular success seems to have been the backing of both Ford and the recording industry. After getting RCA Victor to commit to the mass production of its catalog on Lear Jet 8-tracks, Ford agreed to offer the players as optional equipment on 1966 models. The response, in one Ford spokesman's word, "was more than anyone expected." 65,000 of the players were installed that year alone. The machines were initially manufactured by Ford's electronics supplier: the firm that had pioneered the mass produced auto radio or "motor victrola" -- Motorola. Meanwhile, a number of new contenders rose up to enjoy fleeting moments of glory. Bernard Cousino, arguably the source of much cart technology, has rendered a seemingly endless succession of endless loop technologies. He had a measure of success with his Echomatic cartridge in the 1960s as a "point of sale" or educational audio-visual technology, largely by adopting Eash's strategy of licensing his designs to other firms. In 1965 the success of the Echomatic spurred the Champion Spark Plug company (a subsidiary of Ford) to purchase a controlling interest in the firm. At Champion's insistence, Cousino Electronics became a manufacturer of Lear-style players and was a major supplier for Sears Roebuck. Looking for greener fields, Cousino had in the early 1960s also linked up with Alabama entrepreneur and firebrand John Herbert Orr, whose Orradio Industries tape manufacturing firm (makers of Irish Brand tape) had recently been acquired by Ampex. Orr and Cousino cooked up Orrtronics, a company that made a background music system based on the old Echomatic cartridge. While Ford debated the adoption of the Lear Cartridge in 1965, Champion Spark Plug funded the development at Orrtronics of a competing system. This was the ill-fated Orrtronics 8-track, a remarkably better sounding but commercially unsuccessful response to Lear's cart. The Orrtronic cartridge had a somewhat different tape path that reduced strain on the tape and allowed better head-to-tape contact, and was somewhat more compact to boot. Nonetheless, no record companies seemed interested, and the idea was stillborn. Cousino continued to patent endless loop devices, such as a miniature cartridge and, now in his 90s, he has recently submitted a patent for an endless loop videocassette. Endless variations on the endless loop cart appeared during the 1960s and 1970s; a.c.8-t-t readers will undoubtedly continue to discover obscure cart formats. The best known, of course was the Playtape, a tiny cart introduced in the fall of 1966 which later re-emerged in slightly modified form as the basis of a Dictaphone Corp. telephone answering machine in the 1970s. Answering machines, in fact, were a major source of new endless loop variations from the 1960s on. The success of the Fidelipac in radio spawned a host of imitators, including both the well known Audiopak (which by the way is still being manufactured), the Aristocart made in Canada, the Marathon made by some Massachusetts firm, and the Tapex. While carts themselves continued to be manufactured in the U.S., makers of 8-track players disappeared after only a few years. The manufacture of 8-track players shifted almost entirely to Japan between 1965 and 1970. There were a few valiant efforts to revive the flagging American industry, but to little avail as the foreign firms cranked players out in huge numbers using cheap labor. Nonetheless, Quatron, Inc., a Maryland firm, shone brightly for a few years making the now highly desirable Model 48 automatic 8 track changer, but its star soon faded. By the time the major record labels stopped offering new releases on 8-track, there were no domestic manufacturers of home or auto players. 3. A. WHEN DID THEY STOP MAKING 8-TRACKS? You are assuming, of course, that nobody makes 8-tracks anymore; there IS at least one country music TV-album outfit from Tennessee who still market their goods on 8-track (Cindy Lou Records). Also, a few hungry young bands have put out homemade 8's recently of (mostly) alternative music. But you're probably talking about the big labels, who had 8-tracks out of the stores by 1983. The mail-order record and tape clubs, however, kept the Reaper away from the door for another few years, offering exclusive 8-track versions of top albums for some time. These tapes don't quite have the quality of prime 8-T craftsmanship, but watch your friends eyes bug out when you show them you have George Harrison's _cloud nine_ or Michael Jackson's _Bad_ on 8-track. The last Columbia Record Club 8-track we know of was _Chicago XIX_, which shipped in 1988. It has been reported from one tracker that in Mexico 8-tracks abound. This tracker reports to have recently (1995) purchased some brand new Tejano, brought into the country illegaly. B. WHY DID THEY STOP MAKING 8-TRACKS? Consumer demand for the 8-track-tape format was strongest from 1970-74. The format began dramatically losing market share after 1975. IMHO, the reasons the format fell into disfavor are: Audio industry improvements in the cassette format. During cassette's first few years, sound quality was mediocre, marred by tape drop-outs, wow and flutter, modulation noise, hissing, tape jamming, distortion, and poor frequency range. But in the early 1970s, cassettes were improved so that (potentially at least) their fidelity was equal to, or better than, 8-track... the major audio manufacturers put their R&D efforts into upgrading cassette. The "high end" 8-track deck makers, Wollensak, Akai, Pioneer, and Realistic, stopped developing improved 8-track units around 1974. In fact, the short-lived Elcaset format received the R&D efforts that would have gone into better 8-track decks. Manufacturers adopted cheaper, flimsier, less reliable cartridge mechanisms. Tape jamming and mechanical problems were a major "kiss of death" to consumer acceptance of 8-track....and these problems were entirely avoidable if the tape makers had maintained consistent design standards and quality control. Relatively few decks, and relatively few 8-track-tapes, incorporated Dolby noise reduction. The Dolby-B system was widely adopted for cassettes during the late '70s, while very few 8-track decks incorporated Dolby circuits. In short: the same industry that improved cassette tapes from a mediocre dictating-machine medium to a hi-fi music format, failed to offer and promote improvements for the 8-track format. Now they're trying to get rid of cassettes in favor of CDs...and then get rid of CDs in favor of HDCDs or the Smart Card. RBENSLEY@GNN.COM 4. WHAT IS "8-TRACK MIND"? 