Creative TravelDock 900
Creative offers many variations on its MP3 player-friendly speaker sets. The TravelDock 900 ($79.99) is one of the smallest, and it's geared toward people with flash MP3 players. Overall, it can hold its own in its weight class, but it's designed more for portability than anything else. The performance is better than you might imagine of speakers in this price range--just don't expect thumpin' sound.
When the top of the Creative TravelDock 900 is open, its simple design is pleasing to the eye. Two drivers are spaced a few inches apart, on either side of a small dock area for flash players. This dock area consists of simple 3.5mm plug, which is standard for most headphone jacks; lightweight flash players plug right into it. An auxiliary line input and a standard audio cable are included for heavier MP3 players and laptops. When the lid is closed, however, this unit resembles a white, oblong mussel shell that never seems to close all the way. It's not ugly; it just seems awfully clunky for a unit with only two drivers. Still, travelers should have no problem making room for it in their messenger bags and suitcases. It measures 6.0 by 2.5 by 1.7 inches when closed and weighs just 9.11 ounces (without batteries).
Along the back of the Creative TravelDock 900, you'll find a few useful ports and features. On the far left is a universal USB adapter that lets you simultaneously play and charge an iPod Shuffle (if the speakers are plugged in to DC power). To the right are the auxiliary line input, the Wide Stereo Effect switch (more on this below), and the DC power jack. However, a power adapter is not included.
Like most entries in Creative's latest travel line, such as the, the TravelDock 900 features a stereo-expansion function--just flip the switch on the back of the unit, and all of a sudden, your stereo field seems wider. It's an illusion, of course--you're not going to get much stereo separation from speakers mere inches apart, but it works rather well, and it's the strongest feature this little guy has to offer.
The performance was a nice surprise. Though the TravelDock 900's drivers are identical to most of those in the Creative line, there are only two of them, and the likelihood that they could handle high audio levels seemed low. Sure enough, distortion occurred at superhigh volume levels; however, at reasonable levels, these speakers sounded just about as good or better than anything in their $80 price range. Plus, the rated battery life of 32 hours from the four included AAA batteries is nothing to frown at. The Creative TravelDock 900 won't knock your socks off, but it may be the choice for folks looking for the easiest way to connect their flash-based MP3 players to portable speakers.