iPod & iPhone Speaker Recommendations
Because the people of Los Angeles deserve good sound
by Deborah Shadovitz with Mario Salinas (2010)
Much like the CDs reduced people’s music collections from major shelves (or multiple milk crates) to shoebox-sized containers and the iPod reduced CD collections to the size of a deck of cards, we’ve seen home speaker systems shrink greatly as well.
However, sound is the result of air being moved. That’s much easier with a large speaker in a large speaker cabinet, but a great challenge for today’s small speaker system that typically contains an iPod dock. The challenge for speaker manufacturers is to create true, clear sound within a small box. On this page we show you two speakers that we’ve tested and like. Both are by Memorex. We’ll bring you other recommendations as we have the opportunity to check them out for you.
About our speaker evaluation
The best measure of an audio playback or speaker system is:
Does the music sound like the producer of that music intended for that music to sound?
Is the sound reproduced faithfully?
Most of us can only guess what any particular music producer had in mind for his/her sounds. So we called upon Mario Salinas, a professional music producer, former owner of Milagro Sound Recorders in Glendale, California.
Mario tried these systems with his own music, music he produced — so he knows for sure what was intended to be heard.
He also tried each speaker with a range of other music in order to hear which type of music each speaker or headphone reproduced best.
The Memorex™ PartyCube™ CD Sound System
We love this speaker — for many reasons!
It’s amazingly well thought out.
It sounds great.
The size and features make it perfect for any living room, any room in your home, and also for travel. Yes, even travel to places where you won’t have power. And the cost is very reasonable, unlike many speaker/sound systems on the market.
PartyCube CD Sound System can easily fill a room with clean-sounding music without irritating distortion.
It has a crisp high end and enhanced low end while the voices sit nicely in the middle, making it a fine choice for most songs with lyrics and also for orchestral compositions. If you raise the volume to the point where you start to feel the sound like in the old big-speakers days, the music will distort. That’s not what this comfortable-sounding home speaker is for.
At the mid volumes which is easily loud enough when you’re alone enjoying the sound, the music is true to what the artists wanted you to hear. If you were to use it during a small get-together, full volume would cause your guests to have to yell to be heard and would ask you to turn the volume down.
At full volume the sound reached into every room of a one-level, two-bedroom condo. Mario felt that in a family home situation, the sound from the PartyCube wouldn’t blast the house and annoy other family members.
With great clarity on the high end and good sized speakers, it’s an excellent choice for a home or office if your choice in music is most popular music or orchestra. It’s not strong on bass though so if you’re into Hip-hop this isn’t the greatest solution for you. (But your neighbors would like you better than when they get stuck hearing your base in their walls.)
Convenient built in CD Player
Having an iPod is great. It holds a ton of music and makes it easy to get to any of your music. But what about the times when a friend brings a CD to your party, get togethers, or just to hang out?
Even with the most convenient laptop, it’s not appropriate to stop and import that music, create a new playlist, stop the party to undock your iPod and sync it. That’s inconvenient, and there’s a matter of this being illegal as well.
Having a CD player right on top to easily pop your friend’s music into is a terrific plus.
Memorex has another model of the PartyCube that doesn’t have the CD. It’s about $49 less, but we so love having the CD that we didn’t ask to try that model.
Features we love in the PartyCube™ CD Sound System
With 4 multi-directional speakers, sound emanates out of each side.
It contains a rechargeable battery so you can pick it up and take it to a picnic, on a camping trip, etc. It’s said to get eight hours of music play. We have not tested that yet.
The bottom has small silicon feet which enable it to protect and stick to a shelf.
As we’re in the Los Angeles area where the ground shakes, that’s a very helpful feature. We keep ours on a glass shelf and our PartyCube adhere’s perfectly; it’s not about to jump but we can pick it up to clean.
It charges all iPhones and iPods, as do most iPod dock speakers
It contains an AM/FM radio tuner so we don’t need yet another device, as is typical with most iPod/mp3 speaker systems. There are 5 FM and 5 AM presets (top left).
AM and FM antennas are included. The AM antenna is shorter than the speaker so it can be discreetly placed out of sight behind the unit.
It has a built-in CD player on top, so again we don’t need yet another device like with most iPod/mp3 speaker systems.
It has a backlit display so you can see your radio station, track number, etc.
