Sony Reon Pocket 5 Personal Air Conditioner

Turn yourself into a walking, talking A/C this summer

For visitors to Japan in the second half of the last century, a major attraction was the cornucopia of exciting electronic gadgets by brands with unfamiliar, exotic names.

The first were tiny transistor radios—a wonder because they were portable. This writer’s father bought two in 1960 by a maker with the curious name of Sony, although he pronounced it “Sonny,” with a slight edge of amused contempt—it had been only 15 years since World War II.

In the 1980s, I would come home from trips to Japan like a latter-day Marco Polo, bearing credit-card-shaped FM radios, Canon Sure Shot cameras, Sharp electronic dictionaries and translators, Seiko TV watches, Tamagotchis, and portable CD players.

My travel tales were also technological—of robotic taxi doors (quite painful if they caught you as they swung open) and wondrous electronic hotel toilets that obviated the need for toilet paper.

But the last time I was in Akihabara, Tokyo’s gadget district, a trip to the eight-story Yodobashi Camera electronics superstore was underwhelming. There was nothing novel to buy. The excitement and crowds were around the in-house Leica, Apple, and Dyson stores. Japanese technology companies have gone serious and mainstream, likely because smartphones have all the interesting functions that used to require separate equipment.

Which is why your columnist is so excited by this new and eccentric product from the usually conservative Sony. Their Reon Pocket 5 is a minuscule personal air-conditioning unit that hooks around your neck and chills a strategic spot a few inches down your back, for hours at a time, while channeling cool air upward to the nape of the neck.

Personal air-con, obviously not a smartphone app, is not entirely new in East Asia, where summers are humid and sweaty. As the name suggests, this is the fifth iteration of the Reon Pocket since 2019, when the first version launched. But the fifth is the first to be released globally.

Well, sort of. The initial run of the Reon Pocket 5 is available from Sony stores in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam—all of which make sense because they swelter in the summer—and, inexplicably, the U.K., where there is barely any weather to speak of at all.

To use the Reon Pocket 5 in the U.S., where air-conditioning is almost always welcome in the summer, takes some ingenuity. Sony has neither released it nor announced a launch date. At the time of this writing, however, there were more than 100 eBay vendors offering Reon Pocket 5s for delivery from Japan to the States, all asking around $170.

The buying bit, then, is easy. Where the inventiveness comes in is acquiring Sony’s Reon Pocket phone app. One solution is to download it on a trip to the U.K., where you must be sure to get the English-language version. It would probably be easier (though we haven’t tried it) to get a V.P.N. smartphone app such as NordVPN or ExpressVPN, and convince the App Store you’re in the U.K.

Does the wearable A/C unit work, or is it more a nostalgic conversation piece to demonstrate that bonkers Japanese gadgets are still being invented?

Unexpectedly, yes, it does work rather well. And it can also be used to warm you up in the winter. The idea of applying something cold (or hot) to the back of the neck has a basis in science. Apparently, the brain stem, which runs through the neck, senses and regulates body temperature. A cold or warm press on this area will indeed expedite a cool or warm sensation through the entire body.

The Reon Pocket 5 is proper, old-school gadgetry of the first order, and in addition to being glad Sony has produced it, we recommend it.


The Shelfy fridge deodorizer, $169.

If your fridge’s noxious odor makes your eyes cross, this Italian invention can help

In December, in a piece on LG’s InstaView refrigerators, which allow you to peep inside without opening the door, we discussed how the family fridge has long been ripe territory for gadgeteers. Yet most of their inventions, from interior fridge cameras, which rarely work, to TV and P.C. screens mounted in the door panel, fail to attract buyers.

The one thing we would all undoubtedly love is something to combat unseemly odors in the refrigerator. Onions, cheese, strong-smelling cooked dishes, vegetables, and salads past the first flush of youth can all make your fridge waft unpleasantness each time you open the door.

There are a few chemical-based fridge deodorizers, most relying on baking soda or activated carbon, and a very few fridge manufacturers include internal air purification.

