Ngo Hoang Long, 28, from Ho Chi Minh City, bought various outdated devices, including cassette tapes, while on a business trip to central Da Nang in late 2019.

Later, he visited a store selling cassette players because he wanted to listen to the contents of the tapes he had purchased. He ended up buying the Sony TCM-47, a mini mono (monaural) cassette player with an external speaker.

Ngo Hoang Long and his collection of mini-cassettes. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Lam

Long said he immediately fell in love with the sound of the device and decided to purchase more. So far he has about 40 models in his collection. Most are mini compact lines of varying sizes, colors, and rarities.

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

“I appreciate the old, simple and authentic sound quality of these cassette players. By listening to the cassettes, I can visualize the whole environment and space in my mind, which is impossible with modern technology”, a- he declared.

At first he bought large cassette models, but eventually shifted his interest to collecting minis.

Trung loves to collect and trade mini cassette players to satisfy his obsession and “experiment with different devices as much as possible”. He’s proud to have tried over 1,000 different models, half of which are mini cassette players, and limited to maybe one in Vietnam, or just a few around the world.

He has around 100 models in his collection right now. Most are “unique and hard to find,” he said.

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

The administrator of a 40,000-member Facebook group specializing in collecting and trading cassette tapes said many of the members are relatively young, from the latest generation of the 1980s, 1990s and even those born after 2000.

According to Trung, the trend of young people collecting mini-cassettes has become more active at the beginning of this year, mainly due to the release of singer Son Tung M-TP’s MV “There Is Nobody At All”.

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

Collecting cassette decks is considerably more difficult than other hobbies because this obsolete device came out decades ago.

Additionally, Long said buying mini devices is difficult because most sellers are middle-aged, prefer large radios, and have few mini models.

Also, the scarcity of high-quality cassette tapes keeps many people from jumping on this trend.

“Cassettes are usually re-recorded multiple times, don’t sound as good as original tapes or those made in professional studios,” he explained.

Truong, who has specialized in tape recording for six years in Hanoi’s Long Bien district, said he recently received many orders from young people who want to record tapes.

“When recording, it is essential that the music source is of good quality. Music sources are easier to discover these days than they were a few years ago, but obtaining authentic sound requires a proficient device receiver Types with speed, frequency and so on are also needed to meet customer expectations,” he revealed.

Some models of Le Phuoc Trungs mini-cassettes.  Photo by VnExpress/Bao Lam

Some of Le Phuoc Trung’s mini-cassettes. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Lam

Trung said it’s really hard to find tape deck repair shops these days.

“There are still places in Ho Chi Minh City that specialize in repairing large cassettes, but small cassettes are almost non-existent. Partly because they are difficult to repair and require precision due to small components. The second factor is the repair charge, which is more than the cost of a new cassette player,” he said.

Collectors new to the mini cassette, Trung says, should study the model before buying it.

Most importantly, they should turn to community groups for advice on how to collect and exchange models to improve their knowledge and experience. Also, devices from big companies like Sony, Aiwa, Panasonic, Victor… are highly recommended.

“At the moment, China has several models of low-cost mini cassette players, but the sound quality is poor and they break down quickly,” Trung said.