Introduction: Audio Cassette Loop

Picture of Audio Cassette Loop

Theoretically it sounds really easy; you can make a tape loop by taping the ends of a short piece of magnetic ribbon together and sticking it back inside the cassette tape. However, if you ever actually tried to do this, you will soon realize that it is a tad bit trickier than one would think. I spent an afternoon working out and refining this science. After many tries and many, throw-my-hands-in-the-air-and-promise-to-give-up sorts of moments, I think I have it down reasonably enough to write instructions for someone else to do it. Now you too can tape the ends of magnetic ribbon together, ?, and profit!

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

Picture of Go Get Stuff

You will need:

A cassette
A rubber washer
A razor or craft knife
Double-sided tape
Clear packing tape
A screwdriver
Mat board
A ruler
A cassette player

Step 2: Open the Case

Picture of Open the Case

Open the cassette tape by removing the screws. Carefully set them aside for later reassembly.

Step 3: Remove the Reels

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Remove the tape reels, but don't disturb any of the other mechanisms.

Step 4: Prepare the Reels

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Cut both reels free from the magnetic tape.

Put your rubber washer around one of them. This will be the wheel which will pull the tape.

Step 5: Cut Some Magnetic Tape

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Cut a section of magnetic tape roughly a foot long.

Step 6: Thread

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Position your wheels back inside the tape and thread the magnetic ribbon around the rubber wheel, under the unmodified wheel, around the pulley opposite the rubber wheel, through the channel at the bottom of the tape, around the other pulley and also to the right of the plastic peg (next to the pulley).

In other words, just look at the pictures.

Step 7: Tape

Picture of Tape

Apply a small piece of double-sided tape on the inside of the magnetic ribbon, pull the loop tight and tape it evenly together.

If the magnetic ribbon is attached at an angle or any tape is sticking off the sides, your tape loop almost assuredly will not work.

Step 8: Washer

Picture of Washer

Cut a washer out of mat board and stick it on the inside of the case around the opening that lines up with the wheel with the rubber on it.

This provides more pressure on the sides of the wheel and ensures the wheel will spin. I found this to be necessary.

Step 9: Close the Case

Picture of Close the Case

Trim away all excess magnet ribbon and close the cassette back up. When reinserting the screws, only tighten them about 80% on the side with the rubber wheel. Readjust tightness as necessary until it plays correctly in your cassette deck.

Step 10: Now Make It Better

Picture of Now Make It Better

Perhaps that first loop you made was a little glitchy and you would like for it to work better.

There is an easy way to do this.

First, reopen the case, remove the magnetic ribbon loop and cut it in half anywhere along its length.

Step 11: Make a New Piece

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Carefully measure this piece of magnetic ribbon and then cut yet another piece of that exact length.

Step 12: Splice

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Take a small piece of packing tape and evenly splice together the two ends to form a solid band (without any twists in it... although, if you put one twist in it, it will double the length of the loop, but make it harder to reassemble).

Trim away any excess packing tape with your razor or craft knife.

Step 13: Putting All Back Together Again

Picture of Putting All Back Together Again

Install the new band of magnetic tape into the cassette deck.

Reassemble the whole unit once more and enjoy your cleaner sounding tape loop.

The trick:
I always assumed that the tape wheel was the mechanism feeding the tape through the player and because of this, I thought that the magnetic ribbon had to be highly tensioned and the wheel needed to be as loose as possible to spin freely. However, what I discovered is that what is really feeding the magnetic ribbon through the player is a little rubber wheel that comes up from the bottom when you hit play. Because of this, it is beneficial if the ribbon has a little slack (less tensioned) and the wheel is a little compressed with sides of the case. Figuring out the right ratio takes a little trial and error.


JamesA41 (author)2017-10-19

This is hilarious! At least for some ideas I have. I never even knew existed. Thank you!

DJA21 (author)2017-02-06

Did you know you can just buy endless loop cassettes? TDK made them for one, I have a couple.

well then you could. now...

TheInfamousClockmaker (author)2017-06-19

you know, i know this guy and back in the 80s-90-s, he made like a millions of these. he stole and bought and whatevered millions of tape players, walkmans and stuff, and he removed the heads. on each loop he recorded a different tone (sneak to the church, every day 6-7 tones before they caught him, later he used this older guy's hammond) and he used his parent's upright piano (actually destroyed it!) and he made this tape-organ-like-instrument, and it worked great! (well, actually, not that great, because the motor speed went up & down, changing the pitch [not too much anyway;it was playable], and the difference between church organ on lower octaves and hammond on higher octaves can be clearly seen, and tape it wastes over time [you elder guys know what i'm talking about hahaha!]). and this instrument is still alive today, although some of the tapes have snapped and all of them are wasted...

Somebody around here should do this. Really.

