One of the most widely available classic Sony portable cassette decks, TC-152s seem to pop up from under every stone! That’s because they’re hardy little things, rugged enough to keep on working down the decades. When launched in 1974 it brought absolutely nothing new to the party aside from neat styling and fine ergonomics, possibly why it seems a little less dated than other ‘pro’ rivals of that time. Inside, it’s pure orthodox Sony – a well engineered single capstan belt-drive transport with two heads, it records and plays back in stereo yet offers a single mono loudspeaker for monitoring.
The downside of this is that the speed stability isn’t quite as good as it could be, but Sony was yet to offer twin capstans even on its top domestic decks back then; the thus-equipped TC-177SD appeared two years later. The upside is that unlike most ageing double capstan transports, this simpler single capstan design won’t have gone horribly out of alignment, and started chewing tapes. The Sony offered Chrome tape compatibility, twin VU meters of rather slow ballistics and a three-digit tape counter – that was yer lot.
The machine is a veritable rat’s nest of discrete components inside, with a very low IC count. It’s pure old-school, relatively easy to service and maintain for anyone versed in the black art of cassette deck maintenance. This is another plus point, along with the large number of machines around to cannibalise for spares. It’s a decent performer, but no substitute for a good domestic deck; make use of its portability (if you can afford the batteries!) and you’ll have a fine little mobile music or speech source. Factor in its low price (good ones go for well under £100) and it’s a fine little curio for cassette completists; Sony has done better designs but you’ll have to pay a good deal more for them.