To be released soon
To be released soon
To be released soon
To be released soon
 
 
 
Year: 1979 TPS-L2

 
 

The one who started it all...

 
     
CONSTRUCTION AND FUNCTIONS
Housing: Metallic
Color and finish: Blue & Silver
Tape transport: Mechanic
Radio:
Recorder:
Remote control:
Auto reverse:
Battery: AA x2
Ext. compartment:
Volume limiter:
Blank skip:
Case: Plastic
Charger:
Price: 1979: $200
2011: $50-$400
Availability: Scarce
Others: Two headphones output. Hotline function.
SOUND
Bass boost:
Equalizer:
Sound processor:
Noise reduction:
Head: Standard
Freq. response: 40-12.000Hz
Max. output: 15 mW
 
 

This is the first portable music player, which in these days derived to the actual flash player. There exists discussion about if it really was the very first, as many experts thinks that it was Andreas Pavel who really won the competition with its Stereobelt.

Text copied from the Wikipedia:

The metal-cased blue-and-silver Walkman TPS-L2, the world's first low-cost portable stereo, went on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979. In June 1980, it was introduced in the U.S. In the UK, it came with stereo playback and two mini headphone jacks, permitting two people to listen at the same time (though it came with only one pair of MDR-3L2 headphones). Where the Pressman had the recording button, the TPS-L2 had a "hotline" button which activated a small built-in microphone, partially overriding the sound from the cassette, and allowing one user to talk to the other over the music. Originally marketed as the "Soundabout" in the U.S., the "Stowaway" in the U.K., and the "Freestyle" in Sweden, SONY soon had the new name "Walkman" embossed into the metal tape cover of the device. When the follow-up model, "Walkman II" came out, the "hotline" button was phased out.

The TPS-L2 was created by Akio Morita, Masaru Ibuka (the co-founders of SONY) and Kozo Ohsone.



Text copied from LowEndMac: (images added by me)

There were some cassette recorders available at the time, although they were not designed for the general public. SONY called theirs Pressman and marketed it exclusively to reporters. These recorders lacked stereo sound and were very expensive. They also used (typically) microcassettes, which had no support from record companies (and were expensive to boot).

With the limited choices presented to consumers, the most popular cassette tape players were either home stereos or car players.

 

SONY Enters the Market

SONY's first stab at the personal tape player market came in 1978, with the TC-D5. It had excellent quality sound (surpassing most HI-FI decks) and was easy to operate. Unfortunately for most potential customers, the price was around $1,000 (¥300,000), and it was hardly portable.


The SONY TC-D5ProII, a superb recorder

One regular user was Ibuka, then SONY's honorary chairman. He used the player on airplane trips, but he found the player too heavy for everyday use. He instructed the tape recorder division to create a smaller version for his personal use.

The division, led by Kozo Ohsone, modified a Pressman to do the job. They removed the record function and added stereophonic sound.

Ibuka was immediately impressed and suggested that they bring a similar item to market.


Kozo Ohsone, SONY co-founder.

By 1979, SONY's tape recorder division was flagging. There was little demand for their high-end products, while products from competing lines succeeded (boom boxes, etc.). In February, 1979, Morita, the company's chairman, encouraged the engineers to develop a player similar to the one they had developed for Ibuka. But this one had to cost less than ¥40,000 yet provide the same sound quality. He wanted the product by June 21, 1979.

Though he was skeptical that the division could create a player so quickly, Kozo Ohsone was eager to avoid having the division consolidated into another division (SONY was going through a reorganization at the time) and quickly designed a portable tape player based on Ibuka's modified Pressman player. They used lower end components to bring the price down and encased it in a small, stylish enclosure.

 

The Right Name

There was a problem: the device didn't have a name. Ohsone suggested that they use the name "Walkman", a play on the Pressman, but the company's leadership was skeptical. The name sounded like a straight Japanese translation, and they feared it would not catch on in the US and Europe. Several other names were suggested. Walky was the most popular, but none were as memorable as Walkman, so the name stayed.


The first WALKMAN logo.

Morita was worried that the device wouldn't appeal to the young or active because of the headphones. They were far larger than the player (they weighed more than 400 grams) and were more like earmuffs than today's headphones.

Three years before, SONY engineers in another division had designed a lightweight pair of headphones. They eliminated the large, enclosed earpiece and in its place put soft foam. Ueyema decided that he could make the Walkman more of a personal player by including these smaller headphones. A listener could now use a tape player while in motion without disturbing those around him or her. The new headphones weighed around 50 grams.

 

Enter the Walkman

On July 1, 1979 the Walkman was announced to the public. Before the new player was available to the public, the press lampooned it. Some claimed that nobody would be interested in a tape player without a record function. Others pointed out that the most popular tape recorder of the time had sold less than 15,000 units, and SONY had produced 30,000.

The company was unfazed by such criticism and pushed on with promotion. SONY distributed the player to young people and celebrities around Japan, generating demand.

