I'm comparing an old cassette copy of Eric Johnson's Ah Via Musicom and the streaming version available online (with CD album art and presumably from that release too), and I've noticed that every track on the cassette version is a half-step higher in pitch than the CD version.

For example, "Cliffs of Dover", according to the Wikipedia article, was recorded in G major, and that's what the CD/streaming version uses, but the cassette version is in A-flat major.

It sounds like both versions of the track came from the same master, but the tape version was just sped up to raise the pitch.

I've never heard of anything like this being done for any other album, and I can't think of a good reason for the change. The album isn't long enough for runtime to be a concern, for example.

  • 1
    Maybe different playback speeds? – Aaron Nov 2 '20 at 0:35
  • Playback speeds would be my guess as well. If you speed it up, you can fit the same music on less tape and save money in production. Radio will also speed up music. If you speed the music up by 1%, you can fit in one more ad per hour. – Duston Nov 2 '20 at 15:23
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    The pitch of cassette players was always completely unreliable, and the ones that still exist very probably haven't improved with age. – PiedPiper Nov 2 '20 at 20:47
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    @PiedPiper - Agreed. if you're really finicky, it's possible to add in a high-quality pot to the motor control on a cassette machine. I used to use one I modified myself for live work… 35 years ago… with an A-440 pre-recorded tape & electronic tuner. Sometimes it would take the machine an hour of playback before speed would settle. – Tetsujin Nov 4 '20 at 16:36
  • Is the cassette produced by the recording company or was it dubbed by a consumer from another source? – phoog Nov 7 '20 at 20:33

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