In the spirit of offering a speaker set for every player in its Zen line, Creative has launched the TravelSound Zen Stone, an ultracompact unit made for the Zen Stone and Zen Stone Plus. It may not be the loudest speaker on the block -- and don't expect thumping bass -- but if you're looking for a travel-friendly companion for your Zen Stone, the AU$49.95 TravelSound fits the bill.
At 58 by 172 by 30mm, the TravelSound Zen Stone won't take up too much space in your carry-on. The unit comes in glossy black or white, which matches the Stone's finish nicely. The players in the corresponding colours blend right in with the speaker, but the other colours really pop and look even better -- so it's a shame that the full complement of colours aren't available on Australian Stones and Stone Pluses. The Stone dock sits front and centre and situates the player so that it's flush with the speaker. One gripe here is that because the power button for the Zen Stone Plus is located on the top of the device, you have to remove the player from the dock in order to turn it on and off -- it's a bit of a pain. However, the Plus-less Stone doesn't have this issue, since the power key is on the front of that player.
On either side of the player dock are two, 1.2-inch micro-drivers. These silver-accented circles have no grille and so are left open to damage from protruding objects -- something to keep in mind, as Creative doesn't include a protective carrying case. The top edge of the TravelSound houses the only control: an on/off switch. Next to this, there's an LED that lights up if the unit is powered on. A battery compartment, which takes two AAA batteries (a set is included and should be good for 21 hours), is built into the back of the device. Unfortunately, this is the only way to power the TravelSound, as there's no jack for a wall adapter. Below the battery compartment, there's a handy kickstand for propping up the unit.
As you might expect from a speaker unit that's about the size of a cordless phone handset, low-end response isn't fantastic, but we could at least detect the bass and kick drum during music playback. Still, rap came across pretty flat. However, most other music sounded just fine and actually was plenty enjoyable. The TravelSound is quite capable of providing crystal-clear audio with no muffling, and music doesn't have the tinny quality that one usually suffers from in most speaker units of this size. And despite not having dedicated volume controls, the device gets reasonably loud -- enough to fill a small to medium size room with no more than a handful of people in it. For all of these reasons, the TravelSound Zen Stone would make a fine accoutrement for any hotel room.