SkyMall Monday: Pillow Speaker

SkyMall Monday pillow speakerWhile some people enjoy falling asleep to the soothing sounds of music or the television, the noise can disturb others. Whether you’re at home trying to sleep next to your spouse who prefers peace and quiet or on a plane where you want some background noise to drawn out the passengers around you but also don’t want to disturb them, trying to sleep while also listening to music can be a challenge. I know that I enjoy listening to music while sleeping on planes but I also don’t want to be that guy providing a soundtrack for everyone within five rows. So, finding a way to listen to music, sleep and do it all discreetly is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an economy class seat. Thankfully, SkyMall knows that headphones can be uncomfortable when you’re sleeping and people prefer to rest their heads on their own pillows. That’s why they sell a product that combines the sleep benefits of a pillow with the audio abilities of speakers. That’s right, it’s the Pillow Speaker.It may be easy to sleep with headphones in your ears while you are seated upright on a plane, but that isn’t the case when you’re laying in bed or curled in a first class lay-flat seat. That’s where the Pillow Speaker comes in. You simply plug your iPod into the pillow, rest your head as you normally would and enjoy your music through the speaker built right inside. Who doesn’t want audio components stuffed into their pillows? You can’t spell comfortable without treble*.

Think that listening through headphones is the only polite way to enjoy your music when other people are around? Think that pillows should only be filled with feathers? Well, while you toss and turn all night, we’ll be dreaming about the product description:

No batteries or ear-buds are necessary — you can use the MP3 Pillow Speaker to enjoy music or TV without disturbing others. A great gift for teens or adults, the MP3 Pillow Speaker also helps relieve stress and tension as you drift off to sleep listening to soothing sounds from your audio source.

One must assume that the speakers maximum volume is quite low if it won’t be disturbing anyone around you. That, or since everyone else around you will have the headphones on, they won’t hear your pillow. You’ll be free to relieve stress and tension as you drift off to sleep listening to the soothing sounds of Gwar.

Don’t torture your ears with uncomfortable earbuds. Fall asleep listening to your favorite music while also enjoying your own pillow thanks to the Pillow Speaker. Just don’t turn the volume up too loud or listen to audiobooks of trashy romance novels while in public.

* Not at all true.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Soundmatters foxL v2 pocket sized music system review

If you like a bit of music when you travel, then chances are you already carry a small speaker, or even a docking base for your device. In this review, I’ll introduce you to the Soundmatters foxL v2 and explain why it is the definitive perfect speaker for travelers.

The Soundmatters foxL v2 pocket sized music system is a small battery powered Bluetooth enabled speaker unlike anything I have ever reviewed. Yes – we have featured travel friendly speakers here on Gadling before, but none of them get even remotely close to the performance of the foxl.

So – what makes this speaker so special? For starters – Soundmatters is a professional grade audio company. Their lineup of products relies heavily on their own patented technology, and all their products have years of research behind them. The foxl speaker is no different.

The basic specifications of the foxL v2 are impressive: Stereo “twoofer” speakers, built in lithium-Ion battery pack, built in kick stand, integrated BassBattery bass booster, USB charging option and an optional Bluetooth enabled version with Stereo music streaming and “business class” hands-free.

On the front of the foxL are its two main speakers, and on the rear (behind the kickstand/grille) is a bass booster (with subwoofer performance). And trust me when I say that this is not just there for show. On the rear is also the power switch and 2 volume buttons.

On the Bluetooth enabled version, an LED/button on the front of the unit enable pairing mode, and show Bluetooth status.

On the left side of the unit are the line-in and power-in jacks, and on the right is a USB charging port and a subwoofer output (which is a good hint that this is not your ordinary speaker).

The foxL package comes extremely complete – inside the box is an AC charger, an assortment of international plugs (a very nice touch), a carrying case, non-slip mat (more on that in a moment), a wrist strap and a USB charging cable.

Battery life is rated at 5 hours – which is quite astounding, given how well this thing performs. Amazingly, Soundmatters actually managed to turn the battery into part of the subwoofer assembly – dubbed BassBattery/Flatmagic.With the volume nice and loud, you can actually feel the bass if you hold your hand in front of the grille.

The speakers on the front are specially designed and patented by Soundmatters – these 25mm Linear Magnetic Drive speakers are “Twoofers” (tweeters that also woof).

The included lanyard also works perfectly as a neck strap, which is a great way to carry it around if you just want some tunes on a hike (pictured above is one of the Soundmatters staff members who took his speaker to Alaska, providing music for everyone on his team).

So – now on to the most important part of the Soundmatters foxL v2 – its audio performance. There really is no other way to describe it – the foxL is unbelievable. I spent my first ten minutes with the foxL just staring at it, wondering how the hell they manage to get so much volume out of such a little speaker.

I’m not joking when I say that the foxL performs better than my (pretty pricey) PC speakers. Best of all, the foxL doesn’t just excel in volume, it also produces amazing clarity.

Soundmatters foxL v2 speaker demo from Scott C on Vimeo.

In my test, I used the foxL with a Google Nexus One and an iPhone 3GS (using Bluetooth) and with a Sandisk Sansa Clip+ (using FLAC uncompressed audio). In each test, the performance was amazing. Obviously, the sound quality of the (wired) Sansa Clip was slightly better than the music from the streaming Bluetooth devices. Even when set to its maximum volume, there was virtually no distortion, but at this level, you do realize why they include a non-slip mat, without it, the speakers start “walking” off your table!

