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7 Best Portable Cassette Players – Tapes For That Retro Sound

7 Underrated Portable Cassette Players

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Nothing beats taking a trip down memory lane with an old-school cassette player. Although they may be vastly inferior to present-day digital players, blasting nostalgic tunes on a cassette player is something modern technology will never replace.

I actually still have my 4 track TASCAM tape recording unit in my possession.

I’ve still got my 4-track recordings from 30 years ago as a young musician huddled over my unit recording my vocals on one track, guitar on another, bass on one, and finally drums last of all (all drums jammed into one track – that’s a challenge.)

Many remember the infamous Sony walkmans while younger generations are slowly experiencing these beauties, but there are so many hidden gems that only a handful of people are aware of.

One of the only things I ‘borrowed’ as a teenager was a portable cassette player. That’s another story for another day and not something I’m proud of.

Join me now and I’ll take you through a time capsule and explore the top 7 underrated portable cassette players that deserve far more recognition than they’re getting, so let’s start from the top.

Top 7 Underrated Portable Cassette Players Reviewed

Our Pick: Studebaker SB2130TS Portable Cassette Player

So many people have owned the classy Studebaker SB2130TS without ever wondering who made it. It’s my top choice today because it offers excellent audio quality, simple features, and irresistible aesthetics.

5/5
Price Range: $$
Brand: Studebaker
Studebaker SB2130TS Portable Cassette Player
See Price on Amazon
…and another 148 Reviews

The Download

The reason why so many brands made cassette players in teal back in the 80s and 90s eludes me. What I know is that seeing a walkman in this color takes me back to my childhood in a heartbeat.

Studebaker’s SB2130TS could be dubbed a “basic” cassette player by today’s standards, but that’s precisely what I love about it. You’ll find standard tape controls lined up just above the cassette compartment, which include pause, stop, forward, rewind, play, and record.

Speaking of recording, the SB2130TS is among the most versatile portable cassette players on the list since it’s capable of capturing audio via its inbuilt microphone, the auxiliary port, or directly from its radio.

It rocks an integrated 3-inch speaker, which can be useful on occasions; it’s not too loud, but it sounds awesome. As far as price is of concern, you’ll probably be thrilled to hear that Studebaker’s SB2130TS is decently cheap.

The Specs

  • Dimensions:  3.5 x 9.84 x 5.12 in
  • Weight:  1.5 lb
  • Speaker:  Inbuilt 3-inch speaker
  • Recorder:  Integrated cassette recorder with three recording modes
  • Radio:  AM/FM Radio
  • Port:  Aux jack for digital connectivity
Overall Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

What’s in the Box

  • Studebaker SB2130TS cassette player

Best Premium: Sony WM-FX290 Stereo Cassette Player

Top cassette player for those who can afford it; ground-breaking sonic performance, preset tuning stations, auto-scanning, and over a day’s worth of battery are just some of the perks of owning Sony’s WM-FX290.

5/5
Price Range: $$$
Brand: Sony
Sony WM-FX290 Stereo Cassette Player
See Price on Amazon
…and another 233 Reviews

The Download

Sony popularized walkmans and cassette players, and WM-FX290 is one of the brand’s most popular flagships.

Compact, lightweight, and remarkably sturdy, it’s the perfect companion you’d want to bring on a long commute or vacation. In terms of performance, it seamlessly integrates Sony’s patented sound technologies and casts a tall shadow over its competitors.

This is a digital cassette player equipped with automatic digital scanning and offers up to 40 tuning stations you can memorize. The box also features Sony MDR-023 headphones which perform great despite being a budget pair.

The Specs

  • Dimensions:  11.3 x 7.2 x 3.3 in
  • Weight:  8.8 oz
  • Radio:  FM/AM/TV Radio
  • Sound System:  Mega Bass sound system
  • Special Feature:  Weather band tuner | Digital automatic station scanning | AVLS limiter
Overall Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

What’s in the Box

  • Sony WM-FX290 cassette player
  • Sony MDR-023 headphones
  • Carry case
  • Belt clip
  • User’s manual

Best Retro-Style: Jensen CR-100 Portable AM/FM Radio Cassette Player

Jensen offers a broad catalog of cassette players, and CR-100 is buried beneath dozens of more polished models. Its retro-style design was love at first sight for me, and if you’re into nostalgic players, I’m sure you’ll adore this one.

