Hello, jtholiday. I, too, went for my first-ever Aiwa not long ago: a CS-600U. I won an eBay auction for it in late August 2016. I paid a hundred twenty-odd America dollars for it before shipping charges. It was quickly shipped from Indiana to me here in the southeastern United States. It was thoroughly packaged for shipping, just as the seller stated in the ad' would be the case.
Though those facts haven't helped me much with the stereo: the tape-deck mechanism is a mess. Yes, the seller honestly said that the tape deck does not work, but her suggestion that the tape deck just needed new belts was likely overly optimistic.The tape-deck bay won't even fit a relatively new-condition Fuji DR-I 90-minute normal-bias audiocassette with which I recorded 90 minutes of music from late-night FM radio over several nights. I used another portable stereo to record the music from FM radio, a JVC RC-M50JW. I had also purchased the JVC on eBay, back in late September 2015. I took the RC-M50JW to a well-reputed electronics-repair shop for servicing. The shop eventually succeeded -- after strange failures, delays in receiving ordered repair parts, etc. I later took another portable stereo for the shop to repair. This one was a Helix HX-4633N that I purchased from an electronics store in another state in 2001. They succeeded with that one too -- it seems -- but they won't fix my Aiwa CS-600U. My failure to pay the shop fully for their time spent working on the portable stereos apparently made them fed-up with boomboxes -- or with me, as another message of mine states. I have to go back to the repair shop to get my Aiwa or the business will "dispose of" the stereo.
So much for my rehashed sob story. Anyway, what can be said about your Aiwa? Well, it's one of those so-called "knob-top" units, with some of or all of the primary controls -- the tape-deck controls, the radio-tuner controls, etc. -- located atop the portable unit instead of on the front of the machine. I had started to "cool" to "knob-top" units of late, hence my dubious -- if not outright rash -- purchase of the obviously flat-topped Aiwa CS-600U. You know what? Playing some Seventies- and Eighties-vintage R&B remixes on my RC-M50 somewhat restarted my appreciation of that "knob-top" JVC model.
Your Aiwa CS-550U has a 14-watt power-consumption profile as is stated on the rear data plate and the '550U takes 8 "D"-cell batteries in portable mode. Contrast that with the 22-watt power-consumption profile and the 9-"D"-cell requirements of a CS-600U. Of course, that doesn't prove that the CS-550U is weaker or less efficient than the CS-600U, I have to remind myself.
Speaking some more on looks, I must say that the audio-output portals -- that is, the main speaker grilles and the tweeters with their pseudo-circular grille slits -- look a bit too intense for me. But, of course, there were then and are now thousands of collectors who don't much mind -- indeed, who prefer -- that sort of pungence in the design of radio cassette-recorders.
Don't know how much an Aiwa CS-550U is worth with its tape deck working -- that is, playing, recording, rewinding and fast-forwarding -- as designed. To begin with, I don't know how much this frustration-harbinger of a CS-600U would be worth with its audiocassette deck properly working. (Shrug)
I know that most Aiwa portables don't seem to have reception-enhancing fine-tuning. That is rather like similar models of Sony, the company that eventually acquired Aiwa. But I suppose your unit tunes shortwave? if so, does it do so with two SW bands?
It's a shame about your friend having such misfortune with his possessions and with certain quick-convenience locations. It will certainly be a great help for him to break that pawn-and-waste or sell-and-waste cycle. That success requires relatives and friends that don't enable him in the name of not alienating him. And his aging dad certainly needs a responsible adult to keep a look out for his welfare.
Well, hoping that I haven't ended this message on too somber a note: have a good day.
Post-3:00 PM Edit: I didn't thoroughly read your first message, jtholiday. Your friend, the previous owner of the Aiwa CS-550U, appears to have a drug addiction. Dreadful. He does need an intervention. His health, physical and spiritual, depends on it.