Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Portable Audio: Creative's TravelSound Travel Speakers
Posted by Jason Dunn in "HARDWARE" @ 09:30 AM
One of the things I don't like about my current laptop, a Fujitsu P5010D, is that the speakers just aren't very loud. With it's wide, crisp 12" screen, it's perfect for DVD playback but the lack of audio punch makes watching DVDs practical only when using headphones. So I set out looking for a set of external speakers that would connect to the laptop and give me more audio, yet still be small enough to easily travel with me. My first attempt was a set of small $20 un-powered Sony speakers that were touted as being a walkman accessory – the audio level was no louder than what my laptop could produce (being un-powered was my first clue that they wouldn't be sufficient).
Next I tried a much more expensive solution: the Creative TravelSound speakers. At $75 CND, this was more than I was comfortable spending, but I knew I could return it if I wasn't happy. Here's a quick Photo Review of the Creative TravelSound speakers, an accessory appropriate for any type of portable audio device, including a Pocket PC and Smartphone.<!>
Figure 1: The Creative TravelSound is quite small and very portable. It comes with a nylon pouch for travelling. The pouch is nothing special, but it does the job.
Figure 2: I liked the fit and finish of the speakers – the silver and black looks sharp. Creative opted for no speaker covers, which is a good decision given the need to eek out every last decibel from these.
Figure 3: The Creative TravelSound connected to the headphone jack on my laptop. How does it sound? Compared to the built-in speakers, loud! The audio is crisp and clear, with strong high and mid tones. Given the size of the speakers, it's not surprising that there's little to no bass response. One thing that I'd like to see added is some sort of a removable plastic mounting bracket – it's a bit disorienting to have the audio coming from one side or another, so I'd like to see a way for the speakers to mount to the LCD screen of the laptop. This may or may not be practical based on the weight of the speakers, but it sure would be cool to see.
Two other features worth noting: there's a normalization button on top, less useful with a TV signal, but more aimed at an MP3 player with songs that might have different audio levels. There's also the line-in jack, for connecting your device, and a headphone jack, which I find a bit curious. I'm having a hard time imaging a scenario where someone would prefer to connect the headphones to the Creative TravelSound instead of the headphone jack on the audio device itself. Perhaps the TravelSound would amplify the signal beyond what the original device can put out.
Figure 4: The base of the unit is where the four AAA batteries are located, so the unit is weighted towards the bottom. This makes positioning the speaker simple, and the swivel-mount allows you to position the speakers at whatever angle suits you best. Shown here, I have the speakers connected to my Shuttle ST62K – I didn't have any other speakers set up, so I connected these in a pinch. I ended up keeping them in place for several weeks and several sets of batteries. The TravelSound has a power input for AC power, but the unit doesn't come with an AC adaptor – I imagine it's available separately.
Figure 5: The Creative TravelSound connected to my Dell Axim X30 - it worked quite wel!
The Creative TravelSound speakers are the perfect solution for what I was looking for: small, easy to pack speakers that still proved to have much more audio punch that what my laptop can accomplish alone. They're a bit pricey, and I wish you'd get an AC adaptor for that price, but from a design standpoint the speakers deliver quite well. They can be purchased from Amazon.com for $64.99 USD, and also include a short minjack to minijack audio cable. [Affiliate]