8-Track Mind is the quarterly journal currently edited by Mr. Russel Forster of East Detroit, MI. From it's Statement of Purpose: "We of the 8-TRACK MIND are dedicated to our one pursuit: to keep analog alive (in whatever form) for the coming day of its ultimate victory. We will supersede all formats yet to emerge. We and our followers adhere to the doctrine of the 8-NOBLE TRUTHS OF THE 8-TRACK MIND in all of our creative pursuits." THE 8 NOBLE TRUTHS OF THE 8-TRACK MIND 0) Understanding one's fate leads to greater acceptance. 1) State of the art is in the eye of the beholder. 2) Society's drive is on attaining rather than experiencing. 3) In less than optimum circumstances, creativity becomes all the more important. 4) Progress is too often promises, promises, promises to get you to buy, buy. 5) "New" and "improved" don't necessarily mean the same thing. 6) "Naive" is not a dirty word. 7) In seeking perfection has the obvious been overlooked? 8) Innovation alone will not replace beauty. The magazine features the always amazing Letters to the Editor section, frequently the largest section in the magazine, where trackers around the world unite in extolling the virtues of the endless loop cartridge; the rest of the publication is comprised of feature articles, fiction, art, and poetry from the vast cast of 8 TM writers, and PLUGS, a page of analog contacts provided in lieu of classifieds and other advertising. At the time of this posting, the latest issue was #86, Fall 1995. Newcomers to 8TM are frequently surprised that this many issues have been published. The answer lies in the early history of the magazine: The first 68 issues of 8TM were the creation of Mr. Gordon Van Gelder. Van Gelder began the magazine in 1970 and was its editor until it went under in 1982, when its creditors took possession of its warehouse and took twelve years of back issues, which had been carefully preserved in polyurethane bags, and recycled them for newsprint (the creditors got $68.23 for them). The magazine was revived in Chicago in 1990 with issue #69 under the guidance of Van Gelder, his son Keith Van Gelder, Russ Forster, Dan Sutherland, Kari Busch and others. Due to internal turmoil at 8TM, by issue #74 Russ had taken over as editor/publisher with both Van Gelders leaving the magazine's staff. It is published in Feb., May, Aug., and Nov. by 8-TM Publications, P.O. Box 90, East Detroit, MI 48021 0090. Single issues are $2; subscriptions are $8/yr (make checks payable to Russ Forster). 5. HOW DOES AN 8-TRACK WORK, ANYWAY (WHEN IT WORKS...)? An 8-track cartridge contains a length of 1/4 inch tape. The ends of the tape are connected by a metal foil splice, thus forming a loop. The tape itself is divided along its length into 8 channels, or tracks (hence the name). The playback head plays 2 of these tracks at a time - 4 programs in stereo. Inside the cartridge, the tape is wound around a central hub, or spool. Tape pulls out from the center of the spool. It moves to the top of the cartridge, where it connects with the playback head in the player through an opening at the top of the cartridge. A pressure pad in the cartridge presses the tape up against the playback head. The capstan (part of the player) is spun by the player's motor. As the capstan spins, it rolls the tape against the pinch roller in the cartridge. The capstan and the pinch roller move the tape along its path at 3 and 3/4 inches per second. The tape finally loops back to the central hub, where it rewraps around the outside of the spool. When the entire length of tape has gone through this loop, the metal foil splice in the tape passes by a solenoid sensing coil which is positioned right next to the playback head in the player. This moves the playback head along the width of the tape, and it starts to play a new program (remember, the tape contains 8 tracks, only 2 of which are supposed to be played at once). From the previous description, it is probably pretty obvious why 8-track is so terribly prone to malfunctions. If you don't have a cartridge handy, get out a ruler. Dividing 1/4 inch into 8 separate tracks makes for very small tracks. Now think about the fact that the playback head has to pick up only 2 of those tracks at a time. When you further consider that the playback head itself moves all the time, virtually assuring that it will eventually become misaligned, it becomes painfully clear why 8-track so often produces crosstalk or "sound bleeding" from one program into another. The relatively complex path that the tape has to travel is another problem. This, combined with the fairly large number of moving parts in the cartridge, encourages tangling and tape backups. Since the capstan's movement regulates tape speed and movement, the somewhat tenuous grip that the capstan/pinch roller combination has on the tape sometimes leads to tape slowdowns, even if the motor is moving at a correct and steady speed (which it often isn't). Furthermore, the tape splice, the most