Young people enjoy collecting mini cassette players

By Bao Lam   November 1, 2022 | 03:58 am PT
Even in this day and age of smartphones, millennials and Gen Z alike collect small mini cassette players.

Ngo Hoang Long, 28, of Ho Chi Minh City, bought various obsolete devices, including cassette tapes, during a business trip to central Da Nang City at the end of 2019.

He later visited a store selling cassette players since he wanted to listen to the content on the tapes he had purchased. He ended up buying the Sony TCM-47, a mini mono (monophonic) cassette player with an external speaker.

Ngo Hoang Long next to his mini cassette player collection. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Lam

Ngo Hoang Long and his mini cassette player collection. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Lam

Long said he instantly fell in love with the device's sound and decided to purchase additional ones. So far, he has about 40 models in his collection. Most are compact mini lines in different sizes, colors, and rarities.

Le Phuoc Trung, 34, is a salesman in HCMC who has been collecting mini cassettes for almost five years. His hobby is collecting old things, so he turned to cassettes to satisfy both his needs to hear and see.

"I enjoy the old, simple and authentic sound quality of these cassette players. When listening to the tapes, I can visualize the entire environment and space in my mind, which is impossible with modern technology," he said.

In the beginning, he bought big cassette models but eventually shifted his interest to collecting mini ones.

Trung loves to collect and trade mini cassette players to satisfy his obsession and "experience different devices as much as possible." He takes pride in having tried out over 1,000 different models, half of which are mini cassette players, and limited to perhaps one in Vietnam, or only a few in the world.

He has about 100 models in his collection right now. Most are "unique and hard to find," he boats.

Mini cassette players are only slightly larger than normal cassette tapes. Most of them feature built-in speakers with radio capabilities, while some accept only headphones. They were popular among teenagers from the 1980s to early 2000s, prior to the introduction of CDs and MP3 players.

The administrator of a Facebook group with 40,000 members that specializes in collecting and trading cassettes stated that many of the members are relatively young, belonging to the latest generation of the 1980s, 1990s and even those born after 2000.

According to Trung, the trend of young people collecting mini cassette players became more active at the beginning of this year, mainly due to the release of the "There's No One At All" MV by singer Son Tung M-TP.

In the video, the singer plays a youngster who was abandoned by his mother as a newborn, with a mini cassette player left next to him. This Sony Walkman TPS-L2 was released in July 1979 and considered the first low-cost personal music player.

Collecting cassette players is considerably more challenging than other hobbies because this obsolete device was released decades ago.

Besides, Long said that purchasing mini devices is difficult because most vendors are middle-aged, who prefer large radios, and have few mini models.

Furthermore, the scarcity of high-quality cassette tapes inhibits many individuals from hopping on this trend.

"Cassettes are usually re-recorded several times, don't sound as nice as original tapes, or those done in professional studios," he explained.

Truong, who has been specializing in recording cassette tapes in Hanoi's Long Bien District for six years, stated that he has recently received numerous orders from young people who want to record cassette tapes.

"When recording, it is critical that the music source is of good quality. Music sources are simpler to discover these days than they were a few years ago, but getting authentic sound demands a competent device receiver. Types with adjustable speed, frequency, and so on are also required to suit customer expectations," he revealed.

A few of Le Phuoc Trungs mini cassette player models. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Lam

Some of Le Phuoc Trung's mini cassette players. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Lam

Trung stated that it is really hard to find cassette player repair shops in this day and age.

"There are still some places in Ho Chi Minh City that specialize in fixing large cassettes, but small cassettes are nearly non-existent. Partly because it is difficult to fix and demands precision owing to the small components. The second factor is the repair charge, which is more than the cost of a new cassette player," he said.

Collectors who are new to the mini cassette, according to Trung, should study the model before buying.

Most importantly, they should look to community groups for guidance on how to collect and trade models to improve their knowledge and experience. Furthermore, devices from major companies like Sony, Aiwa, Panasonic, Victor... are highly recommended.

"At the moment, China has several mini cassette player models with low prices, but the sound quality is poor, and they quickly break down," Trung said.

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