Connected: Let's examine quality speakers

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Digital music is fun -- but your smartphone doesn't come with good speakers. Your computer and some home docks are somewhat better. Adding nice speakers changes the whole experience. Sound quality, price and design differ dramatically depending on which speakers you buy. Let's look at a few quality alternatives.

Big Boom

The Eurosound iNuke Boom Junior from Behringer is a scaled down version of the company's 10,000-watt, 700-pound speakers for music professionals. At less than 11 pounds and about the size of a breadbox (one-23rd the size of the professional version), the iNuke Boom Junior is a joy to experience. The sound quality from the bass to the high treble tones is excellent -- and you can crank it up farther than any iPod boom box I've encountered. It uses a fully enclosed three-way active speaker system, and -- since it's all in a single enclosure -- it's quick and easy to set up and use. Sound comes out of the front, back and bottom, so surround it with plenty of elbow room. Your iPod or smartphone sits on top in a dock that gives off a bright white light -- reminiscent of alien movies -- so it's cool, too. At $180, it sounds like a bargain.

Rhino Horns

If you want to experience good sound and truer stereo separation, Spinnaker Speakers from Edifier are a fun way to improve your music pleasure. They look like rhinoceros horns, which should make them a conversation piece on your shelf. While they give very nice sound, I didn't hear the same base response as I did with the iNuke. Yet they are somewhat portable and change your listening experience dramatically from what you get with docking stations.

The Spinnaker also comes with a unique remote volume control. Shaped like a dome, you can sit it anywhere in the room because it communicates with the speakers remotely via Bluetooth to increase or lower the sound. A button at the top serves as mute.

The Spinnaker was not as easy to put together, and not because it wasn't clear what to do. It was simply difficult to run the wires through the passages provided for them. But you only have to install it once. Get over it. The sound is worth the effort. The suggested retail price is $349.

Transforming Portable Snake

The DBEST Transformative is a portable stereo speaker. Out of the box, it's shaped like a 7-inch donut with a cut in it -- with speakers at the ends where the cut is. You can then pivot portions of the device to point the speakers in whichever direction you want, which gives the DBEST the look of a blocky snake. Like the Spinnaker, you can connect to your device by a standard headphone plug or wirelessly via Bluetooth. The most unique part is that you can insert a microSD flash memory card and play directly from that without any external device.

The sound quality doesn't come close to the other two devices, but the portability is substantially better. It even comes with a velvet carrying case. You'll need to charge it directly from your computer via USB cord, though -- or go out and purchase your own USB wall adapter -- because there is no A/C wall charging device in the box. The suggested retail price is $250, although I found it for substantially less online.

Of course, the biggest problem with buying speakers online is that your enjoyment is based on personal taste, which is hard to judge without hearing yourself.

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Follow David Radin on Twitter @dradin or learn more at www.megabyteminute.com.


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