While vinyl may currently be experiencing a renaissance period, it is far from the only outdated audio format people feel the tug of nostalgia for. Both cassette tapes and CDs are also undergoing a resurgence in popularity as people attempt to recapture their youth, especially best portable cassette players. As for cassette tapes, they have the advantage of being a cultural phenomenon for over a decade.
As people try to find vintage cassette players, they can fall back to the time in their youth, while manufacturers continue to progress technology. These advancements often incorporate the older technology in their design to appeal to a larger audience. This can make figuring out which portable cassette player is the best, depending on what you want.
- Best Portable Cassette Players 2019
- 1. Sony WM-FX290 – Best Portable Cassette Player (Editor’s Choice)
- 2. Jaras – Best Portable Cassette Players (Made in US)
- 3. Sony WM D6C – Best Portable Cassette Player Ever Made
- 4. Panasonic RQ-V51 – Best Vintage Portable Cassette Player
- 5. Reshow Cassette Player – Best New Portable Cassette Player (People’s Choice)
- 6. Jensen SCR-68C – Best Portable Cassette Player (Best Price)
- 7. ION Tape Plus – Best Performing MP3 Converter Portable Cassette Player
- 8. Jensen CD-545 – Best Portable CD Cassette Player (Editor’s Choice)
- 9. Memorex MP3262-X – Best Portable CD Radio Cassette Player
- 10. Y&H Cassette Player – Best Flash Drive Portable Cassette Player
- Best Portable Cassette Players – Buyer’s Guide
Best Portable Cassette Players 2019
That is why we have to put together a short list of the best portable cassette player. Then we provide the Top 10 best portable cassette player and a helpful buyer’s guide, so you can figure out which portable cassette player is right for you.
|Jensen SCR-68C |
|ION Tape Plus||Analog/Converter||No||Yes|
The data collected in the article are relevant for 2019. The article will be supplemented and corrected as soon as the new information appears.
1. Sony WM-FX290 – Best Portable Cassette Player (Editor’s Choice)
Sony is one of the undisputed heavyweights in the electronics market that bridges consumer, commercial, and industrial niches. Founded just after World War II, Sony was a major contributor to the rebuilding of the Japanese economy and led the way in their exportation rise of the mid-20th century. Virtually every electronics product has been affected by some innovation Sony developed, but no more than the cassette player. In fact, the Sony Walkman is the iconic portable cassette player that arguably got the ball rolling for the early 1980s dominance of the cassette format in the first place.
Of course, the original Walkman was a fairly simple machine whose success hinged more on an absence of competition and a changing of the paradigm more than anything else. Numerous iterations saw improvements and advanced features added to the cassette player to extend its dominance in the market, since the introduction of the original Walkman. As one of the last entries in the classic series, this Walkman definitely piled on the features to provide one of the better analog portable cassette players we saw.
To provide additional audio quality, the Walkman uses some of the best heads and motors we saw. These are ultimately what determine the audio quality of your portable cassette player though the quality of the cassette itself is also vital. Still, this product is no longer manufactured which means you are limited to purchasing used devices. As such, there is a chance that the components may not function as well as if they were new which can lead to a lower audio quality.
2. Jaras – Best Portable Cassette Players (Made in US)
You should not feel too terribly bad if you do not immediately recognize the brand name Jaras as this company is neither one of the more famous nor is it necessarily known for manufacturing high-end audio electronics. On top of that, Jara is also one of the younger companies on our list, having been founded under a decade ago. That said, this brand has taken all of the basic features that make products grate without the extra that just slow them down.
While this list is ostensibly about the best portable cassette player, it is impossible to get around the fact that portable cassette players are in a large part defined by their ability to provide more listening options than you would find at home. As such, a radio is a fairly common feature on a portable cassette player, but with the Jara, the radio feature is a bit more reliable than with some of the other portable cassette players that we reviewed. On top of that, this portable cassette player can pick up AM stations as well.