Foxtrot70 (author)2015-06-02

Excellent Instructable! Here is a suggestion for modification to get longer recording time. With a 1" more or less tail extending out of the center of the take-up hub, loosely wind the length of tape you require i.e. 1 second = 18.75 inches of tape. Then thread the tape from the inside of the spool as shown in the Instructable. Then make your splice to the end piece winding on the outside and VOILA, endless loop tape for your time needs. Here is a link showing a pic of an endless loop cassette with 12 minutes of time on it. Hope this helps, enjoy.

devicemodder (author)Foxtrot702016-01-24

1.875 inches for 1 second.

mmiller6 (author)Foxtrot702015-09-17

Foxtrot70, could you please elaborate on how to get the inside part of the tape to come out smothly? I tried it a few times and each time the outside part of the tape would tighten up around the inside, and the inside part would have difficulty turning and end up breaking or stretching....

Foxtrot70 (author)mmiller62015-09-26

This is rather interesting. Yesterday I got a request to make an audio recording on endless loop cassette tape. Searching Ebay and else where these tapes seem to be no longer available. This is going to force me to make an Instructable to post.

mmiller6 (author)Foxtrot702015-09-27

Please do!

Foxtrot70 (author)mmiller62015-09-17

mmiller6 - If the Ebay link does not work this, 271984532700, is the item number for the endless loop tape just past the number into the search box in Ebay, then, press ENTER or click on SEARCH at the Ebay box.

Foxtrot70 (author)mmiller62015-09-17

mmillere6 - With a longer time of tape winding on to the outside and feeding out the center a slightly different spindle is required. The take-up spindle must be an inverted cone shape to allow the tape to slide UP out of the center of the take-up as the spindle turns. A vertical sided reel of a standard cassette case will have too much friction and bind as you are experiencing. Here is a current link to Ebay for a single blank if more play time were required cutting, splicing, then adding the required length would do the trick. If you were wanting to make more tapes you could disassemble this one and make a mold casting of the spindle to modify a standard cassette. I hope this helps you, good luck.

Here is the link:

jensenr30 (author)2015-04-18

The idea of putting a twist into the magnetic tape (essentially making a möbius strip) had not occurred to me. However, that sounds fantastic. I definitely want to try doing that now!

aico (author)2011-06-13

So I was playing around with this a bit yesterday and I've been having a lot of fun figuring things out. I might even write my own Instructable to expand a bit (if you don't mind).

First off, the washer and matboard seem to be pretty unnecessary, in fact I've had success just wrapping the tape around the little wheels at the bottom to make it much shorter, or around the little clear plastic pegs throughout the cassette (the one I used had 6). I also made one with the tape wrapped around both the reels and with that one I was able to fast forward or rewind for superfast playback.

The Mobeius tape loop worked out alright, but it was not super practical. Half of it plays back regularly and half plays whatever is on the other side of the tape, but in reverse and more quietly. Also, I was only able to record over the 'regular' side, and had to flip it over and time it just right to record over the other half.

You can still use both sides of the tape.

It seems like cutting the tape at an angle and taping it carefully will give a really clean loop, but whenever I try to record a drone over the whole thing, I get a bit of silence, presumable from the distance between the bit of the tape machine that erases and the bit that records when I press stop. This can be overcome by either using a pre-recorded tape or by recording a loop and then shortening it (though so far I've been too lazy to try the second option).

It is possible to make a microcasette loop, but it is a total pain to do and isn't much quicker than a cassette loop (since the tape speed is slower). Basically the tape has to be really snug and the tape is more delicate so you can't handle it too much (I wore a blue plastic glove and used tweezers).

TylerJ3 (author)aico2015-01-14

Actually you are correct in that you should be cutting the tape at an angle because it acts as a cross-fade, and the silence is most likely coming from metal (or magnetized) cutting tools. Since a cassette tape is a magnetic tape, if you cut it with something magnetic it can ruin the tapes ability to become re-magnetized (so to speak) properly later. One thing to remember with this is plastic works much better than metal for cutting and placing if possible.

randofo (author)aico2011-06-13

You should totally post your own Instructable showing what you have found. I would be interested in seeing instructions for all of your different experiments. I would have not thought the Mobeius tape loop would have worked like that. One of these days I want to get back to messing around with this to try to make a seamless loop.

poparoo4 (author)2009-07-28

I Seemed to have missed the point.... What's it for?

lglenn (author)poparoo42011-11-11

Place near your parrot before you go to work with it repeating "Help, somebody changed me into a parrot!".

darman12 (author)lglenn2013-08-12

No need, just repeat that sentence to your parrot a few times and he/she will do it all by his/her self!

omnibot (author)poparoo42011-06-09

One use (apart from old answeringmachines) is in making a Mellotron

andybuda (author)poparoo42011-03-30

putting in a cheap tape player and dropping down a well. "help im stuck in a hole and i can`t get out"

theatre_tech_guru (author)2009-07-02

digital is so much easier

But lacks fidelity and thus inferior to analog.

