Cheap 90s Walkmans

Hi, everyone! Lately, I've been exploring tapes and the hardware used to play them. This has led me down a rabbit hole involving the Sony Walkman. You see, in the 90s, Sony made several budget Walkmans with virtually the same internal mechanism and layout. They were constructed out of black plastic to meet a price point, with detachable belt clips on the back. All of these models are held together with plastic clips, with no screws to be found. Looking inside, they're pretty simple, with a single belt found in my two units. This belt is easily accessible, making repairs incredibly quick and painless. Given that these belts tend to deteriorate over time, this is definitely a major plus to these models.

From what I can tell, all of these black plastic 90s Walkmans have a selector switch for Type 1 and 2/4 tapes. My smaller and more basic Walkman, the WM-EX102, has a switch on the front for the "Mega Bass" bass boost system. Conversely, my WM-FX21 features a radio tuner but no bass boost. Aside from the usual controls, you'll find a volume limiter control and the usual playback controls such as volume, fast-forward, and rewind.


Some of the more premium budget 90s Walkmans have auto reverse, too. These add a tape direction switch and a reverse mode selector. At press time, I have one of these players on the way, but it has not arrived yet. Also worth noting is that some of the Walkmans even employed Dolby B noise reduction, something very nice to have albeit absent on my models.


So, how do these cheap 90s Walkmans sound? Well, you can't expect miracles out of them. You can hear some noticeable hum, wow, and flutter during playback sometimes, but to my non-audiophile ears, these players are perfectly serviceable. If you spring for one of these players with Dolby, you can expect to get even better sound. However, as long as your expectations are in check, any of these Walkmans get the job done.

To conclude, I think a verdict is in order. Should you buy a budget 90s Walkman? If you want to get into tapes or just want an affordable player, absolutely. The belts are easy to replace, there are tons of models to choose from, and the more premium models have some nice features like auto reverse and Dolby B. They may not be the most sought-after Walkmans, and they certainly are nowhere near as nice as Sony's more premium models, but a cheap 90s black plastic Walkman can get you a long way.

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