Since 1979 and throughout the existence of the portable cassette player format, a huge number of different models have been released. No matter how many functions the manufacturers tried to endow with ordinary players! From built-in radios and even TVs, to the possibility of learning foreign languages.
In this article, we try to talk about all the iconic and epochal models of vintage cassette players, as well as those that provided the highest quality playback.
50. Sony TPS-L2
The cult device of 1979, for its time it was a very advanced player. The model was built on the basis of the Sony TCM-600 portable professional recorder, from which the recording head was removed, and the reproducing head was replaced with a stereo version. Instead of a microphone, the “hot line” function appeared, when the corresponding key was pressed, the volume level was forcibly lowered, and the owner of the player could hear the world around. There was no support for Dolby NR yet, but there was a two-position switch that allowed you to listen to the corresponding cassettes without too much emphasis on high frequencies.
The second generation Walkman, which appeared already in 1981, confidently took away the title of the “smallest” player in the world from the TPS-L2. However, a significant reduction in size led to the fact that only the engine remained unchanged from the original model, the rest had to be created anew. The batteries were accessed from inside the cassette compartment, so that they could no longer accidentally fall out, which sometimes happened with the first generation of the player. The case became so miniature that it was not possible to install a clip on it to mount the player on a belt, and a special holder was invented, with which the player could be placed on various parts of clothing. The second generation of the player broke all sales records – more than one and a half million copies were sold. The device weighed 280 grams and supported cassettes of the fourth type.
48. Aiwa HS-P1
One of the company’s first portable cassette players was released in 1981 for the company’s 30th anniversary. It featured a high quality auto-stop tape drive – measured knock coefficient was very low – and could handle any type of cassette. Two pairs of headphones could be connected to the player. The model weighed 345 grams, the battery life was 8 hours.
The second version of the original portable cassette player, released in 1981 and originally called the Walkman. The changes were rather cosmetic in nature – for example, the famous “play” button appeared, replacing “listen”, a latch on one key was added, the power socket was changed. The carrying case, again, has been redesigned to be black (rather than blue). Neither the mechanics nor the electronics have changed – but as a follower, the device is now valued a little less than the original.
46. JVC CQ-1 K
The beautiful and stylish 1981 player was one of the best on the market at the time. The tape drive mechanism supported full auto-stop and rewind in both directions, the player could play cassettes of the fourth type. But the most remarkable thing is the presence of two noise reduction systems at once – Dolby B and proprietary ANRS, which many still consider the best version of such systems of all time.
45. Toshiba KT-VS 1
The top player of 1981 from the Walky series – that’s what Toshiba called their portable cassette players. In addition to an excellent mechanical part and a high-quality head with support for a tape of the fourth type, the model was distinguished by a removable radio receiver unit made in the form of a cassette. To listen to radio broadcasts, it had to be inserted into a cassette receiver. Of course, in this case it was no longer possible to listen to ordinary cassettes, one had to choose one thing.
44. Sony WM-DD
The first device of the DD series appeared in 1982 and immediately earned universal love. Both in terms of workmanship and sound, the model turned out great. The electronics were taken from its predecessor, but the addition of a servo drive with a disk mechanism (plus a tacho sensor) significantly improved the technical characteristics of the device, and also made it possible to reduce the dimensions of the player. The body of the player was completely metal, the device weighed 240 grams.
43. Aiwa HS-P2
The world’s first wearable player equipped with an auto-reverse function was released by a Japanese company in 1982. Naturally, all other manufacturers quickly pulled themselves up, but the championship still remained with Aiwa. Other features include a noise reduction system, Type 4 tape support (Metal) and a large transparent cassette cover. The player was not the smallest and weighed 320 grams.
42. Sony WM-DC2
The third generation Walkman model with “direct drive” featured support for all possible Dolby NR systems, including version C. It even earned the title of “professional”, although it was also found in the consumer market. In addition to the latest Dolby C system, first implemented in a portable player (for which Sony needed to create special microcircuits on its own), a laser-amorphous reproducing head, unique for portable technology, was installed here, which was distinguished by increased wear resistance. In addition, a line output appeared here, which made it possible to connect the player to a stationary amplifier.
