Thursday 29 February 2024

We are Rewind WE-001 tape player/recorder

WE-001 portable tape player

I did a rare thing and straight away bought a gadget advertised on Facebook: a portable cassette tape player.

I didn't want to dilute my impulse by examining too many reviews and just ordered it. Ok, I saw the Amazon reviews appeared to average to at least ok/good.

Less than week later I became an owner of a "Keith" variant of the WE-001 player. There are more nicely colored models but I stuck with the grey one.

The device is branded as "We are rewind", the design is from France, built in China.

The styling is good and the object feels heavy in a nice way.

A feelgood product

The packaging is also fun, had I seen this at a store it might have been an instant buy.

Inside the box there's a quick guide and the proper manual, and as a courtesy, a short black pencil.

Confession: I probably never used a pencil for rewinding tapes back in the day.

Another confession: I probably never owned a commercially recorded music tape during the 1980s-1990s. Computer tapes? A bunch. And a few copied music tapes, which I guess killed the industry.

The player can be recharged using a USB-C cable. There's a Bluetooth wireless playback too, but I felt a little weird about that. I mean, if I intend to play back physical media, why break the chain?

The Unboxening

From what I've read the audio quality has been the main beef for some, but for most of us mortals the playback is good enough for what it is, a fun and nostalgic player.

But I also have to say I don't have much experience with tape playback during past 30 years. With my better headphones I could find some tiny hiss I would not expect from any current digital device. Just blast away something suitably loud and it's not noticeable, or use more forgiving headphones. I tried a couple of new and old tapes, and the output was what I expected.

Recording might be another matter. The manual recommends "Type I" tapes. They do sell the player together with a tape, being the cheapskate I didn't order one. Using a recommended tape would have helped make a more definitive statement.

There are not many music tapes around.

As it is, I did a recording from Fostex MR-8 digital recorder output to a 15 minute "computer" tape. Although at playback the speed appeared constant, there was occasional garbage here and there. These were not even at the loudest or bass heavy points.

Another try was from a Steinberg UR12 USB audio interface headphone out, recording Dave Rodgers' Deja Vu out of Youtube. As the results were somewhat similar, it's possible the tape is to blame, but it may also be the recording really is the weak point of the device.

So, the results are still a little random and inconclusive. My old tapes don't all have specification markings. The device has no peak light indicator but an automatic level detector, not a great starting point for recordings.

Instead of red, the record button is a sprightly yellow.

There's no eject button to open the lid, but this was probably rather common with portable players. You can simply pull the lid open.

At least by 1990s portable players became very round and with non-protruding buttons. The reason why WE-001 looks fresh is because such considerations have been ditched. I can imagine the sharp corners and buttons getting a little stuck inside pockets. But really, who would carry this player around just as casually?

Not much experience with battery life, I've had a few hour-long sessions without the LED giving any kind of signal yet. The promised battery life is 8-10 hours, a full recharge takes more than few hours.

And the connectors for power, audio in and audio out. Volume control to the right.

One important question remains. Can I use it to load ZX Spectrum tapes?

I had no such luck with the new ZX Spectrum Next. Using a stereo cable (TRS both ends) didn't cause much more than some border flickering. Similar problems did arise with a proper Sanyo Data Recorder, so I'll have to treat the Next as a separate issue, maybe there's still something I've not yet understood about the computer configuration.

Then I moved to ZX Evolution, another modern Spectrum clone, which has been proven to load tapes before. I took Horace Goes Skiing and had success after a couple of attempts. I needed to use less than maximum volume here.

There's no counter though, so reloading multiload game positions or loading a specific program from a collection could be troublesome.

The full rubber-key ZX Spectrum 48K tape loading experience has to wait, the equipment is currently buried a little deeper.

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