Why cassette tapes are making a comeback – and 5 ways to listen to them

Music lovers are harking back to the Eighties, as cassette tapes see a 20-year-peak in sales.

Ask anyone of a certain age and they’ll bore you with details of how they spent their younger years making mix tapes for friends or taping the chart rundown off the radio.

For many, a cassette tape was their first introduction to listening to the hits of the day. It also enabled people to listen to music on the move when the Sony Walkman was released in 1979.

Set of old audio cassettes on blue backgroundCredit: Shutterstock/Africa Studio
Sales of cassette tapes have grown by 5.2% year-on-year

Now, thanks to the likes of modern artists such as Arctic Monkeys and Harry Styles, cassettes are back.

The BPI announced this week that the latest sales figures show a rise in sales of 5.2% year-on-year for the classic cassette tape, with 195,000 units sold last year.


Why are they making a comeback?

Collectability is a big factor

While there’s more than a hint of nostalgia in their return, it seems younger acts such as The 1975 and Harry Styles are also helping the increase in sales by releasing their albums on cassette tapes.

This could be in part due to the collectable nature of the cassette, something you just can’t get with streaming. Tapes are also often a lot cheaper than other collectibles such as CDs and vinyl, which make them a cost effective choice for music lovers of all ages.

“While streaming is by far the leading format, the renewed popularity of cassettes and vinyl highlights the continuing importance of the physical market and the many ways fans have to consume music,” says Sophie Jones, BPI Chief Strategy Officer and interim CEO.

Some acts have sold more copies on cassette than on vinyl when they debuted at the number one spot, including Florence + The Machine and 5 Seconds Of Summer.

Jones says: “Like vinyl, a number of contemporary artists are warmly embracing the cassette as another way to reach audiences and on occasions it has even helped them to achieve a number one album.”

The most popular cassettes purchased in 2022 were Now That’s What I Call Music compilations and Daniel O’Donnell’s album, proving the audience for this format of music is very diverse.

Florence and the machine's Dance Fever album on cassette tapeCredit: Florence And The Machine
Cassette sales helped to propel Florence + The Machine to the number one spot with their album Dance Fever

Andy Wildy, Sales Manager at Runway Pro Audio, believes nostalgia is one of the reasons cassettes are now flourishing.

“Consumers like the retro aspect of the format which was familiar when they were younger and therefore evokes an emotional response,” he says.

“Bands and artists also like the idea that a physical product that is much cheaper to produce than a CD, can be available to sell online and at concerts.”

There’s also the experience of listening to cassettes. It’s much harder to skip tracks, so you must be fully in the moment, listening to the songs in the sequence intended by the artist.  And as Wildy points out, there’s also a special quality when it comes to the sound of a cassette.

“Music on tape does exhibit a ‘warmer’ sound as opposed to CD or streaming, which is often preferred to the digitally recorded equivalent,” he says.

How long do cassettes last?

In perfect circumstances, tapes can last longer than you think.

“If stored correctly in their case and not at extreme temperatures, they will last up to 60 years and maybe longer,” says Wildy.

It’s also advisable to keep them away from humidity and any UV rays to ensure that they last as long as possible.

How to listen to cassettes today

Don’t expect great quality

Whether you want to listen to your old favourites or buy some new tapes, there are still plenty of ways to listen to cassette tapes today.

Bear in mind that with some cheaper machines, the quality won’t be that good, and that’s not surprising considering tapes have pretty much been on the decline until now. Many of the top brands who manufactured cassette players in the past have ditched them in favour of Bluetooth speakers or headphones.

vintage cassette playerCredit: Shutterstock/MSPT
If you want good sound quality, you’re better off looking for a second-hand machine

“The full quality of listening to recorded cassettes can only be achieved by using a cassette deck rather than a portable machine,” advises Wildy, adding that second-hand decks over around £100 will give the best results.

While manufacturers haven’t been spending their time developing new and advanced cassette decks, there are still plenty of options around to choose from, some that you can hook up to newer, advanced technology, bringing your cassettes firmly into the 21st century.


1. Boombox

No breakdancing required

Sony Boombox on a white background, which plays cassette tapes and CDsCredit: Sony
If you’re looking for a modern take on the Boombox, Sony’s is a great price at £79

The boombox was synonymous with youth culture back in the Eighties and it was also a reasonably priced way to listen to cassette tapes. While the quality wasn’t the same as a big home stereo system, it did mean you could move your sounds around the house – a big deal in our pre-Bluetooth speaker lives.