vulnerable part of the loop, is put under constant pressure. Four times during the playing of each tape, the splice is pulled past the playback head and through the capstan/pinch roller wringer. This constant wear on the splice encourages it to split, which it often does. Lastly, the age of most 8-track cartridges means that some of the parts are likely to be decayed. Foam pressure pads and rubber pinch rollers are the most commonly decayed parts of an 8 track, but the adhesive used on the metal splice also tends to break down. Abigail Lavine (firstname.lastname@example.org) 6. WHERE CAN I BUY 8-TRACK TAPES AND PLAYERS? The only retail outlets that still sell new 8-tracks are truck stops in the mid-west and the west, but they're mostly country music titles (see answer #3). However, I did find a still-sealed Blue Oyster Cult track at a truck stop in Texas in 1993! The only sources that remain for tapes and players are the usual: yard sales, estate sales, auctions, flea markets, thrift stores, etc. Also, let all your friends know (no matter how embarrassing) that you're collecting 8-tracks, and the word will get out. People will suddenly start giving you 8-tracks and players that they find in their basement, their parents' attic, etc. Run ads in the local paper; strike a deal with local thrift stores or flea markets telling them that you'd like to have first dibs on 8-track goodies; go to junk yards and look in '60 and '70s cars for still intact car players (also, a lot of junk yards pull the players out of the cars and offer them for sale separately). Also, use the Internet! Put the word out on alt.collecting.8-track-tapes, or run a free ad on the "8-Track Heaven" web page in the Classified Ads section (http://pobox.com/~abbot/8track/) and check out the dealers' page there as well. And since Radio Shack (the last bastion of 8-track wares) dropped 8-track players from their catalogs a few years back, there is no commercial source for 8-track tape players. For years, rumors have floated around the 8-track community that vast warehouses of Radio Shack 8-track equipment sit quietly, somewhere, waiting for a well planned 8-track commando raid... If you're lucky enough to live in New York City, though, Canal Street's many offbeat shops sometimes turn up new, in-the-box 8-track players. Otherwise, the above mentioned places apply. Finally, check the back pages of 8-Track Mind magazine for current listings of dealers that may have tapes and/or players for sale. Happy hunting! 7. HOW CAN I FIX BROKEN 8-TRACKS? In the olden, golden days, local music dealers or record & tape shops would repair 8-tracks for a small fee. These days, though, you gotta do it yourself. The Realistic 8-Track Cartridge Repair Manual is the best single source of instruction for repairing broken tapes. You can purchase a copy of this manual for $4 from: Big Bucks Burnett P.O. Box 720714 Dallas, TX 75372. (Write for availability first). (New!) In 1996, anywhere from 15-25 years after most 8-tracks you find will last be played, there are going to be problems playing most of them again unless you do a few things to prevent breaks and chewup. As far as the player is concerned, you will have to clean the heads and roller as well as you can to eliminate buildup of residue. You would also do well to have a head demagnitizer (which is avaiable at any radio shack). As far as the tapes, when I get a new one, especially a tape I really care about, I DON'T STICK IT IN THE PLAYER. I open the cart and make sure the tape rolls the way it's supposed to and that the spool closest to the center of the wheel hasn't risen above the rest of the tape making the tape coming from the center harder to come out (and easier to fold). Opening CBS/Columbia & GRT carts are the easiest (just don't break the tabs), the black Warner and Capitol(easiest tab to break) carts are a little harder, and the RCA carts are next to impossible without a drill, however the RCA carts are the most well developed and reliable. Once you make sure the tape is rolling correctly, you need to find the foil tape that splices the tape together. I have a deck with fast forward that I can set to eject at the end of the program. This is the best way to handle it. Once you find the foil, replace it with new foil and reinforce it on the back with splicing tape (both items easily found at your local radio shack). You have now made the splice the strongest part of the tape. As far as the pads, again depending on the manufacturer, you may need to replace them. Older CBS, GRT, WB, & all Capitol pads will need replacing. By '79 or '80 (earlier for CBS), the pads were made of a spring-like foam that will last indefinitely (as opposed to the earlier gooish pads). Again, RCA & earlier Atlantic carts have actual metal spring pads that do the best. You may need to re-glue the felt pads onto the metal springs. If I'm out of pads I have scavenged from non-desirable tapes, I use auto weather-stripping with scotch tape on the outside cut to fit the tape area. This can be found at any auto parts store. As far as rollers, you are okay unless you have an older ('60s - early '70's) tape with the gooey roller. Replace those immediately because even if they seem okay, they're not. If you throw away any 8-tracks, be sure to scavenge them for rollers, pads, spools or even the shell itself because it always helps to have spare parts around. If you do what I described above, your 8-tracks will be as reliable if not more so than the so-called 'superior' formats in mass production today. Since I've adopted this method, I've never had a tape break and I've eliminated 'ghost tracks' or hearing another programs on the listening program. If the record companies had cared a little more in the outset, the 8-track wouldn't have