A guide to buying a vintage Walkman

  • Walkman's TPS-L2 (upper right). It was released as "Soundabout" in the USA, "Stowaway" in the UK, and "Freestyle" elsewhere. Image credit: Sony
  • Sony's Walkman WM-2 - the company's best-selling model - was released in 1981. Image credit: Esa Sorjonen
Date:28 August 2017 Tags:, , ,

If you’re going to be a vintage audiophile, do it right. Here’s how to go about buying a vintage Walkman.

By David Grossman

The craze for retro music tech is in full swing, and now people are turning from just obsessing over vinyl to resurrecting the cassette.

It might not seem practical at first, but listening to a music on a Walkman in 2017 does have its advantages. If you’re even mildly intrigued, Techmoan has some solid vintage reviews:


Some models at this point will likely need repairs, so what you’re looking for partially depends on how much time you’re willing to dedicate to the mission.

Some, like Sony’s DD range of cassettes, are going on eBay for more than R23 000. Somewhat further down in price is the Sony WM-D6C, which only costs several hundred dollars. Once you get to the Walkman 20th anniversary models, like the WM-EX672, you can get to more reasonable pricing. These will likely go for under R1 400, if you can find one.

The fun of old physical items is that they’re time machines: they can show the patience and time required to experience things in the past, and with any luck can make fan more appreciative of the art they experience.

A brief history of Sony’s casette-based Walkman

1979: Walkman TPS-L2 releases in Japan and sells for about ¥39 400 or about R132.

1980: The TPS-L2 makes it to the USA.

1981: Sony releases the WM-2, WM-3 and WM-3EX. The WM-2 had a metal tape playback, the WM-3 was designed for better performance and aesthetics and the WM-3EX was gold with high-performance Sony headphones.

1982: The company launches the DD-series. The company had improved on the design and fit the player with a disc drive (hence DD).

1983: Sony releases the Walkman Sports with a FM tuner and DD drive – the WM-F5.

1984: Sony releases 9 different models – including three with Dolby noise reduction.

1985: The company up the ante again and releases 12 cassette players – one of which has a rechargeable battery.

1986: Alongside its regular releases, the company launches a solar-powered Walkman (WM-F107).

Watch it in action:

Video credit: oturgator

1987: Ten more models see the light of day, one model even comes with built-in autowind earbuds.

1988: Alongside its regular releases is the company’s first wireless remote Walkman, the WM-505.

See it here (audio in Japanese):

Video credit: Naoyuki Ishida

1989: A record 16 models are released alongside the 10th anniversary limited edition Walkman and quick-charge models.

1990: Sony releases a new EX-series, as well as a special Walkman for language studies that included a repeat function.

Sony kept revising Walkman models throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s.

2003: Sony releases the last two models: a retro boombox-inspired Walkman and the 25th anniversary edition – last ever cassette player.

From: PM USA

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