3. Sony WM D6C – Best Portable Cassette Player Ever Made
When it comes right down to it, there is no getting around the classics, and when it comes to portable cassette players, Sony both made and then broke the mold when they came out with the Walkman. This is the original, the iconic portable cassette players upon which all other portable cassette players have been judged. This is not at all surprising considering Sony is one of the oldest and most successful consumer electronics companies in the world.
While this may not necessarily be a feature that sways too terribly many people’s decision, it cannot go without being said that the Sony WM D6C has by far the best recording function out of any other portable cassette player that we reviewed. In fact, the recording function of the Sony WM D6C is so good that professionals are still using this device today whenever they are trying to isolate a noise to create a sample. A great of the quality for all of the functions of the Sony WM D6C has to do with its high-end heads and motors.
4. Panasonic RQ-V51 – Best Vintage Portable Cassette Player
While the Panasonic brand may be a ubiquitous and well-known brand that manufactures electronics for every type of product and market, its origins are as a light bulb accessory manufacturer. Panasonic is one of the older companies that still survive today without having been bought out or otherwise carved up through acquisitions and mergers. In terms of portable cassette players, this is arguably a bright spot for the company.
Quality and Branding
This is because Panasonic’s heyday definitely took place in the 1980s the same era that the cassette player also rose to prominence. The philosophy behind both Panasonic’s electronics as well as the RQ-V51 can be summed up in dependable simplicity. Panasonic sought to eliminate the fluff and focus instead on making the best performing product they could.
Easy to use
Still, this is one of the few portable cassette players whose components are likely in good condition even decades later. Panasonic still sells replacement parts for the RQ-V51 even though they no longer manufacture the cassette player itself. This means that should a component fail, you can simply get it replaced and continue to enjoy one of the best portable cassette playbacks ever made.
However, this portable cassette player definitely follows the Panasonic philosophy in less desired ways as well. For example, this cassette player does not come with many functions. Beyond the superior playback, the RQ-V51 only offers an AM/FM radio. Thankfully, this cassette player does at least feature a rewind button. This is also the only portable cassette player we reviewed which does not provide headphones.
5. Reshow Cassette Player – Best New Portable Cassette Player (People’s Choice)
Reshow is brand headquartered in China which eschews the traditional approach of selling products. Rather than purchasing storefront or shelving space, Reshow sells their products exclusively through online outlets. This allows the brand to provide top quality merchandise at significantly lower prices than you could spend in a brick-and-mortar store. That being said, Reshow does not specialize in the cassette or even audio equipment.
Instead, this brand provides a number of products that range from video capture to cell phone accessories to, of course, portable cassette players. In fact, Reshow is arguably more focused on its cell phone accessory lineup than its cassette players. This can be seen by the fact that the brand utilizes a base design that many other manufacturers favor as well. However, like with many things, it is on the inside that counts.
Benefit of Converting
This product is actually intended to convert the analog signals of a cassette tape into a digitized MP3 audio file. Of course, Reshow is not the only brand to do so nor the only brand to employ this casing. Still, even among the numerous products that use this portable cassette player’s design, Reshow definitely stands out above the rest. This is accomplished due to Reshow providing a better recording mechanism than any of the other company’s that use this casing design.
Unfortunately, Reshow accomplished this by focusing on the recording aspect more than the playback aspect. As such, the heads of this device are a bit subpar, and the direct playback function does not produce as good of an audio quality as the actual converted MP3 does. Cassette converters with excellent playback functions are generally poor at converting the cassette signals to a digital file.
In this regard, it becomes more of a pick your poison choice. Though, considering that the analog signal on the cassette tape will not last forever, unlike the digital MP3 conversion, it does not seem like that should be too difficult to choose. That said, MAC users would have a bit more difficulty using the conversion function than Windows users. For Windows users, this is also one of the few cassette converters that do not have firmware issues with Windows 10.
