Sony D-5 Portable CD Player
Sony introduced the world’s first portable CD player, the D-5, in late 1984, just a year after its first home player, the CDP-101, revolutionized the audio market. In the 1970s, Sony Walkman cassette players were as ubiquitous as iPods are now, and the new Discman players were poised to be the next big thing.
But analog was still a big part of our everyday lives, and most people were playing LPs and cassette tapes, partly because CDs were selling for double the price of LPs at the time. According to Sony spokesperson Marc Finer, the combined sales of all brands of CD players sold in North America in the format’s first year were just 35,000 units. The D-5’s retail price was $300, less than half that of the least expensive Sony home player at the time—and affordable enough to capture a much larger market. Sony launched an MTV spring break promotion campaign with the CBS, RCA, Warner, and Polygram record labels to get the kids on board with the new technology. The company also launched the identical D-50 player for markets beyond North America.
While the D-5 was sold as a portable, an AC power adaptor was included for home use. Finer recalls that a good number of D-5s were in fact played only at home, using the docking accessory and its stereo RCA outputs. I have a friend who still owns a D-5, and he says it’s a solidly built machine, nothing like the flimsy models that came along later and sold for under $100. Of course, the D-5 didn’t have a buffer to prevent skipping, so you could walk with it—gently—but jogging would have been impossible.