The Good The spiffy retro Oregon Scientific iBall is a compact wireless speaker system that's easy to set up, has decent range, and delivers solid sound quality for a wireless device. The two-piece device comes with rechargeable batteries and can be used with other audio devices in tandem with an iPod.
The Bad The pricey Oregon Scientific iBall suffers from some background interference during playback, and its graphical interface can be difficult to decipher. The device, which is not truly portable since the transmitter needs to be plugged in, could also use a detachable remote control.
The Bottom Line While not perfect and a bit pricey, the Oregon Scientific iBall is a nice way to make your iPod tunes available at a party.
Oregon Scientific iBall
Oregon Scientific iBall
Aside from being the dominant--if not the coolest--consumer electronics item, the iPod has created a cottage industry of devices designed to work seamlessly with the iconic MP3 player. Among the latest entries is Oregon Scientific's iBall wireless speaker system. Although it has some flaws, the reasonably portable iBall makes for a good device to use at parties. At $300, however, it's not cheap.
The Oregon Scientific iBall is a combination of a 2.4GHz wireless speaker and a transmitter dock. The speaker itself is a white orb that looks like a 1970s version of futuristic design--think something out Sleeper. You connect your iPod to the transmitter dock, which comes with docking trays for all iPod iterations. For owners of the iPod Nano, Oregon Scientific will even send you a free docking tray, though it's not included with the package; Shuffle owners can use the device's line-in jack. We connected our without a problem. For the speaker, the package also comes with six rechargeable batteries (they automatically recharge while the speaker is plugged in) and a wall-mount kit.
On top of the speaker is a small control panel, which includes buttons for power, play/pause, fast-forward/rewind, volume controls, sound mode/clock set, and mute. The control panel looks like it should pop out to become a wireless remote; sadly, it doesn't, though it's nice that the speaker itself serves as the iPod remote. The front of the speaker features a blue-backlit LCD, which indicates volume level and whether the device recognizes an iPod connection. All indicators are graphically represented by a series of dots, which can make deciphering menu options a bit tricky. It's also weirdly retro, given that this is a wireless system meant to be paired with the epitome of high-tech elegance.