One of several problems that can plague portable speakers is a lack of stereo separation. The easiest way to remedy this issue is to create a design where each speaker driver is actually housed in a separate unit, so the left and right channels can be placed some distance from one another. Sony implements this technique in its SRS-M50 Portable Speakers, a compact set that retails for $49.99, and there's no doubt the unit offers better separation than most ultraportable speakers. In fact, overall sound quality is pretty decent, the style is likable, and the design lends well to portable use, all of which make the SRS-M50 a great option for frequent fliers.
The design of the SRS-M50 Portable Speakers isn't anything shockingly new, although it has some handy touches. For instance, each speaker unit sits on a pair of legs, which feature tabs and slots that allow the two boxes to be snapped together during storage and transport. Unfortunately, Sony neglected to include a carrying case for these times. Batteries are also not contained in the package, though you do have the option of running the speakers off of three AAAs. Otherwise, you can utilize wall power via the included AC adapter.
The SRS-M50 is comprised of two 39mm full-range, magnetically shielded drivers, meaning it should work flawlessly with music phones (that is, with no interference). Each driver is housed in its own "bass reflex" enclosure, which measures 3.1 inches tall by 2.7 inches across by 2.6 inches deep--not the most compact we've seen, but plenty small enough to transport in a carry-on. The speakers are connected by a 32-inch cable, and another slightly shorter cable coming off the left channel terminates in a 3.5mm straight plug for attaching any standard music player. The left box also includes a DC input, a power switch, and a volume knob, while the right houses a battery compartment in the back. The speakers come in three slightly metallic color options--pink, black, and white--although the housing is actually plastic.
During testing, we were pretty pleased with the performance SRS-M50 Portable Speakers. Volume, which depends on both the controls of your audio source and the speakers themselves, cranks loud without any distortion. As noted earlier, stereo separation is very impressive for a portable set, and it helps with the overall sound quality, which--while far short of stellar--is plenty good for speakers of this size. All genres of music sound clear and offer a tiny bit of thump. Audio doesn't exactly sound rich, but nor is it tinny and hollow. All in all, the listening experience is more than passable for hotel rooms and offices.