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Revisiting the 8-Track with a New 1975 Pioneer HR-99 Recorder

Revisiting the 8-Track with a New 1975 Pioneer HR-99 Recorder
this video is a bit of a departure for me because instead of looking at the latest technology I'm going way back and looking at the 8-

track

tape cartridge system I'm going to have a look at the technology behind the 8-

track

see how it operates and I'm also going to have a look at what happens when it goes wrong and how you go about repairing that I'm gonna have a listen to some of them because it's over 35 years ago since I heard one of these I've got no idea how good or bad they sound I'm gonna see if there's any point in collecting eight

track

s but most exciting of all I'm going to be unboxing an 8-

track

recorder

that's been sat unused brand-new in its box since the day it was made nearly 40 years ago I suppose you might be asking why and that's legitimate question the reason is because in the UK the 8-

track

never really made that much of an impact a few people had it in their cars in the seventies but they replaced it pretty quickly a father has one with all of two cartridges I can't really remember the 8-

track

so I wanted to go back and find out for myself how good or bad it really was all I remember are people ridiculing it like young MC and it's perhaps slightly ironic that the album is on cassette let's take a look at a typical 8-

track

this is Abbas greatest his predict early on in their career on that many hits on it really when you look at the

track

listing notice at the bottom here though we've got four...
revisiting the 8 track with a new 1975 pioneer hr 99 recorder
programs now obviously the cartridge is pretty chunky and that was one of the issues with a

track

not very portable really but the tape inside is a quarter of an inch the way that those

track

s are split up are into those four programs once of four top to bottom now you think where does the 8-

track

come from well the reason is because each of those four programs is split into two that's your 8

track

s stereo left and right stereo for four different programs I know there's quad 8

track

s but we're not going to go into that right now so inside an 8

track

the tape is on a real about 11 and a half minutes usually for an album and in 11 and half minute real that just it goes around continuously from the middle it pulls the tape goes on the left and goes back on the outside of the reel again the way it works is like this it pulls it from the middle spins in this direction the tape goes around the front across a spongy bit around that wheel and then back up onto the outside of the reel therefore you can't rewind it as you can see what happens when you twist it the other way so you can't rewind eight

track

s although you can fast-forward them if you've got one of those buttons now this bit of metal that comes across the bottom here that's what changes our

track

s so when a full loops been attained it hits that metal bit drops it down to the next

track

now I'll show you how that works inside this player that I've taken apart so the cartridge goes in the...
revisiting the 8 track with a new 1975 pioneer hr 99 recorder
front notice it jumps straight to the next program when it goes past the metal strip but if you want you can press that selector button yourself to jump between programs now you can't get to the exact

track

you want because of course each of those programs has three or four

track

s and you have to wait for the one you want to come round now looking at the play heads here notice the metal one at the bottom that's the one that jumps the

track

s when it hits the metal strip but look at the top there that's the playhead look how far it goes inside the cartridge when I push the cartridge in it pushes the tape right against that piece of sponge and when I press a selector button you can see the tape head move down to the individual programs now when it comes to buying 8-

track

cartridges for me in the UK I found the best place has been eBay there are on any second-hand shops around me that stock these of course most of them died out in the 70s so you can kind of understand it there's an awful lot of dross on there a lot of country-and-western easy-listening elvis compilations things like that very few contemporary pop acts however the 8-

track

did live into the eighties and you can get some later eighties albums that you really won't expect to find on 8-

track

and some of these reach pretty high prices now I have managed to get one of the later eight

track

s these are only available mail-order I think this is Michael Jackson's Thriller of course the first time...
revisiting the 8 track with a new 1975 pioneer hr 99 recorder
I've ever owned this album believe it or not now an 8-

track

cartridge tape is twice the thickness of a compact cassette tape and runs at twice the speed so at one point it did sound better but the compact cassette improved technology over time and ended up sounding better than the 8-

track

now one thing about a chart with it having that loop inside of tape the programs have to be rearranged to fit on the table cause if you imagine a 10-minute loop not all

track

s are the length so for example if you look at Michael Jackson's Thriller the way the album splits up you'll find that the some

track

s is one

track

a pretty young thing that splits as beginning and conclusion and the way that works is the

