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Gear Review: Realistic SCP-30 -Big Sound in a Small Package

Updated: Nov 11, 2018

A lot of times big things come in small packages. A piece of tasty toffee candy. A cool 1:64 die-cast toy the size of a matchbox. A tape player half the size of small, shoe box

I first came across this cassette deck – if one can call it that because of its size – when a friend posted it on his social media timeline some months back. It was, well, cute. Thought nothing of it. It probably sounded as small as it looks, I said to myself. So, I let it lapse into memory.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this deck at his shop. Interesting, I thought. How the heck did it find itself there? I left it where it is. Slept on it. Woke up. Thought about it. Slept on it again. Thought about it the next day.

I decided to buy it.

The Realistic SCP-30 Mini-Cassette player weighs roughly 1.0kgs. The thing is portable enough to be a Walkman. Well…not really but you'll get what I mean. Just several inches wide and several inches tall, its wood veneer coincidentally matched the receiver and the rack that I placed it on to, but enough of my rack (that didn’t come out well, I think.)

The specs of the SCP-30 are:

  • Country of origin: USA

  • Manufacturer: Realistic

  • Year manufactured: 1988

  • Power type and voltage: AC at 110v

  • Dimensions (WHD): 205 x 115 x 140 mm / 8.1 x 4.5 x 5.5 inch

Playing it for the first time, I kinda disappointed me because it didn’t sound well as I hoped it would be. This no frills, no thrills cassette deck was looking to be like that: zero oomph. Well, boys and girls, I was wrong. The problem wasn’t with the SCP-30, the problem was with the cassette tape that I was playing. What was the problem? The audio quality. In my haste to listen to it, I slapped in a cassette tape that I poorly recorded last year. Poor as in bleh. So, I dig into my modest stash of cassette tapes and I picked one that I know I had recorded correctly on a Type II cassette tape. Playing that tape made this little thing sing.

For its modest size and no-frills features, the sound quality it produced (paired with my Lafayette LR-610) was quite good. The tape deck head isn’t glass or one of those fancy heads that one can find in more expensive tape decks but it picked-up the recorded music quite well. It didn’t matter if this cupcake box sized deck didn’t have Dolby either. I heard very little noise coming out of it while playing the 2nd cassette tape. Hiss is practically zero.

As you can see on the photos, it just has five, piano key-type buttons: play, rewind, fast forward, stop/eject and pause. No recording, which was good as adding a record function to it would have probably made this little thing heavier than the manufacturer intended it to be.

Not everything is fun and games though. I noticed that, after either forwarding and rewinding a cassette tape, the supply/take-up fully kind of free wheels. This created a slack on the tape, which could be a problem as the media could have been eaten by the pinch roller. However, after several tests of forward-play-rewind-play, I was happy to note that the pinch roller wasn’t eating the media. I also noticed that the was a quite noticeable thumping sound when the take-up pulley engaged every time that I hit play. Thankfully, though, the thumping sound didn’t have any effect on playback at all.

The finish is quite elegant in my opinion. The wood veneer doesn’t have a plasticky feel and look. The face has a nice, semi-matte black finish. Quite nice. Did I say it matched furniture well?

As I am finishing this article, I decided to slap in a Bob Dylan cassette tape. Again, I am amazed how a small thing can sound so well. I think I am going to enjoy months, or even years, of happy listening moments with this thing.

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