How to Buy Used Portable Stereos

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How to Buy Used Portable Stereos

Portable stereos have been around for over 50 years. In the beginning there were the early cassette models that included speakers and a radio receiver. These portable stereos had their heyday in the 1980s when there were known as boomboxes. The current models include CD players, MP3 mounts, and can operate on battery power as well as mains.

Initially the portable stereo was scoffed at by large manufacturers as being too far fetched a concept, but the idea of people carrying their music around with them really caught on. Today, the eight-track player, cassette player, and even to some degree the CD player have all experienced a marked decline in popularity from previous years, due in large part to the advent of the digital personal music players. However, there are still those who want to share their music at gatherings of friends and family.

Before a buyer wastes time looking for a good quality used portable stereo in secondhand shops, they should consider browsing eBay ' s extensive listings of used portable stereos. When shopping for a used portable stereo, the shopper should begin by researching the types of portable stereos available, their respective features and the benefits of each feature, as well as what what is in store for the portable stereo.

History of Portable Stereos

In the 1960s and the 1970s, the eight-track player was very successful. This in spite of the fact that it was both bulky and at times inconvenient to use. The Stereobelt, ancestor of the popular personal media devices of today, was the first personal, portable stereo audio cassette player on the market. The boombox was created in the Netherlands in 1969, and at time it was dubbed the 'radiorecorder'.

The first test of the portable stereo was conducted in 1972 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Initially, some electronics manufacturers were approached by Andreas Pavel, the creator of the portable stereo, but they declined to back the product as they felt that no one would ever willingly choose to wear headphones in public to listen to music.

The cassette players found on boomboxes are very similar to eight-track players, though smaller, and were introduced to the market in the late 1970s, spurring the creation of pre-recorded cassettes. In 1979, the first really personal cassette player boombox was developed and used with stereophonic headphones rather than the small loudspeakers.

Types of Portable Stereos

A portable stereo is another name for a boombox. Each boombox was equipped with loudspeakers, an amplifier, a cassette player, a radio, and, later, a CD player. Most models can be powered with either mains electricity or batteries.

Type of Portable Stereos


Basic Boombox

AM/FM receiver, cassette player, two speakers; later high and low frequency speakers and a second tape deck

Compact Disc (CD)

Smaller boomboxes which incorporate a CD player, iPod docks, as well as integrated or removable satellite radio tuners

Dual Cassette

High-speed dubbing, separate bass and treble controls, equalisers, Dolby noise reduction, analogue LED sound level meters


Boomboxes integrated with vinyl record players, eight-track tape players, or black and white TVs

By the late 1980s, portable stereos were being manufactured with equalisers, balance adjusters, Dolby noise reduction, and LED sound level meters, and had features and sound capabilities that were comparable to home stereo systems.

Portable Stereo Features

Each type of portable stereo has specific features and benefits and limitations specific to each type of portable stereo. The buyer needs to consider the power source, whether or not the buyer needs Dolby stereo sound, the cassette features, and the CD player's features.

Power Source

Most boomboxes are powered by using D cell batteries. Generally 10 or more are used at a time. Some models take 12-volt batteries, or have a portable enclosure for a car audio head unit. Nearly all portable stereos can use mains power.

Dolby, B, C, Dolby S

Most cassette players are equipped with a type of Dolby noise reduction that reduces tape hiss. Generally pre-recorded cassette tapes come encoded with Dolby B noise reduction.

HX Pro, Headroom Extension

For higher recording levels and distortion-free dynamics, cassette tapes have HX Pro. This feature is good to have but is not really essential for simply playing back cassette tapes.

Auto Reverse Cassette Players

For continuous music, audio auto reverse is incorporated into cassette players. Once the tape is finished, the cassette deck reverses the direction of play and plays the other side, or the B side, automatically. Although useful, this feature can cause mechanical issues in the player.

Cassette Logic and Mechanical Key Operation

Key operation is a manual means of operating the play, record, and rewind features by means of a mechanical lever operated by the user. Cassette decks with logical control have user buttons that are switches which operate components within the cassette deck. These components include the play, record and rewind features and are performed by means of solenoids, cams, and gears.

Auto/Manual Switching for Cassette Tape Selection

Different types of tapes require the cassette deck to set bias and equalisation differently. Some older cassette decks have selector switches to manually select the required bias and equalisation to suit the type of tape being used.

Portable CD Player Features

Almost all portable stereo now have CD players, as cassette tapes have increasingly fallen out favour. CDs are certainly more durable than prerecorded tapes, which are prone to a variety of mechanical issues. Basic functions and features include:


This feature allows a user to pause a song in the middle of the track and then resume listening at the same location when the button is hit again.


The stop feature stops the track, allowing the user to then switch tracks easily.


The rewind feature allows the track to be rewound for as long as the button is held down.


The fast forward button will fast-forward the track for the amount of time the button is held down.

Liquid Crystal Display

The liquid crystal display provides a visual display of how much battery is left, what track number is currently playing, and the amount of time elapsed on the track.

Headphone/Audio Out Socket

Cassette players have ports which can be used for headphones as well as speakers.


Some types of portable CD players have the ability to play CD-R and CD-RW discs while others have the ability to play formats such as MP3.

The Future of Portable Stereos

Cassettes have seemed to go the way that eight-track tapes did, becoming less and less popular, but are still favoured in some sub-markets, even though the record industry has declared the cassette tape to be a dead technology. Most have made the switch to CDs, and many of those are making the switch to audio formats like MP3. Cassette tapes are still used in businesses, churches, and as audio books. Certainly there are those who still favour portable stereo like boom boxes for their nostalgic value.

Portable CD players have declined in popularity with the introduction of the persona digital audio players that play MP3 files and the advent mobile phones, like smartphones, that are capable of playing music. Most of the latest models of portable stereo include docking stations that allow iPhones and iPods to connect to the portable stereo. This allows a user to play the music on their personal music player or smartphone using the speakers on the portable stereo.

How to Buy Used Portable Stereos on eBay

To begin your search for a used portable stereo, simply enter keywords that best describe what you are looking for into the search bar at the top of any page on eBay. For example, if you enter 'used portable stereo' the search engine will pull out all the current listings that match your search query and display the listings on the results page. If you are looking for a specific type of used portable stereo, that includes features like a docking station for a personal music player or a CD player, simply enter additional keywords to create a more specific search query.

It is very important to read the item descriptions very carefully. If the item description lacks certain details, you can contact the seller and ask the seller questions by going into the seller's profile page and clicking on the contact link. The item listing will include photos of the used device. You should examine the photos carefully and note any signs of wear or tear, especially any evidence of corrosion. If the photos are not clear, request that the seller send you close-ups of the portable stereo.


eBay has a wide selection of used portable stereos from which to choose, including everything from used cassette player models to used CD player portable stereos. Choose a used CD style portable stereo, or an iconic boombox from The Eighties. Cassette tapes are on the way out, and to certain extent CDs are not as popular as they once were. The buyer looking for a versatile device that will play a variety of formats should look for a portable stereo that includes a CD player, MP3 capability, and a docking station for connecting a personal media player or smartphone. A portable stereo with all these features could prove to be quite expensive, if purchased brand new, but a buyer can find a quality used model at a lower price point, online. eBay offers what must be widest selection of portable stereos, including vintage devices like Eighties-era boomboxes. A used portable stereo makes for an excellent entry-level music player for a child. eBay's search tools make it easy for a buyer to compare features and find the perfect portable stereo for their needs.

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