Written by 6:46 am Digital

Travel and Portable Audio

Steven Stone looks back at the portable audio devices that have made air travel tolerable…


I’d be the first to admit I’m not a good traveler. Many years ago I had a “past life reading” where I was told I died in my previous incarnation during a long trip. Perhaps that’s why I’m not fond of travel, especially air travel. And if it weren’t for a succession of portable music devices over the years to keep my blood pressure and anxiety levels within tolerable levels, I probably would have given up on long journeys years ago.


My first portable music player was a Sony Walkman Pro. Back when portable cassette machines first came out they were a revelation – decent portable sound that didn’t require at least one mid-sized suitcase to carry. Of course carrying a long trip’s worth of music could take up some space. I still have a portable cassette carrying case that measures 14″ by 11″ by 4″ that could hold a grand total of 32 tapes. Full it weighed well over two pounds. And 32 tapes, even 120- minute tapes, were only 64 hours of music, which nowadays can be shoehorned easily into an iPod Nano.

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Eventually, the Sony Walkman Pro was replaced by a portable CD player. I went through at least a ½ dozen various Sony portable CD players before I settled on a Panasonic SLSW505Y Yellow Shockwave Portable CD Player. I used that thing for years. I still have it and, yes, it still works. But compared to what I carry nowadays, even the portable CD player seems cumbersome, especially when you include the multiple CD carrying cases that came along with it. For many years CD cases were a very popular SWAG item at audio shows. I used to have cases emblazoned with the logos most of the major audio manufacturers sitting in a drawer. I kept my two faves and gave the rest to charity.


My first portable player that could handle digital files was an iPod. I’ve owned at least six generations of iPods, with the last being the 160GB Classic (I have three). One lives in my car, tethered to the car stereo. A second iPod 160 sits in my Gym bag for workouts. The third is my back-up and travel iPod. Filling up a 160 GB drive with music was far too easy, and while according to the iPod, I have over 20 days of continuous music, I often long for the option of carrying my entire digital music library on trips rather than a paltry 160 GB.


Recently I added another option to my traveling kit, the Astell & Kern AK100. Since it accepts mini SD cards, the A&K has the potential to make it relatively easy to carry my entire library on trips. So far I’ve got just shy of a dozen 32 GB cards full of music and I’ve gotten about ½ way through my library. Whenever I see a good price on 32 GB mini-SD cards I pick up a few more and fill them with music files. Eventually, I will be able to carry my entire music library when I travel in a small enough package to fit easily into my carry-on bag. How great is that?

And, yes, I’m one of those 30 percent of folks who never turn off their “portable device” when I’m on an airplane. For some reason I’m always asleep when a steward or stewardess walks by. Thank God for music…

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