We love the way the dock is built, too. Because iPod models vary in thickness, Memorex has brilliantly placed a flat knob behind where the iPod sits. No need to change out backing panels or risk the iPod sitting too loosely. Simply turn the knob to bring the backing closer to the iPod providing more support for your iPod, or turn it the other way to make more room for the iPod.
Of course there is a line-in jack so you can connect other mp3 players, or other digital audio devices. (We connect an original FireWire iPod, keeping that iPod in use.)
The only downside is that if you’re into having a remote you’re out of luck. To turn the volume down or switch playlists, you’ll need to step up to it.
But is it really that awful to have to get up from your couch to turn down the volume when you answer the phone? These days, most of us need any excuse to get up off our butts. Actually though, this unit will nicely fit on an end table for those who want it to be within reach.
The PartyCube™ CD Sound System is by Memorex™ and comes in both White and Charcoal Black.
MSRP is $149.99
You can learn more about this speaker at the official Memorex product page for the PartyCube CD Sound System or its product support page. Unfortunately, we cannot find technical specs for this speaker anywhere on the Memorex site.
The Memorex™ Tagalong™ Portable Boombox — for iPod or iPhone
The Tagalong is well designed to do just that — tag along with you where ever you go. Memorex designed it as one solid piece, including the handle. It’s a great option for a teenager; it provides a good volume for a teen’s room and can easily be taken to a friend’s, brought outdoors, or dragged along on a picnic or to the pool or beach.
Unlike many other portable speakers, combination of it’s solid handle and the generous backing behind where the iPod or iPhone sits, enable you to pick this up and take it with you without risking damage to the iPod or the speaker’s docking hardware. An iPhone sticks up less than an inch above the backing, leaving plenty of room for even an adult’s hand to carry the speaker, so it remains highly portable while protecting your beloved iPhone.
Memorex’s brilliant knob, shown on the left, sits behind the iPod/iPhone and is the perfect back rest for your iPod or iPhone. Simply turn the knob to bring it closer to the iPod providing more support for your iPod, or turn it the other way to make more room for the iPod.
This now enables us to use our iPod’s touchscreen without compromising the docking device or the iPod’s dock connector.
The speakers on this portable speaker system are designed for popular music that has vocals. The lower mid-range is enhanced (probably boosted at about 1200hz) which gives the voice a strong emphasis. The background music is clear but not in the way of the vocals.
If you really like/listen to orchestra and want something for your home or office, go with the Memorex PartyCube instead. (The PartyCube without the CD, is just $99. Although we have not reviewed it, we expect it has sound similar to it’s CD counterpart.) If you’re into pop or rock, the Tagalong will be comfortable. If your music choice is Hip-hop, this isn’t the best speaker system for you.
Features we love in the Tagalong
- At just 6.7″ x 3.5″ x 8.7″ with a built in handle, it’s easy to pick up and take anywhere.
- It can run on 4 AA A batteries.
- The electrical plug is relatively small and thin, and faces sideways so it doesn’t hog your power outlet.
- Silicon feet protect your furniture and help the speaker from sliding around. (A smaller unit, these feet don’t keep the Tagalong in place as with the PartyCube.
- It charges all iPhones and iPods, as do most iPod dock speakers
- It contains an AM/FM radio tuner so we don’t need yet another device, as is typical with most iPod/mp3 speaker systems. There are 3 FM and 3 AM presets (on the front). (FM antenna is included.)
- It has a backlit display so you can see your radio station, track number, etc.
- Memorex has brilliantly placed a flat knob behind where the iPod sits. There’s no need to change out backing panels or risk the iPod sitting too loosely.
- There is a line-in jack so you can connect other mp3 players, or other digital audio devices.
Designed for portability, the speakers on the Tagalong are not large, reducing it’s ability to produce low end sound as faithfully as the PartyCube CD Sound System. But it’s not meant for that finer reproduction. There’s no remote, but as this is always within reach a remote would add unnecessary cost.
The Tagalong™ Portable Boombox is by Memorex™ and comes in both White and Charcoal Black. (Our photo of the white Tagalong doesn’t do justice to it’s color.)
MSRP is $59.99
SRP is $59.99
You can learn more about this speaker at the official Memorex product page for this speaker or its product support page. Unfortunately, we cannot find technical specs for this speaker anywhere on the Memorex site.