Digital Lifestyle Outiftters, otherwise known as DLO, recently launched their Portable Speaker for iPhone and we’ve been lucky enough to score one for ourselves. The DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone is exactly what you’d expect it to be – it’s portable, it’s a speaker-dock system, and it’s made for the iPhone.
The iPhone’s built-in speakers are a bit on the weak side when it comes to listening to music or watching movies in anything but the quietest environs. If you want decent sound from your iPhone, your only options are to lug along some high-end headphones (which can be bulky) or tote along an external speaker system (which can be even bulkier). So, to that end, DLO is touting their Portable Speaker for iPhone as the perfect portable solution for iPhone (and iPod Touch) owners that are always on the go and want to take a decent speaker system/speaker dock with them – but with as little bulk as possible.
If you want to get to the point, skip down to the “Overall” section at the end of this review.
Let’s take a look at the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone. Keep reading for the full review…
DLO made the Portable Speaker for iPhone especially for the iPhone (and iPod Touch) and it is completely compatible with the iPhone. That means you won’t get any electromagnetic interference from the iPhone’s cellular radio.
With certain docks, you risk missing an incoming call because the incompatible iPhone speaker/dock insists you to enable your iPhone’s “Airplane Mode” – which disables the GSM radio in order to prevent electromagnetic interference with your speakers (if you’re not familiar with the sound associated with electromagnetic intereference, trust me, it’s the worst sound in the world). The DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone is shielded against this type of interference so you can listen to music or watch a movie and not have to worry about missing a call. When a call comes in, your iPhone will mute the audio, pause your music or video, play the ringtone over the speakers and prompt you to pick up the call or decline the call.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to connect your iPhone to the DLO Portable Speaker through the attached 3.5mm (slim-line version to fit the iPhone’s recessed headphone port, of course) audio cable, rather than through the iPhone’s dock connector. That means the dock does not charge your iPhone, but that’s a small price to pay for portability.
The best part is, you can use the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone as a sort of speakerphone. The iPhone’s microphone handles the “talking part” and the DLO speakers handle the “listening part.” I don’t think this system was designed with this intention, but it’s a nice bonus feature – an “Easter Egg” if you will.
The packaging is straightforward and efficient. The box isn’t going to make you cringe at the thought of marring its sleekly styled exterior, but then again, the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone wasn’t meant to exude sexiness. The packaging gets the job done, and that’s enough at this level of performance/price.
No kidding. The DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone is about as portable as you can get. Both speakers mate snugly with the base-unit when you’re ready to move – it’s portable and tiny.
If you’re listening to music or watching a video, simply pop the speakers away from its base and place them on either side. The DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone comes with an iPhone-stand that sits on top of the base-unit – serving as a cradle of sorts to prop up the iPhone in either portrait or landscape orientations.
When you’re done rocking out to your iPhone, simply disconnect the iPhone-stand from the base-unit and snap the speakers into the recesses on the base-unit. Once the speakers are snugly tucked into the base-unit, you get a highly portable speaker “ball” that sports a combined footprint that is slightly larger than that of a softball. There’s even a groove around the circumference of the base-unit that serves as a cable-organizer. Just wrap your speaker wires/cables into this groove and you’re good to go – wires tucked neatly away.
The only drawback to DLO’s compact and portable design is the lack of an integrated iPhone cradle. When you “portable-ize” the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone by popping the speakers into the base-unit, you get a super-portable package. But you still have to lug around that oddly-shaped iPhone-stand. An integrated iPhone-cradle that pops-up from within the base-unit would be a nice addition to the 2nd generation DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone.
Design / Ergonomics
The design, like this system’s packaging is straightforward. Form follows function in this case. The function/priority of the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone was portability, and the design/aesthetics follow accordingly. You’re not going to turn any heads with DLO’s industrial design, but your friends will probably give you a some decents “props” for remembering to bring some tunes to the beach.
To put it another way, no one is going to be impressed when they see you using the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone at home, on your desk. But, you will be getting some looks and compliments when you bust out your portable speakers at work, the park, the beach, the winter-cabin that doesn’t have any radio or TV (I’m still apologizing for that one), or waiting in line for the second-generation 3G iPhone. Yea, you’ll definitely get props from the Apple crowd.
As far as ergonomics, the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone is certainly a super-portable external speaker system for your iPhone – as long as it’s all “closed up.” However, when you take the speakers apart and arrange them for your listening pleasure, you’ll notice that there are a lot of extraneous wires snaking around your desk. The two wires leading from either speaker (left and right) to the base-unit, the wire running from the iPhone to the base-unit, and the power cable from the wall to the base-unit – that adds up to a nice jumble of wires.
On the upside, having detachable the speakers from the base-unit allows you to get some serious stereo separation (which is kind of the point of an external speaker system – desire for louder volume and better sound quality notwithstanding). And remember, this thing was designed with a top-priority on portability, not on being eye-candy.
The DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone runs off 4 AAA batteries or the included AC adapter. Again, the dock does not charge your iPhone.
Sound Quality / Acoustic performance
Now, on to the most (arguably) important aspect of an external speaker system – the quality (or fidelity) of its sound.
First off, let me qualify this section by saying that the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone is made for portability, and as such, is made to be as compact as possible.
But, don’t let small size fool you. DLO has taken the time and effort to make sure that you get some big sound out of its small-ish speakers. The satellite speaker cabinets are solidly constructed, allowing for rich sound unmarred by rattling or vibrating from the driver enclosure. You can crank up the volume and seriously rock out indoors or outdoors thanks to the amplifier built into the base-unit.
There are more expensive speaker docks that deliver the same, or lower, level of sound quality. But, keep in mind that those docks are mostly iPod-compatible and will require you to activate “Airplane Mode” on your iPhone for uninterrupted music listening. Not to mention that those docks are considerably larger and less portable.
The only drawback of such a small, portable speaker system is that the speaker drivers are necessarily small in size. That means reduced response in the low-end. If you like your speaker systems to bump the bass like it’s 1995, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
The speaker drivers still manage to deliver almost full-range sound from a diminutive package, but we still wish there was a bit more bass-response in these babies.
Considering that the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone is an incredibly portable external speaker solution for your iPhone, my overall impression of the system is 1.5 thumbs-up. You get exactly what you pay for, and it works damn well. The DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone is one of the first truly iPhone-compatible external speaker docks for the iPhone and it’s definitely met my expectations. And, at the $50 price point, you just can’t beat it.
If portability is your top priority with great sound quality as a close second priority the DLO Portable Speaker for iPhone is for you.
- Incredible portability. The speakers mate with the base-unit to form a tote-worthy, speaker “ball” that fits on the hand – barely larger than a softball.
- Electromagnetically shielded amplifier and speakers to prevent that annoying RF “buzz” from the iPhone’s cellular radio.
- Great sound from such a portable system – on par with more expensive, bulkier systems.
- Powered off 4 AAA batteries for portability or an included AC adapter.
- Configurable satellite speaker setup that allows for incredible stereo-separation.
- Awkward iPhone cradle is not built in to the base-unit. You have to lug it around separately if you want to prop your iPhone on the base-unit.
- More exposed wires than we’d like to see.
- Lacking Bass response.
- Dock does not charge iPhone.
And, here’s a little teaser of what’s to come…