A few months ago, MetaEfficient profiled an energy efficient home speaker system for the iPod. But what if you want to bring your music with you on the go – and share it outside your headphones? You’ll need a set of portable speakers that are just as mobile as your MP3 player. Following are six of the best portable speaker systems on the market, in a range of sizes and offering a variety of features. All of them feature a self-contained power source, and some offer an iPod dock as well as a standard 3.5mm mini-jack connection.
JBL On Stage Micro
The JBL On Stage Micro provides solid sound quality with a tiny footprint. It features an iPod dock in the center as well as a 3.5mm plug for connecting other inputs, plus a clever touch button system and a remote control that make track selection and volume adjustments easy. Aluminum transducers driven by neodymium magnets are paired with digital amplifiers to provide rich sound while extending battery life. Four AAA batteries provide 24 hours of play. The On Stage Micro is compatible with rechargeable NiMH and lithium cells, and it features a low battery indicator LED. Plus, the On Stage Micro speaker system comes in a range of color options to match your iPod: white, black, blue, green, and red.
The JBL On Stage Micro is available at Amazon. Prices start at $72.50, depending on color.
iHome iHM77 Portable Multimedia Speakers
These rubberized mini speakers from iHome each measure just 2” x 2” x 2” when collapsed for transport, then pop open when in use with a clever accordion design. Vacuum bass design enhances low frequency tones, and the iHome speakers magnetically attach to one another to form a super-portable capsule. Power comes from internal lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged using the included USB cord, and a carry case and cord wrap are included with the speakers.
The iHome iHM77 Portable Multimedia Speakers are available in black, silver, and red from Amazon, starting at $46.80.
Harmon/Kardon Go + Play
The Go + Play from Harmon/Kardon may not be the smallest or cheapest option for a portable speaker system, but it delivers serious sound quality thanks to its 30-watt tweeters and 30-watt Atlas woofers. Its 9” x 9.5” x 20” dimensions are substantial, but a stainless steel carry handle and battery power keep it portable. It features the universal iPod dock system that is compatible with most dockable iPods (see note below) plus a 3.5mm jack for other connections. The Go + Play comes with an AC power adapter for indoor use, and a full-featured RF remote with a 20-foot range. And although eight D batteries add bulk to the system, they provide approximately 20 hours of power.
(Note: Harmon/Kardon is planning to release an updated version of the Go + Play speaker system in spring ’09, offering enhanced compatibility with newer iPods and the iPhone.)
You can find the Harmon/Kardon Go + Play at Amazon for $216.90.
Pacific Rim Technologies Cube Travel Speakers
The Pacific Rim Cube speakers have been around for a while, and they’ve won fans with their minimalist design (and sub- $10 price tag). You shouldn’t expect window-rattling bass from these mini speakers, but the Cube delivers mobile sound and folds into a tidy package for transport – just 2.4” x 2.4” x 4”. The Cube features an iPod stand and a 3.5mm jack for connecting your player, plus an independent volume control. Power is provided by four AAA batteries or the included 6V DC charger. The cable management system is handy when it’s time to pack up the Cube, and the speakers are available in either black or white to match your iPod.
The Pacific Rim Technologies Cube Travel Speakers are available from Amazon for $9.99.
Altec Lansing InMotion iM11BLK
Altec Lansing is no stranger to iPod speakers, and the InMotion iM11BLK is a highly portable speaker system that won’t break the bank. Weighing less than a pound and measuring 8.5” x 1.4” x 4.3” when folded for transport, the InMotion system features an iPod dock/ charger, as well as a standard 3.5mm plug to accommodate other music players. MaxxBass speakers provide solid low tones without the need for a subwoofer. Four AA batteries provide over 18 hours of playback, or the speakers can be powered via the included AC plug.
The Altec Lansing InMotion iM11BLK is available from Amazon for $65.82.
Bose SoundDock Portable
Would you be willing to sacrifice compact size to literally bring your home stereo system with you wherever you go? If so, check out the Bose SoundDock Portable. This mobile variation of their popular SoundDock system features a carry handle, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and a retractable iPod connection/charging dock (in addition to a 3.5mm plug for other devices). The SoundDock is over 12” wide and weighs over five pounds, so it’s not as compact or portable as some of its competitors, and it doesn’t come cheap – but it offers legendary Bose sound quality and an iPod-specific design. Battery life is roughly three hours at maximum volume (longer at lower levels); an AC adapter is included for battery charging and using the SoundDock at home, and a remote control gives added convenience.