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8-Track Players

Anyone who has visited a garage sale has likely seen boxes full of 8-track tapes. A huge treasure trove of music and other audio content is available in this format, and you may even have your own collection. Luckily, you can still find a great selection of 8-track players made for car, home, and portable use.

What is an 8-track tape?

The 8-track, originally known as the Stereo 8, is a type of cartridge that was widely used in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. Before the introduction of the 8-track in 1964, the reel-to-reel deck was the most frequently used format, but it was often difficult to use. The 8-track format, a plastic cassette cartridge playing the tape on a continuous loop, is easy to use. You simply push the cartridge into the deck and press the play button. It was also the first tape deck available for use in cars so that you could listen to your favorite songs on the road.

Why is it called 8-track?

To play music in stereo on any tape format requires two tracks – one track plays through the left speaker and the other plays through the right. 8-track tapes contained four programs, like the sides of a record album, so the tape held a a total of 8 tracks of music. This approach doubled the playing time of the tape, so long collections of music, like double albums, were possible on one cassette. The player switches from one program to another automatically, so the tape plays in a continuous loop. You can also change the program manually.

What types of decks are available?

The widespread use of the 8-track tape led to the development of many types of equipment, both stereo and mono. You can find decks designed for vehicles that mount to the center hump or that install in the dash. Many in-home options are available, from stand-alone players complete with amplifier and speakers to player and recording decks that integrate with a larger sound system. Portable players, like boom boxes, were widely used because they made it possible to listen to tunes anywhere. Many decks can record stereo audio tracks to the cassette tape, as well.

What kind of content is available?

The 8-track tape was used for almost 20 years, and every major musical artist released a tape version of each album during that time span. There are still millions of recordings available on 8-track tapes. Having an 8-track player as a part of your audio equipment could open up a whole new world of collecting possibilities.

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