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An iPod speaker is a great investment if you want to rock out with friends--unless you and your friends prefer to dance around with headphones on, like those silhouetted party people in Apple’s print ads. iLuv’s iSP100 is portable, compact, and takes regular AAA batteries, so there’s no need to tote along an AC adapter or charger. But the anemic sound it produces might have you reconsidering that “let’s all just put our headphones on and dance around” idea.
The iSP100's portability and long battery life are plusses. But if you're looking for anything beyond the quietest sound, your $35 might be better invested in some midrange earbuds.
It's nice and small, but unfortunately, so is its sound output.
To be fair, sometimes you might not want a lot of sound. Say you’re sunbathing, and you don’t want to risk “earbud tan.” Place the iSP100 at the head of your towel, turn it about halfway up, and its cone of sound will be barely noticeable by fellow beachgoers mere yards away. Other than that, or the occasional phone booth dance party, we can’t think of many killer scenarios for a speaker this wimpy. While we had it playing on the counter of a small kitchen, for example, it was hard to hear the music clearly even across the room, and when the fridge motor clicked on and vegetables were being chopped, our songs were pretty much drowned out unless we turned both the iPod and the speaker all the way up.
The oval-shaped, éclair-size iSP100 houses two speakers that iLuv claims provide surround sound via the company’s jAura acoustic speaker technology. The music, although quiet, sounded all right—not enough bass, somewhat flat-sounding highs, but respectable for the speaker’s size, and we didn’t hear bothersome distortion until it was cranked to the max. As for surround sound, we didn’t notice it. Another problem is the buttons: The on/off button protrudes from the speaker a bit and kept getting pressed accidentally by other items in our laptop bag, turning the speaker back on and wasting battery life. The only other buttons are volume up and volume down, but there’s no indicator to show if you’ve got it up (or down) all the way. There’s no battery indicator either, but battery life was impressive--we got 12 hours of full-blast music out of one set of generic alkalines.