Vintage ’80s home stereo systems, personal stereos, TV sets and more

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See retro TVs, stereos and other popular home electronics from the 80s

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

If you could go back to the ’80s, these are the home stereo systems — turntables, cassette decks, stereos, TVs and VCRs — you probably would have seen.

While you’re time traveling, don’t show this stuff to the people living in the eighties. We didn’t know any better, and were happy in our ignorance… doing cool things like rewinding VHS tapes, pulling out antennas for our neato cordless phones, and carrying boomboxes on our shoulders.

Since it’s just you right now, come on in and look below at all the latest and greatest ’80s electronics from the 1981 Sears catalog. Pretend to be impressed. (Besides, without this stuff, modern tech wouldn’t be what it is today. So there’s that.)

Sony Walkman 2 from 1981

Retro home electronics from the ’80s: Choosing the ideal stereo (1981)

Article excerpted from the Pensacola News Journal (Pensacola, Florida) – September 18, 1981

Buying a stereo system today can be much easier than it has been in the past.

Before, customers had to mix and match stereo components instead of buying just one brand. Since few manufacturers offered everything for the complete hi-fi system, shoppers had to use a different brand of receiver, speakers, turntable cartridge and tape deck to complete their system.

Today, however, while customers may still want to mix and match component brands, most major manufacturers produce all the major elements of a complete system.

To make buying an outfit that much easier, some makers have put all of those one-brand components together in special racks to minimize space problems once the system has been purchased. (Article continues below)

Vintage stereos, TV sets, tape players, VCRs and more electronics from the 1981 Sears catalog


Complete stereo component systems from 1981

25-watt receiver, record changer, cassette deck, speakers and stereo stand

Complete stereo component systems - 25-watt receiver, record changer, cassette deck, speakers and stereo stand


Vintage ’80s home stereo systems & receivers

With electronic quartz tuning, and 3-way speakers for home stereo systems

Stereo receivers with electronic quartz tuning, and 3-way speakers for home stereo systems


Vintage home video electronics from the ’80s

Color TV camera with an electronic viewfinder, and video cassette recorders

Our lightest, most compact 4-way powered video cassette recorder. All you need for outdoor taping is VCR deck and a camera (not incl.) . . . and portable deck weighs only 10.3 lbs.

At home, using a 5-hr. tape, you can program this VCR to record as many as 8 TV shows over a 14-day period or tape a single 1/2-hr. show 10 times. 2-speeds: Standard speed (Beta II); plus long-play speed (Beta III) that gives you up to 50% more recording time than standard speed on any tape. Uses 1, 2, 3 or 5-hour Beta tapes.

Edit feature. Single-speed BetaScan scans at 1 5x normal speed; remote 5-20 times normal speed. Distortion-free Slow-Motion (forward). Frame-by-frame and still features. Pause function with audio dub feature allows you to dub in music or your own voice. 4-digit counter with memory switch. Tracking control. Carrying handle.

PLAYER/RECORDER: Soft-Touch buttons for play, record, rewind, fast forward, stop, eject, still/pause, reverse picture search, audio dub. Automatic end-of-tape shutoff.

SEPARATE TUNER: Soft-Touch selector buttons with LED indicators for channel selection. Electronic voltage synthesized tuner. Tuner houses AC power supply and built-in battery charger for charging VCR’s on-board and optional external batteries.

DIGITAL CLOCK/TIMER: 0.6-inch high LED readout. 14-day programmable timer . . . set record start and stop up to 14 days in advance. CONSTR, ACCESS: Flat black finish with silver-color and brushed metal trim. 1 0.9×1 0.4×4.5-inch high deck, 1 0.9×1 0.3×4.5-in. high tuner. Automatic TV/Camera switching. Playback on channel 3 or 4 (whichever is inactive in your area). Mike input. Shoulder strap. Remote control, 20-ft. cable. 1-hour Beta tape. 75-ohm connector cable, VCR to tuner cable. 300-75 ohm antenna adapter. VHF/UHF splitter.

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Home video! Color TV camera with electronic viewfinder, and video cassette recorders


Early ’80s boomboxes with radio, cassette and speakers all-in-one

Early '80s boom boxes with radio, cassette and speakers all-in-one


Retro tape players: Portable music from the ’80s

'80s boom boxes with radio and cassette players and recorders


Early portable mini stereo cassette players

Walkmans – with headphones: On the job or on the go, you’ll marvel at the outstanding stereo sound these mini models deliver through headphones so ultra-light, you might forget you’re wearing them.

ALSO SEE: Music to your ears: Walkmans & other portable cassette players (1981)

Early portable mini stereo cassette players - Walkmans - with headphones


Cassette tape players and recorders

Some tape players came with a radio and VHF TV audio channels

Cassette tape players and recorders - some with radio and VHF TV audio channels


Small portable radios and stereo radios – plus a new cordless telephone

ALSO SEE: These vintage cordless phones from the ’80s completely changed how we talked to each other

Portable radios and stereo radios - plus a new cordless telephone


AM/FM LED clock radios

Plus vintage stereo components that included cassette tape decks

AM/FM LED clock radios and vintage stereo components that include cassette tape decks


1980s compact stereo with a record player, radio, cassette & 8-track player/recorder

AUTOMATIC RECORD CHANGER: Full-size platter plays 33-1/3 and 45-rpm records.