had such a lousy performance reputation. But we all know what they're about (and it's not whether their product is reliable in the long term). email@example.com (G. Allen) A. HOW DO YOU REPLACE THE FOAM BACKING PADS ON TAPES? The easiest way is to save the pads from old tapes and use them to repair others. If you don't have any old pads, you can also use a cut up sponge. Some people have had some luck using adhesive foam weather stripping from the hardware store. They usually have several different widths/thicknesses/stiffnesses to choose from. Take out the old pressure pad, scrape off the old deteriorated foam from the stiff plastic backing and stick on the new weather stripping (the adhesive makes this very easy). You can then trim the weather stripping to the correct size and put a piece of Scotch Magic tape on the top side of the weather stripping where it will contact the backside of the tape. The Magic tape provides a smooth surface for the tape to pass over." You also may use felt pads (for underneath ashtrays, etc.) to replace the foam pad of a tape. This felt pad already has a self stick backing and the cost is @1.00 for an entire sheet! B. HOW DO YOU REPLACE THE METALLIC SENSING STRIP? This is one of the most common repair jobs with 8-tracks. The metallic strip is located at the splice that holds the two ends of the tape together, and this is where tapes often break. And sometimes the foil strip just wears out without breaking, causing the same track to play over and over. Radio Shack still sells rolls of the foil sensing tape, believe it or not. You can get a small roll for a buck or two, and it's already cut to the proper width for 8-track tape. Just use a razor blade to cut a piece to the correct length. It's adhesive on the back and attaches to the existing tape easily. Make sure you put the metallic tape on the shiny side of the tape (the side facing the playback head) or it won't work! C. HOW CAN I OPEN THE CART WITHOUT DAMAGING IT? Malcolm says: There are many different types of cartidges, and they each need a different approach. The easiest are Columbia TC8 carts; if you have one of those, just pull the 3 little tabs back on the back side of the cart, which will allow the cart to snap open easily. It can be closed the same way with no damage to the cart. Most other carts require a small amount of damage to get open. It's just the reality of the cart design: they were not designed to be opened once sealed. Jeff Economy says: My favorites are TDK and Capitol blanks ("In the beautiful box"); they actually have screws to open 'em up! The TDKs are also especially nice as they have this little anti-jamming device inside that keeps the tape locked when it's not in play. Unfortunately the foil strip is prone to peeling off. D. HOW TO OPEN AN AMPEX/LEAR JET CARTRIDGE by Abigail Lavine Why is it that Ampex, the absolute last word in audiotape for the serious professional, consistently produced 8-track cartridges with pinch rollers which turn to gummy goo? It's true. 9 out of 10 Ampex/Lear Jet cartridges have dangerous and unusable melted rubber pinch rollers. And on top of that, the carts are especially difficult to open in order to replace the roller. But with a little bit of work and foresight, you can create a kit which will make opening them oh so much easier. I learned the secrets I'm about to share from 8-track repairman extraordinaire Joe Wally, of Wally's Stereo Tape City (see Resources and Dealers ). The man is a professional. Literally. He's been repairing 8-track tapes as part of his job since before some of the people reading this were even born. Joe Wally uses an ordinary kitchen knife, a hex screw driver or socket set, and two specially prepared hex head screws. The first step is to force the kitchen knife into the seam between the two sides of the cartridge shell at the top, near where the tape is exposed and the pinch roller is visible. Pry the two sides apart a bit. Now turn the cartridge over, so the label is face-down and you can see the five little holes on the back. The middle hole is slightly larger than the others, and this is the one to attack first. You'll need to have a hex head tapping screw which is just slightly larger than the middle hole. When you find the correct size screw, hacksaw the sharp end off of it. While you're at it, find a slightly smaller screw, one that's a little bit bigger than the four smaller holes, and saw the end off that one too. Now screw into the middle hole until the two sides of the shell begin to separate. Move on to the four smaller outside holes one at a time. The two sides should spread apart. At the end, you can remove the screw in the middle. Before you completely pull the two sides apart, BE SURE TO TURN THE TAPE OVER ON THE TABLE SO THAT THE LABEL IS FACING UP. That way the spool of tape inside will stay in its path. Change the pinch roller and do whatever other repairs may be necessary. In the end, the two sides should go back together with a little effort, or a few raps from a mallet, or with great care in a workbench vise. E. IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR AN 8-TRACK IN WHICH ALL OF THE TAPE IS JUST IN A BIG PILE (UNTANGLED)? IS THERE ANY WAY TO SPIN IT BACK ON THE REEL? Yes. By hand.