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...

Release Date
1991
Original Price
$99
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)
AntennasFM: Headphone cord
AM: Built-in ferrite bar
Radio Presets
18
Additional features
MegaBass
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")
Weight250g (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.

Battery life is allegedly 11 hours playing back tapes or 32 hours if only using the radio. I'll be running modern rechargeable and will update this post with actual numbers...

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