Fiio’s ode to the Sony Walkman is the strangest reveal at CES 2024 – and we love it

Fiio CP13 cassette player
(Image credit: Future)

Never mind 1989 (Taylor's Version): we've gone back to 1979 (Fiio's version) at CES 2024 and we're loving it. The audio firm best known for its excellent and affordable high-tech hardware, including a selection of hi-res DACs, the excellent FT3 over-ear headphones, a hi-res audio keyboard (yes, keyboard) and most recently the R9 bijou screen-toting music streaming box has delivered a seriously impressive blast from the past, a love letter to the original Sony Walkman. We've held it – and we really like it.

The Fiio CP13 is a surprising product to see at CES 2024 given the show's emphasis on tech's future – see Samsung's world-first transparent Micro LED TV, EssilorLuxottica's Nuance Audio hearing aid glasses or the cute and Ottonomy draught beer-toting robot, for instance. But no, what we have here is an homage to the iconic tape player and it's giving us a seriously retro rush. It's so old-school that it won't work with your Bluetooth earbuds – because of course, those didn't exist back then. No, with no Bluetooth onboard you'll have to feel the wind beneath your wires just like back in the day with a set of 3.5mm terminated IEMs or cans – and here, let us point you to some of the best wired headphones

Why the Fiio CP13 is a brilliant blast from the past

As much as we love Apple's iPod Classic, the original Walkman changed music long before the iPod was a twinkle in Apple's eye. It made music truly portable for the first time, and only a few early adopters got run over by buses. If you had a Walkman, one of its successors or one of its many imitators, you'll know the joy of it and the tactile thrill of it – and that's something Fiio has brought back beautifully here.

Forget touchscreens and high-tech anything. The Fiio CP13 has proper buttons: play, stop, fast forward and even rewind (so for anyone who remembers, you won't need to take the tape out and flip it to go back to a previous song). Oh, and if your tape gets messy you'll need to get a pencil or a ball-point pen to wind it back. The only really modern thing you'll see on the CP13 is the USB-C port, and that's a welcome break from the retro vibe because it means you'll get up to 15 hours of battery life without having to keep inserting sets of AA batteries. 

1979 wasn't just a great year for music hardware. It was a great year for music too. David Bowie's Lodger, Donna Summer's Bad Girls, The Cure's Three Imaginary Boys, Van Halen's 1979, Blondie's Eat To The Beat. AC/DC's Highway To Hell, The Clash's London Calling... I could go on for weeks without running out of amazing albums from that one year. Of course, with today's pop stars also releasing cassettes you could listen to those too. But there's something about the CP13 that makes me want to listen to the same music early Walkman wearers were listening to.

If you fancy getting your hands on one, the Fiio CP13 will become available in early March, for £129 (roughly $165 / AU$245) and you can choose between white, black or our favorite, the two-tone blue you can see in our photo. Just watch out for buses.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.