The 8 Best Cassette Players

Updated May 15, 2018 by Joseph Perry

8 Best Cassette Players
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. You know the mix tapes you used to record, or the music collection that is gathering dust in the storage room because you've gone digital? Well, without investing a lot of money, you can pick up one of these cassette players and bring those old songs back to life. We made our selections based on value and features, so you're sure to find something that meets your needs and budget. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best cassette player on Amazon.

8. Pyle PT659DU

Although not portable, the Pyle PT659DU compensates by providing dual decks for transferring music or voice from one tape to another, and a USB port for converting audio to an MP3 format. On the downside, you'll need to connect it to speakers to hear your music.
  • runs on mains power
  • records in two-channel mono
  • no auto-reverse feature
Brand Pyle
Model PT659DU
Weight 10.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. Jensen SCR 68Y

If you want a decent unit for listening on walks or on a train, then the Jensen SCR 68Y might be for you. This battery-operated device is handheld, and comes with a belt clip and an AM/FM radio. Despite good playback, this model doesn't record or rewind.
  • weighs only half a pound
  • includes matching earbuds
  • drains batteries quickly
Brand Jensen
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Coby CVR-22

The Coby CVR-22 is a sleek, affordable alternative to more elaborate models. It is best for private listening rather than professional recording use, as the built-in microphone tends to pick up noise from inside the machine.
  • several one-touch functions
  • retractable handle built into frame
  • buttons are prone to breaking easily
Brand Coby
Model CVR-22
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Sony CFDS70BLK

If you're willing to pay a little extra, the Sony CFDS70BLK features dual-speaker stereo sound and plays CDs as well as tapes. This boombox-style model also includes an AM/FM radio and an auxiliary input jack, so you can use it to play music from other devices.
  • tremendous bass performance
  • 30 preset radio stations
  • cd player is temperamental
Brand Sony
Model CFD-S70 B
Weight 5.2 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Jaras JJ-2618

The Jaras JJ-2618 is a reliable choice for while you're sitting by the pool or cleaning the house. This model uses one speaker to get the job done, and features technology that improves and enhances sound quality during recording and playback.
  • includes am-fm radio
  • remarkable value given the price
  • heavier than a walkman style model
Brand Jaras
Model 4330372308
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

3. Vtop Digital Life

If you're looking to update your music collection to MP3 or you want to listen to those old songs on a new device, consider the Vtop Digital Life. It can play your tapes as well as convert them to a digital format you can save directly to USB, with no computer required.
  • audio output jack
  • auto-reverse capability
  • comes with music-editing software
Brand VTOP®
Model QCD00003S
Weight 6.2 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Broksonic TSG-45

The Broksonic TSG-45 separates itself from most Walkman-type devices by offering a pair of speakers in the back for non-headphone use. This model has a five-band equalizer built in, and it can play, record, fast forward, rewind, and pause with the touch of a button.
  • am-fm radio with antenna
  • comes with stereo headphones
  • operates on batteries or 12v adapter
Brand Broksonic
Model TSG-45
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Panasonic RQ2102

For decades, the Panasonic RQ2102 has remained the most recognizable device of this type on the market. This model offers a sensitive microphone and one-touch recording. Its traditional, yet durable, design appears custom-made for classroom settings or transcription use.
  • independent rewind and fast forward
  • comes with a carrying handle
  • operates on battery or mains power
Brand Panasonic
Model RQ2102
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

The Rise And Fall Of The Cassette Tape

The first compact cassettes were designed in Belgium by the Dutch technology company Philips. Brought to market in 1963, the original model was developed for use in dictation machines. The recording potential of the cassette tape was not lost once the format came to be used for music playback. Instead, the cassette tape enjoyed double-marketability for the duration of its widespread use.

Compact cassettes are comprised of two spools that hold a length of magnetic plastic tape between them. This mechanism is contained within a rigid plastic casing with openings at the top to allow the magnetic tape to be read by a receiving mechanism, and features several holes for external components to assist with rotating the spools.

While they were developed as a replacement for reel-to-reel tape cartridges used primarily for professional audio recording, their potential as a widespread audio distribution format was visible right away. Due to industry pressure, Philips allowed other manufacturers to license the format for free, which helped grow its popularity.

