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The Best Vintage Cassette Players (Available to Buy)

Vinyl is experiencing a huge renaissance. We all know that. But a rising tide is lifting all ships, and it’s also spawned a resurgence of interest in other older audio formats, including CDs and, perhaps more surprisingly, classic cassette tapes.

The heyday of classic cassettes is in the 70s, 80s and 90s – until the advent of compact discs really destroyed them — and they became super popular because they were really the first portable audio format. Thanks in large part to the boombox (first released in 1966) and the iconic Sony Walkman (first released in 1979), cassettes allowed you to listen to music on the go, anywhere.

In addition to being portable, cassette tapes were very popular because they were affordable; the average cost of an album on cassette was about $10. In addition, cassette tapes reproduced the warm and imperfect sound that analog reel-to-reel audio and vinyl are known for (even though the sound quality cassette tape is much worse). It also provided a similar mechanical and tactile experience. This is a format that needs to be touched

Where to buy cassettes and players today

In 2022, it’s not really that hard to buy cassettes. They’re still being made, and they’re still in the zeitgeist of pop culture, thanks to being featured in popular shows and movies like Strange things and Guardians of the Galaxy. Also, many labels and record companies still release cassettes. For example, if you go to the websites of many of the most popular contemporary artists, including Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, A week, Billie Eilish, Selena Gomez and many others — they sell cassettes of their latest albums.

And as for old albums, you can find cassettes with them. Of course, there are certain albums that are much rarer than others – just like with vinyl – but you’ll find plenty of old-school albums on vintage audio stores, specialist online stores (e.g. Tape Head City or Cassette place) and online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, Sweetwater, or Craigslist.

Cassette tape players that’s a whole other story, though. In contrast to how the popularity of vinyl has encouraged new manufacturers of record players and other hi-fi components, there are virtually no new manufacturers of cassette players – both portable cassette players and cassette decks. This means you should shop vintage. Fortunately, there is a thriving online market.

How to buy vintage hi-fi

Just like with vintage spinning wheels, shopping for vintage cassette players and decks is not as easy as shopping for modern audio components. A lot of what you find online is obviously weird and maybe not in the best condition. In fact, many of these vintage cassette players and decks don’t work at all, and the sellers expect you to fix them. This will add extra costs, not to mention you’ll probably have to find a local hi-fi shop that can do it for you.

Note: This is not a definitive or comprehensive list of the best vintage cassette players and decks – there is too much subjectivity and room for debate. Instead, this is a list of some of the most beloved models that were first released in the 70s, 80s and 90s and are still in demand today. If you have any suggestions for additions, leave them in the comments and we’ll potentially update this post soon.

Vintage cassette players

Aiwa HS-G330

eBay

Year of issue: 1987 year
Price: ~100 dollars

The Aiwa HS-G330 is a chrome and metal player with superb tactile playback control buttons on the top and a volume scroll wheel on the side. It also has a 3-band graphic equalizer on the front panel, which is a fun feature that lets you customize your sound settings.

Aiwa HS-G08

eBay

Year of release: 1985 year
Price: ~$1299+

The Aiwa HS-G08 was a truly advanced cassette player when it was released. It featured a 5-band EQ, auto backup, soft controls and Dolby B noise cancellation. It was also the company’s first music player with a remote control. When it was released in 1985, it cost $100. But nowadays it is much more expensive.

(You can read more about the Aiwa HS-G08 at Walkman archive.)

Sony Walkman TPS-L2

eBay

Sony TPS-L2 Walkman

ebay.com

Year of release: 1979/1980
Price: ~$1299

The Sony Walkman TPS-L2 is one of the most important portable music players. It was designed as a fairly affordable music player – costing around $200 when it came out – but it was really innovative because it had two headphone jacks so two people could listen at the same time. It also had a “hotline” button that, when pressed, muted the music and turned on the microphone so two people could talk to each other without taking off the headphones.

(You can read more about the Sony Walkman TPS-L2 at Walkman archive.)

Sony WM-DD9 Walkman

eBay

Year of issue: 1989/1990
Price: ~$2,699

The WM-DD9 is one of the most sought-after vintage cassette players – and many enthusiasts consider it to be one of the best Walkmans ever. Despite its relatively unconventional design, the WM-DD9 was a truly high-end player for its time, and it’s built with cutting-edge components. It has two independent disc drives, an amorphous head, automatic redundancy, Dolby noise cancellation and is one of the few Walkmans with a gold-plated headphone jack.

(You can read more about the Sony WM-DD9 Walkman at Walkman country.)

Vintage cassette decks

Sony TC-WE605S

eBay

Year of release: 1996 year
Price: ~250 dollars

The Sony TC-WE605S is a really great vintage cassette deck with a tiny screen and lots of buttons to control recording and playback. It’s rich in playback features, including support for loop and reverse playback, which is pretty cool. It also supports Dolby B/C/S and HX-Pro noise reduction. When it was released in 1996, it cost $250, and you can find it for about the same price today (although it probably needs a significant upgrade).

(You can read more about the Sony TC-WE605S at Cassette deck.)

Akai GX-M50

eBay

Year of issue: 1979 year
Price: ~250 dollars

The Akai GX-M50 is a high quality and gorgeous vintage cassette player. It’s a 3-head turntable (technology inspired by drum pads) that was designed for listening and recording. It has an extensive set of buttons and knobs for control, as well as a display for level meters.

(You can read more about the Akai GX-M50 at Cassette deck.)

Pioneer CT-F9191

eBay

Pioneer CT-F9191

ebay.com

Year of issue: 1975 year
Price: ~500 dollars

The Pioneer CT-F9191 is another very nice vintage cassette player. This is a 2-head deck with memory stop and manual tape selection. It also has a wide range of buttons, switches and knobs for playback control, as well as two microphone inputs and level meters for optimal recording.

(You can read more about the Pioneer CT-F9191 at Cassette deck.)

https://www.gearpatrol.com/tech/audio/a41601961/vintage-cassette-player/

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