Best Cheap iPod Speakers
Published on By Michael Sweet
iHome iD55 Review
(From $76.00 Best)
This speaker dock doesn't have a lot of extra features, but it strikes just the right balance of affordability and sound quality. It's also light enough to be a portable system but big enough to hold an iPad. The 30-pin connector accommodates most iPhones and iPods, as well, although not the latest generation of Apple devices with the Lightning connector.
The iHome iD55 is one of the best budget speaker docks we came across for iPods, iPhones, and even iPads, yet it's also one of the cheapest. At Gadget Mac, an iHome iD55 review points to the sliding faux-leather cover, which gives the speaker a high-quality feel and classy look. The reviewer is less impressed with the performance, noting pretty good bass but jumbled mids and highs. Other iHome iD55 reviews praise the sound, however. An expert from iLounge says the dock produces good midrange detail and the bass is deeper than you'll hear on most cheap, small speakers. One gripe in this iHome iD55 review: The speaker isn't very loud. A reviewer from The Gadgeteer seconds that quibble with the volume but lauds the speaker for playing clean, clear audio with no distortion.
The iHome iD55 (starting at $76, Amazon) has a 30-pin connector, so it supports a large number of previous-generation iPods, iPhones, and iPads. However, the dock can't accommodate the newest Apple devices, such as the iPhone 5 and iPad 4, which have Lightning connectors. Still, the iHome iD55 has an auxiliary-in jack, so you can connect it via cable to the latest devices, as well as other MP3 players. This dock is light and compact enough to be portable, at 2.64 pounds, and can run on four AA batteries. It also comes with an AC adapter for plugging into the wall and will charge any device on the dock.
Don't expect the iHome iD55 to knock you out of your chair with its volume -- most small iPod speaker systems aren't designed for that. However, this dock does sound good considering its size and cost, reviewers say. The unit is substantial yet portable, with a sliding cover that not only protects but adds style. Overall, this is a winning product.
JBL Flip Review
(From $85.00 Best)
The Bluetooth-enabled Flip speaker from JBL streams music wirelessly and doubles as a speakerphone. This small speaker earns high praise in reviews for its incredible loudness and excellent audio clarity.
JBL's small Flip wireless speaker (starting at $85, Amazon) has made a big impression on reviewers. A JBL Flip review at iLounge raves about the clear sound, detailed audio, and loud volume of the Flip, saying it's one of the best speakers the site's experts have ever tested and set a new standard in the category of small, Bluetooth wireless speakers. That's high praise indeed. A CNET expert also came out with a positive JBL Flip review, giving it a four-star rating, which classifies it as excellent. This reviewer says the Flip has great sound and is very loud for its small size. It also produces adequate bass, although genres such as hip-hop present a challenge at higher volumes. This JBL Flip review does point to a couple of other small drawbacks. For example, the battery life is about 5 hours, which may be sufficient but isn't outstanding. Consumers hesitant about setting up a wireless speaker should be reassured by a JBL Flip review from Wired, where a tester says syncing the Flip with an iPhone is quick and easy and the process is clearly explained in the speaker's instructions. The reviewer was amazed by the volume and clarity of the audio.
The name Flip comes from the design of the small, cylindrical speaker, which can be laid on its side or stood on end. It measures about 6 1/4 inches high when standing. The unit houses two speakers and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which charges with an included AC adapter. The size and battery make the speaker portable and easy to transport and it comes with a Neoprene pouch. This Bluetooth model can also be used as a speakerphone.
JBL Flip reviews leave us with no doubt that this is an outstanding speaker. It's far louder than testers expected, yet its mids and highs sound clear and detailed. The bass is also better than on most portable speakers, although users shouldn't expect it to sound like a home stereo system. If you're looking for a wireless speaker on a $100 budget, this is the best one we found.
