Cool Tech Zone's Tangara Is the Open-Hardware 2000s-Aesthetic Answer to Apple's iPod Classic

Proudly inspired by Apple's original iPad, this pocket-sized music playback device is fully open and hackable — and crowdfunding soon.

Gareth Halfacree
8 months agoMusic / 3D Printing / HW101

Australian open-hardware startup Cool Tech Zone is working to launch "the music player you wish you had in the early 2000s," with the smart iPod Classic-inspired Tangara — powered by an Espressif ESP32 microcontroller and supporting up to 2TB of storage.

"Tangara is a portable music player. It outputs high-quality sound through a 3.5mm headphone jack, lasts a full day on a charge, and includes a processor that's powerful enough to support any audio format you can throw at it," Cool Tech Zone's Jaqueline Leykam explains of the device. "It's also 100% open hardware running open source software, which makes it easy to customize, repair, and upgrade. Tangara plays what you want to hear, however you want to hear it."

Proudly inspired by Apple's original iPod design, right down to the "click wheel" interface, the Tangara is a custom PCB housing an Espressif ESP32 microcontroller, a Cirrus Logic WM8523 digital-to-analog converter (DAC), and a Texas Instruments INA1620 op-amp, giving it the ability to drive headphones with 200mW of power at 32Ω. For those who prefer a wire-free experience, it can also connect to Bluetooth headphones using an SBC codec.

On the software side, the gadget supports the playback of MP3, Opus, and Vorbis file formats, as well as the Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) — and if you've a lot of files, its SDXC storage interface supports cards up to 2TB in capacity. There's a USB Type-C port to charge the 2,200mAh internal battery — with a Microchip SAM D21-based data transfer mode currently in active development — and a claimed 120mA active and 4mA standby current for long playback times.

The custom user interface is designed to be familiar to anyone who used an iPod Classic, though the 1.8" 160×128 TFT display is full color, using a circular scroll pad with central button to whizz through file lists and control playback. The firmware is based on ESP-IDF and written in C++17, and is fully open source — as is the hardware itself, from the PCB down to the 3D-printable enclosure.

"Tangara is great DIY platform for non-audio applications, as well," Leykam claims. "For example, the ESP32 module at its core is popular among those who enjoy exploring and learning about (other people's) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. Unlike most such platforms, however, it also gives you a full-color display, a battery, and a one-finger touch interface to work with."

The Tangara is due to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Crowd Supply in the near future, with interested parties asked to register for notification when it goes live; the source code and hardware design files are available on Sourcehut under a range of open source and free-software licenses for the software and the CERN Open Hardware License Version 2 — Strongly Reciprocal for the hardware.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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