Robot Lover (author)2011-10-16

How many seconds? can it hold of sound? these could be helpful to make a mellotron

randofo (author)Robot Lover2011-10-16

I believe it is about 8 - 10 seconds.

livesteamfan (author)2011-09-11

Would it be a good idea to wind the tape like it was in 8-track cartridges, or would that not work out right?

Warlrosity (author)2010-09-10

I would like to record quiet background noise, and play that.

Redgerr (author)Warlrosity2011-07-15

ahahah, nice

postulatej (author)2011-04-05

Well, after days of following these instructions i couldn't get my tape loop to work by this method....instead, i nixed the rubber washer and matte board washer. I made just enough tension on the tape and used the regular old spindle to make the tape loop. There are several ways to make a cassette tape loop, I'm not saying my way is the best, just saying that if you can't get yours to work by this method try some experimentation and use common sense.

j03tv (author)2010-08-29

I remember doing something like this before but it was just to fix some tapes that snapped apart.

garrettanderson983 (author)2010-03-14

here are some helpful facts:
1. use a rubber band that's been cut and crazy-glued to the moving wheel instead of a washer. those are hard to find
2. u have to use a four-track recorder for this. if u do, then you can do live looping, until the tape wears out

Joe Stone (author)2009-07-31

woot! it took me a couple of tries, but my tape loop works. yeah, i have no idea what i'd use this idea for at the moment... maybe more ambient sounds. i'd like to try disabling the erase head on a recorder and see what kinda overlapping sounds i could build up.

randofo (author)Joe Stone2009-07-31

That sounds cool. You should post an Instructable of that if you disable it.

bishely (author)2009-07-15

Just a small point - you say the tape is driven by the capstan (little rubber wheel that pops up when you press play), which is true, to some extent. Actually, the capstan provides some power to the movement, but it's main job is regulating the speed of play (so it doesn't flutter/wobble) - the reason the spindles didn't seem to do anything driving your tape is quite obvious: the tape was no longer connected to either of them, but simply looped around. The spindles would have to be very sticky (the rubber washer helps, but even more so) to be able to drive the tape like that, and that'd mean more tapes being eaten by tape machines. So just an FYI - the spindles aren't completely useless, but they are if the tape's not connected to them. Otherwise, great instructable!

bigmike55 (author)2009-07-02

Thank you Eric. This is simple and practical. I made something similar to this a long time ago, when I was experimenting with an echo machine I built.

dombeef (author)bigmike552009-07-12

This is not Eric

justalf (author)2009-07-02

Your splices will work much better if you can splice them on an angle. You need something like a mitre but much smaller (I've used splicing blocks but you could do it without). Use a scalpel, overlay the two ends to be spliced, cut on a 45 degree angle, remove the bits you dont need, hold the tape ends as close together as possible, use the thinnest tape you have on the back and your done. It's a lost art from the 70s and 80s.

Jonny Katana (author)justalf2009-07-09

Another cool feature of angled splices is that depending on the angle, you may be able to notice a fading effect between the beginning and end of the tape when the splice passes the head.

yokozuna (author)2009-07-06

In tv/radio, these were called bump carts. Of course, nothing in tv/radio actually uses reels anymore, but I'm guilty of being old enough to remember them "back in the day".

mweston (author)2009-07-05

To make the splice run through the reels better, try cutting the ends at 45 degree angles and then taping them together. This might make a funny sound if there is something on the tape, but if it is blank at the point of the splice then it shouldn't make a difference.

neuralstatic (author)2009-06-26

moebius loop ftw!

legless (author)neuralstatic2009-07-04

You can't use a Moebius strip (loop) as only one side of cassette magnetic tape is coated with the oxide.

neuralstatic (author)legless2009-07-05

yes, it's the side away from the tape head normally. the substrate/mylar stays between the head and the oxides to protect them, prevent dropouts flaking. it could play the othe side too, but it wouldnt' last so long i guess. if you enjoy self-devolving projects it might be cool

cegu (author)neuralstatic2009-07-03

You know, that would double the length of this tape. I think it can be done.

lemonie (author)2009-06-27

I made one of these years ago, but I can't remember how much play you get - 20-30 seconds? L

static (author)lemonie2009-07-03

Somewhere on the web, undoubtedly is listed the tape speed used by the cassete tecnology. Armed with that one could created any record time they need.

subgeek (author)static2009-07-04

standard cassette speed is 4.8 cm/s.

bruninho13 (author)2009-07-03

What's the reason to make that thing??? ur just destroying a cassete....=D

andrew101 (author)bruninho132009-07-04

cuz who doesnt want a 10 second infinite loop? XD

lucek (author)2009-07-03

so how long is the recording?

Bor (author)2009-07-02

Actually, you can just buy these at a thrift store. They where made to record the outgoing message in answering machines.

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previously life I had founded and run the Instructables ... More »
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