The iPod was the music player that made portable sound near ubiquitous to the post-Walkman, post-Discman generation. When used with a massive music collection, it was something quite remarkable to have up to 160 gigs of decent enough audio to schlepp along with us on planes and subways.
It’s been years since Apple has taken their audio devices seriously, and with the move to streaming services via apps, the entire idiom for portable music playing is shifting. On the one hand the vast majority use their phones with the crummy buds they get for free, while another, slightly more passionate community are looking for genuine “high fidelity” from a device that can be held in a pocket.
Picking headphones can be a particularly daunting task, particularly given that many simply assume that one pair of buds is as good as any other. Take any transit ride and you’ll see plenty of white cabled, came-with-the-device pairs being used perfectly well to channel whatever latest hit is being streamed from phones and into ear holes.
From there things go positively bonkers, with some spending thousands and thousands on devices that make incremental (if any) difference in sound reproduction. It’s a dangerous game, and one that can cost you a small fortune if you become hooked.
Earlier this year the team at Teenage Engineering, known for their stylish boutique synthesizer the OP-1, announced its collaboration with Cheap Mondays on a new line of portable music making devices: Pocket Operators.
Unlike the OP-1, these Pocket Operators come with a much more affordable price tag and in three distinct varieties: Factory (synth), Sub (bass synth), and Rhythm (drum machine). Their unique styling sets them apart immediately from other entry-level synth toys out there, mashing up the best of old school pocket calculator and Nintendo Game & Watch aesthetics with a dash of Radio Shack circuit kit sensibilities.