6. Jensen SCR-68C – Best Portable Cassette Player (Best Price)
Jensen is a unique manufacturer on our list because the brand has a storied history that can trace its origins to one of the greatest innovations of audio equipment, but its present is a bit rockier. Founded in 1915 by the eponymous inventor, Jensen was responsible for developing the first loudspeaker using the moving-coil mechanism. This revolutionized the electronic audio market and made Jensen a household name.
That said, the company went through a couple buyouts in the 21st century as has been repurposed into a consumer grade electronics brand. Jensen does not offer professional grade products like other major electronics brands. As such, Jensen has become known far more as a budget-friendly brand that may not provide the best quality products but it does provide some of the least expensive that is still adequate.
In that vein, the Jensen portable cassette player continues that trend with the SCR-68C. This is a purely analog cassette player that does not feature the digital conversion process. Still, in terms of its analog functions, the Jensen leaves a bit to be desired. For example, this portable cassette player does not come with many features. Beyond the ability to play cassettes, the only other function it offers is an AM/FM radio.
7. ION Tape Plus – Best Performing MP3 Converter Portable Cassette Player
Though a fairly recent company, ION has quickly made a name for itself by providing a wide range of audio equipment electronics. In fact, ION got its start as a brand specialized in manufacturing products whose purpose was to convert older or obsolete audio formats into a digital format. While this progression originated with vinyl, it eventually expanded to cassette tapes and VHS tapes.
Benefit of Converting
ION is the best portable cassette player when it comes to converting cassette tapes into an MP3 format. ION is class compliant in terms of a USB audio device in that its MP3 conversions run at 48 kHz and 16 bit. In fact, if you understand how to manipulate audio files properly, this cassette player can actually convert the MP3 into a higher bit file.
Still, the software itself is not without its faults. While it has a lot of features, their user interface leaves a bit to be desired. Quite simply, the EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter software is anything but easy. But, if you make it a point to learn the software, you will likely be impressed with the sheer number of options. It comes to cleaning up the MP3 an especially important factor is the cassette tape is not in the best condition.
8. Jensen CD-545 – Best Portable CD Cassette Player (Editor’s Choice)
Out of all the companies on our list, few of them have as storied of a history as Jensen. Though in truth, it would be fairly difficult to top the history of the company that actually produced the first loudspeaker ever. Still, these days Jensen is not known for manufacturing the highest end of products within the market. Jensen aims to provide an all-around value at a lower cost than most of their competitors can afford to do.
When it comes to using a portable cassette player, some of the newer models and even a fair number of the older models are so laden with different features that it actually makes controlling the device more difficult. Thankfully, the Jensen is easy to use, despite its litany of features, with larger buttons than with most of the other products we reviewed. You also do not need to worry about hooking this portable cassette player up to headphones or other speakers.
9. Memorex MP3262-X – Best Portable CD Radio Cassette Player
Memorex is a bit of an interesting company in that they are arguably the most stable company that we have reviewed, having manufactured consumer-grade electronics since its founding over 50 years ago. That said, it is important to understand that Memorex does not truly intend to try to compete with the larger and more respected companies that are known for making some of the highest end consumer electronics available. Instead, Memorex simply provides a great, all-around product.
Easily one of the best qualities about the Memorex MP3262-X is the fact that it has one of the better CD players that we saw. Keep in mind, this is not necessarily a ringing endorsement for the DAC which, while not spectacular. It is fairly standard for the consumer-grade electronics market. The Memorex MP3262-X can play pretty much any type of audio disc including CD-R and CD-RW. On top of that, the Memorex MP3262-X can also read both MP3 and WMA files which increases its versatility.
The Memorex MP3262-X also has a 3.5 mm aux input jack giving you even more options for how you choose to listen to your music. It also comes with a 3.5 mm aux output jack in case you want to listen to your media without disturbing those around you. Finally, if you like to listen to your music loud, the Memorex MP3262-X comes with a bass boost function.
