Home Business Are Cassettes Making a Comeback in 2024? Walkman-Style Players Compared

Are Cassettes Making a Comeback in 2024? Walkman-Style Players Compared


When it comes to audio quality, cassettes are typically cast behind the sound of “pristine” CDs and “warm” LPs. Yet, with Dolby noise reduction enabled, cassettes can sound pretty good — if lacking in treble extension. Without noise reduction, though, you’ll hear a lot of, well, noise, especially during quieter parts. Both the FiiO and the We Are Rewind are seemingly pitched at the discerning listener, so you would expect some noise reduction. Sadly, this is where the current crop falls down, as neither of them offers Dolby. Why? According to Fiio’s FAQ page, the chipsets that enable Dolby Digital noise reduction are no longer made. This is disappointing as the Dolby B standard can make a big difference to the perceived amount of noise, and it has been around since 1970, while Dolby C debuted in 1980.

As an addendum to the lack of noise reduction, cassettes that include Dolby Digital encoding are usually marked on the cassette — and none of my recent purchases have included this. With both players rated at a signal-to-noise ratio of around 50 dB compared to CD’s 100 dB, you would need to really crank the volume louder to hear equivalent noise on a digital version.

I listened to a bunch of different tapes from multiple sources, including radio recordings, ’80s commercial cassettes and new releases. The sound quality of each unit was also determined by the headphones used, especially on the warm-sounding Gracioso and We Are Rewind cassette players. With a bass-prominent set of phones like the Sony MDR-V6, the W.A.R. and Gracioso were a little boomy, and were better suited to a more balanced set like the MDR-A1.

In comparison, the Fiio CP13 had a leaner balance and could be called more detail-oriented with a midrange-forwardness. If you’re expecting an audiophile experience from a Walkman-style player, you’re in the wrong place: when listened to side-by-side, a digital version has none of the “wow” or drop-outs of cassettes and sounds a lot cleaner. However, listening to the FiiO on the train was a very enjoyable experience

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