41. Pioneer PK-F9
A rare 1983 player that boasted a detachable radio in a separate unit, a telescopic antenna, auto reverse and a tape direction indicator. It supported the Dolby B noise reduction system, and the rewind buttons were located on the cassette cover. It is a pity that Pioneer eventually did not develop the direction of wearable players.
40. JVC CQ-22K
One of the early portable players from 1983 featured a solid build, smaller footprint than the competition, and great sound. It had full auto-reverse, support for all types of tape, including metal, and the Dolby B system. An original feature was the ability to connect a detachable tuner unit mounted on the case. The player weighed about 300 grams.
The Walkman model was unique in its compactness – its dimensions were smaller than the dimensions of the cassette itself! In order to insert a cassette into the player, the WM-10 case had to be moved apart. The creation of the Sony WM-10 required Japanese engineers to develop a custom miniature brushless motor similar to those used in turntables at the time. Another problem was the number of batteries. The dimensions did not allow space for two AA batteries, so it was decided to leave only one, and a special step-up converter was used to increase the voltage to the desired level. Despite its miniature size, functionally it was a full-fledged player that supports all types of tapes and is equipped with the Dolby B NR system.
38. JVC / Victor CX-V9
An amazing player from 1986 with a built-in LCD TV. For its era, it was a breakthrough product. The presence of the possibility of receiving TV programs did not prevent the player from being equipped with a good tape drive mechanism with quasi-touch control, auto-reverse and support for the Dolby noise reduction system. The kit included a detachable telescopic antenna and a stand with rechargeable batteries.
37. Sony WM-W800
This dual cassette deck is the first and only Walkman with the ability to transfer from one cassette to another. From a technical point of view, the device consisted of two WM-10 tape recorders combined in one case. The master deck supported playback and recording on all types of tape, including chrome and metal, while the second deck only worked with ferrite cassettes. Present in the model and built-in microphone. Due to its material-intensive design, the device turned out to be very expensive and did not sell very well.
36. Sharp JC-AV1
Another cassette player from 1986 with built-in LCD TV? Yes, it was. The model had both auto-reverse and auto-stop, but the most incredible feature was the presence, in addition to radio, a television receiver and a liquid crystal display. He radiated in the direction of the mirror inside the case, on which it was possible to watch TV programs.
The most famous, along with the first Walkman, portable player in the world. And all thanks to the film “Back to the Future”, because it was with this that Marty McFly went and with his help he sent his unlucky father in the past on a date with his young mother. The device, released in 1984, had an auto-reverse and track search system, supported all types of tape and the Dolby noise reduction system. The player weighed 275 grams.
34. JVC CX-F7K
A 1985 player with rich equipment and high sound quality. It featured full logical control of the tape drive with quasi-touch keys, support for the Dolby NR system and all types of tape with manual switching, auto-stop and a built-in radio. The case was metal, the player worked from one AA battery.
Model of 1985, unsurpassed in its miniature. An attempt to create the smallest player led to the emergence of a model that was significantly smaller than the cassette itself. And if competitors solved the issue by creating a sliding case, then Toshiba developers decided that it would do anyway. As a result, the cassette stuck out during playback. The kit also included a removable tuner unit, made in the form of a cassette cut by one third. The playback unit, however, was quite good, with full hitchhiking and metal tape support.
32. Aiwa HS-G8
The top player from the Cassette Boy series of 1985 was distinguished by advanced equipment. Features included full LPM logic control with touch keys, remote control, five-band graphic equalizer, silence search system, support for Dolby noise reduction, the ability to connect two headphones. The model was produced in seven different colors.
31. Panasonic RX-HD10
Another rare bird is a two-cassette recorder released in 1986 to compete with Sony. True, the topic did not receive development, so the model migrated to the category of exotic rarity. Unlike the competing model, there was an auto reverse, as well as a remote radio unit. There was support for the Dolby noise reduction system and the possibility of synchronous dubbing. The apparatus weighed 260 grams.
