August 17, 2006

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More music, more places
All you need is a vibrating membrane
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

Anyone with iPod or other digital audio player will tell you they’re great, but there just aren’t enough things to plug into them and make sound come out.

Sure, they come with headphones, or, more often, dinky little earbuds with terrible sound quality, but that’s just not enough. Sometimes you really can’t be chained to the device. Lobes are meant to be free, after all. You can buy speakers, but they’re so cold and lifeless. Often plain plastic, they lack the flair and design so many companies build into their stylish little music machines.

If your audio needs require a little more plushiness, all you need is one of the many designer speaker sets available. They come in so many shapes, sizes, colors and textures, you won’t believe it. I know I didn’t.

iConnect Plug and Play Pillow
$9.99, Bed, Bath & Beyond

Cozy Tunes Pillow
$9.99, Linens ‘n’ Things

These pillows, marketed to the traveler, are so similar, they’re probably the exact same thing with different names. They’re both sold in discount frou-frou stores, they both come with travel pouches, they both have polyester covers (though the iConnect calls it “faux suede”) and they’re both filled with polystyrene beads for relatively unmuffled sound.

They do come in different color sets; the iConnect is more muted with black, teal, aubergine purple and soft pink, while Cozy Tunes goes straight for the ohmigawd, no way! demographic with black, turquoise, hot pink and bright purple. They feature an audio plug and volume control and do not require batteries. Look at Sears or Target or other stores of that ilk for less similar, but still essentially the same, speaker pillows.

YOUniverse Butterfly or Daisy Speaker Pillow
$12.99, eToys.com, Buy.com

Gahh ... OK, this is basically the same thing as above, but sparkly and dementedly smiling and very, very pink. This is why “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” would never get written today.

New Attitudes Moon Tunes Speaker Chair
$49.99, Linens ‘n’ Things

Why, yes, I did get the idea for this column wandering around a Linens ‘n’ Things. Rest assured, they paid me nothing. Nada. Not one red cent. Cheap losers.

If a mere pillow isn’t enough for you, why not embed speakers in a whole chair? A folding papasan chair on wheels, so while you can’t get up and still enjoy your music, you can roll wherever you want. Just don’t tilt the chair. It’s right there on the package: “Do not tilt chair.” Again, you get an audio plug and volume control, as well as a little pocket for holding your music player.

If you’re wondering about the sound quality of these products, well ... think about how much you’d typically pay for a similar chair or pillow or whatever without a pair of speakers and a 1/8” audio cable pre-installed. Those numbers are pretty close together, aren’t they? They don’t amplify the sound at all — that’s the cost of not using separate power. And even the low-end “nice” speaker sets, with LCD displays and power supplies and everything, start at around $100. So, yeah, you get what you pay for.

Or you could take those earbuds and stick ‘em in your pillowcase.


Comments? Thoughts? Discuss these articles and more at hippoflea.com

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