There’s barely a day at home when I don’t have music playing. Either (mostly) through an old (but good) set of Creative Labs speakers I connected to my iMac or (sometimes) through my Sony separates and a pair of fabulous B&W speakers on stands. When I’m on a plane or a train it’s a pair of Klipsch s4i in-ear headphones.
But there are plenty of times when I’m traveling and staying in hotel rooms or rented apartments for a week or two at a time when I don’t want to listen through headphones. I don’t mean cranking it up for partying, just a little ambience. The speakers on my Macbook Air are acceptable, but I still carry my whole music collection on a fat old iPod Classic as my library’s bigger than my Air’s hard-drive and I don’t (yet) use iTunes Match.
(If I ran rented rooms, I’d make sure that every one came with an iPod/iPhone speaker dock. (Come on hotel owners, they’re not expensive.) That leaves me with using portable external speakers of some sort or another.)
For the last couple of years I’ve carried a little X-mini capsule speaker on longer trips. It’s small, light and OK, it’s never going to tick all the volume/quality boxes, but it makes a reasonable sound when my music doesn’t contain a lot of bass.
Funnily enough, I’ve noticed that if I plonk the X-mini on a large, flat surface like a table, the sound improves. I’m no audiophile, so I guess it has to do with vibrations or something. That’s why, just before leaving for Australia on this six week trip, staying in rented apartments, I was interested in an offer from mobilefun.co.uk to test a travel speaker designed to use vibrations in just that way — a Pocket Boom Portable Vibration Speaker.
Pocket Boom Portable Vibration Speaker
The Pocket Boom’s smaller and lighter than my X-mini. You can power it either by a pair of AAA batteries or a DC connection. It comes with a cable for running off a USB port. I didn’t have a pack of AAAs around so I couldn’t test how long a pair of batteries might last. Not being a fan of batteries anyway, I would always power it from a USB port — a computer or a USB wall adapter. This could be a little restricting as the cable length means The Pocket Boom needs to be placed close to a power source as well as the surface you want it to vibrate.
There’s a headphone jack and another reasonably long cable for that too in the box. The Boom also comes with a pack of ‘Magic Pads’, little sticky pads for sticking its vibrating head (no giggling) to something. These sticky pads are, well, sticky. The Pocket Boom works by vibrating a surface or object to amplify its sound. I tried it on tables close to my Mac (for that USB power) although you can experiment sticking it to other things you might have hanging around.
I was expecting The Pocket Boom to sound terrible. Not just terrible compared to my main home set-ups but terrible compared to other travel speakers I’ve tried. But I was really surprised. I had to turn the iPod almost to maximum, but The Pocket Boom sounds pretty good, better than my X-mini.
I’ve thrown a mixture of music at it: A few female country vocalists, Judas Priest’s British Steel album, Ace Of Spades. Everything was listenable. The Pocket Boom even has decent bass — likely down to the table I’m sticking it to — which is something the X-mini lacks. So far only The Little Willies’ double bass sounded horrible, but that also makes my car doors shake. Of course the Pocket Boom’s sound quality won’t win any awards, but that’s not the point.
Small, cheap, sound that’s surprisingly not terrible.
Really needs to run off a USB port. Unless you’ve a main adapter handy, that means sticking it to something close to a computer. A limited supply of little sticky pads.
The Pocket Boom’s a surprisingly not terrible little portable speaker. I like it. 4/5.