The first wireless Walkman appeared in 1988. Of course, then the signal was transmitted via a radio frequency channel, two separate transmitters were used for the left and right headphone channels. The frequency range was quite decent – from 30 to 15,000 Hz, which was enough for most cases. The player weighed 210 grams, it supported the Dolby B system and auto-reverse, the kit included a battery and an external removable battery pack.
Such technological heights as Sony, Aiwa or Panasonic, most devices from Toshiba did not reach, but they took the original design and bright colors. One example is the Toshiba KT-G770. The main requirements for a cool player are met here – Dolby B NR support, XLS bass extension system, work with different types of films. But the main feature of this Walky is the trim of the front and rear panels with natural red leather!
28. National RX-S41
A competitor to Sony’s DD series models was released in 1985. It also had a direct drive, could record sound in stereo, and all the controls were placed on the cover of the cassette deck. Support for the Dolby system was available, as was an external microphone. The device worked from two alkaline batteries for 6 hours, the weight of the device was 275 grams.
27. Sony WM-D3
The younger of two professional Walkman players and recorders, released in 1985 and in production for 15 years. It was distinguished by excellent mechanics, as well as the use of an amorphous head. It even had a tape counter, as well as signal level indicators for recording. The model worked with any type of cassettes for playback, but recorded only on ferrite and chrome ones. The model had a line output, as well as separate level controls for playback and recording. The weight of the device was 370 grams.
Aiwa was one of Sony’s main competitors in the cassette player market. The extremely sophisticated 1987 model combined an excellent deck with radio or microphone recording capability, auto-reverse and support for all types of tape and Dolby B. The model also had a digital tuner, and a wired remote control allowed control of all playback and recording functions. . The kit also included an external battery pack, but the main source of power was the battery, which could be charged in just one hour.
25. Sanyo JJ-W6
The 1989 model with wireless headphones did not save the buyer from fiddling with cables, since rather long wires extended from the radio, ending in in-ear headphones. The main advantage of the Sanyo JJ-W6 was that the receiver was small and easily attached to clothing or placed in a breast pocket. The player itself was equipped very well – support for different types of film, Dolby B noise reduction system, an additional battery compartment. There was even a velvet pouch for carrying.
24. Aiwa HS-PX30
One of the attempts to create a wearable cassette player that would be as good as full-length decks in terms of sound quality. The main feature of this 1989 model was the use of a high-quality amorphous iron HX head, support for two noise reduction systems – Dolby B and C, and the presence of a parametric DSL system for reproducing powerful bass. Included was a wired remote control and an external battery. The frequency range when working with a metal tape was from 30 to 18000 Hz.
23. Panasonic RQ-S1
The first turntable in the S series to focus on sound quality. Released in 1989, the model was equipped with an amorphous FG close-gap head, a metal case only 17 mm thick, and the turntable weighed 145 grams. The tape drive mechanism had an auto-reverse, the Dolby system was available, a remote control on the wire and a built-in battery, from which the player could work for 3.5 hours.
22. Sharp JC-K99
The lightest cassette player in the world weighed only 99 grams, and all due to the fact that its body was made of carbon fiber (carbon fiber)! This means that he was also incredibly durable. It came in several different colors, supported Dolby and all types of tape, and included a wired full-featured remote control. The player received power from a built-in battery or an alkaline battery located in an external unit.
21. Sony WM-DD9
Released on the tenth anniversary of the first Walkman, this player set industry standards for the remainder of the 20th century. Stuffed to capacity with innovations (two motors were used to provide auto-reverse, an LMP comparable in level to stationary decks, a digital speed stabilization system based on a quartz oscillator), the device, first of all, stood out with an amorphous head providing a frequency response of 20 – 20,000 Hz, and a gold-plated connector for headphones!
