TAPE decks were the coolest accessory of the 1980s, with no self-respecting shoulder lacking a blastin’ boogie box. Now they’ve made a comeback bigger than Rick Astley’s, with new hi-tech versions hitting the market to cater for the renewed interest in cassettes themselves.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy film put tapes back on the map in 2014, Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep became a hit on the format earlier this year and they’ve featured in Netflix’s teen drama 13 Reasons Why. Tape sales are actually at their highest in 15 years, says music industry body BPI.
And the new deck hardware impresses. Last year, Toshiba launched the Aurex TY-AK 1, a Japan-only tape deck that controversially claims to upgrade the audio from cassettes to near high-res quality. While we may not get to see that actual gadget in the UK for a while, we will be treated to the very first portable tape player packing Bluetooth 5.0.
And that’s not all: the oddly named IT’S OK personal cassette player is due to land in December and was crowdfunded on Kickstarter by Hong Kong-based NINM Lab. As well as listening to cassettes through wireless headphones or speakers, IT’S OK lets you record voice messages for your loved ones and it even comes with a blank tape, all for £71.
And let’s not forget Sony, which marks the 40th anniversary of the original Walkman with a celebratory digital player sporting a case based on the original design. The new Sony NW-A100TPS Walkman (£400) also sports a retro cassette-style on-screen interface and is due out next month.
Three more top tape decks to buy
This compact, sturdy boombox will give your tape-listening time a boost and if you’re keen on physical formats, it’s also got a CD deck on board. £59.99, argos.co.uk
GPO 162B PORTABLE
This tape deck has old-school police interview room vibes and a built-in mic. It’s perfect for recording memos, demos and interrogations. £30, urbanoutfitters.com
FLIGHT TURNTABLE & CASSETTE PLAYER
This battery-powered turntable also packs a cassette deck so you can play tapes, spin vinyl or convert tunes to digital and save them on a USB stick. £59.90, amazon.co.uk