Back to the Walkman
As a teenager in the early 90s my Walkman was a treasured possession. It was a fairly low end model it was at least a real Sony one unlike the third tier brands many of my friends had, largely due to my dad being such a fan of Sony stuff (for people born after the millennium just trust me that Sony was the top dog of electronics back then). He later bought me an expensive metal bodied Aiwa model which not only had a built in digital radio, but even a recording mechanism. Sadly after that it was downhill for Aiwa who were bought by Sony and used to provide budget offerings, as evidenced by the plastic bodied model I had when I had by the time I was leaving college.
I decided I wanted to play with tapes again so I went looking for good condition high end models on eBay and it seems I'm not the only one experiencing similar nostalgia, the prices for models held in high regard by collectors are outrageous... so I decided to avoid the expensive and tricky to fix direct drive models, and any that used gumstick Li-ion batteries or clip on AA battery holders. After excluding all but the best brands I was soon left with either their low end 80s models or their mid 90s plastic bodied ones.
Finally I stumbled upon an early 90s model, with a
plastic body, but in fantastic working condition, a digital radio auto
reverse and even a (battered) box for $20 at my local thrift store. This
WM-FX43 model just oozes early 90s Sony aesthetic with its gunmetal
grey paint and low key styling. To my eyes it's a great looking unit and
despite the tape mechanism being nothing to write home about it is at
least easy to replace its belts and frankly Sony never made any really
bad units, at least not in their mid level models like this one.
So what did $99 buy you in 1991? Let's take a look...
|Cassette Mechanism||Auto Reverse|
|Noise Reduction||Dolby B|
|Cassette Frequency Response||40 Hz - 15 kHz (Dolby NR Off)|
|Supported Tape Types||I,II,IV (Normal, CrO2/Metal)|
|Radio Tuner Type||Digital FM/AM|
|Frequency Range||FM: 87.5 - 108 MHz (100 kHz step)|
AM: 530 - 1710 kHz (10 kHz step)
|Antennas||FM: Headphone cord|
AM: Built-in ferrite bar
|Headphone jack||3.5mm mini stereo, load impedance 8 - 300 ohm|
|Power Output||5 mw + 5 mw @ 26 ohm|
|Power Requirements||3 V DC input (external)|
2 x 1.5v AA (R6) batteries (internal)
|Dimensions (whd)||88.3mm x 112mm x 36.2mm (3.5" x 4.5" x 1.4")|
|Weight||250g (8.8 oz)|
|Included Accessories||Stereo Headphones, Belt Clip|
I had expected the belts to need changing, if the unit even worked at all after I installed a couple of Duracells, but to my surprise the radio fired right up and the tape drive worked flawlessly. I cleaned the tape head with some isopropyl alcohol just in case and blew out some dust with an can of compressed air, but other than that it as ready to rock just as it had been over 27 years ago.
In terms of sound quality
it's nothing to write home about, there's a fair bit of tape hiss that
mostly goes away when using Dolby noise reduction, although that does
take the edge off the highs. Overall though sound quality is much better
than you might expect.