If you have a favorite animal, chances are you can now find it in the form of an iPod speaker. We've seen everything from pigs and pandas to cats and dogs. Heck, even insect-lovers are not left out in the cold, thanks to Vestalife's and Ladybug speaker docks. The Ladybug goes for $110 and rather outshines its cousin in design and sound quality. For those who are after a different-looking portable speaker with a reasonable smattering of extra, this unit could fit the bill.
Despite the obvious fact that the Vestalife Ladybug is modeled after a cutesy insect, the speaker is not overtly adorable. When the wings containing the speaker modules are folded in, the unit forms a compact ball (roughly 6 inches in diameter) that appears to have a rather unhappy face on the front, with the drivers acting as eyes and the hinges at the base of the wings looking a bit like jowls. Unfolding the wings reveals a central iPod dock, for which Vestalife includes five snap-on adapters for the various iPods. Beneath the cradle are the unit's only integrated controls: power and volume buttons. Playback controls are found on the included remote, which can play/pause, shuttle through tracks, adjust volume, switch between shuffle and repeat modes, and navigate among menus.
The Ladybug's various paint jobs are of its own whim, rather than being styled to match the iPod. There are four basic models: all red, all silver, red/black, and silver/black (the last two have black speaker grilles). Vestalife also teamed up with Element Skateboards to offer two limited edition versions, which are black (with a skull-and-crossbones graphic) and blue (with a paisley-and-flower graphic). The Element-branded speakers cost about $15 more than the standard versions--but we think it's worth it if you're after a touch more style (or buying the unit for your board-sporting teen).
Flipping the Ladybug around and checking out the backside reveals the majority of its features, as well as a 3-inch subwoofer concealed beneath a metal speaker grille. A variety of ports line the bottom edge of the subwoofer, including the standard DC jack for powering the unit via the wallwart adapter. In addition, there's a mini-USB port for pass-through syncing, an AV out jack, and an auxiliary line input for using the speaker with the iPod Shuffle and non-iPod MP3 players (cable included). The bottom of the unit conceals a battery compartment that takes four AA batteries for true portable use. The Ladybug does not offer an alarm function or an FM tuner.
If there's one certainty with the Vestalife Ladybug speaker, it's that it offers considerably better sound quality than its only slightly cheaper cousin, the. Still, audio is not great across all genres; hard rock and alternative rock in particular come through with a slight muffled quality and the bass is muddy. Also, the quality of sound is highly dependent on how you are positioned from the speaker--it's best if you sit directly centered in front of it. All that being said, low-key hip-hop from the likes of Common and The Roots sounds good, with reasonable clarity and an acceptable amount of bass. Other genres also sound just fine. The volume level of the speakers is appropriate for a dorm room, bedroom, or office, but likely wouldn't be sufficient for a larger space.