In a market overflowing with iPod accessories, manufacturers have to rise to the challenge of making their products stand out from the crowd. This is particularly true for portable speakers, which can be found in abundance across the Web. The latest from Memorex, dubbed simply a Foldable Travel Speaker, isn't much of a standout offering. But its affordable price tag ($59.99), relatively compact size, and simple aesthetic will certainly appeal to some. Sound quality, however, fails to impress.
Out of the box, Memorex includes the Travel Speaker (in your choice of white or black), a padded travel pouch, a charging cable, and documentation. The speaker is constructed entirely of plastic, so don't expect a luxe feel. On the plus side, this fact no doubt contributes to the unit's light weight--handy indeed for the overstuffed travel pack. Folded flat, the speaker measures 9 by 6.3 by 1.2 inches, which isn't the smallest we've seen, but compact enough to fit easily in a purse or backpack. The silver speaker grille forms a squared off "U" around the back of the base and can be flipped up for better directional sound.
As with any travel-specific speaker, the Memorex unit offers a battery charging option, though you'll have to provide your own batteries. A compartment for 4 AA cells is concealed on the underside of the base, while the back of the unit houses the DC power jack. Here, you'll also find an auxiliary line input for connecting the iPod Shuffle or any other MP3 player. Of course, the Travel Speaker also accepts any docking iPod via a cradle built into the front, although Memorex does not provide any snap on adapters, so you may not get the most secure fit. On the plus side, the unit will charge your iPod while it's docked.
In fact, the Memorex Travel Speaker is predictably light on extras of any kind. There are volume buttons as well as basic playback controls (FF/RW and play/pause) on either side of the iPod dock, but no remote comes in the box. As an added bonus, you get a digital clock on the front of the unit, but it doesn't offer an alarm feature. A bit surprising, as it seems like an easy enough addition once the clock is already built in.
Given the price point and size of the Travel Speaker, we weren't expecting much in terms of sound quality. The unit didn't do much to surprise us, but audio doesn't sound terrible. Music comes through sounding quite clear with no distortion or background hiss, and the speaker gets surprisingly loud for its size. However, our praise ends there. As is common in portable speakers, audio sounds quite thin and is completely lacking in bass. Also, the volume levels are not very incrementally defined. That is, there are only eight levels to choose from, one of them being mute, and the two up from there are hardly audible. This was more of an annoyance than the mediocre overall sound quality.