In the world of analog audio, the irregular movement of tape, record or film causes speed fluctuation, which in turn, causes pitch fluctuation. Relatively slow changes in pitch are called wow, faster changes are called flutter.

Wow may be caused by a variety of reasons: off-center record, deformed rubber rollers, worn-out belts, a sticky cassette. It is more pronounced on compact cassette machines: because of slow tape speed travel, a slightest variation of speed turns into a noticeable change in pitch.

Flutter may be caused by a bent capstan, or by other issues with the mechanism, including gears and…


If you type “What is the longest pre-recorded compact cassette?” into Google search, you will be presented with a single entry, asked by someone on Reddit two years ago and receiving no answers.

Using tools like Discogs does not help much: you can search for a match, but not for inequality or for highest value, not all releases have track duration specified, and there is no field for a total release duration.

Discogs — the online music database and marketplace

I looked around the cassettes I have, most of the pre-recorded ones are 40 to 45 minutes long, or 20 to 23 minutes per side, which is…


Bestisan SR01 active speakers

These are near-field speakers from Bestisan, as in, “Best Artisan”.

They have two stereo line inputs, a USB port, and can also be connected to via Bluetooth. Because they are powered, they do not require a separate power amplifier. Instead they come with a small AC adapter. There is no built-in battery.

“Near field” means that they are larger and fancier than “computer speakers”, but are not large enough to be called “bookshelf speakers” or “wall-mounted speakers”. Indeed, they cannot be mounted on a wall: there is no hook, all the connectors are on the back, and there is no…


The 2022 Ford Maverick — it’s the truck for people who never knew they needed a truck. — from Ford’s commercial.

This sounds like a great value proposition: a vehicle that supposedly can be as nimble as a small hatchback, as economical as a hybrid sedan, as spacious as a minivan, having a cargo bed as large as on a proper pickup truck. Except the Maverick is none of those things.

When former CEO Alan Mulally took over, his One Ford plan helped reduce the company’s platforms from 30 to just nine. …


This is the TDK SA compact cassette, one of the most important audio tapes ever created.

TDK “Super Avilyn” compact cassette (1974)

The SA is considered the first non-Chrome Type II tape. It was designed to avoid paying royalties to DuPont, who developed Chromium Dioxide tape, but also to produce a competitive product cheaper, using existing production lines. By adding a small percentage of Cobalt to Ferric Oxide, TDK was able to mimic the characteristics of Chrome tape, including lower noise and better sensitivity in higher frequency range compared to regular ferric tape.


This is my favorite cheap Sony Walkman from 1990s, the WM-FX407.

Make no mistake — like the other mass-produced Walkmans of this period, it has the same bulky and noisy plastic mechanism, directly attached to the circuit board.

For a cheap Walkman, the FX407 is loaded with features. It has autoreverse, tape type selector, Mega Bass, a built-in radio with digital tuning, automatic volume limiting system, and a cherry on top, Dolby Noise Reduction system. It also has digital clock and alarm.

Sony Walkman WM-FX407 (1994)

Its serious and reserved appearance draws upon ideas from the previous decade, when Sony’s design language was full…


In 1998 a Korean company Saehan Information Systems changed history, creating the first portable solid-state audio player.

The MPMan F10, that is what it was called, came with 32 or 64 Megabytes of non-expandable internal memory and was powered with rechargeable gum-stick batteries, common for Asian market. Its variant, the F20, used more common AA batteries and had a slot for a SmartMedia card.

To put this into perspective, the Apple’s iPod was three years away, and when it came out it had a conventional hard disk drive inside. This does not necessarily indicate bad technical judgement on the…


Reel-to-reel cassettes can be seen in almost every YouTube video that shows off vintage hi-fi equipment. Why they have become so popular, and do they have any merit?

Technical merit

On a reel-to-reel tape recorder the smallest distance between spindles is defined by the sum of the radii of the reels. Compact cassette does away with the reels, or more precisely, with the reel flanges, so the spindles can be moved closer together.

Cassette improves on reels in two different areas: quicker tape loading, and a more efficient use of space.


If you are old enough to remember compact discs, you may have seen this message on some of them:

The music on this compact disc was originally recorded on analog equipment. We have attempted to preserve, as closely as possible, the sound of the original recording. Because of its high resolution, however, the Compact Disc can reveal limitations of the source tape— a note on a compact disc.

This note implied that digital was superior to analog, and that CDs were capable of much more than LPs and cassettes when proper digital techniques were used.

CDs displaying a warning that the music on these CDs was originally recorded on analog equipment.

To drive this idea…


If you have read my previous review, you will immediately notice that the FX315 looks like a Deluxe version of the FX101. In fact, all Sony Walkmans with this button pattern have the same mechanism, but these two also have very similar external styling, which makes it easier to spot the added features of the FX315.

Top sides are identical, with Automatic Volume Limiting System (AVLS), headphone jack, radio tuning dial, volume dial and tape type switch, which also serves as DX/Local switch in the radio mode.

On the right side there are FM/AM/Tape selector and Play/Stop/Fast Forward/Rewind buttons.

Reflective Observer

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store