Portable Speaker System Employs Genius Features

Introducing The iSpeaker

Here's a twist on the conventional MP3 player that the CRN Test Center thought was worthy of note. Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Genius in late January began shipping a line of rechargeable, amplified speakers that incorporate some interesting and unusual features. The speakers range from $25 to $45 list price, and should be a relatively easy add-on sale with anything that outputs media audio.

It's not really called the iSpeaker, but a look at the controls might offer clues about what this new device does. Read on to learn why you should be carrying the new Genius SP line of amplified speakers.

USB Music Stick

The high-end SP-i300 ($45) plays MP3 and WMA audio files right from a USB stick. Of course, it also amplifies sound from a user's existing iPod, iPad, smartphone, laptop or other media player, and like all three products in the Genius mini-portable speaker line, the 1.5-inch speaker puts out two watts of sound, powered by a lithium ion battery that lasts up to eight hours and recharges in less than two. We verified the second claim in tests; a recharge from empty to full took about 1:45. However, we got less than four hours of playback in tests. The i300 is available in black and yellow. Control buttons include play/pause button, skip/fast forward and previous track/rewind. The mode button switches between MP3/WMA (the default) and auxilliary input. Volume and power are controlled by a transistor-radio style dial, complete with a click to indicate on and off.

Bass Response

If a little more bass is your thing, the SP-i177 ($28) has a 40-mm bass driver, which (according to claims) puts out stronger bass response. However, published specs and our (admittedly subjective) sound tests don't quite bear this out. The published frequency response of the i177 is 180-20,000 Hz, while that of the i300 is 130-22,000 Hz. Let's face it folks, a sub-two inch speaker isn't going to move much air, and neither of those specs is particularly good, bass-wise. The i177's speaker measures 1.57 inches (40mm); other models include a 1.5-inch speaker.

Surround Yourself In Sound

Genius speakers incorporate a clever wiring scheme that enables them to infinitely daisy-chain one to another. Each includes a three-connector cable with USB, mini-USB and stereo mini, which work together to provide power, charge, and carry music signals from media players to a speaker, and from one speaker to an infinite line of others. What's also nice is that when speakers are chained, the volume control of the individual speakers all work, but the control of the first speaker also can control them all.

Big iPod Sound

Shown here with an iPod for scale is the i170 ($25), which shares the same output specs as the i300 but lacks the ability to decode media files (it's also available in pink). All of the speakers in the Genius line employ a two-color LED to indicate battery and operational status. Battery modes include low, charging and charged; operation modes include on, off and for the i300, searching for and playing media. All devices also include a velvet carrying pouch.