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Christmas Gift Guide
Audio

A unique iPod speaker

Tristan Zimmermann's iPod speaker is an all-acoustic device; you don't plug it into an AC power outlet, and it doesn't run on batteries! It acoustically "amplifies" the sound of earbuds for personal listening.

The Phonofone II Tristan Zimmermann

I'm no fan of iPod speakers; most of the ones I hear at the CNET offices tend to sound pretty awful. But Tristan Zimmermann's Phonofone II iPod speaker is just so cool I couldn't resist writing about it. The ceramic device uses what looks like a miniature horn modeled after an old-fashioned Victrola.

Conceptually the Phonofone II owes a lot to the earliest pure acoustic record players that made sound without electrical amplification. I have heard some of those sound remarkably good. Victor-Victrolas were made from 1901 to 1929.

According to Unica Home's Web site the Phonofone II "... boosts the audio output of standard earphones to up to 55 decibels (or roughly the maximum volume of laptop speakers) upon connecting active earphones to the Phonofone their trebly buzzing is instantly and profoundly transformed into a warm, rich and resonant sound." In other words the horn acoustically amplifies the sound of the earbud/headphone driver.

Hmm, 55 decibels isn't at all loud, and I'm clueless about what this thing sounds like, but I love the idea of the Phonofone II. It's being offered as a limited-edition piece for $500. It's available in black or white and measures 11 by 9.5 by 20 inches.

I'm not sure how the sound is transmitted from the earbuds to the horn. Tristan Zimmermann