bluemeanies wrote:How would you rate the tape sound compared to vinyl?
Blue, that's a very loaded question, fraught with variables. I think most of us, unless we're actual musicians like AudioBill, use tape for archiving purposes, i.e., to preserve your vinyl or even CDs. So the job of a good tape machine is to preserve and reproduce the source material as faithfully as possible.
Assuming you've got a good machine, the variables are as follows: tape quality, tape width (1/8th inch for casettes, 1/4 up to 1 inch for R2R), tape speed 1-7/8th up through 30 inches/second), and tape bias or type. Generally, the more tape you've got going over the heads in a given second is going to result in better sound -- although the Nakamichi Dragon and RX-505 cassette machines gave R2Rs a run for their money in that department.
Your targets are tape hiss and dynamic range, against influenced by many factors. All cassette machines use some form of Dolby to get rid of the hiss. High-bias as opposed to regular bias cassettes worked better in those players.
Problem with cassettes is nobody makes new hi-fi tape anymore, so anything you buy off one of the auction sites is going to be 20 years old and brittle. There are, however, makers of new R2R tape (ATR Magnetics is one), but you're looking at $70 for a 3600-foot roll on standard NAD 10.5 inch reel, which at 15 IPS gives you 48 minutes per side, about the same length of time as a quality cassette, or double that at at 7.5 IPS. Going down to 3-3/4 IPS you'll get 192 minutes, or more than 3 hours per side. But you'll get more hiss, though probably not noticeably more than you get off a vinyl record that was tape-mastered and still far greater dynamic range than the best of the cassette machines ever made because even at that very slow speed four times as much tape is going over the heads at any given point.