[WORD ILLEGIBLE] four months ago, insiders weren't [WORD ILLEGIBLE] sure how to spell it, but [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the model designation on Sony's EL-5 clears that up. It is Elcaset. The shortened form of "cassette" is [WORD ILLEGIBLE] since the Elcaset itself is considerably larger than the conventional [WORD ILLEGIBLE] cassette, although the [WORD ILLEGIBLE]. For handling it is not much larger than some of the top-ranking cassette decks.

[WORD ILLEGIBLE] publicity on the Elcaset has pointed out, the wider tape used (one-quarter inch) and the faster speed [WORD ILLEGIBLE] are to be credited for improved response and better tape-handling. Because of its construction, the Elcaset depends less on the tape housing itself and more on the machine for smooth tape movement. And indeed, in the sample I have been working with for some weeks, the old bugaboos of wow and flutter seem just about eliminated. In sonic response, the Elcaset is just about as good as any open-reel deck I know of at the 3 3&4 ips speed. The standard audio range from 20 to 20,000 Hz seems amply spanned with a minimum of dB variation, and signal-to-noise ratio is at the "60 dB down" level. Distortation is comfortably below 1 per cent at normal recording levels.

So the thing works pretty much as claimed. THe big question remains, though: Admitted that it does what it is supposed to do, does it do it significantly better than any of the top-flight standard cassette recorders? I cannot answer this unequivocally.

I still detect on soni miracles vis-a-vis the Philips cassette handled on a top-flight late model (such as the Tandberg TCD-330). I recorded some discs and some FM on both, and could hear no differences on comparative playback. Perhaps the dice were loaded, however, since the Tandberg costs about $1,000 and the EL-5 is priced at $630. No doubt the higher-priced machine should do as well as the lower-priced one or better, but the narrower tape and slower speed of the standard cassette naturally put more demands on the playback equipment to achieve a comparable result.

I leave it to tape buffs and audio hobbyists to debate this. Perhaps the Elcaset will pull ahead of the standard cassette qualitatively when the higher-priced version appears - that will be the model with three heads and such advanced features as the control track for auxiliary equipment and the punched housing to adjust the recorder automatically to different kinds of tape. As for the tape, we are advised that a special type, formulated to take advantage of the Elcaset format, is on the way. What will also have to be on the way, if the Elcaset is to make a big dent in the tape market, is some program material for listerners who don't want to do their own recording.

The market for serious recordist activity seems well-served now with a variety of open-reel decks; the less "activist" but still quality-minded market has just about been taken over by standard cassette models. The Elcaset may fit in somehow, but it would get a boost if and when it could also be offered as a medium for high-quality playback of commercially recorded tapes. And at present there are none.