NuForce Cube Review
(From $99.00 Good)
The tiny Cube speaker is eminently portable and connects via cable to most any device. Like other small speakers, it doesn't have much bass to speak of, but its overall sound quality satisfies and its eight-hour battery life impresses.
The NuForce Cube (starting at $99, Amazon) is a tiny speaker, but most reviewers are impressed with its sound. A NuForce Cube review from Sound and Vision magazine describes the audio as unbelievably clear, with great detail in the mid and high ranges. The reviewer suggests this makes the Cube especially good for listening to jazz and other types of music that don't rely heavily on deep bass, one area where the diminutive speaker is a bit lacking. A NuForce Cube review on the website Gadget Review grants that the Cube delivers just enough bass to add a little depth to the audio, but that's about it. An expert at Digital Trends was likewise impressed with the powerful, distortion-free audio this tiny speaker generates. Although, the lack of bass is noticeable, he says, it's not unexpected, and the NuForce Cube sounds better than any other speaker its size.
The sleek, simple Cube measures a mere 2.3 inches on all sides and comes with a carrying pouch. The built-in lithium-ion battery is said to run for about 8 hours on a single charge. In short, this speaker is ideal for travel. The battery recharges via USB. The NuForce Cube doesn't have a built-in iPod dock, so you'll have to connect your devices with an included cord that plugs into the speaker's 3.5 mm input jack. A selection of four colors amps up the style factor.
The NuForce Cube is not only a speaker but also a headphone amp and a DAC, or digital-to-analog converter, which is intended to improve audio quality. Channeling music from an iPhone through the Cube while listening with headphones doesn't make much of a difference, according to Digital Trends' NuForce Cube review. What you're hearing is the effect of the amp but not the DAC, which kicks in only when you connect a device via USB. Users who don't have very good sound cards in their laptops or desktops will notice a big improvement in sound quality. Plugging into the Cube's USB port bypasses the computer's sound card and channels music through the DAC instead, making it sound much better through headphones.
Small in size but not stature, the Cube is an excellent portable speaker that does triple-duty as a headphone amp and DAC. It works not just with iPods but with any MP3 player, smartphone, tablet, or computer. It has easily the most compact design and longest-lasting battery of any speaker we reviewed, making it a top choice for travel.
JBL OnBeat Micro Review
(From $100.00 Good)
The little OnBeat Micro is one of the few budget speaker docks available with a Lightning connector for the iPhone 5 and the rest of the newest-generation Apple devices. Reviewers say it sounds louder than it looks, and although it lacks deep bass, its midrange sounds especially crisp.
The OnBeat Micro from JBL is one of the few cheap docks with a Lightning connector for the iPhone 5 and other new Apple devices. A JBL OnBeat Micro review from PC Mag declares this small speaker surprisingly loud given its dimensions. As with most speakers this size, the bass isn't very strong, the reviewer says. However, the midrange and treble sound fine and the audio suffers from little distortion when you turn up the volume. At iLounge, an OnBeat Micro review notes the good balancing of the bass, mid, and high frequencies, as well as the volume. The reviewer wasn't impressed with the five-hour battery life, though.
The JBL OnBeat Micro (starting at $100, Amazon) may have a Lightning connector to support the latest versions of Apple's iPhone, iPod Nano, and iPod Touch, but it's too small to accommodate an iPad using the dock connector. Of course, you can still connect an iPad and other devices to the OnBeat Micro through its 3.5 mm input. One draw of docking, though, is you can charge a device as you play music. This slim speaker measures 6 5/8 x 6 5/8 x 2 1/4 inches. It can run on four AAA batteries when you're on the go and comes with an AC adapter for plugging into the wall.
The JBL OnBeat Micro is a pretty solid portable speaker dock, even if it's not ideal for music fans who favor deep, thumping bass (that's true of most small speaker systems). If you've recently bought a new iPhone or iPod with a Lightning connector, this little dock is ready for it.
