By 1976, the compact audio cassette had existed for over a decade. Despite not being as sizable as the reel-to-reel decks favored by professional audio studios, it was still deemed portable according to the standards of that time. The release of the Sony Walkman was still four years away. However, several Japanese electronics giants, including Panasonic, Sony, and Teac, sought to enhance the audio market for aspiring consumers and independent studios. They introduced the Elcaset, a slightly larger cassette format that provided stereo tracks on ¼” tape in both directions, boasting a frequency response of over 25,000Hz.
It is not widely known that the RCA Sound Cartridge, which debuted in 1958, served as a precursor to both the compact cassette release in 1963 and the Elcaset, released years later in 1976. The RCA Sound Cartridge utilized 1/4 inch tape in a large plastic “cartridge” (the term “cassette” had not yet been coined as an audio format). The cartridge system was developed by RCA to make pre-recorded stereo tapes more accessible to the mainstream American market. Bell Sound, a division of TRW, was one of the few entities to manufacture players for this system, alongside a handful of other companies. Pre-recorded cartridges were available from RCA, Bel Canto (also part of TRW), and potentially other sources. Although the overall design of the Sound Cartridge closely resembled that of the compact cassette, it was roughly three times its size. The Sound Cartridge could store an hour’s worth of stereo audio at 3-3/4 ips, offered reasonably good sound quality, and could accommodate up to two hours of mono 4-track on a relatively short tape length.
Creative Audio Works offers a unique service for those with RCA Sound Cartridges. We can extract the tape from the cartridge shell and transfer the audio using a reel-to-reel recorder, resulting in a superior transfer compared to those who use an RCA Sound Cartridge audio deck from the 1950s. Once the transfer is complete, we carefully return the audiotape back into the cartridge and return it to the client.