<deep sigh> Ičll assume it broke at the splice, and that you have all requisite parts, know what they look like, know where to put them, and have a new piece of foil track switching tape (or can reuse the old). Brace yourself, andlet's get to work... Make sure you know which end is the beginning. If unsure, wind it on a reel-to-reel reel, find a low-tension r-r machine (any track arrangement) and play it back. You'll get multiple tracks, but should be able to distinguish forward from backward. Put the empty hub on some convenient spindle, and start hand-winding, with the beginning of the tape at the inner circumference, oxide side facing out. Wind CLOCKWISE. Leave about 3-4cm of the beginning end sticking up. Keep going until youčre done <big sigh>. Holding the body of the hub (NOT the tape pack), gently pull the tape end (the end--at the outside of the pack) until friction happens, or the pack rotates as a whole. This removes excess slack. Don't make it too tight! Test tension: Pull beginning end (center of pack) outward, along its length a little bit. If it fails to pull out easily, the pack is too tight. If it falls out sideways, the pack is too loose. This judgement (as well as tightening & loosening techniques) requires practice. I can explain no further here. Put the hub back in the shell, thread the tape per usual. Add/remove outer turns to get the correct length to make the splice (err on the side of too loose). Splice, add foil, reassemble, test. 8. CAN I SELL OR TRADE MY 8-TRACK TAPES ON ALT.COLLECTING.8-TRACK-TAPES? Sure! Just post a list of 8-tracks for sale, including artist, title, condition of tape, whether it's sealed or not, and the price (or you want list if you're just interested in trading). Of course, don't be surprised if you get flamed if your prices are too high! A lot of trackers are against treating 8-tracks as collectors items, like LPs and 45s. Of course, it's inevitable that certain tapes will become sought after for one reason or another, but perhaps there's a happy medium we all can live with. However, an even better place might be the Web site, "8-Track Heaven," which has a classified ad section for buying, selling, and trading 8-tracks and players. (see question #16). 9. WHAT ABOUT THAT 8-TRACK MOVIE....? _So Wrong They're Right_ is a 92-minute documentary shot on 16 mm film encapsulating a 10,000 mile journey around the U.S. in search of a group of 8-track fanatics, or 'trackers' as they have been dubbed in the pages of _8-Track Mind_ Magazine, which serves as the principal inspiration for the film. SWTR follows the travels of _8-Track Mind_ Editor Russ Forster and fellow 8-track enthusiast Dan Sutherland in search of other 8-track minds. The result is over 20 interviews which delve in to reminiscences, rants, political diatribes, fantasies, fix-it tips, sales pitches, and everything else defining the skeptical yet inquisitive mind of the '90s 8-track enthusiast. It's not a film about nostalgia, as some might suggest; rather, it serves as a statement of outrage from a population of consumers who are tired of being told what to consume. CREDITS: Producer, Director, Sound Recordist, Editor: Russ Forster Cinematography, Lighting: Dan Sutherland Sound Mix: Jerrell Frederick Soundtrack Music: Lary 7, Wally Pleasant, Bob Jordan, Mr. Bucks, Duane Thamm Jr. And a cast of dozens HOW TO SEE IT: Russ is touring the US with his film Summer and Fall 1995; look for announcements on AC8TT. VHS Video copies are available for $25 from 8-TM Productions, PO Box 90, East Detroit, MI 48021-0090. Make checks payable to Russ Forster. 10. ARE MY 8-TRACKS RARE OR VALUABLE? HOW CAN I TELL HOW MUCH THEY'RE WORTH? Sorry, but there isn't a guide to what is worth how much in the 8-track world. The short answer would be: "They are worth whatever somebody will pay for them." Flea market and thrift stores still sell carts for anywhere from 5 cents to a buck, but collectors are driving up the prices as we speak. For example, John and Yoko's _Wedding Album_ on 8-T will net you about as much as the vinyl version. A copy of the aborted second collaboration with Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim (which didn't even make it to test pressings in vinyl) is so scarce that the owner of one told _Goldmine_ he wouldn't part with his "for at least $5,000". (8-Track Mind #81) Then, there IS Mr. Bucks from Texas who managed to sell a copy of the Sex Pistols' _Never Mind the Bollocks_ for $100 and _Cloud Nine_ by George Harrison for $150. To counter this, another copy of _Never Mind the Bollocks_ was recently sold for 1 cent by another collector fed up with these high prices! Anyone who's really curious or wants an authoritative voice to back a hunch might want to find a price guide of pre-recorded tapes (or a single artist guide in the prerecorded tape section) for some idea. The Official Price Guide series covers this area rather nicely and is readily available in most parts of the country. However, keep in mind that the prices listed are for mint or very good condition. If your cart has been through the mill, and you can usually tell just by looking at them, don't expect to get rich. Of course, all this about the Official guides being the easiest to find is based on a gut feeling, since that's the only one I've found in this area. The guide to the Beatles is an interesting read, since it places most of the Fab Carts at $15-25 in mint. It also verifies that the last ever Beatles solo 8 was George Harrison's Cloud 9, and that even in good condition (in grading terms good) it can net you $40. It does place the complete Wedding Album set (mint) at $75, although I did see someone trying to sell one in Goldmine at the aforementioned $200+ If you are unsure about the collectability of your collection, just say "make me an offer" when you're ready to sell. 11. WHY DO 8-TRACKS BREAK AND/OR JAM SO EASILY? The main problem of breakage is the sensing foil, which serves double duty by holding the loop together at the splice. Like any adhesive tape, it becomes not quite as adhesive as time wears on. The best thing we've run across to remedy this is placing a piece of Mylar splicing tape (they still sell it at Radio Shack) on the reverse side of the tape section with the splice. This will reinforce the splice, making it the