If you're an iPod owner searching for a way to share tunes, there's no shortage of iPod speakers from which to choose. The problem is distinguishing them from one another, and one of the easiest ways is to look for something with a unique or innovative design. Creative Labs manages to do both with the TravelSound i50 for Shuffle, an ultracompact speaker that sells for $60 and gets surprisingly loud. It's only compatible with second- and third-generation iPod Shuffles and it doesn't sound great, but it's cute and travel-friendly, so it's still a solid choice for frequent-fliers with an eye for design.
Clearly, the standout is the TravelSound i50's design. It's very similar to that of the TravelSound i80, which is made exclusively for the third-generation Nano. The bulk of the unit is composed of high-gloss white plastic, but the front is wrapped in a nice-looking, brushed silver speaker grille made from anodized aluminum. A power switch and a standard mini USB port for charging line the right edge of the speaker, while the top features a dock of sorts for the iPod Shuffle. The cradle features a 3.5mm plug and a stabilizing tip that fits through the Shuffle's clip and serves to keep it in place. With the player in place, the entire thing measures 4.5 inches tall by 1.7 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep, which makes it perfectly portable for nearly any scenario. Along with the speaker, Creative includes a power adapter and a carabiner clip that attaches to a slot on the back of the unit.
Performance for the TravelSound i50 is mixed. On the one hand, it gets shockingly loud for a speaker of this size. Also, the rated battery life of 15 hours is plenty adequate, and the fact that it charges the Shuffle while plugged in is nice. However, sound quality isn't great. Although audio comes through clear and unmuffled, music overall suffered from the hollow, tinny effect often heard in speakers this size. As one might expect, bass does not thump, but it isn't entirely absent, which is surprising--in a good way. Finally, don't expect any stereo separation here, because you won't get it.