Featured Image for Feel warm, fuzzy nostalgia as we look at the evolution of portable music players

Feel warm, fuzzy nostalgia as we look at the evolution of portable music players

Listening to music has never been easier, and that’s a fact.

Most of us take it for granted, but take a moment to think about it. Hosting a BBQ on a sunny Saturday? You can grab a portable speaker, open Spotify on your smartphone and have the tunes pumping within seconds.

Tell me that’s not pretty sensational, I dare you.

This got us thinking: how did early music players evolve into the portable products we know and love today?

Although it wasn’t even close to portable, we were pretty shocked to discover that one of the first-ever speakers was built all the way back in 1861.

For context, that’s before the invention of the ballpoint pen and the modern bicycle. Mind = blown.

Music players have changed dramatically over the last century, so we had a look at the key inventions that drove this fascinating evolution.


Invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, the phonograph was the first machine that could record and playback sound. Plus, it looked pretty gnarly.

Basically, you had to shout something into one side of a foil-wrapped cylinder while turning a crank. Your voice would cause a needle to vibrate, which in turn made a groove in the foil.

A second needle on the other side of the cylinder could be used to playback the sound through a funky-looking horn.

Unfortunately, phonographs did not have Bluetooth and couldn’t be connected to Spotify. You couldn’t even playback the sound more than a few times before the foil broke and the sound quality was, erm, unremarkable.


Not to be confused with grandma’s phone, gramophones were the first record players and an improvement on Edison’s phonograph.

The transition from phonograph cylinders to flat rubber discs allowed recordings to be mass produced, paving the way for cheaper turntables and record players that allowed the general public to enjoy music whenever they liked.

Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for the whole family to gather around the turntable and listen to records together. How times have changed, right?

Transistor radio

Resembling some sort of cross between a Walkman and a set of scales, transistor radios were the first devices that gave everyone a chance to tune in to their favourite station on the go.

Since being developed in 1954, billions of transistor radios have been manufactured thanks to the device’s popular, portable design. Yep, billions.


The boombox. The ghettoblaster. The instant party starter. Is there any sound system more iconic?

These chunky-but-portable stereos are the definition of old-school cool. Popularised in the 1970s, boomboxes quickly became associated with the rise of hip-hop culture in the United States and drove an entire generation’s love of music – not to mention impromptu rap battles, breakdancing and street performances.

The premise was simple: slap a tape in the cassette player, throw the boombox on your shoulder and blast your favourite music at an obnoxiously loud volume as you strut down the street.

CD player

In 1982, the compact disc (CD) was released for the first time – the world would never be the same again.

The format was a groundbreaking development for the music industry by offering more storage space and higher sound quality than traditional cassette tapes.

Bluetooth speakers

Once smartphones, tablets, laptops and other personal devices hit the market, no one really needed a dedicated music player anymore.

What people did need was a light, portable speaker that offered great sound quality, high portability and ease of use.

Bluetooth speakers are now an absolute essential for house parties, beach days and everything in between.

Voice-activated speakers

These days, what’s a piece of technology if you can’t speak with it? The devices we use are getting exponentially smarter, and portable speakers are no exception.

Take the new JBL Link Series as an example. These speakers take the concept of a stylish and highly portable Bluetooth speaker and combine it with voice-activation technology – basically, you can play your favourite music, listen to podcasts or switch on the radio without lifting a finger.

With a built-in Google Assistant, premium sound quality, durable construction and convenient design, JBL’s voice-activated speakers epitomise everything a portable music player should be in 2018.

The JBL Link 10 and Link 20 voice-activated speakers will transform the way you listen to your favourite music. With rich stereo sound as well as Google Assistant, it’s always ready to help. Combine that with high portability, waterproof materials, a 10-hour battery life and far-field voice recognition, it’s an absolute must-have! Click here to find out more.