The first cassettes were sold blank, but by 1965, pre-recorded tapes were launched in Europe. Under the name music-cassettes, the Mercury Record Company brought the format to the American market in 1966. While initial offerings were limited and audio quality at the time lagged behind the 8-track tape, the cassette business was valued at $150 million by the end of the 1960s.

The rapid growth of the cassette market can be attributed to its convenience. Far more compact than both 8-track tapes and vinyl records, electronics manufacturers were eager to grow the format due to its potential for portability.

The first cassette player for use in car dashboards was introduced in 1968. The audio quality was drastically improved in 1971 by the Advent Corporation, which replaced the standard tape with a commercial-grade version manufactured by 3M and introduced noise-reduction technology into cassette players.

The iconic Sony Walkman arrived in 1979 to great fanfare, and other portable tape players, in both personal and amplified formats, proliferated. Cassette sales overtook those of LPs in the 1980s, though vinyl remained the preferred format for singles until the introduction of the compact disc in the early 1990s. Ultimately, the CD ended up blowing the cassette out of the water, with tape sales sharply declining over the course of the CD's inaugural decade.

While blank cassettes are still widely available, record companies have all but ceased music-cassette production. In 2009, for example, just 34,000 tapes were sold, an astonishingly low figure when compared to the 442 million sold in 1990.

How A Cassette Player Works

For the most part, cassette players have two modes, playback and recording. Both functions rely on the magnetic coating that covers the exposed side of the roll of plastic tape contained within a standard cassette. To understand how a tape player works, it's essential to understand the nature of this magnetic coating.

The coating itself can be made of a variety of magnetic materials, though ferric oxide is among the most popular. While it is permanently magnetized, it carries electromagnetic signals specific to its contents that can be overwritten many times.

Standard cassettes contain four electromagnetic signals that run side by side along the full length of the tape. A cassette player only reads two of these signals at a time, as each pair makes up the left and right stereo signals for one side of the tape. When you flip a tape over from side A to side B, the mechanism that reads the tape simply gains access to the other pair of channels.

Both reading and recording take place on the length of tape exposed to the play head built into all cassette players. The exposed tape is stretched flat by a set of guide rollers built into the cassette as well as a pair of spindles typically contained within the player itself. It is held in place by a capstan, which also ensures it moves past the play head at a consistent speed, generally 1.875 inches per second. A soft pressure pad aligned with the opening works to keep the tape taut as it meets with the metal play head.

The tape head contains two small electromagnets that do the work of both playing and recording onto two tracks of the tape at a time, depending on its setting. It can either read the existing right and left-side signals for playback or impart new signals to the magnetic coating. When recording, many cassette players also use a secondary electromagnetic head to erase the existing signals on the tape just before they are re-recorded by the main head.

The Recent Revival Of Analog Listening Formats

While the format is definitely not coming back in full force, there has been a renewed interest in the cassette tape in recent years. As the music industry becomes increasingly digital and buries the compact disc for good, older formats have experienced something of a resurgence. Vinyl sales have increased tenfold over the past decade thanks to a combination of hipster nostalgia and renewed interest in record collecting.

The vinyl resurgence has a lot to do with the size and collectability of the format. In the streaming era, it offers fans the opportunity to own a copy of their favorite albums that feels significant when compared to a CD or digital download. A 12-inch square version of the album art looks great on a wall or mantle, allowing die-hard fans to showcase their devotion to their favorite artists.

Unfortunately, cassettes don't make quite the same physical impact, and tape enthusiasts can scarcely hope for a boost of that magnitude. That being said, purchasing physical formats offers fans the opportunity to directly support the artists they love. This is especially valuable when the paltry revenues from streaming take months to actually reach an artist's bank account. Cassette releases in recent years from global superstars like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, DJ Khaled, and Lana Del Rey have also helped boost overall sales of the format considerably.

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Last updated on May 15, 2018 by Joseph Perry

Fed up with crowding on the east coast, Joe fled for the open spaces. He now lives in the intermountain west where he stays busy with work, children, and grandchildren. When he's not writing or researching, he's probably hiking in the desert or skiing in the mountains.

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