Tuesday Aug 21

Reviews

The earphones that arrive with an MP3 player serve two easy purposes. They assure you that the player operates and they provide instant gratification. It won't be long before you're ready to replace them with phones that sound better than the freebies, are more comfortable, and hold up under regular use.

The problem, of course, is finding them.

 

Fair warning: This is a surprisingly (even to me) long review of a product that is being sold as a computer accessory for laptop users. But it is, after all, a loudspeaker system and it has a potentially broader appeal and many more likely applications than even the manufacturer seems to have noticed.

I didn't ask the Xitel folks to send me one, but a test sample of their new SOUNDaround accessory was waiting for me at the front door a couple of weeks ago.  The SOUNDaround is the latest in a succession of similar products that I've been exposed to over the past 20 years or so.  Their common goal is to produce an impression of surround sound with the user's two-channel system.

The noisest regular activity for most people is mowing the lawn.  Muffling the din from that activity is one of the great blessings of noise-reducing headphones.  In fact, the weekly lawn trim is the main purpose I've kept a set of such phones at hand for the past few years.

How would you like a compact, clean, bullet-proof 10 watt per channel power amplifier?  Think of the possible applications.  Use it with a portable CD player and a couple of small speakers for a transportable system that you could take on vacation or on business trips.  Add an FM tuner with a volume control and a couple of larger speakers for a nice bedroom, office, or workshop system.  Or set it up as an auxiliary headphone amp.