Vizio VSD210 Review
(From $76.00 Think Twice)
There's little doubt this speaker dock sounds good and it seems like a great value for the price. However, the frequency of reviews that report breakdowns, particularly with the 30-pin connector, gives us pause.
This speaker dock sounds good enough that some Vizio VSD210 reviews on Amazon compare it with far pricier brands. It has plenty of power, buyers say, and it's easy to use. But several Vizio VSD210 reviews gripe that the dock connector broke or stopped registering that a device was docked. Others complain about the build quality and durability of the dock in general.
Walmart customers have posted similar comments about breakdowns in Vizio VSD210 reviews on the retailer's website, although some call the dock a great value. A couple of detailed Vizio VSD210 reviews posted on Epinions also suggest the connector is unreliable. One buyer complains of exchanging the dock when the connector stopped working, only to have the second unit quit connecting about two months later, just after the warranty had expired.
The Vizio VSD210 (starting at $76, Amazon) has a built-in subwoofer in addition to the usual two speakers. It also has the familiar 30-pin dock connector that most older iPods, iPhones, and iPads use. Newer models with Lightning connectors can't be docked, although the speaker has a 3.5 mm input for plugging in those and other audio devices. The Vizio VSD210 includes a basic remote control, something the other speakers on our list can't claim. It's also large enough to accommodate an iPad comfortably, measuring 17 x 6.7 x 5.9 inches and weighing 5.4 pounds.
It's unfortunate that the Vizio VSD210 seems to have some build-quality problems, because we found very few complaints about the sound quality. Certainly not all users experience the problem with the dock connector, and even those who do can get around it by connecting their devices using the speaker's 3.5 mm input. Still, that defeats the purpose of buying a dock, and breakdowns are an issue we can't ignore.
If you can fit your entire music collection on an iPod that costs less than $250, you shouldn't need to spend more than twice that on a set of decent speakers so you can listen without earbuds. Indeed, you don't have to: Frugal shoppers will find plenty of good, cheap iPod speakers from companies such as Altec Lansing, iHome, and JBL. Anyone who has tried to find speakers for an iPod or iPhone knows there's an incredible array of options out there, from cheap iPod docks to portable speakers to alarm clocks with FM radio.
Cheap iPod/iPhone Speakers Buying Guide
If you're just starting to shop, don't let the music snobs in your life fool you. While there are certainly low-quality speakers that make music sound like it's coming from a tin can, the best cheap iPod speakers deliver plenty of boom for your buck. By all means, resist the temptation to jump on the bargain-basement deals of the no-name brands. For a price that's a steal compared with Bose and other high-end systems, you can get sound and style from a respected brand that rivals speakers costing five times more.
Our picks for the best cheap iPod/iPhone speakers are the iHome iD55 (starting at $76) and the JBL Flip (starting at $85). The iHome iD55 speaker dock, which accommodates iPads, as well, offers very good sound for its low price. The JBL Flip connects wirelessly to any device with Bluetooth and delivers excellent audio quality. We also like the OnBeat Micro from JBL (starting at $100), a small speaker dock that's surprisingly loud given its size. The portable, 2-inch Cube speaker from NuForce (starting at $99) is even smaller yet plays clean, clear audio. The Vizio VSD210 (starting at $76) sounds as good as far pricier docks, according to online reviews, but users report it has a tendency to break down.
Note that Apple doesn't make any of these cheap iPod speakers. Although some manufacturers seek reflected glory by incorporating the i-style into their marketing, these are not Apple products. Some are worth your money, others aren't; an imitation of the Apple branding in and of itself is not a seal of quality.
On the other end of the spectrum are speakers such as the Bowers & Wilkins A7 (starting at $500). Its price is jaw dropping, but so are its volume and audio quality, reviewers say. It also streams music wirelessly, via Apple's AirPlay technology, rather than relying on a cable or dock connector. The cheap iPod speakers on our list may not offer the same features or performance as the best iPod speakers, but they deliver very high quality for the price.