To promote the device amongst younger Japanese, SONY hired young people to walk through the Ginza, offering passersby to listen to the Walkman's excellent audio quality. Instead of having a conventional introduction to the press, SONY arranged a bus tour with actors throughout Tokyo posing with the Walkman while the reporters listened to a recorded tour.


World's first Walkman Ad in the history. Only seen in Japan.

A month after the Walkman became available in Japanese stores, it was sold out. The device was popular amongst all consumers, not just those under 20. SONY had succeeded at creating a personal audio player, and it prepared to launch the product in Europe and North America.

Earlier apprehensions about the name reappeared, and the marketing department decided to rename the product Freestyle in Sweden, Stowaway in the UK, and Soundabout in the US.


The 1st generation before the 'Walkman' brand.

However, during a visit to SONY employees in Paris, Morita was asked by employee's children when they could get their Walkman, and the Japanese name stuck.


After some time, SONY changed the original logo to the actual one and made a 2nd generation TPS-L2, with the new logo.
From left to right: TCM-600, original TPS-L2 and 2nd generation.
Photo: Eric Wrobbel, used with permission.

In ten years SONY sold 50 million units, and competitors had sold countless knockoffs. The term "Walkman" even entered our language, used to describe any cassette player, and it's listed as such in the Oxford English Dictionary.

 

The TPS-L2 becomes popular again

In 2014 a movie from Marvel Comics called Guardians of the galaxy made it popular again, because the main character, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) uses a TPS-L2 to listen to music. This has pushed up the prices for 2nd hand units in the markets. People wants the same walkman that Peter Quill uses. See some screenshots in the Extra section.

NOTE: If you have any useful info about this model, you can collaborate with us if you want to. Please send us an email and share your info. We will update the page with it.

 
 

For rating the sound quality, we use a pair of high quality Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones, and a test tape (SONY UX-Pro) that has been recorded with a high-end deck (a specially modified and upgraded SONY D6C by Dr Walkman in Italy). If I tell you that this small deck performs almost at the same level as a Nakamichi Dragon, and it records even better in some cases, you probably will say I'm exaggerating, but... believe me: I'm not (and yes, I have a Dragon).

The audio tests include an objective test and a subjective test. The results of the first one are shown in the graphs and data; the results of the second one, however, are a personal opinion and they're not intended to be a precision rating.


The SONY D6C, a superb recorder

Before rating this model, it was taken to a professional technician for examine, repair and fine adjusting. Remember these are old machines and internal belts stops working properly after some time. Of course, head and rollers have been carefully cleaned before testing.

Frecuency response

This is the response curve for the 'Low' position'. Not that bad for a tape player released in 1979... Specially in bass response, although highs are not so good.

 
Effect of the tone switch

Tone Low

Tone High

Move your mouse over the buttons to see the animation.

The tone switch is aimed for the low and high bias tapes (probably type I & II). According to this excellent article, at that year, Chrome 'type II' tapes were still something new and thus, not commonly known. We can see here how the 'high' mode pushes the highs up to 6 dB at about 5-7kHz.

 
Background hiss and noise reduction

Original FRC Background noise (-67 dB)

Move your mouse over the buttons to see the animation

We can see here that the performance with background noise is not that bad, but thanks to the bad performance at high frequencies of this player, that consecuently provides low noise. However, there's low level noise at 15kHz (where usually noise is measured), but there's much higher noise at 8-9 kHz. This is heard like a mudded 'hiss', but is indeed heard.
All in all, pretty good performance for such an old machine.
 
  Wow & Flutter:

0,219% (RMS)

 


This player has a pretty good low wow&flutter, almost not noticeable or annoying.
 
 

This model is very special, as it started the whole story about walkmans. It came from an era where quality was measured with other rules, different from nowadays ones.
Even that SONY didn't invented the walkman (it was an original idea of Andreas Pavel, who invented the "StereoBelt", the very first portable player ever), this player represent the start of a very sucessful history and it can be considered, for practical reasons, the first stereo portable player. Compared with 90's top of the line models, it's old fashioned, bulky and very low featured, but even that, it's a beautiful and very well made unit.


SONY TPS-L2 final rating.

Overall score: 7,6/10



 
 

The TPS-L2 in it's case. The case Open view. Operation buttons
 
Outputs and Hot line button. Back view. Original headphones. Foam has disintegrated with time. Original box. It's funny to see that old looking style.
 
     
Opened box.      
 

We haven't any info about licensed models from other brands. If you know anyone, please send us an email to share the info, and we will update the page.

 


SONY TPS-L2 promotional image.

SONY TPS-L2 promotional image.
   

SONY TPS-L2 with box.

1st gen. walkman logo box.
   

1st gen. walkman logo box.

Stowaway box.
   

Stowaway box.

MDR-2 L2 headphones.
   

SONY TPS-L2 promotional image.

SONY TPS-L2 promotional image.
 
 

SONY TPS-L2 ad.

SONY TPS-L2 Stowaway Ad.
   
   

SONY TPS-L2 ad. SONY TPS-L2 ad.
   

SONY Walkman ad. SONY Walkman ad.
 
 
 

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