20. Sanyo JJ-P101
The model appeared on the market in the early 1990s, but some of its features still look incredible today. Especially transparent (!) touch-sensitive playback control keys on the cover of the device! The user had the feeling that he was in the future, since these keys did not give any feedback in the form of a click, you just had to press on the windows through which the cassette was visible, like on the touchpad of a modern laptop. The deck in the Sanyo JJ-P101 was equipped with double azimuth heads, respectively, the tape drive was with auto-reverse.
19. Aiwa HS-PL55
A beautiful and high-quality player of 1990 was enclosed in a metal case and supplied with a rechargeable battery, the charge of which was enough for two hours of continuous operation. It was possible to increase this time by using an external unit for conventional finger-type batteries. The player was equipped with an amorphous head with a small gap, supported all types of tape and the Dolby B noise reduction system. There was also a two-level proprietary bass extension system called DSL and full auto-reverse. The weight of the model was 170 grams.
18. Sony WM-FX5
A rare and interesting player from 1997, distinguished by a mirrored surface on the back of the case. On the other hand, all the controls were located on the cover of the cassette receiver, however, from accidental pressing in the pocket, the keys were covered with a neat curtain, which had to be first moved. A special feature was the presence of a TV tuner, the sound was also very decent – the presence of Dolby and Mega Bass systems helped.
17. Sony WM-701S Special Commemorative Edition
Limited release of the anniversary version of the WM-701c, released in 1989 to mark the tenth anniversary of the format. It featured a metal case covered with a layer of sterling silver and a corresponding inscription on the lid. From a technical point of view, the player did not differ from the base model, which means it had a remote control, supported the Dolby C system and weighed only 150 grams.
16. Sony WM-EX1
The player was released in 1994 to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Walkman format. It was distinguished by a sophisticated magnesium alloy case, accelerated track search – 25 times faster, a remote control with an LCD display on the wire and high-quality complete headphones with good insulation. The model weighed 184 grams and could work 12 hours on a single charge or 25 hours on alkaline batteries.
15. Panasonic RQ-SW70
Perhaps the most securely protected cassette player in history, produced since 1997 in the Shockwave series. The forged metal case (!) added rubber pads and full water resistance. The weight of the model was 303 grams, it also had a dual-band radio. The player was powered by two alkaline batteries, the power reserve was 6 hours.
14. Sony WM-DD100 Boodoo Khan
A portable player from 1986, which was the first to use the DOL (Dynamic Optimun Loudness) proprietary dynamic loudness system, which was designed to improve the sound of the low-frequency range. It was with this model that the history of Mega Bass, as well as all competing systems from other manufacturers, began. Included were branded DR-S100 headphones, designed with this system in mind and allowing you to get the most out of it. The player weighed 300 grams and worked on alkaline batteries for 9 hours.
13. Panasonic RQ-SX20
One of the last high-quality players of the company had an all-metal case, a control panel on a headphone wire and supported the Dolby B system. All the LPM control keys were placed on the cassette deck cover. The player weighed 160 grams and could work up to 45 hours when combined with a built-in battery and an external unit with batteries.
12. JVC / Victor CX-10
The compact player of 1991 had an all-metal body and weighed 139 grams with a rechargeable battery. Power reserve when using the battery and external alkaline batteries was only 13 hours. The player had a Dolby B system and a wired remote control, the package also included a charger.
11. Panasonic RQ-S55
When developing this player in 1990, the emphasis was not on the equipment of various functions, but on sound quality. Therefore, it was equipped with a proprietary amorphous FG head, there was support for Dolby B and C noise reduction systems, as well as the S-XBS bass extension circuit. It had a built-in battery, from a full charge of which the device could work for 2 hours, and an external block for alkaline batteries was also attached. The weight of the model was 149 grams, it was produced in white and black colors, there was a small remote control on the headphone wire.
10. Aiwa HS-JX2000
Released in the early 1990s for the tenth anniversary of the company’s first player, the model was distinguished not only by the gold finish of the case, but also by excellent equipment and sound. It featured an amorphous HX head with a small gap, which provided excellent feedback at low frequencies. Of course, the kit included a remote control on the wire, as well as an external microphone with stereo recording, plus a charger for the internal battery.