Here are several factors to consider before buying:
- Sound Quality. Don't expect small iPod speakers to sound like full-size speaker systems. Cheap iPod speaker docks are notorious for lacking good bass. Still, we found speakers that deliver crisp, clear sound, even at higher volumes.
- Connectivity. Is the speaker compatible with your iPod or iPhone? What about other music devices you own? Will you need an adapter or cable to connect? All the speakers we chose can connect to just about any iPod, iPhone, iPad, or MP3 player via a simple 3.5 mm cable plugged into the headphone jack. Some models we looked at are dock-style speakers with built-in connectors. At one time these would have all been 30-pin connectors, but Apple has introduced a new nine-pin Lightning connector for the latest generation of iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Be sure to note whether your device has a 30-pin or Lightning connector before buying a cheap iPod dock. The market is also moving toward wireless speakers, some of which lie within the Cheapism price range.
- Ease of Use. Our research found that cheap iPod speakers can be a bit quirky, but in general they are relatively user-friendly. Setup, controls, and navigation should be straightforward and will definitely affect your enjoyment of any iPod speaker system.
- Power and Charging. Some speakers have rechargeable batteries and others use AA or AAA batteries. These make the speakers portable, but be sure to note the expected battery life. Cheap iPod docks can also charge your device even as the music plays, although generally only when plugged into an AC outlet; battery power won't do the trick.
- Style. Cheap iPod speakers come in many shapes and sizes, from large docks to tiny blocks. This is purely a matter of personal preference.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
iHome iD55 Review
Connectivity 30-pin dock connector, 3.5 mm input
Size 15 1/3 x 6 2/3 x 3 1/5 inches, 2.64 pounds
Battery Power 4 AA batteries
|76||30-pin dock connector, 3.5 mm input||15 1/3 x 6 2/3 x 3 1/5 inches, 2.64 pounds||4 AA batteries|
JBL Flip Review
Connectivity Bluetooth, 3.5 mm input
Size 6 1/4 inches high
Battery Power Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
|85||Bluetooth, 3.5 mm input||6 1/4 inches high||Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery|
JBL OnBeat Micro Review
Connectivity Lightning dock connector, 3.5 mm input
Size 6 5/8 x 6 5/8 x 2 1/4 inches, 0.8 pounds
Battery Power 4 AAA batteries
|100||Lightning dock connector, 3.5 mm input||6 5/8 x 6 5/8 x 2 1/4 inches, 0.8 pounds||4 AAA batteries|
NuForce Cube Review
Connectivity 3.5 mm cable, USB cable, headphone output
Size 2.3 inches
Battery Power Built-in rechargeable lithium battery
|99||3.5 mm cable, USB cable, headphone output||2.3 inches||Built-in rechargeable lithium battery|
IPod Speaker Reviews: Sound Quality
Even if you don't spring for the very best speakers, you don't have to settle for cut-rate audio. IPod speaker reviews credit plenty of low-priced models with producing good sound quality. IPod and iPhone speakers worth buying are also user-friendly, reviewers say, and connect easily to a variety of devices. All our picks are portable, yet they hold up to the wear and tear that go with the territory.
Sound Quality.Despite what you may fear, you can get quality sound from an inexpensive set of iPod speakers. But remember: Size does matter. If you choose a model that's no larger than a paperback book, the volume level will be limited. Also keep in mind that MP3s and Apple's ACC files are digitally compressed, which means the music has already lost some of its sound quality (even if many people don't notice when they're listening only on earbuds). Perhaps the best-sounding speaker we researched is the JBL Flip (starting at $85). This wireless model earns high praise in several iPod speaker reviews for its crisp, clear sound. An expert from iLounge proclaims that the JBL Flip is one of the best speakers the site has ever tested, regardless of price. A reviewer from Wired was blown away by how loud it was, even as it managed to produce such high-quality audio. A CNET expert notes the particularly great sound in the midrange and says the bass isn't too shabby by small-speaker standards. Playing bass-heavy music like hip-hop starts to push the limits of the speaker's ability, but as the reviewer points out, that's pretty typical for a unit this size.