4/5
Price Range: $
Brand: Jensen
Jensen CR-100 Portable AM/FM Radio Cassette Player
See Price on Amazon
…and another 845 Reviews

The Download

A big red power button, green & yellow connection ports, a “buzzsaw” slider, and punched-in speaker holes practically defined the era of retro cassette players. This description also fits Jensen’s CR-100, plus it’s a teal-colored player.

If you don’t like its color style, it also comes in black & silver, which gives it a slightly more modern look. That version features all-black buttons, though, making it even less in line with retro cassette players, so I warmly recommend the teal version.

Its aesthetics aren’t its only strong point, though. Even though it’s a budget portable cassette player, it packs both headphone and recording jacks, as well as AM/FM radio.

Older record players had manual radio tuners, which is what the “buzzsaw” slider supplied to this model is for. While most people that aren’t familiar with nostalgic players may find automatic tuning buttons convenient, I love that CR-100 is a perfect recreation of walkmans I used to have as a kid.

On the downside, it’s made of flimsy plastic materials, so I recommend handling it with care. Since it’s super cheap, I found CR-100 remarkably valuable for the price.

The Specs

  • Dimensions:  5.35 x 3.98 x 1.93 in
  • Weight:  8.1 oz
  • Radio:  AM/FM Radio
  • Special Feature:  Stereo tuner | Inbuilt condenser microphone & radio recording modes
Overall Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

What’s in the Box

  • Jensen CR-100 cassette player

Best Budget: GPX Portable Cassette Player CAS337B

GPX’s CAS337B is perfect as a gift or a cassette player you’d use as an ornament rather than a media player. What it lacks in specs it makes up for in outstanding portability and a rock-bottom price tag.

4/5
Price Range: $
Brand: GPX
GPX Portable Cassette Player CAS337B
See Price on Amazon
…and another 1,527 Reviews

The Download

As I mentioned a minute ago, many people have only begun to discover the charms of portable cassette players. In such a case, it probably doesn’t seem too logical to spend fifty-plus dollars on outdated technology, in which case GPX CAS337B is an excellent choice.

Like most cassette recorders, this model features a headphone jack, AM/FM radio with manual stereo tuning, and a small radio antenna.

One of its features I loved the most is the automatic stop when the tape finishes playback, which preserves both the player and any cassette you put in it.

The controls are very simple and include play, stop, forward, rewind, and record. GPX CAS337B also packs an integrated speaker, although it’s not exactly loud.

Since it’s a budget portable cassette player, I was surprised by the bundle of gratis accessories the brand provides. You’ll get a free set of earbuds and a detachable belt clip; even though the buds are very poorly made and offer little more than basics, they can always serve as your backups.

Overall, if you’re new to cassette players and want to get more familiar with this kind of tech for as little cash as possible, I believe GPX CAS337B is perfect for you.

The Specs

  • Dimensions:  3.54 x 1.52 x 4.72 in
  • Weight:  7.7 oz
  • Radio:  AM/FM radio
  • Special Feature:  Direct tuning | Automatic stop when the tape ends | Voice & radio recording modes
Overall Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

What’s in the Box

  • GPX CAS337B cassette player
  • GPX earbuds
  • Detachable belt clip
  • User’s guide
  • Warranty

Best Boombox-style: Jensen MCR-1500 Portable Cassette Player Stereo Boombox

MCR-1500 is a regal-looking boombox equipped with features deemed revolutionary for its time. If you’re searching for a beautiful portable cassette player that performs as great as it looks, you’ll be more than happy with this one.

5/5
Price Range: $$$
Brand: Jensen
Jensen MCR-1500 Portable Cassette Player Stereo Boombox
See Price on Amazon
…and another 20 Reviews

The Download

When I mentioned that Jensen made heaps of cassette players that were super trendy a few decades ago, I was thinking of MCR-1500 as well. However, the “Gold” version is easily among the most underrated models in the brand’s catalog as it cost a few extra bucks.

While some people adored it, I don’t think it got the attention it rightfully deserved because people keen on “elegance” preferred turntables over cassette players.

The situation is radically different today, and I’m here to shine a spotlight on what I believe is one of the most gorgeous underrated cassette players ever made. It’s equipped with a variety of features that can compete with modern digital players, a pair of decently loud speakers, and digital radio compatible with contemporary radio stations and TV channels.

I’d like to touch base on the latter since older cassette players pack so-called “weather radio” functions, which you probably won’t be able to use unless you have an older TV model.

