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The humble cassette -- that tiny little plastic rectangle containing the homemade mixtapes of yesteryear -- is back, joining vinyl as a darling of audiophiles who miss side A and side B. But as top musicians including Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber release their music on tape and demand continues to climb, the niche revival has faced a global shortage of music-quality magnetic tape needed for production.Several years ago National Audio bought 300,000 reels of tape from a South Korean company that gave up music-grade tape production.As that stockpile began to shrink, his facility in November 2016 was faced with a choice: either make reels, or fold.His business invested several million dollars buying up old equipment from defunct production facilities, and last year National Audio manufactured 18 million audio cassettes, Stepp said, selling to 3,500 record labels globally.It's nothing compared to 1994 sales of 246 million cassette albums, but significant considering the format was all but dead by the mid 2000s.Though vinyl's sound quality is unquestionably superior to cassettes, May said tapes' low cost makes them ideal for collectors.
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