Targus, maker of protective bags and cases for laptops and other gadgets, is making its first foray into the digital audio space with the SoundUp, a sound enhancer and headphone splitter for iPods and other MP3 players. The device's closest competition is the Creative Xmod, but at $39.99 the SoundUp costs about half as much. However, the Xmod actually makes music sound better, whereas the SoundUp seems to merely open the sound and amp it up. Still, if you're looking to share music with a friend without diminishing amplification, the SoundUp does the trick.
At 3 inches by 1.5 inches by 0.4 inch, the Targus SoundUp won't add too much bulk to your portable audio setup. However, it's about the size of most compact flash players--bigger even than some--so it does double what you have to carry with you. A built-in belt clip, which is attached to the battery cover on the back of the device, helps keep the unit out of the way during use. It comes with one AAA battery, but the one in our package was dead right out of the box. The top edge of the SoundUp features dual headphone jacks, so you can share your music with a friend without diminishing the amplification from your player. There's also a dedicated volume knob on the side for adjusting levels to your liking.
As far as performance, the SoundUp does OK, though the sound enhancement is not exceptional. Unlike the Xmod, which uses a formula to fill in missing data in the low and high frequencies of digital files, the SoundUp merely splits and reprocesses the file. The overall effect is louder, more open-sounding music...that sounds processed. Perhaps not much more so than the original file, but in the end, it's not really creating a stellar improvement. Still, if you want a wider listening experience--and you frequently share with a friend--this is a decent option at just $40.