The Cantata 700 is a commercial background music system and corresponding cartridge format developed by 3M that was in common use from 1965 until the 1990s.[1]

Cantata 700
Media typeMagnetic tape cassette
EncodingAnalog signal, in four mono tracks @ 1+78 in (48 mm) IPS
Capacity26 hours
Read mechanismTape head
Write mechanismPrerecorded only
Developed by3M
UsageAudio storage for background music


The nearly square-shaped cartridges are among the largest built. More than 24 hours of playback fits on a cartridge. The music distributed by 3M consisted of mono recordings some of which are attributed to the company's "3M Orchestra", with later editions featuring a themed blend of library music tracks and mostly instrumental cover versions of standard songs, and classical pieces arranged in a light or bright tempo. Cartridges such as the Italian and Polynesian editions include some vocal content. The tape is 14 in (6.4 mm) wide and is played at 1+78 in (48 mm) per second.[2] The cartridge consists of a reel-to-reel mechanism intended for playback only. Internally, the cartridge contains two 8+38 in (210 mm) tape reels, tape guides, rollers, and a reel brake. The reels are stacked on top of each other vertically and counter rotate during operation. After passing over the tape head, the tape loops over a roller in the cartridge to change its direction back to the takeup reel.[1]

There were three main designs of cartridges manufactured, with a fourth minor modification. The earlier tapes (1965-mid 70s) use metal reels and the later tapes use plastic reels (mid 70s-1988). Muzak acquired the remaining unsold stock in 1986. Tapes manufactured before 1986 use scotch recording tape inside. Tapes sold by Muzak use a different formulation of tape more similar to type 1 cassette tape. Muzak tapes use 3M shells with Muzak labels over the top of the 3M labeling. The last tapes were sold in 1988. All information on the Cantata 700 was divested by 3M in 1988. [3]


All offered machines are playback only. The first models 94BG and 94BZ, were offered in 1965 and bundled with two cartridges of the customer's choice for US$429.00; equivalent to $4,148 in 2023.[2] Each machine is equipped with a jack for 8 Ω speakers at a maximum of 6 W and a microphone jack for public address announcements.[2][1]

The machines played continuously using an auto-reverse mechanism. As the tape reaches one end, the reverse mechanism activates and changes the drive direction. The tape head moves to the other side and the mechanism shifts pinch rollers. The design does not require the head to turn over; instead, the entire head changes position to play the tape at the other side of the tape path.[1]

In 1970, 3M introduced the Cantata 700 Mark II, available only by lease.[4]

Variety of Cartridges


  1. ^ a b c d Techmoan: Retro Tech: This 1960s BGM Machine played the Biggest Cassettes ever made, uploaded to YouTube on 11 May 2016
  2. ^ a b c Billboard 23 October 1965, p.46
  3. ^ "3M Cantata Cartridge Variants". YouTube.
  4. ^ "What's New: A Picture Roundup of New Products and Developments". Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation: 109. January 1970. Retrieved 6 April 2017.