The iHome iD55 (starting at $76) may not be quite on par with the JBL Flip in terms of audio quality, but it still sounds very good, according to iPod speaker reviews, and costs considerably less. A reviewer from The Gadgeteer says this dock delivers clean and clear audio even when you turn it up loud, although the highest volume isn't quite up to party standards. At iLounge, an expert credits the SRS TruBass audio processing technology on the iHome iD55 with improving the bass on the small system. The sound in the midrange is sufficiently detailed, this iPod speaker review says, and overall the audio quality is very good considering the low price.
The tiny NuForce Cube speaker (starting at $99) gets surprisingly loud, marvels an expert from Digital Trends, and yet the audio is distortion-free. Reviewers seem to agree that the small Cube can't kick out much bass, although one from Gadget Review says this speaker is still strong enough in the lower register to add some nice depth to the audio. Like the Cube, the JBL OnBeat Micro (starting at $100) is pretty loud considering its diminutive size, according to an iPod speaker review from PC Mag, and doesn't produce very strong bass -- again, not unexpected. However, audio in higher registers sounds pleasant -- bright and detailed. This speaker also aptly balances bass, midrange, and treble, according to a reviewer at iLounge.
The Vizio VSD210 (starting at $76) doesn't seem to have shown up on experts' radars, but we found plenty of iPod speaker reviews from users who bought this dock and attest to its very good sound quality, although they don't provide many specifics. On Amazon, many compare it to far more expensive systems, calling it a great value. However, several mention a problem with the volume control: If they leave their music playing for a while and then turn it up or down with the remote, the speaker reverts back to the original volume and refuses to adjust.
IPod Dock Reviews: Ease of Use & Connectivity
You may have bought an iPod in part because it doesn't require an inch-thick manual to operate. Shouldn't your speakers also fit that profile? You'll find some iPod speakers that include extra features such as a built-in radio or alarm clock, but we focused on simpler systems that concentrate on simply playing music. That being the case, the models we chose don't have a lot of extra frills, but what they do, they do pretty well. Granted, iPod dock reviews indicate that all the models we researched have their idiosyncrasies. Some reviewers note that it takes a bit of trial and error to get all the functions to work just right. We also found occasional reports of devices not always fitting on the docks or seeming insecure. But overall, the iPod speakers on our list were declared user-friendly by expert reviewers, as well as consumers posting iPod dock reviews on various websites.
The cheap iPod speakers we researched are all pretty simple devices. In most cases, you'll either plug your player directly into a dock or use a cable that plugs into its 3.5 mm audio input. With the exception of the minimalist NuForce Cube, the speakers on our list have basic controls for playback, such as volume and so on, although most often you'll use the iPod itself to control your music (skip songs, choose playlists, etc.).
Lightning vs. 30-Pin iPod Docks.Apple's wide range of digital music players, smartphones, and tablets and frequent generational updates can make it difficult to figure out if a given speaker dock will work for your iPod, iPhone, or even iPad (although they all have 3.5 mm input jacks for connecting pretty much any audio device via a male-to-male stereo cable). Before you begin shopping, verify the model and generation of each device you own. Apple has a web page that can help. In recent months, the company has released a slew of products that use a new eight-pin Lightning connector, among them the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod Touch, and seventh-generation iPod Nano. These are not compatible with docks and other accessories designed for older iPods, iPhones, and iPads, which have 30-pin connectors. As a result, you may see iPod dock reviews declaring 30-pin iPod docks such as the iHome iD55 and Vizio VSD210 obsolete. Don't be deterred: If you use a previous-generation device such as the iPhone 4, that 30-pin connector is the one you need. If you upgrade later, you can still plug into the auxiliary input jack, just not the dock. Lightning to 30-pin adapters are also available.