Of course, a video does not give a good impression of how music sounds, but it should give you an idea of the quality.

The only downside to the foxL v2 is the price – $169.99 or $199.99 for the Bluetooth enabled version. That said – when you compare this to a premium iPhone or iPod docking system, the price is actually quite reasonable, especially since the foxL Bluetooth comes with a very usable hands-free system. The only minor thing I missed on the Bluetooth version is audio controls, but it does pause and resume music, and you can pick up a call using the Bluetooth control button on the front.

Since this is a standard Bluetooth device, you can pair it with any device that supports Bluetooth audio (A2DP) and Bluetooth hands free (which means it’ll also work as a hands free speakerphone for Skype on your computer).

PROS: Absolutely amazing sound, unlike anything else on the market, very complete package of accessories included

CONS: Price

All in all, if you value good music, and don’t want the compromise of almost every other portable music system on the market, you should seriously consider the foxL. The unit is very compact (5.6 x 2.2 x 1.4 inch) and weighs just 9.5 oz.

To learn more about the Soundmatters foxL v2 or to find out how to order your own, check out their product page.

Product review – Altec Lansing iM237 Orbit MP3 speaker

Back in July I posted a review of the Altec Lansing iM207 “Orbit MP3” speaker. This product has long been one of my favorite gadgets on the road, albeit with a couple of minor issues that annoyed me (the lack of a power light for example).

Altec Lansing clearly listened to their customers, because they just released their newest Orbit MP3 speaker (the iM237).

This portable speaker has the same basic features of the previous model, but adds a “real” power switch and a power indicator light. The power light also shows the battery life by turning red when you are running low.

The tiny speaker produces a mindblowing amount of sound, and it sounds very clear and crisp, with no distortion at all. Of course, it is still a single speaker, so you won’t get that full stereo effect. Audio even has a decent amount of bass.
Altec Lansing also made some design improvements when it comes to carrying the speaker; they added an opening for attaching a wrist strap (included in the box), as well as a nice carrying case with a carabiner for hooking the entire thing to your belt loop or bag.

The speaker runs off 3 AAA batteries which provide enough juice for about a full day of non stop music. When you are not using the Orbit, you can store the audio cord around the bottom of the device and clip the audio jack in place. Like the previous model, the audio jack is still compatible with the previous generation iPhone.

Compared to the previous Orbit MP3 the basic concept has stayed the same, and it produces the same stunningly good sound quality, but the minor changes in design and accessories really make it a big improvement, and well worth the purchase price.

The Orbit MP3 is currently available directly from Altec Lansing ($39.99), or from Amazon.com ($35.11).

Daily deal – Altec-Lansing Orbit MP3 portable speaker for $15

Back when I was just a Gadling rookie, my first product review was for one of my personal favorites; the Altec-Lansing Orbit MP3 speaker. The Orbit MP3 is a portable speaker for your iPod, mobile phone or other music player.

In the review, I mentioned the MSRP of $29.95 and the Amazon price of just $24.95. Since then, it has dropped another $10 and you can now pick one up for just under $15.

The speaker runs off 3 AAA batteries and has just one control; on or off. The device has a short audio cord that wraps around the unit, and a tiny flat spot for standing the speaker upright.

Despite its small size, it produces a surprisingly loud and clear amount of audio. Of course, since it is just a single speaker, you don’t get full stereo sound, but with the excellent volume and quality it produces, most people won’t even notice.

You’ll find the deal at Amazon.com
and members with an Amazon Prime account will get free shipping, others will have to add another $10.01 to their order for the free super saver shipping.

Product review – iFrogz Audiowrapz for the iPod Nano

If you have been keeping up with my reviews, you’ll have realized that I love taking my music with me on the road. Previous reviews have looked at a portable speaker, an iPod battery pack and a pair of noise canceling iPhone headphones. Clearly, you will have seen the trend by now; I love gadgets like this.

My review today is no different. The iFrogz Audiowrapz are the first iPod case with built in passive speakers.

The Audiowrapz are made for the newest generation iPod Nano, and provide a dual function; they protect the iPod, and they turn your little Nano into what we used to call “a ghetto blaster”. The audiowrapz case is made of silicone rubber, but it has been treated with a non-stick coating to prevent dust and other debris sticking to it.

To use the case, you simply fold the back down, and slide your iPod Nano into it. The case connects to the headphone jack on the bottom of your iPod. If you want to listen to your headphones, you can use the “pass through” jack on the bottom of the case, when you insert your headphones, the speakers turn off. When your iPod is in the Audiowrapz case, you will not have access to the dock connector on the bottom, so you will need to remove it for charging or syncing.

The speakers in the audiowrapz case are “passive”, which means they don’t require batteries. Of course, with passive speakers, you won’t get the same volume as a set of powered speakers (yeah, I was just joking by comparing it to a ghetto blaster), but the sound is more than enough to provide some nice background music, or even to wake you up in the morning if you use the alarm setting on your iPod.

Included in the package is of course the case, but you also get an iPod screen protector. The iFrogz Audiowrapz are currently on sale for just $14.99, and you can select one of 8 colors, varying from boring gray, to bright pink. The Audiowrapz were the only case to be voted “best of show” at the 2008 Macworld and CES trade shows by iLounge and iProng magazine, so don’t just take my word for it; this case rocks!

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