Pros:Portable, sturdy, sound quality
The Bottom Line: Not the best possible, but perhaps the best sound for your money.
As every successive computer I buy becomes more portable, I find myself always lamenting the further loss of one thing: sound. Gone are the days when my music, movies, and computer beeps emanated from the gigantor audio-earmuffs attached to the sides of my now-obscenely-deep 13" CRT monitor. After that computer, I had a laptop so big and heavy that I would have preferred to lug my bathtub around and because of its complete immobility, I got to hear my music and beeps from a pair of completely non-portable boulders on top of my desk. When my laptop married another laptop, I was blessed with a notebook which was actually portable. Unfortunately, because of the genetics involved I did have a little problem with my newest audio producers - far too small and it sounded like it. They were terrible compared to my former desktop speakers, but I couldn't really complain because I could actually take my computer with me and these were the little guys that came inside. When the time came for my notebook to be replaced by something far more portable, my new netbook, I really had some stinkaroo speakers. Whenever I decided to stream Lost, The Office, or 30 Rock, I found myself embarrassed to listen with anything other than my headphones. Unable to endure that anymore, I went out looking for a decent pair of portable speakers. I knew I didn't want most of the stuff in the iPod crowd because those speakers are very small and consequently lacking in the quality department and also because they are generally housed in one unit and so all stereo sound is lost. After much searching and online as well as field research, I came across the Sony SRS-M50 portable speakers. They are very simple and don't have any of the fancy stuff that the much more expensive units have, but they have what they need. There is a volume knob, an on/off switch, and a choice of two power sources. And while you can certainly pay more for better sound quality, these guys will make you proud and not break the bank.
Recommend this product?
The design of these speakers is pure Sony. They are small stylish and have just the right touch of modernity to make you feel pretty avant-garde when using them, but not draw stares from all the disapproving grandmothers around. They come in black, white, or pink to match their usage and user appropriately. The outside of each box is not quite square but measures approximately 3" in each dimension. The enclosures have a single bar in front to protect any blunt trauma to the speakers themselves and a little bass port in the lower corner. While the speakers are made of plastic, they have a fair bit of weight to them and feel like they could stand up to a jostle or more in a backpack or suitcase. Mine have yet to develop any cracks from travel and despite their solid feel, are light enough that they go pretty much everywhere my backpack goes without out ever weighing me down.
While minimalist, all the necessary external buttons are included. There is a rotary volume knob as well as an on/off slider. There is no button for the bass and it cannot be adjusted on these speakers. Of course, on something of this size, you can't expect to have the car thumping and so there isn't really that much to have to adjust. The volume knob is not one of those strange recessed jobs where you have to find the nearest child with tiny fingers to change the volume, or figure out just how much to push it in so that it pops back out at you. It is a decently sized saucer that can be spun with one finger and feels pretty sturdy when you do that. The power button also has the same sturdy feel to it. It is fairly smooth with a little nubbin in the middle to make it easy to slide with just one finger.
The audio quality on these speakers is not what you would expect from a Bose system but it is very good for the price (far less than a Bose!). I generally like to keep the volume somewhere in the middle and do the same on my computer so that I know I am not really stressing the amplification abilities of either unit. On the few occasions that I have cranked these speakers all the way, I was very happy to find no degradation in the sound. While it never really became any bolder and the bass never kicked in any more (as I hoped it might), the speakers remained fairly true and sounded better than one might expect from something their size.
The best thing about these speakers is the ability to separate them and get true stereo sound. The cord that attaches these two fuzzy dice is about three feet long and so allows for a noticeably different audio output from each side. I have been very pleased with their performance while watching various shows online and once I even caught myself looking off to the side for someone or something there when a spooky-movie-sound emanated from one of the speakers unexpectedly (prompting a bit of ribbing from my movie co-watchers).
Power for this device can be supplied in one of two ways - AC power for the established or batteries for the mobile. The power cord is about three feet long - lengthy enough to avoid dictating the location of your speakers or ruining the stereo sound. The battery life on these speakers is fairly good, and although I generally use the AC power available wherever I happen to be, I have yet to change the batteries after about 1 month of intermittent use.
As I already mentioned, these speakers are built for traveling. They have solid construction and don't weigh you down. They do have one more feature on top of those which is that the little legs they each have also double as attachment points for the other speaker. The clip right together, and with the cord wrapped nicely around the middle, make for a neat little package to toss in your suitcase. There is no included case for them, but you can always toss them into an unused shaving kit as I sometimes do, or you can feel confident that nothing will happen to them even if you just leave them to their own protections.
While these aren't the nicest speakers available, they are the nicest ones I have seen in this price range. They are well designed, well made, and produce some good sounds. You would not want to listen to the New York Philharmonic on these but if you need something so that 30 Rock isn't blaring through tinny speakers in your hotel room, these will fit the bill very nicely. They pack well, they work well, and they will never weigh you down and with all that in mind, I can't really recommend a better value for a decent pair of portable speakers.