strongest section of the tape. Tapes jam because the carts, over time, are exposed to heat or are abused in other ways. The tape becomes packed and will no longer move smoothly. Also, the tape can stretch due to heat exposure, causing uneven portions of the tape loop. Tapes that have been sitting for a long time, especially in shrink wrap, can be worse than old, well used tapes because of the heat factor. The players can also be the problem here; a player with dirty rollers or heads can cause excess drag on the tape, causing it to jam. Another problem is the dreaded "black gunk" [see answer 12] which, once it is introduced into the player, can cause all future tape to jam up. Cleaning the player regularly with tape head cleaner will help. 12. WHAT IS THAT BLACK GUNK WHERE THE PINCH ROLLER SHOULD BE? That, my friend, is one of the most dreaded of 8-track ailments - what you're lookin' at is 8-track tar. Rubber pinch roller breakdown. Petroleum by-product soup. Bad news for your player, so look out! Check the pinch roller carefully before you stick a new tape in your player. If your thumbnail leaves an impression in the rubber that doesn't spring back, then replace the roller. But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here. Does everyone know what an 8-track pinch roller is? It's that little wheel that the tape slides over. You can see it when you look in the top openings of a cartridge, sort of off to side. Anyway, it's a very good idea to have spare rollers around for emergencies. Actually, since pinch rollers come in such a variety of sizes, you can never have too many spares on hand. Buy tapes you hate just for the parts and don't throw away broken tapes that still have working parts. If your player has fallen victim to tar, you'll almost certainly need to take it apart and clean it out with a solvent like alcohol or acetone. An ounce of prevention and all that... Abigail Lavine (firstname.lastname@example.org) 13. WAS ANY PUNK ROCK RELEASED ON 8-TRACK? [8TM - Mr. Bucks] Think about it...punk surfaced in America in the late-mid '70s, which was the heyday of the 8-track era. For three or four years a lot of good punk and alternative bands found their way onto our favorite format. Along with the Sex Pistols, there were 8-track releases by Television, Patty Smith, Devo, The Ramones, Gary Numan, Elvis Costello, The Stranglers, and the B-52s just to name a few. Others punk rock and new wave artists releasing 8-tracks were The Dead Boys, Blondie, The Clash, The Fabulous Poodles, The Runaways, The Jam, The Police, The Plimsouls, The Records, The Talking Heads, The Undertones, the Pirates, and just about every New Wave and punk band that managed to land a major record deal. 14. WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH QUADRAPHONIC 8-TRACKS? DEFINITION:- QUADRAPHONIC SOUND: Quadraphonic audio (aka Surround Sound) adds rear channels (aka Surround Channels) to stereo audio reproduction. Quad reproduces spatial characteristics and effects unobtainable from two-channel playback. Quadraphonic audio attempts to re-create subtle spatial "you are there" acoustic clues, and in some cases puts the listener literally "in the middle" of a performing ensemble, with musical instruments playing from all four directions DESCRIPTION - QUAD-8 TAPE CARTRIDGES (QUAD-8): QUAD-8 cartridges resemble Stereo-8 cartridges. QUAD-8 tapes allocate tape tracks differently, combining tracks 1, 3, 5, and 7 to Program 1 and combining tracks 2, 4, 6, and 8 into Program 2. QUAD-8 cartridges contain a small vertical notch in the top left corner, so the QUAD-8 player can automatically set up the proper program/track configuration. Unlike the various quad LP formats, which used matrix or demodulation schemes to retain full compatibility with existing stereo record players, QUAD-8 cartridges provide "discrete" four-channel audio. QUAD-8 cartridges won't properly reproduce on a Stereo-8 player, but QUAD-8 players can reproduce Stereo-8 cartridges. QUAD-8 PLAYBACK EQUIPMENT DESCRIPTION: QUAD-8 players have special tape heads and circuitry which contacts the correct group of four tracks, and produces four discrete (separate) channels of audio output. QUAD-8 players also can play Stereo-8 tapes, but QUAD-8 tapes won't satisfactorily play in a conventional Stereo-8 deck. Prominent makers of Quad-8 decks include Akai, Panasonic, Pioneer, Wollensak, Electrophonic, Realistic, and Sanyo. However, some combination 8-track player/receivers prominently trumpet simulated quadraphonic sound (i.e. "quatravox", "quadradial", "4D", "quad matrix"). Some of these "impostor" Quad decks even have 4-channel joysticks! Unless a player is plainly labeled QUAD-8, Q-8, or DISCRETE QUADRAPHONIC 8-TRACK, the unit won't play Q8 tapes in discrete quad. The "pseudo-Quad" decks merely provide simulated surround sound from regular Stereo audio - they lack playback heads designed for QUAD-8. playback. MUSIC TAPES: RCA and Columbia far exceeded other companies in terms of QUAD-8 tape releases. Other companies committed to significant numbers of QUAD-8 releases include A&M, ABC, Command, and Warner Group (Elektra/Nonesuch/Asylum Records). Curiously, very few QUAD-8 titles were issued by EMI (Capital Records/Angel), by Decca/London, or the Polygram labels. QUAD-8 tapes on the Polydor, Mercury, Decca/London, Philips, and Deutsche Grammophon labels are extremely rare. CHRONOLOGY: Introduced in the fall of 1970, shortly after the initial appearance of quadraphonic open-reel decks and tapes, QUAD-8 tapes were available a year before the initial quadraphonic vinyl LP records appeared on the market. Some of the earliest QUAD-8 tape releases were "remixes" from older multi-track stereo releases. Among the initial RCA QUAD-8s: the 1964 soundtrack to "The Sound