The moment Season 4 of Stranger Things dropped, the messages started pouring in. Questions about Walkmans, and more specifically, the WM-8 model that Max prominently wears throughout the series, became a daily occurrence. After watching the first episode, I too was captivated and began scouring our inventory at Retrospekt.
Sony NWE394/B 8GB Walkman MP3 Player (Black)
We’ve got quite a stash of Walkmans and other cassette players tucked away in storage. It’s not that we can’t repair them; the challenge lies in the availability of replacement parts. Often, if an internal component (usually made of brittle plastic) breaks, we have to scavenge donor parts from other models. As you can imagine, the process of sacrificing two or more devices to resurrect one isn’t sustainable. So, we tend to accumulate certain models until we have enough to justify the research and hunt for replacement components.
Sony NW-A306 Walkman 32GB Hi-Res Portable Digital Music Player with Android, up to 36 Hour Battery, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth and USB Type-C – Black NW-A306/B
In the case of the WM-8, the persistent issue revolves around its rewind (REW) mechanism. I had a conversation with Bryan, our Head of Repairs, to gain deeper insights. According to his expert analysis, the drive assembly of this model was designed in a way that predisposes the rewind function to early failure as specific parts age. In his words:
Sony Nw-A105 16GB Walkman Hi-Res Portable Digital Music Player with Android 9.0, 3.6" Touch Screen, S-Master Hx, DSEE-Hx, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth and USB Type-C - Black
“When the REW button is pressed, an idler tire swings into action, making contact with the flywheel to reverse the tape’s direction. However, this idler tire mechanism is also connected to the reel sprocket claw via a belt. If the belt is too tight, the idler tire can’t cover the necessary distance to engage the flywheel. Conversely, if it’s too loose, there won’t be enough tension on the belt to activate the reverse claw. It’s a bit like Goldilocks; belts tend to stretch with age and use, rendering this particular function of the player vulnerable to early failure, even shortly after servicing.”
Sony NW-WM1AM2 Hi-Res 128GB Walkman Digital MP3 Music Player
Our mission is to refurbish these items for a renewed lease of life, and knowing that repaired models might soon fail due to loosening belts (a natural consequence of use) has made us cautious about selling them until we can ensure their longevity.
However, our excitement for Stranger Things often becomes the catalyst for us to find innovative solutions to these challenges. Until then, Max’s WM-8 Walkman will remain in our shop, awaiting the day we crack the code to give it a second life.