The history of film formats: the German answer to compact cassettes

We already talked about Fidelipac, Stereo-Pak, Stereo 8 and RCA Sound Tape. All of them were developed in America. But European companies were engaged in similar projects.

Today we will talk about DC International. He was introduced by the German corporation Grundig.


A photo Ulrich miemietz / CC BY-SA / DC International First Player – Grundig C100

Format birth

The history of DC International is closely related to the well-known compact cassette developed by Philips. The Dutch company first demonstrated it to the general public in 1963 at an electronics exhibition in Germany. Initially, tapes were intended for conversational content and were poorly suited for recording music. But very quickly, the developers introduced technologies that mask noise and improved sound quality. Their decision began to gain popularity.

At this time, Friedrich Lachner, representative of the German concern Grundig, suggested Sony to design a new format to compete with the Dutch product. But Lahner was not lucky – at the same time, employees of one of the Philips Electronics divisions contacted the Japanese. They suggested that Sony enter into a partnership agreement and jointly develop a compact cassette format. The management of the corporation weighed all the options and eventually accepted the offer of the Dutch colleagues. But the Grundig did not abandon their idea.

They enlisted the support of radio manufacturers Telefunken and Blaupunkt and in 1965 introduced the format DC International. Abbreviation DC stands for like Double Cassette (“two-cassette”), since two reels with a film are hidden in the plastic cartridge case.

A photo Ulrich miemietz / CC BY-SA
The DC was larger in size than the compact cassette — 120 × 73 × 12 mm — and contained up to 45 minutes of audio content on each side (there were versions for 90 and 120 minutes). Speed tape movements – 5.08 cm / s, which made it possible to reproduce sounds in the frequency range from 40 Hz to 10 KHz.

Grundig also released their playback device – Grundig C100L. A similar device was introduced by Telefunken – it was called Magnetophon 401. As for the Blaupunkt company, its engineers developed two specialized players for cars that connected to standard radio sets.

Short life DC International

To spur the distribution of the format, Grundig executives completely refused license fees for cartridge production by other firms. Philips also did not license the production of cassettes, but collected royalties for equipment for their manufacture.

Since the launch of DC International in 1965, several releases by major music groups have appeared on cartridges – for example, Rolling Stones compilation. However, DC International failed to defeat the compact cassettes. The format of the German company saw the light two years later than the Philips product and simply could not lure any significant audience.

In 1967, Grundig had no choice but to accept defeat. The company curtailed the development of audio tapes, focusing on the production of video and audio equipment.


A photo L O R A / Unsplash

But DC International is not completely forgotten. Even today, enthusiasts collect old cartridges and upgrade players. For example, employees at DigiOmmel, a company that digitizes archives and private video and audio recordings, purchased a Grundig C100L tape recorder and established into it modern low-noise preamps. They reduced interference from older germanium transistors and improved the playback quality of DC International cartridges.

Also on the network you can find videowhose authors enthusiastically recall this format.


Additional reading from our “Hi-Fi World”:

Beginning of an era of compact audio or “first shift” for bobbin
The era of compact audio: Stereo 8 story – eight-track cassettes
The Rise, Fall, and Possible Return of Audio Cassettes – Understanding Myths
Audio cassettes in pop culture: why the obsolete sound recording format is again considered fashionable
Everyone is talking about the return of forgotten audio formats – why they are destined to remain niche


P.S. Weekend reading: audio gadgets – from Soviet car radios to noise-canceling plugs.


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