Out of the blue recently I was offered the opportunity to test a few portable sound devices, so like any true blood geek I jumped at the opportunity.
The first one is the Edifier MP 250 (a.k.a the Soundbar). It is a very simple and portable single unit speaker which improves the sound output of moble devices. It will work with anything that can plug to sdb (like a laptop), and also anything with a stereo plug (like amost every other audio device on the planet).
Here is a quick review.
The good stuff is:
- It is darn small, and reasonably light.
- No setup required (plug in, pause for recognition, then it worked straight away – fark!).
- Comes with a nice handy carry sleeve, so that it won’t get wrecked by your other gear.
- Far better sound quality than standard laptop speakers.
- It looks nice – all silver and smooth, not a fugly blob of black plastic.
The bad (only the obvious and the trivial):
- As it needs power from the USB, you’ll go through battery life in no time. Use it when plugged in to power and there is no issue.
- No tech solution can deliver high end sound, especially high end bass sound in a manner to replace a good multi-speaker setup. Do not have the illusion that the SoundBar will be a home stereo. Better, but not a holy grail.
- Carry case should be slightly bigger, so it can also hold the cables. You can squish them in, but it takes a few minutes.
Overall: It would make an excellent gift for a techie who works regularly with a laptop or ipod/iphone on the road, and for aus$60 its reaonsable.
I didn’t want a Soundbar until I tested it, and now I am very glad to have it. It is already in my laptop bag.
As a longer explanation of what the SoundBar is like, I decided to test the unit in a real scenario. Instead of testing at home, I didn’t start playing with it until I was sitting in our holiday house, 200kms out of the city, far away from a phoneline and the internet. This was primarily so that I could really see what it would be like to use if I was actually “on-the-road” and short on bandwidth.
The physical appearance is really darn nice. Not stupid enough to make you feel silly to own it (like some ipod hello-kitty covers), but stylish enough – nerd worthy. It is clearly designed to sit on its long side, and I placed the SoundBar behind the laptop so that the sound reverbrated through the room and didn’t blast me in the face.
As the Soundbar supports both usb for laptops and steroe plug for iphones, I’ll cover them with two different comments.
Using a Soundbar with a laptop
Setting up was bloody simple. Unwrap the unit, unwrap the cable, plug everything in, and it just worked. This kind of staggered me as I expected a “please insert driver“, or “restart windows” rubbish – but none of this is required.
My laptop already has excellent sound, from a set of built-in dual harman/kardon speakers. We regularly use just the laptop speakers when playing background music at dinner, so an external sound unit would need to be pretty good.
Then I opened up my iTunes library and started thumbing through some albums to see what I thought of music that I like, and the difference.
- Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill (yelling/chatter/sqeaks noises)
- Nirvana, Nevermind (lots of bass and grundgy)
- The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (because it was new to me)
It really worked.
The sound difference from my in-built speakers was very noticable improvement in mid range sounds, same and basic sound in lower range. I guess the bass didn’t carry the sound of a full system, and bass is something that a lot of my musc contains. You’ll still notice that this is a small unit – and that is more to do with the physics of what can be plausible rather than anything actually wrong with the unit. As a portable unit it is darn good.
What was odd is the sound control on the unit, is a small button on the end and somewhat hard to figure in operation. It took me a few minutes to work out that a single click increased volume, and a click and hold decreased the volume. Now I know its really very easy to use. I could have also read the instructions, but thats not how I generally like to learn technilogy.
Be warned too that it consumes a lot of power! No way in hell you’ll use this without mains power. Forget that totally.
Using a Soundbar with iPhone or iPod
I guess its bad that it still needs USB power, although I fully understand that without power the amp basically can’t do anything. It immediately made me think that a DC Power to USB cable (like I charge my iphone with) is a great companion to this unit; and once I plugged it in the music from the iPhone came through just as clearly as the music from the laptop. No apart from the need for an additional power source, the unit is operationally the same for ipods as it is for laptops via USB.
After using one, I’m kind of convinced that this is a great unit for folks who enjoy music and will appreciate having a better quality sound while traveling. Certainly good enough for us to use in the house for background music, and great for travelling.
- EB Games are apparently a good Australia wide distributor, selling the unit in store but not via the web.
- Edifier, although I could not find a Soundbar page, they have it listed as SoundToGo (which is a terrible product name). Why? When my brother saw it on the weekend he said, “Where did you get that soundbar”. Case closed.
Now by way of declaration I was sent the Soundbar to play with as part of a promotion of some sort, and as such I can say that I was not looking for a set of optional portable speakers. However now that I have some, I’m really pleased.