AM/FM RECEIVER: Electronic digital LED frequency readout for fast. accurate Rim drive. Ceramic cartridge, synthetic diamond stylus, 45-rpm adapter, tuning. Controls for volume, balance, bass and treble. High filter.

ALSO SEE: Getting real with vintage reel-to-reel tape recorders

Compact stereo with a record player, radio, cassette & 8-track player/recorder


Vintage ’80s home stereo systems with cassette & 8-track

Electronics and tech from 1981 Sears Catalog


Receiver and cassette audio systems, with speakers and automatic record changers

Receiver and cassette audio systems, with speakers and automatic record changers


Stereo phonographs with speakers and cabinet, radio and mini record changer

ALSO SEE: Crazy expensive personal computers from the ’80s, and how their features compare today

Stereo phonographs with speakers and cabinet, radio and mini record changer


AM/FM radio with voice and other dual-alarm electronic clock radios

AM/FM radio with voice and other dual-alarm electronic clock radios


Deluxe 25-inch picture remote control color console TV

100° in-line Super Chromixe black-matrix picture tube plus comb filter for high resolution. Sensor Touch allows direct access to any one of 82 UHF/VHF channels. No presetting needed. VIR+ Color corrects color and tint 60 times per second.

TUNING CONTROLS, CONSTR: Color, tint, contrast, brightness controls. Light sensor. Sharpness, tone control. LED time/channel readout. Electronic push-button volume controls.

Remote control lets you scan active channels, adjust volume, get time/channel LED readout, turn set on/off; uses 2 AA batteries incl. 75-ohm TV cable jack. Two 5-in. round speakers. Imported parts; assembled in U.S.A.

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Deluxe 25-inch picture remote control color console TV


Black and white TVs and console color televisions

The consoles featured fancy wooden surround cabinets — or, for the portables, walnut wood-grained plastic with silver-color trim. 

Black and white TVs and console color televisions with wooden surround cabinets


Small-screen portable TVs

You could get it all in black and white–  and color — with antennas

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Small-screen portable TVs in black and white and color - with antennas


Video disc players & video cassette recorders (VCRs)

Home entertainment: New video disc players - plus video cassette recorders (VCRs)


Vintage ’80s home entertainment systems

Television sets with remote control and faux wood finish

ALSO SEE: 25 things most people under 25 have never seen in real life (and probably can’t name)

Electronics and tech from 1981 Sears Catalog


19-inch color TV with big dials

Also a television that displays closed captions

19-inch color TV with big dials - plus a television that displays closed captions


Compact stereo systems from the ’80s

With cassette, 8-track, radio and automatic record changer

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Compact stereo systems from the '80s with cassette, 8-track, radio and automatic record changer


Compact cassette stereo system

Feature turntables and cassette decks

Compact cassette stereo systems from the '80s that feature turntables and cassette decks


Mini-component stereo system with boom box style

ALSO SEE: Remember those mail-order record clubs that offered vinyl albums & tapes for a penny?

Mini-component stereo system with boom box style - plus a direct-drive turntable


(Story continued from top of page)

Electronics from the ’80s: No more one-size-fits-all stereo systems

In the past, some prospective stereo buyers may have taken one look at the seemingly complicated audio control panels and been intimidated into buying a simpler model, one with a less than excellent performance.

To prove to himself how simple the control panel really is, all a customer has to do, after locating the mode selector, is to turn the knob to phono, FM, AM or to AUX for tape-playing.

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Vintage home stereo turntable with tape deck

To play a record, merely change the setting to phono, check to see if the speaker knob is on “A” (meaning the main set of speakers if there is only one pair), turn the power on and plop a record onto the turntable.

Digital station readout makes listening to today’s stereo radio less complicated. Many stereo receivers offer the digital readout to ensure that the radio is tuned to the correct station.

Some systems even allow its users to pre-set the dials to a certain station, lock the station into a memory, and automatically call it up again, instead of constantly redialing the station.

Still other receivers offer pushbutton selectors or automatic scanning of the tuning scale for even faster station location. Also, digital synthesized tuning may be found on several receiver models for more precise, drift-free tuning than ever before.

The days of the “one size fits all” stereo components are no more. Systems are now produced with space needs in mind. besides being manufactured as sleek, low-profile hardware to better match a customer’s home’s decor.

Without compromising on sound quality, downsized components are offered by several manufacturers as an ideal second system for the home. or even as a first stereo for the boat, mobile home or camper. Apartment dwellers who find themselves paying more money for less apartment may turn to mini-components to save precious bookshelf space.

Component flexibility allows an owner to add a tape deck, upgrade a receiver, move to a better cartridge or add a second speaker system in another room. All this may be done — via components — without scrapping the old system and buying a new one.

SEE MORE: Vintage ’80s tech: See 1987’s hottest TVs, VCRs, stereos, cellular phones & more at The Good Guys

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