If you have a smartphone then you have a portable music player in your pocket, which is probably one of the reasons why the Apple iPod and similar devices have fallen by the wayside in recent years.

But sometimes you don’t want the distractions of a modern, internet-connected device with a touchscreen color display, so there are still some companies selling purpose-built portable music players. Tangara stands out as an unusual device that combines a classic iPod-like design with open source software and an open hardware platform (which means you can build your own or customize the design). After previewing a crowdfunding campaign in December, the developers behind Tangara launched a campaign with Crowd Supply earlier this month and easily surpassed their $10,000 goal. As I’m writing this, more than 300 people have backed the campaign, pledging over $135,000.

The crowdfunding campaign runs through March 14th, and backers can reserve a Tangara device for a pledge of $249. Rewards are expected to ship in mid-September, 2024.

The portable music player is a palm-sized device that’s easy to fit in a pocket, with a 1.8 inch, 160 x 128 pixel color TFT display. You can navigate the on-screen menus using a click-wheel with support for capacitive touch input and two hardware buttons.

Tangara has a 3.5mm audio jack, but it also supports Bluetooth 4.2 audio (SBC codec only), allowing you to use wired or wireless headphones. There’s also support for WiFi 4 and a USB-C port for charging, firmware updates, and other data transfers. It’s powered by a 2,200 mAh battery that the developer say should offer up to 20 hours of audio playback time.

At the heart of the system is a 240 MHz ESP32-based microcontroller, a Cirrus Logic WM8523 digital to analog converter (DAC), and a Texas Instruments INA1620 amplifier. Tangara has just 16MB of internal storage, but features an SDXC card reader for media storage, and supports cards up to 2TB.

There’s no touchscreen display, and this thing isn’t designed to run apps like Spotify or Pandora. It’s made for local audio playback, and Tangara’s open source firmware designed to play MP3, FLAC, Opus, and Vorbis audio, allowing you to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks.

While the current firmware supports 16-bit / 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz audio, the DAC supports 24-bit / 192 kHz audio, so it’s possible Tangara’s developers (or independent developers) could add support for higher-quality audio in the future.

via Hacker News and @[email protected]

This article was first published December 19, 2023 and most recently updated February 6, 2024. 

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  1. I have a basic Sony mp3 player that sounds fantastic. It cost me only $75, and sounds wayyyyyyyy better than my $200 Ipod 7th gen. I would buy from a reputable company, not some unknown chinese crowd-funded knock-off. Just my opinion.

  2. It is in essence pointless because the fiio m3 pro for instance exists, and while technically not open source it runs on ingenic linux kernel, they don’t do bad stuff and it has no wireless anyway so it can’t do anything bad. Pretty cool mips device, very efficitent.

    But if people want to throw money at a project that probably costs 30$ to put together… who am I to care.

    I’m more comfortable with it than apple’s 20$ rag or god knows how much per GB of storage, monitors stands and whatnot. Still screams a bit “hipster scam”, 100$ would sound a lot more appropriate.

  3. This looks pretty cool. My wife and I both miss our old click wheel iPods, so I might get us one or two of these.

    The price is high enough that it’s not an instant-buy, but on the flip side, hopefully it will enable them deliver a quality product and support it for some time to come.

  4. I appreciate devices without a microphone. Did you know noise canceling devices have microphones. Why? The devil uses microphones to blackmail people to betray, even their own family. TWS earphones have microphones. Bluetooth dacs and speakers have microphones. Lately a lot of devices come with apps that are run over telecom networks made outside USA where no laws can protect foreign spies from collecting sensitive information. You have been made aware what is going on.

  5. Lol this thing is complete trash next to even $100 daps. It’s a single chip, no balanced output, no hi res, no wav dap for $250 and it’s huge. Daps that size and price range almost always have dual DAC and amplifier chips, offer a touchscreen, 4.4mm balanced AND 3.5mm jacks, support for every audio file type imaginable, decoding of 32-Bit/768kHz, and usually ldac and aptx. Shanling m1s is $25 cheaper than this but 10x better. They’re taking a bet that people don’t know daps still exist.