9. Panasonic RQ-SX7
Released in 1994, the player turned out to be very advanced. Its main feature was the presence of a wireless remote control, which was attached to the body of the device with special latches. It also included several EQ presets for different listening scenarios, and included high-quality double-diaphragm headphones complemented by a Vibration Sound vibration system. The case was completely metal with the Shell Lock system, the player weighed 186 grams.
8. Sony WM-EX9
At the time of the player’s release in 1998, it had the thinnest case among all the players on the market – 17.4 mm. The device could work for 100 hours from an external battery and a built-in battery and had a completely metal case. The kit included a wired remote control with an LCD screen, the player worked with all types of cassettes and was equipped with a proprietary AVLS adjustable loudness system. The weight of the player was 165 grams.
7. Panasonic RQ-SX72
The 1999 model, released to mark the 20th anniversary of the format, held the record for longest runtime when using a built-in battery and an external battery pack. Power reserve was 100 hours. The player was enclosed in an all-metal case and was produced in different colors. The LCD screen of the wired remote control had a backlight, there was an original battery check system with color indication.
6. Sony WM-D6C
An older professional recorder and player from 1984, the quality of which may well be comparable to good stationary decks of the eighties of the twentieth century. The device is designed in a rather large case and can work with all types of tapes. The mechanics and electronics are of a precision class, the sound quality is excellent, in terms of transparency, detail and coherence of the sound, few people can be put next to each other. The use of an amorphous iron head and the high quality of the CVL have an effect.
5. Panasonic RQ-SX97F
The most richly equipped turntable of the company in recent years had a metal case and a solid set of functions. These included bi-directional recording, LCD remote control, built-in memory radio with digital display, cassette track finder, Dolby B support. The built-in battery and external battery pack combined to provide over 80 hours of playback. The player weighed only 144 grams without batteries.
4. Aiwa HS-JX707
One of the best players of all time was released in 1992 and was distinguished by the highest quality of workmanship and sound, as well as extensive functionality. One of the original features was the ability to continuously record on both sides of the cassette with the help of auto reverse, and the version with the letter D also had a built-in TV tuner. Even the motor in the player was three-phase and provided unsurpassed smoothness of rotation. Of course, the player had a remote control, supported all types of tape, the LCD display showed the battery charge and the operating mode of the LPM, as well as the frequencies of radio stations. The player weighed 220 grams and could work from the built-in battery up to 2.5 hours.
3. Panasonic RQ-SX91
Full metal body with Shell Lock system, support for all types of tape with automatic tape detection, remote control with LCD screen on the headphone wire, rechargeable batteries, logic control and auto reverse. This is what the ideal portable cassette player looked like. The only pity is that it appeared on sale at the very end of the existence of the format, in 1999. The Panasonic RQP-SX91 player is a swan song of the format, but even today it looks very solid.
2. Sony WM-EX20
This unit was released in 1999 to celebrate the anniversary of the original Walkman and reflects the progress that has been made in the 20 years since the first true portable cassette player hit the market. The model is enclosed in a stainless steel case, the headphones were decorated in the same design. A remote control with an LCD screen was attached to the wire, and the kit looked fantastic. In addition to supporting all types of magnetic tape and the minimum thickness of the case, the model is distinguished by the possibility of rewinding cassettes at a double speed and the sound enhancement functions Mega Surround 3D and Mega Bass. Weight – 180 grams, thickness is only 16.9 mm at the thinnest part.
The ultimate 1991 player from Aiwa is rightly considered by many to be the best player of the format’s existence. One listing of functions is enough to understand how serious this car was. 100% titanium body, amorphous magnetic head, support for Dolby B and Dolby C noise reduction systems, built-in seven-band spectrum analyzer with LCD display. Of course, there was also a hanging battery pack, plus a decent-capacity battery was included. The owners claim that with a good cassette, the player plays better than expensive portable CD players of the same period.