alt.collecting.8-track-tapes Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Jul 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/6/96

Newsgroup: alt.collecting.8-track-tapes

Information File and Frequently Asked Questions List

FAQ Version 1.7 - Updated: June 5, 1996

(New!) means New to this version


Compiled by Malcolm Riviera ( with
excellent assistance from Abigail Lavine, Our Lady of the 8-Tracks
(, Eric Wilson ( and Ronald
Bensley ( Please send all additions, corrections,
and suggestions to Malcolm Riviera at
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

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?




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


[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

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.


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.


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

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.



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."


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
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).


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 (


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
( 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


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). (G. Allen)


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!


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!


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.


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
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.


By hand.<deep sigh>

Iıll 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 youıre 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.


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).


_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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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 (


[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.


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

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.

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

*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

*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


[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."


"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:

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.


(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,



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.


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.

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