Portable speakers

Introduction

Multi-gigabyte iPods allow us to take our giant music collections on holiday with us. The two speaker systems on test here are smart and portable. Both operate on either four AA batteries or via the mains. On each, the speakers are placed very close to each other, so you’ll only get an inkling of stereo if you stick your head about five inches from them. TravelSound includes something called Wide Stereo Effect that “makes it seem as if your speakers are placed further apart than they really are” at the flick of a switch. I couldn’t tell the difference, but Macworld’s top ears tell me that they could notice that it boosted the mids – which makes the sound a mite punchier but does little for stereo appreciation. The inMotion portable audio system (right) is a lightweight battery-operated stereo system designed especially for the iPod – matching its slim white looks. Sound quality is decent, and the maximum volume is ear-splitting. It folds up into a neat, slim and protective box (20.3cm wide, 13.7cm deep and 3cm thick), making it look like half an iBook. It weighs in at 425 grams. The company claims that the four batteries will keep pumping out the tunes for 24 hours. The great thing about the inMotion is its power-charging and iTunes-synchronizing dock. When the system is plugged into the mains, your iPod never runs dry. (It doesn’t charge when inMotion is running on batteries.) The latest iPods connect just like they do in Apple’s dock. Add an iPod Dock Connector to FireWire Cable (£15), and you can link it up to your Mac for iTunes updates. Older iPods – or laptops – connect via an audio cable that lets the look down slightly by not conforming to the all-white uniform. This option obviously doesn’t charge the iPod. A plastic cover hides the FireWire connector. The iPod mini is not supported by inMotion. The Creative TravelSound speakers, which can also connect to a laptop, are more compact than inMotion, but are similar in that they are light and foldable and can be powered by batteries (35-hour life claimed) or mains. Again, the sound is excellent, and the top volume is enough to fuel a small house party – although it distorts near the top end more than the inMotion. As it’s not designed specifically for the iPod, there’s no charging or synchronizing via the TravelSound. It is, however, a lot smaller, measuring 15.4-x-5-x-6.5cm, and half the price. One minus point is the bulk of the mains-power cable and adaptor, which is more of a handful than inMotion’s one-piece – detracting from portability.
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