This transparent cassette player with audiophile chops might be coolest gadget of 2024

FiiO CP13 transparent cassette player
(Image credit: FiiO)

Earlier this year, FiiO launched the CP13 cassette player: an analog music product for a digital world launched nearly 45 years after the original Sony Walkman changed portable audio. And our Audio Editor Becky Scarrott absolutely loved it, not least because tape is a much cheaper way of capturing those analog thrills than the ever-increasing cost of vinyl. And now – to channel another ’80s hit, the irreverent music magazine Smash Hits – the CP13 is back! Back! BACK!

The engineers at FiiO clearly felt that the existing CP13 tape player wasn't tape-y enough, so this time they've made it transparent so that you can see the cassette properly. I much prefer the looks of this version, and we all know that the coolest tech is see-through (see: Nothing Ear (a), LG's transparent OLED TV, Lenovo's transparent laptop, these outrageous clear speaker horns) – but while the clear CP13 cute, it's not just a daft gadget for Instagrammers who should know better. There's also substance to match the style.

FiiO CP13 transparent: key features

The FiiO CP13 delivers better battery life than I ever managed from my many Sanyos and Aiwas (my budget could never stretch to a Sony): there's 13 hours of playback and USB-C charging, and the power supply is 4.2V rather than the more common 1.8V or 3V. It's designed to work in conjunction with a motor stabilizer to deliver more reliable speeds, and the audio circuitry – all analog – promises a comparatively high signal-to-noise ratio and low distortion. 

The use of a lithium battery rather than kicking it old-school with a bunch of AAs keeps the weight down too, as well as enabling FiiO to make the player as thin as possible given the constraints of having to put a cassette and a motor in there: it weighs 310g and the dimensions are 120 x 88.3 x 31.8mm.

I really like the look of this, because not only am I very old – the last two bands I've been to see this year were Pet Shop Boys and Girls Aloud – but because like many obsessive music fans, I always loved tapes: provided the tape itself is of good quality and you don't mind a little bit of hiss in the quiet bits, there's a lovely warmth to music distributed on cassette that you don't get from the best MP3 players.

And there's a very non-retro reason to love tapes too: in an era of streaming music paying artists a pittance if they get paid at all, buying bands' tapes from places like Bandcamp is a great way of supporting artists directly while also getting something tangible. Looking at a playlist will never be as fun as gazing at your library of physical media, especially if you're making your own mixtapes or buying from indie artists who make their own inlays too.

The new FiiO CP13 (2024) is available now for $129/£99 officially, though we're seeing versions of it for just $99.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall 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 and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.