IPod dock reviews suggest the 30-pin connector on the Vizio VSD210 may have bigger problems than obsolescence. Some customers posting feedback on Amazon and the Walmart website report trouble getting the connector to register that a device is docked. Both the Vizio VSD210 and the iHome iD55 are iPad speaker docks in addition to iPod/iPhone docks. A reviewer from The Gadgeteer notes that fitting an iPad onto the iHome iD55 is a bit tricky, and there isn't a lot of support for the tablet once it's there, but generally iPod dock reviews praise this model. Thirty-pin iPod docks can accommodate iPads up through the third generation; the iPad 4 has a Lightning connector.
Accessory manufacturers haven't had much time to roll out new Lightning-compatible products, so most budget iPod docks still support 30-pin connectors. JBL got a jump on the competition, coming out with some of the first Lightning speakers. If you're looking for an inexpensive iPhone 5 dock, the JBL OnBeat Micro has a Lightning connector. (It's not big enough to be an iPad speaker dock, though.)
Wireless iPod Speakers.You can bypass the connector confusion altogether with a wireless iPod speaker such as the JBL Flip, which streams music from Bluetooth-enabled devices. An iPod dock review from Wired reports that the instructions clearly illustrate how to sync the JBL Flip with a Bluetooth device, and it's easy to do. Note that the iPod Shuffle, Classic, and some older-generation iPods do not support Bluetooth. Other wireless iPod speakers use Apple's AirPlay technology instead and many go for well over our $100 cap. One example is the impressive Bowers & Wilkins A7 (starting at $500).
Portable iPod Speakers
Many iPod docks and speakers in the budget price range, including all our top picks, are small and light enough to transport easily. They also run on battery power, so you can use them anywhere -- at the beach, in an open field or campsite, or in a room where an outlet isn't handy or AC power isn't safe.
Power and Charging.The iHome iD55 portable iPod speaker system can run on four AA batteries and the JBL OnBeat Micro dock takes four AAA batteries. The diminutive NuForce Cube speaker has a built-in battery, as does the wireless JBL Flip dock. When they're plugged into the wall, the speaker docks on our list -- the iHome iD55, JBL OnBeat Micro, and Vizio VSD210 -- do double duty as chargers for docked devices. Have you ever had a room full of people ready to party and an iPod with only enough juice for a couple of songs? You can avoid this predicament with a speaker dock that charges your iPod while the music plays on (or even if the player is powered off). Note that portable iPod docks need an external AC power source in order to provide a charge, so they won't offer any juice when they're running on battery power.
The Eton Rukus Solar (starting at $120) is an unusual portable iPod speaker that takes six AA batteries and has a solar panel built into the top to keep them charged. It's equipped with Bluetooth for streaming music wirelessly. It also has a USB port so it can recharge an iPod, iPhone, or other device -- and do so anywhere without requiring an AC outlet.The Eton Rukus Solar can play essentially all day if you use it outside, as the unit's solar panel will keep the batteries charged. But with other portable iPod speakers, consumers should take note of the expected battery life. The JBL OnBeat Micro, JBL Flip, and iHome iD55 are good to go for about five hours, according to their specs. NuForce claims its little Cube can last for up to eight hours on a single charge.
iPod Speaker Size.Some of the same technological advances that shrunk your music collection into the palm of your hand have also shrunk speaker systems from half a living room to a block that fits in a backpack (or purse or suitcase). Some iPod speakers are explicitly built for portability. The NuForce Cube, for example, measures a mere 2.3 inches on all sides. NuForce doesn't say what the Cube weighs in its specifications, but it's safe to say approximately "not much." The JBL OnBeat Micro is also fairly small and portable, measuring 6 5/8 x 6 5/8 x 2 1/4 inches and weighing less than a pound. The JBL Flip is a pretty compact cylinder, measuring about 6 1/4 inches high. The iHome iD55 is considerably larger, at 15 1/3 x 6 2/3 x 3 1/5 inches, but still weighs only 2.64 pounds and is marketed as a portable iPod dock. The Eton Rukus Solar is 12 x 8 x 3.25 inches and weighs 4 pounds. These all stand in contrast to larger bookshelf speakers that are clearly designed to be stationary. The Bowers & Wilkins A7 totals about 12.5 pounds.