You can still buy boomboxes now, some of which hark back to the past with their retro designs, such as the the Amhuui boombox (£179.98, Amazon). Though it looks like the real 1980s deal, it comes equipped with new technology, such as Bluetooth so you can stream your tapes to a connected speaker.

Thankfully, brands like Sony realise that not all of us want to look like an extra from The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. Their boombox (£79, Sony), available in black and white, is sleek looking and also comes with an in-built radio and CD player.

Is it worth getting old cassette players repaired? Wildy says not.

“Due to the fact that second hand machines are readily available, it will probably cost more to repair a machine than to replace it,” he says.

2. Music centre

The daddy of cassette tapes

Auna Vinyl media centreCredit: Amazon

The music centre was a lusted-after item in the 1980s and 1990s and thankfully for those who want to listen to different formats of music, they’re still available to buy today.

The Steepletone 7-in-1 system (£299, Freemans) music centre looks very much of the bygone era and has all the functionality you require, from a turntable, twin CD decks, double cassette decks and the ability to record from vinyl, CD onto a cassette for all those mix tape needs!

For something a bit more modern looking, Auna have a 388 DAB+ Stereo System (£179.99, Amazon) that can handle your cassettes as well as your favourite vinyl. You can also transform your old music treasures – whether on vinyl, CD or cassette – into MP3 files. It’s also an expandable sound system, allowing you to connect external devices through line output and also includes DAB radio, a CD player and a turntable.

3. Second hand

Older is better in this case

Retro Cassette deck for playing music cassette tapesCredit: Shutterstock/eleonimages
A second hand tape deck can be bought for as little as £30

As very few manufacturers are producing new cassette players, if you’re looking for a good quality tape deck for home listening, you’ll have to rely on buying one second-hand. The good news is that they’re easy to find, plus you don’t have to spend much to get good quality sound.

“You can purchase a working second hand tape deck from around £30,” says Wildy.

“For higher-quality machines you will need to spend over £100. Generally, tapes played on a good-quality deck can sound as good as a CD.”

Check out eBay, second-hand markets or even car boot sales for a bargain.

4. Listen on the move

Get retro with wannabe Walkmans

Orange cassette tape player by We Are RewindCredit: We Are Rewind
We Are Rewind have created a portable cassette tape that doesn’t require AA batteries

For any music lover in the Eighties, a Sony Walkman was as essential as a can of mouse for that big rock hair. Music is now of course super-portable thanks to streaming services and mobile phones, but if you want to listen to your tapes on the move, there’s still options out there.

The problem with Walkmans and other portable cassette players was that you always needed some AA batteries to hand. This is an issue that We Are Rewind have overcome with their Serge Cassette Player (£139). Not only does it look super sleek with no plastic in sight, but it runs off a rechargeable lithium battery that provides up to 12 hours of playback. The modern touches don’t stop there. You can either use it through the headphone jack or connect it to your external speakers via the Bluetooth 5.1 connection. Thankfully there’s still the fast forward and rewind buttons!

If you’re after a cheaper option, GPO have a black portable cassette player (£24.99, Amazon) that plays very much to the retro styling. As Wildy says, the quality on portable cassette players will never be great, but it’s a fun way to listen to music while you’re out and about.

5. Digitise them

Make them into MP3 files

BlumWay Cassette to MP3 converter to illustrate cassette tape comebackCredit: Amazon

This is a little bit of a cheat, but if you really don’t want your tapes cluttering up your home, there are machines that can convert your precious cassettes into digital files. This means you can then listen to them on your laptop or phone.

The BlumWay Cassette converter (£29.99, Amazon) allows you to turn your tapes into MP3 files and place them directly onto a USB flash drive (a portable data storage device), which you can then copy over to a computer. You can set it to automatic mode, which detects the silence between songs on a tape and starts a new file for each song. And it can also reverse automatically to continue converting the music from side two without manually needing to flip the tape over.

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her


Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 23 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars.

A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

Jayne lives in Kent with a shepsky, her husband and her son, who is attempting to teach her the ways of TikTok, Aston Villa and anime. A keen neurodivergent ally after her son was diagnosed as autistic five years ago, when Jayne does have some rare downtime she enjoys yoga, reading, going to musicals and attempting to emulate Beyonce (poorly) in street dance classes.

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