This is a highly versatile media player which accepts cassettes, CDs, and MP3s. Regarding controls, it features skip, search, back, repeat, and forward gold-painted buttons on its top. It also rocks both headphone and microphone jacks, although it does not feature an inbuilt microphone like some of the models I’ve listed above.

What separates Jensen MCR-1500 from your average portable cassette player is the customizable CD memory; you can record onto blank CDs or store your favorite tracks from audio discs with this feature provided that you have and know how to use third-party recording apps.

The Specs

  • Dimensions:  14.5 x 9.2 x 8.1 in
  • Weight:  6.44 lb
  • Connectivity:  Bluetooth compatibility
  • Radio:  AM/FM Radio
  • Port:  Headphone & microphone jacks
  • Special Feature:  Customizable CD memory | Carrying handle | Aux input | Dual front-mounted speakers
Overall Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

What’s in the Box

  • Jensen MCR-1500 Gold cassette player
  • AC120 60 Hz power cord
  • Warranty

Best Value: Burtowic Cassette Player

A 2-in-1 cassette player and Mp3 converter, Burtowic’s model comes at a highly approachable price and boasts a ton of gratis goodies.

5/5
Price Range: $
Brand: Burtowic
Burtowic Cassette Player
See Price on Amazon
…and another 31 Reviews

The Download

The main criteria for today’s top-value pick are durability, sound quality, and convenience when pitted against similarly-priced models.

Burtowic’s cassette player is remarkably tiny, yet sturdy enough to withstand years of use if properly maintained. What sets it apart from other portable cassette players is the detachable speaker, which you can insert into the base when you’re not using headphones.

It comes supplied with free Audacity open-source audio editor & recording app that works with Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Overall, Burtowic’s player is among the lightest and most robust cassette players of its time; given how affordable it is, I wouldn’t think twice about buying one if you’re searching for quality.

The Specs

  • Dimensions:  5.55 x 4.29 x 2.44 in
  • Weight:  0.7 lb
  • Inputs:  USB & headphone inputs
  • Special Feature:  Tape to MP3 converter & Audacity converter software | Detachable speaker
Overall Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

What’s in the Box

  • Burtowic cassette player
  • Detachable speaker
  • Converter software
  • Earbuds
  • Storage bag
  • USB cable

Best Walkman-style: Gracioso CR-318 Walkman Cassette Recorder Player

Gracioso’s CR-318 rocks a sleek design, reliable AM/FM radio reception, good sound quality, and a sturdy plastic base – everything you’d want an old-school walkman to have.

4/5
Price Range: $
Gracioso CR-318 Walkman Cassette Recorder Player
See Price on Amazon
…and another 180 Reviews

The Download

What do walkmans offer that other portable cassette players don’t? The “handheld” convenience is a massive benefit for active people that like listening to music while enjoying their favorite activities and hobbies.

Whether you’re into skating, running, or exercising in a gym, the fact that you don’t have to remain within the headphone cord’s range provides you with the flexibility to do everything you love, anywhere you want.

Specs-wise, CR-318 rocks an inbuilt speaker, a small digital display, shiny silver-colored buttons, and a headphone port. For a low-end walkman cassette player, this one does quite a bang for the buck.

The Specs

  • Dimensions:  3.6 x 1.4 x 5 in
  • Weight:  7.2 oz
  • Radio:  AM/FM Radio
  • Special Feature:  Tape & voice recording modes
Overall Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

What’s in the Box

  • Gracioso walkman cassette player
  • Headphones
  • Microphone
  • Power cord
  • Manual

Conclusion

I somewhat understand why cassette players fell out of trend some years ago.

Digital players supporting MP4 (and higher) formats brought a video element to the previously audio-exclusive space, but no matter how much you process and produce sounds, there’s something special in the gritty cassette players.

When looking for your next portable cassette player, let me give you a few recommendations.

Studebaker’s SB2130TS is the best-rounded one, offering a great balance between price, versatility, and performance, which is why it’s my top pick.

Sony’s WM-FX290 is amazing if you can afford it but somewhat of an oddball given that it’s a digital cassette player. If you’re new to cassette players, GPX’s CAS337B is the most affordable quality-made model you’ll find on the market.

A musician with over 2 decades of experience in studio recording. Audiophile, always in pursuit of the perfect set of headphones. King Crimson fan.

This post was last updated on 2022-12-08 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.


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