Additional Products We Considered
Bowers & Wilkins A7 Review
(From $500.00 )
Bowers & Wilkins is a top-notch speaker manufacturer with accordingly expensive products. These include the A7, a wireless speaker that supports Apple AirPlay. A Bowers & Wilkins A7 review from PC Mag acknowledges the speaker's steep price (starting at $500) but says the A7 is an elite system with very rich bass and loud, clear, detailed audio. At Tech Crunch, a Bowers & Wilkins A7 review concludes that this speaker is worth the money -- it simply sounds that good. It's also incredibly easy to set up, the reviewer says.
The Bowers & Wilkins A7 (starting at $500, Amazon) uses Apple's wireless AirPlay technology to stream music from Apple devices. That means it's tied to a Wi-Fi network (or Ethernet port) but can stream from any compatible device within range. The speaker also has a USB port, where you can plug in and play music from a PC and a 3.5 mm audio input for plugging in other non-Apple devices. There is no dock connector for charging. The system Bowers & Wilkins A7 a pretty powerful, 50-watt subwoofer and weighs about 10 pounds. It measures 8.6 x 14.2 x 6.3 inches, so it's not nearly as compact as the portable speakers on our list of budget options.
If you have the funds, the Bowers & Wilkins A7 is worth it, reviewers say. It's no doubt one of the best speakers for an iPod, iPhone, or iPad and can even function as an all-in-one home audio system.
Eton Rukus Solar Review
(From $120.00 )
The Eton Rukus Solar speaker system is one of the more unusual models we found. It's a solar- and battery-powered speaker that supports Bluetooth connections to MP3 players, phones, tablets, and computers. At Tech Crunch, an Eton Rukus Solar review appreciatively notes the portable system's solid build and says the E-ink display is easy to read in bright daylight. The audio quality is good but not great, according to this Eton Rukus Solar review. The treble sounds a bit sharp and, as with most portable speakers, there isn't much bass to speak of. Furthermore, this isn't an especially loud speaker.
Still, an Eton Rukus Solar review from Sound and Vision magazine reports that the built-in solar panel keeps the system going for hours and hours of playback. The reviewer found it easy to connect a device using Bluetooth and writes admiringly about the clever design. She says the midrange and treble sound clean and natural but agrees the bass is lacking. Nonetheless, she concludes that the Rukus is perfectly decent for outdoor listening. At PC Mag, another expert says the Eton Rukus Solar sounds good, but it's simply not loud enough for his taste. He also reports that connecting additional devices to the system via Bluetooth can sometimes be tricky, as the Rukus Solar will occasionally insist on trying to connect to the first device that was paired with it.
The Eton Rukus Solar (starting at $120, Amazon) can run on the solar panel, a rechargeable internal lithium battery, or a regular AC connection. Users can connect devices without Bluetooth by plugging them into the 3.5 mm audio input jack. Although the speaker doesn't have a dock connector, it includes a USB port for recharging your devices, a nice touch. The E-Ink display is a thoughtful addition to a speaker that's designed to be used outdoors, as it shows up far better in bright light than a typical LCD display. The Rukus Solar is small enough to be easily carried, measuring 12 x 8 x 3.25 inches and weighing 4 pounds.
Most cheap iPod speakers have limited battery life -- five hours before you have to put in a new set of AAs, for example. The built-in solar panel on the Eton Ruckus Solar will keep music playing all day long. It may not be quite loud enough to command everyone's attention at a neighborhood barbecue or beach party, but it's a solid and smartly designed portable speaker.