Vinyl is experiencing a huge upsurge. We all know that. But a rising tide is lifting all ships and has actually sparked a resurgence of interest in other old-school audio formats, including CDs and, perhaps a little more surprisingly, classic cassette tapes.
The heyday of classic cassettes was really in the 70s, 80s and 90s – before the emergence of CDs really stifled them – and they became very popular because they were really the first portable audio format. Largely thanks to the boombox (first released in 1966) and the iconic Sony Walkman (first released in 1979), cassette tapes allowed you to listen to music away from home and wherever you wanted it.
In addition to being portable, cassette tapes were very popular because they were affordable; the average price of an album on cassette was around $10. Additionally, the cassettes played a warm, imperfect sound that analog reel-to-reel and vinyl audio is known for (even though the audio quality of a the tape is much worse). It also provided a similar mechanical and tactile experience. It’s a format you have to experience
Where to Buy Cassettes and Players Today
In 2022, it’s actually not that difficult to buy cassette tapes. They’re still in the making and they’re still in the pop culture zeitgeist thanks to their appearance in hit shows and movies like stranger things and guardians of the galaxy. Also, a lot of labels and recording artists are still releasing cassette tapes. For example, if you visit the websites of many of today’s most popular artists, including Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, The weekend, Billie Eilish, Selena Gomez and many more – they sell tapes of their latest albums.
And when it comes to older albums, you can also find cassettes of them. There are some albums that are much rarer than others, of course – just like with vinyl – but you find plenty of old school albums on vintage audio plans, online specialty stores (like Band head town Where The location of the tapes) and online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, Sweetwater or Craigslist.
Cassette players are a whole other story, however. Contrary to how the popularity of vinyl has encouraged new manufacturers of turntables and other hi-fi components, there are hardly any new manufacturers of cassette players – whether cassette players laptops or cassette decks. This means you have to buy vintage. Fortunately, there is a thriving online market.
How to buy a vintage stereo
Just like vintage turntables, buying vintage cassette players and turntables isn’t as easy as buying modern audio components. Much of what you’ll find online is obviously weird and probably not in the best of terms. In fact, many of these vintage players and cassette decks don’t work at all, and the sellers expect you to have to fix them. This is going to add extra cost, not to mention that you will probably have to find a local hi-fi store that can do this for you.
A note: This is not a definitive or exhaustive list of the best vintage cassette players and decks – there is too much subjectivity and room for debate. Instead, it’s a list of some of the most popular models that were first released in the 70s, 80s and 90s and are still in demand today. If you have any suggestions for additions, please leave them in the comments and we’ll potentially update this post in the near future.
vintage cassette players
Release year : 1987
The Aiwa HS-G330 is a chrome and metal music player with wonderfully tactile buttons for playback controls on the top, as well as a volume scroll wheel on the side. It also has a 3-band graphic equalizer on the front, a fun feature that lets you tweak the audio settings.
Release year : 1985
The Aiwa HS-G08 was a very advanced cassette player when it was released. It had a 5-band EQ, auto reserve, touch controls, and Dolby B noise reduction. It was also the company’s first music player to have a remote control. When it was released in 1985, it was $100. But it’s much more expensive these days.
(You can read more about the Aiwa HS-G08 at The walkman archives.)
Sony TPS-L2 walkman
Release year : 1979/1980
The Sony Walkman TPS-L2 is one of the most important portable music players. It was designed as a pretty affordable music player – cost around $200 when it was released – but it was really innovative because it had two headphone jacks so two people could listen at once. It also had a “hotline” button that, when pressed, canceled the music and activated a microphone so two people could talk to each other without removing their headphones.
(You can read more about the Sony Walkman TPS-L2 at The walkman archives.)
Sony WM-DD9 walkman
Release year : 1989/1990
The WM-DD9 is one of the most sought-after vintage cassette players – and to many enthusiasts one of the best walkmans of all time. Despite its relatively bespoke design, the WM-DD9 was a truly high-end player at the time, and it is comprised of advanced components. It has two independent disc drive motors, an amorphous head, auto-reserve, Dolby noise reduction and it’s one of the few walkmans to have a gold-plated headphone jack.
(You can read more about the Sony WM-DD9 Walkman at The land of walkers.)
vintage cassette decks
Release year : 1996
The Sony TC-WE605S is a very good vintage stereo cassette player with a small screen and a host of buttons for record and playback controls. It’s packed with playback features, including loop and reverse playback support, which is pretty cool. It also supports Dolby B/C/S and HX-Pro noise reduction. It was $250 when it was released in 1996 and you can find it for around the same price today (although it will probably need a tune-up).
(You can read more about the Sony TC-WE605S at CassetteDeck.)
Release year : 1979
The Akai GX-M50 is a superb high quality vintage cassette player. It is a 3-head turntable (a technology inspired by reel-to-reel turntables) that was designed for listening and recording. It has a wide array of knobs and buttons for controls, as well as a display for level meters.
(You can read more about the Akai GX-M50 at CassetteDeck.)
Release year : 1975
The Pioneer CT-F9191 is another very nice vintage cassette player. It is a 2-head turntable with memory stop and manual band selection. It also has a wide variety of knobs, switches, and knobs for playback control, as well as dual microphone inputs and level meters for optimal recording.
(You can read more about the Pioneer CT-F9191 at CassetteDeck.)
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