    1. I started looking further into the specs after I read this article the other day, and I have to agree.

      The idea of the device appeals to me, I like the idea of an MP3 player with a simple interface. But if you’re looking at this device as an audiophile, the hardware and price probably doesn’t make much sense.

      Having said that, it looks to me like the goal here isn’t to be competitive with other DAPs on the market. I think the goal is to support the open source project, and since it likely aims to be a low-volume product, the pricing reflects that.

      I’m still interested in buying one, mostly because the software is interesting to me.

  6. This is almost as bad as those 250 dollar gutted casio watches entombed in clear resin. All these tech buzzwords just to tell you that they cloned a product from 20 years ago.
    If you want an MP3 player with average sound quality and a 128px LCD screen go on eBay, there’s tons of used e-waste out there that you can buy for $5 tops.
    “But it’s open source this means I can 3D print a totally awesome bike clip to this barebones mp3 player holy crap!!!” then just buy a used MP3 player with a bike clip
    I don’t even know who the target audience for this thing is, audiophiles will be disappointed by the sound quality, people on a budget will just use their phone, and people with money will use a premium device from some known company. Iterate on the wheel, don’t manufacture the wooden wheel and market it as some stupid lifestyle thing

    1. They used to have DIY kits for common household gadgets when I was younger, things like radios and telephones and motion detectors. I don’t know how common those are anymore, but since it looks like they exclusively used solder joints that can be made by hand, it might be something to sell to parents of kids who might have an interest in doing that.
      That being said…I really have to wonder if there’s more or less of kids who’d be interested in something like that these days, and if they’d be okay with a 3d printed case or if they’d demand a glass and metal sandwich. No matter how fun something is, it can always be made into a liability if your peers all call you stupid for having it instead of an iphone.

  7. lol @ the audiophiles raging about weird-ass nerd protocols

    nobody cares, we just want to listen to music and maybe write some lua to customize our stuff

    open hardware made by one person who cares is always going to cost more. if you don’t like it go give another $1400 to astell & kern about it

  8. This will be DOA if they don’t get 24/192 running though the onboard 3.5 output and add at least one of the Hi-Res BT audio codecs like LDAC or LHDC. All I see right now is something reminiscent of a gen 1 iPod with worse sound than any newer Android phone with a 35 dollar 7hz SeventyOne USB-C dongle DAC attached.

    1. 24/192… JFC do you realize the very best, very young ears in the whole world can barely tell mp3 from flac past 160khz with modern algorithms? Past 192 nobody can.

      Hi res is for archiving purposes, not to listen in the bus with 30-100$ iems.

      You’re proving hahanerds right, audiophiles are utterly stupid. And it’s backed by science.

  9. What’s the point of this if it doesn’t have a better DAC than what I can get at Best buy for fifty bucks, or a fifth of the price?

    Hell, how is it $250? When it doesn’t even work with streaming services?

  10. All I see is an iPad here. Why couldn’t you have come out of the gate with audiophile quality sound. I like the 2 terabytes, the Bluetooth is a nothing improvement. You guys need to come up to the plate. Everyone, like myself, that already has an iPod, would be interested if the audio quality was much improved over the original, not a copy with Bluetooth and two terabyte capacity…I could just do that with my ipod. Think bigger. Audiophile quality sound would make this a must buy. If not then why not.

  11. This is pretty close to what I’m looking for, but I’ll probably stick to my original plan of using my RG Nano as a portable MP3 player, not quite as user friendly but I already own it and after looking into the creators of the Tangara… lets just say I’m on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, I’ll just do us all a favor and stay away 🙂

  12. MP3 players can be purchased on Amazon for less than $50. Including devices by Sandisk. Who would spend $250?

    1. The original iPod was $400.
      Which is probably more in the realm of $800 adjusted for inflation.
      But since your mandatory tracking device known as a phone does the same thing these days, this thing really is kind of a pure luxury product, and it’s just not going to be a status symbol, certainly not with a 3d printed exterior.

