The cassette tape was created in the 1930s and became a household staple in the 1980s with the rise of Sony’s Walkman, when music became “on the go”. Now after the digital music revolution, one French company is bringing back the personal audio cassette player—but this time, for the 21st century.
There is only one company in Europe which still makes cassette tapes
As reported by Connexion France, the company called Mulann produces magnetic strips for magnetic cards like bank cards and also for audio use, mostly used by professional recording engineers who use analog format to tape film and music.
In 2016, Mulann created a subsidiary company, Recording The Masters, to take advantage of the huge rise in demand for analog—the company reported an 80% rise in requests. Two years later, in 2018, (after acquiring the rights to use the same tape formulations as the much-loved BASF and AGFA tapes from the German manufacturers of the 1980s), it was able to launch a new improved version called Fox.
The company says analog is complementary to digital music
Jean-Luc Renou, the CEO of Mulann group, says the company doesn’t expect to compete with digital music but insists there is room for both to exist:
It’s like heating. In your home, you have heaters in every room – high numbers – and that’s not going to change. That’s digital. But you can also have a single fireplace, and it takes time to experience something different – this is analogue. The fireplace isn’t going to replace your heaters and the heaters won’t forever kill the fireplace.
The company feels strongly that it’s time for a comeback. In its own words, “the vinyl revival is so 2015”.
The company is launching a new cassette player
In partnership with La Toile sur Ecoute, Renou announced to Le Parisien, that it is launching a new portable cassette player, with a retail price of €69 ($76). The old players had a reputation for poor sound quality, but the company feels strongly that this has been resolved by working with Thomson sound engineers. The new prototype is in the process of being further refined again to allow bluetooth connectivity and it will be rechargeable, in the same way as modern smartphones.
Sales of audio cassettes are increasing
Connexion France reported that “in 2018, more than 219,000 were sold in the United States, compared to 178,000 in 2017”. As sales of analog technology rise, more and more artists will choose analog version of their albums, cassettes and vinyl, to supplement digital streaming services (currently 80% of music is streamed in the U.S.). And Mulann is not the only company forging ahead with a modern take on the Walkman—Hong-Kong-based NINM Lab sells one for roughly the same price.