Q: I own a cassette recorder bought about five years ago but still in good condition. It does not have tape bias or equalization adjustments. Can I use the newer "super tapes" on it for better sound, or would it be a waste of money?
A: Probably your machine is adjusted for "standard" (LH or low-noise) tape. If you use a tape that requires higher bias and/or an alternate kind of equalization, the recorder sound may or may not be better. I all depends on how much your recorder is "underbiased" with respect to the newer tapes. If the underbias is small, you may get better highs and transients when you record, at levels comfortably below the "zero VU" mark.
However if you try to push the recording level much over that mark, you may increase the distortion. If in doubt, save your money and continue using "standard" tapes.
Q: What do you think of "mini" components?
A: Mini components are petite-sized but are said to provide full performance. A widely held view is that they make sense in Japan (where they originated) because of limited space and crowded living quarters. Whether these conditions apply in the United States, to influence buying patterns, remains to be seen. Mini components mostly in evidence so far are tuners, preamps and medium-power amps. If you put them together, the resultant assembly is functionally a receiver and not much smaller than one. Some insiders speculate that mini components will appeal to a new market. Others say there is no consumer need for them and that the real reason for them is that they are more easily and cheaply shipped. Be that as it may, turntables cannot become mini's because of the dimensional needs of a platter and tonearm. Speakers? I don't know any minis that provide full base, but the mini components can play through regular-size speakers.