At a Glance
Laptop carrying bag with built-in speakers
Techwiz Innovations’ new MUZAK is one of the more unique ideas we’ve seen: A laptop-toting shoulder bag with built-in speakers and an iPod compartment to let you listen to your music, out loud, on the go. Unfortunately, its implementation isn’t as appealing as the idea.
As a laptop shoulder bag, the MUSAK is fairly average. The interior, padded slip accommodates 12″ to 15″ laptops but leaves little room for other items. An exterior organizer panel holds a phone or PDA, pens, and business cards and ID, and is covered by the traditional snap-closed flap (which includes its own zippered pocket). The back of the MUSAK also provides a document pocket. Unfortunately, the MUZAK offers little rigidity to protect your laptop — overall the design is too soft and flexible given that a shoulder bag tends to bounce around your hip and back.
The MUZAK’s audio system has three components: an iPod pouch, speakers, and an amplifier. The two small speakers are located along the top of the bag, one at each end. Although the speakers provide stereo sound, one will almost always be located behind you when you’re carrying the bag, so you really only get the stereo effect when you’re not carrying it; for example, when the MUZAK is sitting on a table.
A small case/pouch, permanently attached to the exterior of the bag, holds your iPod. (Versions of the MUZAK, with different case sizes, are available for standard iPods and iPod minis.) When in the case, your iPod remains in plain view, headphone jack towards the ground; the case even flips upward to allow you to better control the iPod when moving. However, the case doesn’t offer much protection — on the MUZAK for standard iPods we tested, the iPod’s screen was not fully covered and the Click Wheel was fully exposed. Since the iPod is carried on the outside of the bag, a bit more protection for the face of the iPod would be appreciated.
Finally, the MUZAK provides a battery-powered (4 AA cells) amplifier that connects to your iPod via its headphone jack. The cables connecting the amplifier to your iPod and the speakers are conveniently hidden in the internals of the bag — exposed only where the input cable emerges to plug into your iPod — so you don’t have to worry about cable clutter and tangles. Unfortunately, the amp — and, thus, the on/off and volume controls — are in a small, zippered pocket on the back of the bag, making it very difficult to access these controls. You could adjust the volume via your iPod’s volume control, but as anyone who’s used a speaker system or FM transmitter that connects to the iPod’s headphone jack knows, you get better sound quality by finding the right volume on the iPod and then controlling overall volume via the speakers or receiver.
As for the MUZAK’s sound quality, it’s about what you’d expect from small, inexpensive speakers: fairly “tinny” sound with lots of treble and very little bass. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy the MUZAK — it’s just that you shouldn’t expect the same sort of sound quality as found on some of the better portable iPod speaker systems we’ve tested.