track

fades out there's a big clunk when they had moves down and then it comes back in again now if you also look at the last two

track

s here beats it and Thriller those are on the eight

track

is the last two

track

s on the album but the official album according to Wikipedia ends up in pretty young thing and laid it in my life so the

track

s are completely rearranged on the eight

track

now this video has had a few false starts it's taken me six months to put together originally I got hold of this 8-

track

player very simple device which I showed you the inside off before it was made in 1976 and it been in its box ever since then however I couldn't get the audio to work properly I had this dim plug on the back converted it to fanos it was too quiet I put a preamp on...
it it was still too quiet it went in the bin I then decided I get a

recorder

instead of top-of-the-range one so I had a look for one of those a lot of people don't know that you can get recordable 8-

track

cartridges you can record your own

track

s onto them after much searching I found the

Pioneer

H R 99 now this is recognized as one of the Best playback machines from the eight-

track

era it's shown in a

1975

stroke 76

pioneer

brochure now it's been in its box ever since it was made apart from the time when the chap that sold it to me who's in Spain took it out of the box to replace the belt in it because of course belts perish on old tape machines but other than that nobody's touched this so let's have a look what you get well here's all the things you get inside the box you get the photos the instruction booklet there's some tape head cleaning sticks here quite long ones cuz you have to reach inside the back of the machine with the door open and it also comes with some of that fluid that you put on the end of those q-tip type things to clean it however because the time is speed in the box that has evaporated now lifting out to the box I can feel it's got nice 1970s weight to it very solid not sore like modern equipment as far as I know I might be unboxing the only box one of these in the world which is pretty exciting the label on the top here this piece of card again tells many to keep those heads so that's something they find quite...
important on the back it's got the standard International plug but it's got the ability to change the voltage to the UK which is one reason I chose this particular model doesn't seem like there were many eight-

track

home players sold in the UK now looking at the machine itself it's an absolutely gorgeous piece of technology now it is to me anyway maybe you don't agree but I just like the build quality in the metal features on this all those buttons on there and metal not sort of plastic caps on them everything's got a really solid clunk to it on the back I've got standard photo so I can just plug it straight in my equipment let's just put a tape in it haven't plugged it into my arm but we just want to see how it works you can see the machine lights up and starts playing the tape meter there I can move between programs with that big clunky sound now the fast-forward button fast forwards are only twice normal speed but it's too much for this tape its Polti depart out of the metal splice that's a common problem and I'll show you how I repair that later on but I'll plug the 8-

track

into my amp and system now let's play something back on it I'm gonna play back Lionel Richie can't slow down this is the most recent of to date 8-

track

album I've got from 1983 now the problem is is I'm gonna have to talk over this a little bit because I don't want YouTube doing a Content match and then flagging me up as some...
kind of pirate so sorry about the fact that you can't really listen to this very well but it's just one of those things anyway as far as I'm concerned it works fine as you can hear I can jump between the programs many sounds pretty good now let's put Michael Jackson in there just listen to that for a second now that didn't sound half-bad there's a lots of richness and body to the sound although there is noticeable hiss that's present throughout but you only really pick up on it during the quiet parts of each

track

now there is another problem with some 8-

track

cartridges have a listen to this drug beat and see if you hear another

track

being played in the background yes sometimes the tape won't align perfectly with the head and you'll hear a bit of leak through from the next

track

and then there's other tanks which are a little bit worse but you shouldn't judge an eight-

track

by its cover or it's awful shade of green because this one sounds pretty good me now it's time to record my own eight-

track

mixtape now this particular record it does have manual level input control but it's also got an auto level control which if you press that it'll get all the

track

's sounding just about right I put in my brand-new 90 odd minutes 8-

track

cartridge there we've got a choice of recording just one of those programs or all of them from beginning to end or just doing them round and round again for some reason I'm...
doing the end one we're just record the whole cartridge and then stops I've got a 90 odd minutes playlist in my solos ready playing it into the back of the

recorder

I thought it'd be quite interesting to put on some music from just the last 12 months or so because I just seems a little bit unusual to better record a brand new 8-