      1. The original iPod didn’t have much competition, and the competition was also expensive and poor quality. Modern audio players are really cheap, and while they’re not necessarily high-quality either, I’m not confident that this device will avoid that trap. For example, it would probably work pretty well if they adopted a project like Rockbox as their firmware so it could support a lot of different functions, but I’m afraid we’ll see a pretty basic interface instead with the intent that someone else will write new software if they want to do something else. It is not in a similar situation as the iPod was.

    2. I would trust the Sandisk battery charging circuit more than a new company. Sandisk has a lot to lose if improper charging starts a fire. Still have my Sansa Clip.

  13. Circle controller ob ious piggybacking off of Apple e-waste designs. waste of a lithium ion battery

  14. The parts for it cost at most $30 in total. It’s just a custom PCB, a small battery, a super small screen and the chassis. Nothing explains the ridiculous price tag other than the crowdundee greed.

    1. I suppose part of it could be people who want an iPod-style wheel interface, which is quite popular with some people I know who still keep around iPods from a decade ago so they can have that interface. I’m not sure the firmware will be familiar enough for them to use it, but maybe that’s the feature they’re banking on. I don’t think any other manufacturer has adopted that interface on players they make.

  15. I really like this, I will be interested in ordering one. I love the fact that it uses full-size SD.

    I hope someone designs and sells a CNC milled aluminum housing for it.

    If the creators are still working on this, I hope they might consider adding the ability to have it act as a USB DAC through its USB-C port.

  16. fuck no.. reminds me of a pos Sony mp3 player bought in the 90’s… the only upgrade is possible not having DRM baked in… the irony is it is about the same price but the Sony was more compact and looked more futuristic!

    1. That’s a pretty stupid reason to not like a product. “It reminds me of something else that committed a mistake that this new product clearly will not”.

      1. Sorry, the product’s sleek ergonomics gave me a panic attack.

        The price makes no sense… at best, it is regurgitated hardware from the late 90’s but without the DRM. I hate Sony and Apple, anything that reminds me of these companies drives me into fits of hate.

        1. Hey, one of the people working on this here. I just wanted to say that personally, e-waste and DRM are two huge reasons I am excited about Tangara. I hate how proprietary music players become ewaste because of a lack of continuing support and replacement parts, which has influenced a huge amount of our decision making whilst working on it. There is no regurgitated hardware, everything has been designed from the ground up to use easy to obtain components so that it can be easily repaired. Hope this helps clarify things a little more.

          1. I didn’t mean any personal offense, it simply looks too much like an ipod.. I’m sure it is a great product and in many ways superior to an ipod, but the negative associations that comes with certain companies is enough to trigger a strong impulse to avoid having wasted money on big tech ewaste before

  17. I’m so glad to hear that it uses the full-sized SD!

    This may be an odd question: was the possibility of using multiple full-SD slots explored? Either to increase the capacity to beyond 2 TB or simply to spread the load among, say, two drives instead of a single drive. Or even using a compact USB drive instead of an SD, as that’s more affordable at a higher capacity.

    1. *Note: this should have been posted as a reply to jacqueline. I reposted under there, so delete this one.

  18. Nice, especially the open-source aspect. I hope they go on to make something smaller, with a built-in, sturdy clip, suitable for running.

    1. I’m so glad to hear that it uses the full-sized SD!

      This may be an odd question: was the possibility of using multiple full-SD slots explored? Either to increase the capacity to beyond 2 TB or simply to spread the load among, say, two drives instead of a single drive. Or even using a compact USB drive instead of an SD, as that’s more affordable at a higher capacity.