of Music" and the 1962 Reiner/Chicago Symphony album of Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra." After 1971, most QUAD-8 releases were albums specifically mixed down for quad playback, often with truly stupendous (if controversial) aural effects. QUAD-8 tapes generally retailed for $1 more than Stereo-8 tapes. Part of this additional cost reflected the greater volume of tape jammed into a QUAD-8 cartridge, to offset playback time lost due to elimination of two programs. A few QUAD-8 releases were issued on two cartridges, or had some editing. QUAD-8 tapes were unsuccessful commercially. Some explanations for this are: *The public resented the industry's Quad LP "format wars". the lack of a uniform and high quality Quad LP system would tarnish acceptance of all Surround Sound home formats for many years. *Some equipment makers cheapened product quality in order to provide Quad capability at a price comparable to regular stereo. The resulting low-fi audio systems, with cheaper amplifiers, cut-rate tape transports, and mediocre speakers, turned off many prospective buyers from Quad sound. *QUAD-8 cartridges were somewhat less convenient than Stereo-8 cartridges. Instead of four programs, there were only two programs. QUAD-8 playback decks were about 30% more expensive than Stereo-8 decks, and very few record decks had QUAD-8 record capability. Maximum playing time was half that of Stereo-8. *QUAD-8 cartridges used thinner tape (similar to double-play 90-minute Stereo-8s), increasing the risk of tape print-through and mechanism jamming. *The Arab Oil Embargo of late 1973/74, and the corresponding price inflation, drastically curtailed consumer discretionary spending. In the United States and other industrial countries, consumers struggled to buy gasoline and other inflation-impacted necessities. They ignored costly frills such as Quad sound equipment. QUAD-8 releases peaked out during 1973-74, and sharply declined by 1976. The final commercial QUAD-8 tape release, in 1978, apparently was Isao Tomita electronic synthesizer performance of Holst's "The Planets" on RCA's Red Seal label. (This also was the final CD-4 Quadradisc LP title). COLLECTING QUAD-8 CARTRIDGES: QUAD-8 tapes have become something of a "holy grail", as these tapes have become very scarce. Titles from EMI and Polygram labels (i.e. Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon") are exceptionally hard to locate in QUAD-8 format. If you seriously collect QUAD-8s, build a network with other collectors, share "wish lists", and make trades when you locate desirable tapes. Ron Bensley email@example.com 15. WHAT ABOUT 4-TRACK TAPES? [From "You Really Got Me," copyright 1994 by Doug Hinman] Four-track and 8-track cartridges coexisted on the marketplace for some time, with the 8-track format eventually defeating by attrition its look-alike cousin (before in turn being overtaken by the cassette format). Although extremely similar in appearance (the only obvious difference between the two being a large hole in the top left underside of 4 tracks), the two formats were not at all compatible, having been developed and marketed by two different and competing factions. The 4-track system was refined and marketed as a car accessory by Madman Earl Muntz, a west-coast used car dealer looking for something he could offer as an accessory to boost his used car sales. His marketing and distribution arrangements were spotty at best, relegating the 4-track format to the inferior (when compared to 8-track) status of a regional phenomenon, most popular in such locales as California (Muntz's home base) and Florida, but unpopular or unknown in many other areas. Originally developed in 1956 (also in conjunction with Ford Motors), the 4-track format was originally forsaken as unmarketable, and lay dormant until the early '60s, when enterprising Earl Muntz saw its potential. He acquired rights to the format and began marketing both hardware (players) and software(prerecorded tapes), licensing music from major record labels. It was perhaps Earl Muntz's initiative that rekindled Ford's interest in offering an in-dash tape cartridge system. The development of the 8-track format took the basic 4-track technology and refined it, making changes designed to make the tape less likely to jam while playing, and to increase accessibility to individual selections on the tape. In the 4-track format, the pinch roller (the wheel that moves the tape along as it plays) was housed in the player. In the 8-track system, the pinch roller was housed in the cartridge itself. The two programs of the 4-track format were like the two sides of an LP, each holding roughly half the total program material. For the next few years, the two configurations contested for consumer allegiance. New titles continued to be released on both, and the two look-alike formats were often marketed side by side in retail outlets. Despite 4-track's potential to deliver better sound quality, it was the 8-track format that eventually dominated. Not the least reason for this was Ford's de facto endorsement. The physical similarity between 4- and 8-track cartridges permitted the development of converters that fit into the increasingly obsolete 4-track players and enabled them to play 8-tracks. ------------------------------- Ad Copy from a 1968 Muntz Ad for 4-track car players: "The bold and powerful new 1968 Muntz M-45 car stereo system is one for the road -- anytime, anywhere! Muntz M-45 has a lot more going for it than great looks. It's got tomorrow's great automatic features, including convenient controls for separation, track selection, volume, tone and reject. And, maximum performance is guaranteed by the increased power of the new, twin solid-state amplifiers. Here's full-range response for you in a strong, masculine unit that is set in a brilliant chrome finish and is accented by the recessed black-grain panel surface. It's groovy! Muntz also spotlights the world's greatest cartridge entertainment -- 100,000 titles featuring the greatest stars in music. Today's greatest sounding cars have been stereoized by Muntz, and we've fixed it so that you can drive home with The Beatles, The Mamas and The Papas, Buck Owens, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Beach Boys, Petula Clark, or any one of today's brightest stars. It boils down to this: Muntz is the best sound on wheels." 