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Tapehead Inspector

> Industrial design
> Self-initiated Project
> Collaboration with Jonnie Common


The Tapehead Inspector is fun. Inspired by the reversal of the name of a musical trio that I play in with Chris Croasdale and Mr. Jonnie Common. We're really into tapes, and as Chris' birthday was coming up Jonnie and I decided to make him a wee instrument: A manual tape player, ie. one in which the player can directly control the movement of the tapehead against the audio tape.

Simply a hack of the increasingly hard-to-source cassette walkman, I took out all the mechanics, hard-wired the tape circuit to 'on', lengthened the cable to the tapehead and housed the whole thing in a videotape casing. Jonnie built the instrument case/playing surface and then we made up a few audio tape 'slides' by recording some of Jonnie's choice vinyl to tape and getting crafty with scissors and sticky tape! I am abridging greatly for brevity here - I maimed one walkman making the whole thing work and the overall instrument design was chewed over a few times over cups of tea at Jonnie's house. We're pretty pleased with the results and hope Chris enjoys inspecting his tapes!

Further resources

  • View the demo video above.
  • Look at all pictures of the Tapehead Inspector on Flickr.


We have since found a few similar projects, most notably Nam June Paik's 'Random Access', but also this 'prepared tapehead', this tapehead experimenter using a bank card and a floppy disk, and lastly, the Magnatron by Arius Blaze.

Pending work

The aim now is to build more Tapehead Inspectors, one of which will be from a dictaphone and hence also have sampling capabilities. Am in the process of documenting the process properly for sharing as source on Instructables, and may look into designing a Ponoko.com housing. Any collaobrators welcomed.

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