Panasonic RX-5040

Panasonic’s top of the heap in the late ’70s was RX-5040. This was one of the first systems that included an led meter for signal & battery strength. A sure sign of quality was the array of inputs and outputs included. This stereo was made for true integration into a home stereo. For some reason, these functions seemed to disappear as the years progressed.

General Electric 3-5251A

GE was one of the few companies offering a solid portable stereo cassette recorder for an affordable price. While is wasn’t particularly rich in features, it did have all the basics: separate left & volume controls; stereo switch; “digital” tape counter; signal strength/record level/battery meter; the forgotten neon orange square to aid in marking tape position.

Sony CF-530

This boombox weighed in at a whopping 12lbs, not including batteries. Despite its weight, it was small when compared to models released a few years later–less than one foot in height. We notice that this was par for the course for the early systems, very heavy and solid, in a not-so-large package. These radios were durable, and we’ve had good luck finding them recently in working condition.

Marantz Superscope

Marantz Superscope. Few style points, but great quality from a leader in magnetic tape technology. AM/FM tuner, cassette recorder, “stereo matrix” (wide effect) through its 2-way, 4 speaker system. There were one-speaker mono predecessors, but this is the earliest we found to fit the configuration of what we now know as the boombox. Sold for over $200 in 1976.