10. Y&H Cassette Player – Best Flash Drive Portable Cassette Player
Y&H is another company that favors the sleeker business model which makes no attempt to stock their products in a traditional brick-and-mortar storefront. This allows Y&H to offer their products at a lower price point than many of their competitors. It also means that Y&H does not have the same name recognition that other brands do which might make some of their potential clients a bit wary.
Benefit of Converting
That said, the Y&H portable cassette player provides a decent product. Its price point is not necessarily as low as some of the other brands which also offer cassette conversion into an MP3 format, but Y&H has an advantage that the other conversion cassette players do not: you do not actually need to connect the Y&H portable cassette player to a PC in order to convert the analog audio of the cassette tape into a digital MP3 file.
Focusing on the USB approach comes with its own drawbacks. Specifically, the Y&H does not come with its own software so you need to choose to connect it to a PC for cassette tape conversion. This means that you will have to download third party software separately. While there are some decent, free options available, this still creates more hassle that can be solved.
Best Portable Cassette Players – Buyer’s Guide
While there used to be the only single type of portable cassette player, continued advancements in technology have allowed manufacturers to recapture the technology in a modern form. These newer portable cassette players do not merely playback the audio on a cassette tape. They also are able to convert that audio signal into a digital file format.
This is the standard portable cassette player. Sony Walkman is noted for using high-quality components which increase the audio fidelity of the cassette tape. Generally the older models perform the best assuming they are still in good working order.
Most portable cassette players need to provide a service that pinnacle technology could not. Considering the ability to house hundreds of songs in a single device, it could not be challenged by a single cassette tape. That is why manufacturers instead sought to convert the subtle qualities of a cassette’s audio signal into a digital format.
From that approach, cassette players which could convert a cassette tape’s analog signal into a digital MP3 were born. Unfortunately, most brands who made this jump were less interested in the direct cassette tape’s playback quality. As such, many converter portable cassette players do not have high-quality playback components.
Even though cassette players are ultimately meant to use cassette tapes to produce audio, that does not change the fact that people have loved listening to the radio for over a century. It becomes easier and easier to fit ever more powerful and small radio receivers into all kinds of devices.
Though, it should be noted that this feature generally falls along the lines of the portable cassette player type. Analog cassette players almost without fail include an AM/FM radio receiver. The newer cassette player converters often do not include that especially if their product does not focus on playback.
Tone shaping refers to different features that can artificially enhance the audio quality of a cassette player. One of the most popular examples of this is a bass boost. The audio quality generally favored an airy, tinny quality, since portable cassette players relied on headphones to project the cassette tapes signal into sound. To compensate for this, manufacturers began to provide a bass boost which would artificially enhance the base signals so they would become more prominent.
Another tone shaping feature was the automatic volume limiter system or AVLS. However, this feature sought to correct different issue cassette players faced. Different types of audio whether speech or music would often include drastic shifts in volume. Many consumers were startled and complained these shifts hurt their ears. Manufacturers began to include AVLS to ensure that the loudest and quietest parts of an audio playback were kept.
In the end, the best portable cassette player depends more on what you expect to get out of it and for what you want to use it. If you are trying to recapture some of the magic of your youth, you are liable to favor an analog cassette player.
For pure playback quality, the Panasonic offers an excellent sound quality, but it comes with few features. If you prefer a wide range of features including numerous options the Sony Walkman is a great choice.
Both of those cassette players are exceedingly expensive. In this case, the budget-friendly Jaras or another form-factor Jensen CD-545 may be more your speed.
If analog playback is less important and you are more interested in being able to hear the audio of a classic sound but in a modern form, a converter is a better type of cassette player. ION ultimately produces the best quality MP3 files. It is also a bit more expensive than many other portable cassette player converters. Reshow can convert nearly as good sounding of an MP3 as the ION but at a much lower cost.