The TC-152 is one of the most widely available classic Sony portable tape decks, with TC-152s appearing out of nowhere! That’s because they’re tough tiny things, capable of working over the decades. It didn’t bring anything new to the party when it was released in 1974, other from attractive aesthetics and good ergonomics, which may explain why it seems a little less dated than other ‘pro’ rivals of the time. It’s pure Sony on the inside, with a well-engineered single capstan belt-drive transport with two heads that records and plays back in stereo while also providing a single mono loudspeaker for monitoring.
The negative is that the speed stability isn’t quite as excellent as it could be, but Sony hadn’t yet included twin capstans in any of their best domestic decks at the time; the TC-177SD, which did, arrived two years later. On the plus side, unlike most ageing double capstan transporters, this simpler single capstan design will not have gone badly out of alignment and begun devouring tapes. The Sony came with Chrome tape compatibility, two VU meters with fairly sluggish ballistics, and a three-digit tape counter.
With a low IC count, the machine is a genuine rat’s nest of discrete components inside. It’s pure retro, yet it’s quite simple to service and maintain for anyone who knows their way around a cassette player. This, together with the enormous number of machines nearby to cannibalize for spares, is another bonus. It’s a nice performer, but not a replacement for a solid home deck; take advantage of its portability (if you can afford the batteries!) and you’ll have a great tiny portable music or speech source. When you consider its modest price (excellent ones run for well under £100), it’s a great little curio for cassette collectors; Sony has done nicer designs, but they’ll set you back a lot more.