One look at the Bushnell Web site and it is immediately apparent for whom the company makes its products. There's plenty of cool tech on the site, but it's aimed at a niche market of outdoor enthusiasts (admittedly, a pretty substantial niche), which means we here at CNET don't often find Bushnell products gracing our desks. Fortunately for any of you hikers, bikers, and campers out there, we recently had an excuse to try one of the company's products: the TravelTunes Portable Speakers for iPod ($169.99), a rugged, weather resistant unit just itching to accompany you on your next outing.
Like big tires? If so, you'll probably be keen on the Bushnell TravelTunes' design--the unit is wrapped with tire-tread-like trim. This is probably quite effective at protecting the speaker from falls of several feet, though we don't recommend throwing the thing to the ground. The rest of the unit is just as toughly built, with weather-resistant rubber buttons and a flap covering the ports on the back (power in, headphone out, and auxiliary line-in). There's even a thick piece of rubber in the back of the central, recessed iPod dock that flips down to protect the 30-pin connector. So you can be pretty rough with the unit--even leave it outside overnight--and it should withstand the abuse. Just remember: there's no protection included for the iPod itself, so you'll want to store and transport the player separately.
At 14x7x3.5 inches, the TravelTunes is too large for frequent fliers but is the perfect size for picnics and camping. A compartment in the back takes eight C batteries (not included) for powering the speaker sans an outlet, and a built-in kickstand-cum-handle makes it easy to transport. A power button and a volume toggle sit on the top edge of the unit, or you can use the included remote, which also has a play/pause button and track shuttle keys. The remote feels rather cheap to us, and it was a bit unresponsive in testing, working from only about 12 feet away--and then only if it was pointed precisely at the center of the speaker. Still, it's better than nothing. Bushnell also includes several dock adapters for the various iPods, and if you provide your own stereo patch cable, you can connect other MP3 players.
We would have liked to see some bass-adjustment feature on the TravelTunes, as music played through the speakers could use more kick on the low end. But bass isn't totally nonexistent, and in fact, these speakers offered nicely balanced sound on the whole, with rich mids and sparkly highs. We did notice a bit of background hiss at lower volumes, and there was noticeable distortion at high volumes. So if you like to blast your tunes, this isn't the unit for you. But if you're the outdoorsy type who wants an iPod speaker that can withstand the elements, don't overlook the TravelTunes.