The Best Cassette Players to Buy in 2024

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best cassette players to buy in 2024

With the rise of streaming over the past decade to become the dominant format of choice for most listeners, there have been various moves on the part of consumers and tastemakers toward physical media. Most recently, there’s been a rise in CD advocacy, which has followed an upward swing in vinyl sales over the past decade that eventually saw vinyl outpacing CD sales for the first time in decades. But while both have their benefits and drawbacks, there’s another physical option for those who prefer analog sound at modest prices: Cassettes. For some of us they’re a reminder of the mixtapes we used to make for our friends and partners, and the tapes they’d make us. For others, they’re a visit to retro styles from before their time. And maybe for some, they’re just a novelty, but either way, they’re a lot of fun.

Since the mid-2010s at least, cassette nostalgia has been on the rise, and has recently been the subject of book retrospectives such as Marc Masters’ High Bias and Rob Drew’s Unspooled. Over the past decade, more new music has been released on cassette format, though what’s been a little slower to catch up is the availability of actual cassette players. To be fair, it hasn’t been that hard to find cheap Walkman clones, but finding something a little more versatile requires a bit more searching. Thankfully, a number of manufacturers have gotten into the game with their own new portable or boombox cassette players, and even one or two honest-to-goodness tape decks. So we sought to highlight the best cassette players to buy in 2024, filtering out the ones to avoid, offering suggestions for best bets, and maybe even a recommendation that you might not have expected.

In our selection process for recommending cassette players, we evaluated each on a number of different factors, including convenience, price, materials, aesthetics, sound quality, functionality, and features. Given that cassettes are lower in fidelity and a bit less precise than other formats, specifically digital, none of these are going to offer lossless sound—that’s a given from the start. But then again, that’s not why we listen to tapes, is it? In fact, that lo-fi sonic sensibility is all part of the charm, the warm and fuzzy sound of comfort, and maybe even a reminder of someone who likes you.

For more audio guides, check out our lists of the Best Record Players, the Best CD Players, the Best Headphones, and the Best Speakers.

Note: When you buy something through our affiliate links, Treble receives a commission. All items included are independently chosen and evaluated by our editors.

portable cassette player
Courtesy of Turntable Lab

Turntable Lab Lofi One Portable Cassette Player ($59)

The most common cassette players available right now are portable players—which isn’t necessarily surprising given that component stereos are no longer as common as they once were. And let’s be honest, many of us are probably nostalgic for that first Walkman we had way back when (those of us old enough, anyway). The Lofi One Portable Cassette Player released by Turntable Lab pairs that old-school pocket tape player design with some slight upgrades in functionality. It does, of course, play cassettes through headphones, with good sound, and a USB out to connect to an external power source. It also features a built-in speaker on its front panel in case you want to play your latest mixtape for others, or simply feel like putting down the headphones for a bit. A simple but highly recommended portable player at a competitive price.

best cassette players to buy - we are rewind
Courtesy of We Are Rewind

We Are Rewind Portable Cassette Player ($160)

An upgrade in both aesthetics and materials from many of the plastic portable cassette players on the market, We Are Rewind’s Portable Cassette Player features a sleek design housed in an aluminum outer shell, offering a bit more durability in addition to its attractive appearance. It features bluetooth connectivity, to allow wireless speaker playback from up to 33 feet away. It also features 3.5-mm audio cable for external connection and recording from outside sources. It’s a little pricier for a portable player, but sometimes design and materials can be worth the increase in price tag.

Courtesy of Victrola

Victrola Mini Bluetooth Boombox ($60)

There’s a certain nostalgic appeal about those self-contained, portable cassette players with AM/FM radio that used to be so ubiquitous once upon a time. Set them up at work, in the garage, in the backyard—pretty much anywhere as long as the batteries are charged. Victrola’s Mini Bluetooth Boombox is just such a player, convenient and compact, featuring both cassette and AM/FM radio, with Bluetooth connectivity from an external device. It’s convenient and compact, and supports playback as well as recording, and though the battery life might not be as strong as some of the other portable players on this list, when plugged in, you’re good to go.

best cassette players to buy in 2024 - panasonic

Panasonic RX-D55GC-K Boombox ($165)

Increasingly, more boomboxes with cassette players have been hitting the market over the past half-decade or so, to varying degrees of performance and reliability. Panasonic offers one of the best options in that regard, the RX-D55GC-K, which stands out for being simply one of the best sounding boomboxes out there, thanks in large part to its larger, higher quality speakers. It’s compact, features USB connectivity for external digital devices, and is an all-around durable and versatile choice for those seeking a cassette-friendly alternative to the CD boomboxes on the market.

Courtesy of ION Audio

Ion Audio Street Rocker ($160)

Ion Audio’s Street Rocker is the one that looks most like the image of the ’80s boombox most of us picture in our heads—those of us who were around to see them first hand, or at least in ’80s-era hip-hop flicks like Breakin’ and Wild Style. It’s a solid machine that’s well constructed and features excellent sound, along with AM/FM radio and Bluetooth connectivity with external devices, if you wanted to play music from your phone, for instance. It also features USB and aux-in connections, for added versatility, so you can use that record function from digital or other external sources. It’s about as strong a fusion between old-school aesthetics and modern functionality as you’ll find in a contemporary boombox.

Sony CFD-S401 ($250)

Sony, much as it has been for decades with electronics, remains a reliable name when it comes to manufacturing cassette players—much as they are with CD players and turntables. Curiously, they seem to offer somewhat different products in the U.S. and Japan; the American CFDS-70 boombox is still a pretty good product, but has less impressive speakers and overall sound. The CFD-S401, released in Japan but available on Amazon for a slight increase in price over the American model, offers much better sound quality and an improvement in speakers. It likewise features a CD player and radio tuner, with programmable recording function as well. While it’s a little bit more than the American counterpart, the increase in price is certainly worth it.

Courtesy of Tascam

Tascam 202MKVII ($600)

Where the market for portable cassette players and self-contained boombox players has picked up in recent years, there aren’t a lot of newly manufactured component decks out there. There are one or two cheaper models that, to be honest, aren’t even worth mentioning here. That said, Tascam—a company with more than 50 years in both home and professional audio gear—does have a deck on the market that performs and sounds excellent. The 202MKVII is a little pricier than the other limited competing decks, but it’s worth the added cost for the sake of having a deck that performs better. It’s built solid and features tape-to-tape dubbing, as well as noise reduction and USB output for transferring tape audio to a digital rip. It offers a few other unique features, including parallel dubbing on two tapes at once. Though it’s on the higher end of what’s available, for a new dual-cassette deck, it’s by far the most worthwhile player out there.

A note about cassette decks: Given the relatively limited availability of dual cassette decks on the market, as well as the question of price, there’s another worthwhile option: refurbished and restored used decks. Find a trustworthy used electronics store in your neighborhood, or spend a little time on Reverb doing research if you’re interested in a deck like they used to make in the ’80s or ’90s. While the supply will vary, a restored deck can nonetheless be worth hunting down.

Once you have your cassette player picked out, might as well stock up on some new tapes, right?

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