As iPod speaker systems become as ubiquitous as the iPod itself, we thought it would be a good time to take a closer look at a few of the systems that have been flooding the market recently. In this first installation of our two-part guide, we included smaller, portable systems that are perfect for the office, the beach, or general globe-trotting. What follows is one pro opera singer's first hand take on some select models.
Altec Lansing In Motion Series
All of the iM series include interchangeable multi-international AC adapters with the global traveler in mind, but each are geared to slightly different uses.
The iM3 (right) features a convenient fold-away dock and is the most compact of the Altec Lansing trio of speakers. With surprisingly good sound for a small system (albeit slightly treble-heavy, like most this size), it comes with a credit card-sized remote, additional docking station, and a protective carrying sheath—perfect for tucking into suitcases.
$180 from Altec Lansing
The black iM9, a larger portable system (left), comes with rubberized packaging (making it durable and shock-resistant) and a violet "crown chakra" power light on top. It has a rich sound with a well-balanced bass. Highly portable, it comes with a backpack and includes a unique retractable compartment that protects iPods while traveling. It's ideal for beach-goers and can rest on its side with its built-in prop or play directly on its back.
$200 from Altec Lansing
The 21st century answer to the ghetto blaster, the iM7 (below) is a sleek white tube featuring sub-woofers on the ends that pack the most powerful punch of the iM series. Like the iM9, it includes a convenient retractable compartment. The wafer-thin remote comes complete with bass and treble controls. For hitting the streets, it has a well-designed recessed handle, or you can buy the custom, tube shaped, iM7 shoulder bag.
$250 from Altec Lansing
Modern, mid-century design, detachable stereo speakers, handy alarm clock and radio functions, credit-card sized remote, included carry bag, blue night light, and well-balanced, powerful sound for its size...need any more reasons why the iSongbook is a favorite among those we tested? (Pictured below.)
$330 from Tivoli
Oregon Scientific iBall
The speaker ball (right) is wireless, offers solid sound for a portable system, allows for adjustable bass and treble levels, has S-video input capability, and comes with a handy set of rechargeable batteries—all of which makes for versatile indoor and outdoor audio solutions. We only wish it came with a remote control and a more user-friendly control panel.
$250 from Oregon Scientific
Cyber Acoustics iRhythms
The iRhythm really impressed us with its clear sound and pronounced bass. It's aesthetic variation, a case finished in white acrylic in a shape reminiscent of a wainscot panel, sets it apart as well. It also comes with a small remote with limited play functions.
$140 from Amazon
For its size the iGroove (above) has ample sound and it comes with a convenient remote. Its industrial gray speakers framed by Hector Guimard-like winged corners are fun but might be difficult to position on a crowded desk or bookshelf.
$280 from Klipsch
Muji cardboard speakers
These streamlined, environmentally-friendly cubes (left) have limited sound due to their tiny size (most Macs' built-ins are better), but flatten to fit into your backpack or briefcase. The only question is how durable the cardboard case would remain after frequent assembly and reassembly.
$42 from the MoMA Design Store
This little tube (right) boasts battery-powered stereo speakers and weighs less than an ounce—a boon for sharing videos, but its clunky design is especially awkward with nanos.
$40 from Macally
By far the richest and most well-balanced sound of all of the smaller speaker systems we tested, the Soundock from Bose (above) is designed for those who put sound quality first. Aesthetically, it's a bit less exciting than some of the other options but its credit card-sized remote, impeccable sound, and small size make it a highly competitive system even though it was one of the first in the marketplace almost two years ago.
$300 from Bose
Contributed by Edwin Cahill
Ed Note: I decided to put the full story here without a jump because I don't think many of you use the jump links. What do you think about this? Should we put the entirety of our longer stories up on the main page, or continue to cut it off and provide a jump (continuation) link? Let us know