16. WHAT ABOUT THE 8-TRACK TAPE WWW SITE, "8-TRACK HEAVEN"? "8-Track Heaven," the World Wide Web site for 8-track tape aficionados, went on-line on July 20, 1995. You may reach it by pointing your web browser to: http://pobox.com/~abbot/8track/ The site was created by Malcolm Riviera, Chip Rowe, and Abigail Lavine, but contributions from all net trackers are welcome. On the page you'll find many articles about 8-tracks; history of the 8-track; stuff about 4-tracks and PlayTapes, an 8-track hall of fame, sound bites, how to repair tapes; reprints of articles about 8-track tapes; GIFs of cool 8-track covers, links to 8-track related sites, resources for buying 8-tracks and players, diagrams and photos of 8-track pioneers, and a classified ads section where you can buy, sell, and trade tapes. 17. WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DOLBY 8-TRACK DECKS AND TAPES? (Note: "Dolby" and the "double-D" symbol are trademarks of Dolby Laboratories Ltd.). During the mid-1960s, audio engineer Ray Dolby developed the Dolby Type-A noise-reduction system, which has been utilized extensively in professional recording studios ever since (although for it is becoming superceded by the improved Dolby Type SR system and, sigh, various digital recording systems). In 1969, Ray Dolby responded to inquiries from various audio experts to develop a simpler, cost-effective, but high-quality noise reduction system for consumer tape decks. This system, known as Dolby Type B, was designed to provide relatively dependable record/playback performance from tape decks running at the slow tape speeds (1 7/8 ips and 3 3/4 ips) of cassette and 8-track tapes, respectively. Dolby-B dramatically reduces high-frequency "tape hiss", providing a relatively quiet tape background. The first Dolby-equipped consumer 8-track decks appeared in late 1971 from Akai and Wollensak. Other makers offering Dolby-equipped decks included Pioneer, Realistic, and Technics. A small number of compact combo stereos (combining 8-track deck, stereo receiver, and turntable with matched speakers) included Dolby. Of the major tape duplicators, only Columbia had a really strong commitment to encoding 8-tracks with Dolby. Columbia began Dolby-encoding of cassettes in 1971 and Dolby-encoding of 8-tracks in 1973. As a result, hundreds of the most common 8-track titles (from the various CBS labels) feature Dolby-B encoding. Other 8-track tape manufacturers (Ampex, GRT, Capitol Records, RCA, MCA, Warner) neglected to offer the benefits of Dolby encoding to their customers. Curiously, some Canadian RCA 8s are Dolby-encoded while their US counterparts are not. Had Dolby-encoding become more widespread on 8-tracks, it's likely that the format's "planned obsolesence" would have been postponed several years. By Ron Bensley, RBensley@gnn.com 18. PLAYERS A. I HAVE AN 8-TRACK THAT PLAYS TOO FAST; IS THERE ANY REMEDY? It's most likely a problem with the player, not the tape. If your deck has a fast forward (ffwd), it's possible it's stuck on high speed. If that's not the problem, open it up (the player, not the tape). There may be a speed control somewhere in the area of the motor. Just follow the motor wires back to the pc board. If there is a variable resistor in that area, give it a try. A small screw driver can be used to turn the control. Another possibility is that someone changed the drive belt on the player. The "new" belt may be the wrong size (diameter), and thus change the speed of the drive wheel.. If the large wheel has a slot for the belt, and the replacement belt is not running inside the slot, the speed will be altered. This goes for the drive wheel on the motor as well. I had one that ran too fast, turned out it had the wrong belt. You may need to buy a replacement belt; also, rubber bands are a cheap replacement and often work fine until you can find a real belt. The diameter I'm referring to is the cross section of the belt. Some are flat, sqr, round, and sometimes this cross section is very important. B. WHAT'S THE BEST METHOD FOR CLEANING 8T TAPE HEADS? The best results are obtained from cleaning the heads with commercial tape head cleaner and Q-tips. Distilled de-ionized alcohol is a OK, too. Make sure you clean the capstan, too, which is the metal rod that presses against the tape's pinch roller. The capstan picks up a lot of crap over time and if you don't clean it regularly your tapes will start snagging on it and making a huge mess. Those tape head cleaning cartidges are another option, but most of them are pretty crappy, and the head cleaner/Q-tip method is vastly superior. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This Info File and FAQ is compiled and maintained by Malcolm Riviera. Distribute this file freely, but please leave in this disclaimer so that years from now when I'm visiting Tokyo some hipster will approach me on the street and recognize me as the guy who finally compiled an FAQ for alt.collecting.8-track-tapes. Thanks again to Abbey, Eric, and Ronald without whom this file would not exist, and to Russ Forster and the writers & readers of "8-Track Mind" who inspire us all to greater and greater heights of analog bliss.