A little under the radar, but there is a cassette revival right now. With that in mind, here are five of the best portable cassette players available right now.
Why cassettes? I honestly don’t know. But like vinyl, some people love the nostalgia and the connection with ‘product’ compared to modern-day streaming. And it’s niche. Everyone loves collecting something, so why not tapes? Some bands are even releasing new albums on cassette right now. You might recall Blur releasing their most recent album, The Ballad Of Darren, on cassette.
There are plenty still out there, too. I have a cupboard full of the things, all in varying condition from years of teenage use. Some rarer than others, but all with a nostalgic value to me. The problem is finding something to play them on.
First off, let’s talk about vintage. Old-school cassette players and Walkmans were often built well and built to last. Premium models still command good money for that very reason.
If you can find a good-condition vintage cassette player, it is well worth considering. There is always plenty to choose from on eBay, too. Just check the small print about the condition.
Of course, the old-school players have one drawback compared to some of the new breed. The power supply. Batteries are the usual power source for an old player, and you can get through those quickly. You can easily forget how inconvenient they were. If that’s an issue, have a look at the new models, as many have rechargeable batteries. Some also have Bluetooth too, should you have an aversion to wires.
But some don’t and remain faithful to the 1970s and 1980s heyday. Have a look at these five and see if anything catches your eye.
1. Retro portable cassette player by We Are Rewind
I featured this one back in December, and it is on my ‘wants’ list. I mean, who wouldn’t want a portable cassette player with a strong Dieter Rams vibe about it.
A great look and obvious functionality like playback and fast forward/rewind buttons, plus a headphone output, a volume control and an audio input to create your own mixtapes. There’s also a rechargeable lithium battery that provides up to 12 hours of continuous playback and Bluetooth 5.1.
£133 gets you one, making this one of the pricier options.
2. It’s OK portable Bluetooth cassette player by Ninm Lab
I mentioned the original incarnation and Kickstarter project for this a few years back. It has since been updated to version two. Nothing too radical, though.
It’s OK Too is still a functional and affordable cassette player, but one that’s now been upgraded to Bluetooth 5.0. So, in addition to the use of 3.5mm traditional headsets, Bluetooth 5.0 headphones or speakers are compatible as well. There’s also the option of traditional batteries or going rechargeable as well.
That has bumped the price a little, but it’s still around £80.
3. Clear Tech Blue UO Exclusive Cassette Player
Something a little cheaper and easier to pick up is this exclusive and colourful offering from Urban Outfitters. Yes, there are different colours to choose from.
It’s a very basic model with a price to match. This is a clear cassette tape player with an AM/FM radio powered by a couple of AA batteries. And that’s pretty much it. Oh yes, the earphones are included too.
Nothing fancy, just something basic for listening to the odd tape. £38 gets you one.
4. Groov-e GVPS525SR portable cassette player and recorder
This is a real throwback design. It could pass for a vintage model.
But it does pack a lot in for the money, which isn’t a great deal. It’s a great look, of course, with more than a hint of the 1980s about it. Look beyond that, and you will find all the usual playback features: a built-in speaker and microphone, an AM/FM radio, earphones, and power options of battery and USB.
At £23.95, you really can’t argue.
5. RTM B-1000EW Walkman
Another with good reviews and a strong look. But not easy to find. In fact, it’s currently out of stock at the maker’s site. But check back, as it might come back soon.
Batter-powered, it will plat your tapes whilst looking good in the process, with mono recording via a built-in microphone. No headphones as far as I can see, but a slot to plug in the pair of choice.
€59.94 when it is in stock.
And a new one is incoming…
FiiO CP13 portable cassette player
This one has just launched and promises to hit the shelves in March. Might be worth the wait too.
The CP13 is a tribute to the original Walkman; it offers the playback you expect, with the bonus of a USB-C port to charge the internal battery. A full charge gives you around 15 hours of playback.
No Bluetooth, so just plug in traditional wired earphones to hear your tunes. Which adds to the realism but perhaps makes it a little less practical. Saying that, the maker does deal in high-end audio, so this will pay off in other ways.
Talking of paying, it should be around from March for something like £129.