track

with 2013 music interval after 92 minutes it stops it reaches the end of the tape and then the next morning I put the cartridge back in the player to have a listen to it and it sounded grave that's the many of the pre-recorded cartridges I've got now let's try fixing that cartridge I broke earlier on when I fast forwarded it and it came apart out the join now I'm sure most people would just throw this away but with a bit of time and patience it can be brought back to life now eight-

track

Avenue supply little kit which will repair most of the problems with most eight

track

s first off get inside your 8-

track

take out the sponge you'll notice that it'll crumble like this one does in the fingers this has happened to pretty much every cartridge I've ER opened all the sponges seems have disintegrated clean off that piece of plastic get one of the supplied sticky back pieces of sponge just stick it to the piece of plastic so your sponge is repaired but obviously this isn't what we got into the cartridge for we were repairing that break in the tape so once that's in place we can then move on to fixing the...
tape first off cuts out the bits in the middle that was holding the metal splice so we've got to clean pieces of tape we're not deleting any part of the recording here by the way there's always a gap around that splice where there's nothing recorded it's just silence they supply the sticky back bits of metallic stuff here which will just go on the tape if you just do it gently you can get both pieces of tape held together by that and it's as good as new again so it's just a matter of putting the tape back inside the cartridge making sure it's nice and tight in there and then putting the cartridge back together so let's try out the tape and let's see how it gets past the splice that I just put together so the job so Gooden well I encourage me to go and have a look at another one of my cartridges my most recent one the Lionel Richie want how to look inside that and sure enough even on that cartridge which is not that old I suppose well 30 years the sponge in that has crumbled so it looks like every single 8-

track

that you buy you're gonna need to replace that little part there which is a nuisance because that means you're gonna have to buy a load of those sponges and also know how to take your cartridges apart without breaking them so really that's a bit of a pain in the neck however this does mean that Lionel lives to dance on another ceiling another day now believe it or not there is still some sealed 8

track

s available on...
eBay but even unwrapped in one of these I found that the sponge had fallen off the little metal section there so the fact that that cartridge has been sealed up all that time is still no guarantee that it's going to play perfectly on your machine it will need repairing then again I suppose that's what happens if you put something in shrink wrap and leave it there for 40 years so there isn't much fun with 8-

track

sometimes in fact I got this Robert Parma album the first one he recorded it was with the meters on backing I wanted to have a listen to it but in the machine and it made some sort of terrible sound like the tape was getting all chewed up I had a look inside the cartridge and the tape Lal fallen off the reel in the middle and got wrapped around some air I tried to repair it and this is what happened now believe it or not there is a solution to this problem and that's to go out iTunes and just download the album it's cheaper it's quicker and it sounds better and there is another issue when it comes to collecting 8

track

s and that's that they generally look pretty chatzi occasionally you'll find a really nice-looking one that's brand new in the box and plays perfectly but more often than not you'll get them where all the papers bubbled up on the label I think they must have used bad glue on them or something but it seems to be whatever year you buy you'll find this same problem some of them come in these slip cases which stops...
the tape getting damaged but more often not people have thrown those away just kept the cartridge but you can't always blame people because some of them didn't even come proper slipcase in the first place it's not all doom and gloom though where else do you go if you want a disco version of the Superman theme or a disco version of the jaws 2 theme so there is some fun to be had and I really do like that record right boy I think it's a beautiful piece of kit the way it's put together is brilliance it's just nice to get something brand new from the 1970s that works perfectly it looks really nice at night as well and I like recording my own 8

track

s on it is fun to play the latest hits on an 8-

track

I'm even prepared to live with the hiss of the 8-

track

or the fact that the album's roll rearranged as some of the

track

s are split in half I think that's actually quite charming what the I don't like though is the price of the blanks the blank cartridges are very expensive and hard to find also the pre-recorded albums on eBay and it should look quite cheap but because I'm importing a lot of them from the US the price of the postage is prohibitive most of the cartridges you get tend to look really quite bad they don't stack nicely on a shelf they're not a nice display item virtually every one you buy will need to have some sort of repair job on it and not every fault can be repaired so I suppose given the fact that the sound quality...
isn't that great and all the other issues that come along with the cartridge it's probably not worth the effort so I suppose young MC really did know what he was on about after all so that's it for the moment as always thanks for watching