Tour the Very Last Audio Cassette Factory

The National Audio Company bet on nostalgia and won.

Sep 4 2015, 6:29pm

Sometimes, staying stubbornly stuck in the past can end up paying off.

That's what the National Audio Company believes, anyway. The last audio cassette company in the country, it held on tight as its former competitors abandoned cassettes for CD production. Now that analog has begun to make a comeback, the National Audio Company, or NAC, owns its market and is making more cassettes than ever before.

When everyone jumped on the CD boat in the late 90s, NAC wasn't hurt by it because its customers were mostly spoken-word performers and people just buying blank media. So the company began slowly buying and rehabbing its competitors' equipment.

Steve Stepp, company president, seems to have seen the whole DIY cassette revival in the cards. "[We were] preparing ourselves to pick the music market up when it came back, and that's exactly what happened."

Now NAC is making cassettes for Metallica, a special release of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, and what looks like countless basement recordings from smaller bands.

NAC is appropriately triumphant about the retro resurgence of cassettes. "There's the under-35 age group who have learned now that life is not comprised of mp3s and earbuds. They like the sound of analog," says Stepp.

There will probably always be some need for audio cassettes, at least for a few more decades. But banking so heavily on retro nostalgia is tricky, because what's retro and what's just old changes fairly often. I was recently record shopping in the East Village when I heard a tween tell her friends, "I just like being surrounded by all this music, but I don't have a record player. What I really collect is CDs."

Watch the full video, from Bloomberg, here.