But this new stand-alone product, Shelfy, from Vitesy, an air-purification start-up in Northern Italy, is the first electronic gadget we know of that immediately starts sucking up fridge odors and making each door opening less of an olfactory adventure. The makers say the filter relies on photocatalytic technology, which destroys pollutants rather than simply collecting them.

To be frank, we were not confident Shelfy would work. The Landing Gear refrigerator is an old warhorse that smells so bad we have long avoided nose breathing when we open it. To make matters harder for the Shelfy, we planted a few malodorous edibles. They included a peeled, halved onion and a nicely ripened, unwrapped piece of a runny cheese from Gloucestershire, U.K., that glories in the name Stinking Bishop and is described in tasting notes as having “a pungent and spirited aroma.”

And, to our surprise, the Shelfy works. It takes up a fair bit of space, whirs quite impressively, and has a multicolored, flashing L.E.D. function light, all of which might make it a little showy, but it really does do its job—the previous pungency was barely detectable. The Shelfy is Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-connected and has an app, and this provides quite interesting details, including the interior temperature, how many times the fridge has been opened, how efficiently it’s working, and when the filter requires washing.

Alongside dealing with bad odors, the device is claimed to be able to degrade the ethylene molecules responsible for ripening food and, accordingly, extend the shelf life of produce by as many as 12 additional days. We couldn’t think of a way to test this, but since the smell-reduction thing is clearly for real, we trust that it also prolongs food’s freshness. The battery, incidentally, lasts at least a couple of weeks; the filter, indefinitely, if maintained properly.

The A2D2 Stream

The A2D2 Stream, $189.

Retrofit your analog audio equipment so it plays on your wireless speaker system

Do you have an analog audio dinosaur you love despite its Stone Age tech? A beloved turntable, perhaps? A Walkman cassette player, CD deck, or tape player, or an old vacuum-tube radio?

A small British company’s compact new gadget, the A2D2, will take your outdated output and integrate it into the fast lane of your Wi-Fi streaming digital network.

Any smart speaker or multi-room network of smart speakers—Sonos, Chromecast, AirPlay, and Alexa, as well as computers, phones, and smart TVs—will, henceforth, with the A2D2, play the dulcet, warm, hissy, scratchy tones of your old favorite.

You can even use your smartphone with Bluetooth or wired headphones as a portable headphone amplifier and wander round the house hearing your antique audio as it’s supposed to sound, crackles and all.

The digital audio the A2D2 streams is top quality—up to 24 bit/192 kHz—so, considerably higher than CD level, but if you’re streaming from a 1980s Walkman, this will be somewhat wasted excellence.

Magico M7 Speakers

Magico M7 speakers, $375,000.

If you can get past the price tag on these speakers, you won’t be able to get over the sound

Do we seriously imagine you are going to spend $1 million on a hi-fi system? Perhaps not—although plenty of serious people do. But if we said that these $375,000 speakers from Californian maker Magico represent something of an economic way into the world of absurdly high-end hi-fi, maybe you would be tempted.

Magico’s new M7 is an, ahem, affordable version of their $750,000 M9. These six-figure sums are only the start of your high-end installation. You’re going to need professionally fitted cables that look thick enough to supply a town with water, plus amplifiers, preamps, streamers, and the rest, all from niche makers across the world, naturally.

All nonsense? Some would say. On occasion, I would say it’s a bit ridiculous. But when your columnist went for a demo of an M7 system in a subterranean central-London listening room, something happened he hadn’t experienced before.

Magico’s founder, Israeli-born Alon Wolf, chose several tracks to show off his speakers to their best advantage. During one, a jazz recording from the 1950s, I closed my eyes and semi–dozed off. When the music stopped, before I opened my eyes, I felt a compulsion to clap. The system was so realistic, I imagined I was at a live show. I can honestly say that’s never happened to me with recorded music. The fact that it was recorded 70 years ago was even spookier.

So maybe it’s not so crazy. Hear for yourself. Get in touch with Magico and find out where you can arrange an audition—they have several dealers in the U.S. and a few overseas.

Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s tech columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer at the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology