I recently needed a cassette demagnetiser and was also on the lookout for a cassette cleaning tape. I didn’t want a hand-held demagnetiser, and my regular deck is hard to manually clean without removing the mechanism, something which I am not going to do regularly. I was surprised given the number of cassette machines still in use, and the rising popularity of the cassette format that cassette accessories are somewhat thin on the ground. New old stock Track Mate cleaners are readily available as are cheap cleaning tapes, but I struggled to find a newly manufactured cassette demagnetiser or a cleaning tape that looked like it might stand a couple of trips through the machine.
That was until I happened across the Vinyl Styl cassette head cleaner and demagnetiser. This all-in-1 device very much resembles a traditional head cleaner, but with a spinning magnet to demagnetise the heads as it cleans. The company primarily makes portable turntables and related accessories and I couldn’t find mention of this device on their website, so it may well have been discontinued. At the time of this writing it is available in the UK from Juno and via Amazon.
The cleaner is supplied with two bottles of head cleaning fluid which judging by the smell is alcohol-based. A few drops are dropped into the two holes in the cassette window before the tape is placed into the tape machine and played. I tested the tape in a Nakamichi DR-3, Pioneer CT-S830S and a Technics RS-B665 and none of the machines had any trouble running the tape through a full cleaning cycle. Some cleaning tapes require more torque to rotate than an average cassette deck can provide, and can prematurely trigger the deck’s auto stop but that wasn’t an issue here. The tape is not in a continuous loop and therefore must be played on alternate sides with each cleaning cycle.
I forgot to take some shots of the decks before cleaning, so you’ll have to take my word for it that the cleaning tape works as advertised. The Technics deck, a recent eBay purchase with the intention of using it to make calibration tapes looked like it had never seen a cleaning tape in its life, with disgusting heads, filthy pinch rollers and crap all over the capstan. After a couple of cycles the heads came up looking new with no noticeable wear, and most of the dirt was gone from the rest of the tape path with only a few stubborn particles left to be scraped away.
The Nakamichi and Pioneer were both in far better condition and both cleaned up perfectly. The demagnetising aspect of the tape works as advertised also, restoring crisp highs and lowering the noise floor of both decks. Neither appeared particularly dirty, but the audible improvement in both cases was particularly noticeable. A 10kHz test tone played back on the Pioneer to adjust azimuth was almost 1.5dB louder after cleaning; enough that a tweak to the adjustment improved the sound even further.
Cassettes may be making a comeback, but as yet the machines to play them aren’t. As such it is necessary to keep old machines in good health with regular maintenance and TLC. The Vinyl Styl cleaning and demagnetising tape does just that, and is an excellent tool for regular deck upkeep. Highly recommended.