We previously reviewed MacAlly’s PodWave, a tiny (1″ by 3.3″) stereo speaker system that plugs into the headphone jack of any iPod to provide “small” but surprisingly listenable sound powered by a single AA battery. Unfortunately, if you’ve got an iPod shuffle, the PodWave is an awkward fit.
Fortunately, MacAlly seems to have taken a creative interest in the iPod shuffle, first with its mTune shuffle-cradling headphones (reviewed elsewhere on Playlist) and now with a PodWave-like shuffle speaker called the IP-S111. Like the PodWave, the IP-S111 features a tube-like speaker enclosure with a speaker driver at each end, although this tube is only 2.25″ long but thicker (1.3″) in diameter. But what makes the IP-S111 unique is that smack in the middle of the two speakers is an iPod shuffle “dock” into which you slide your iPod, upside-down, so that the IP-S111’s headphone plug fits into the shuffle’s headphone jack. Just behind the shuffle, and providing support for the shuffle as it sits in the IS-S111, is the speaker system’s battery compartment, which holds a single AA battery. (MacAlly estimates 12-hour battery life for the IP-S111, which is in line with our own testing at moderate volume levels.)
Like the PodWave, the IP-S111 doesn’t provide great sound — there’s very little bass, the overall tone is fairly tinny, and you won’t get much volume thanks to the size and power limitations. (The PodWave actually provides slightly more “bass” than the IP-S111 thanks to the former’s larger enclosure.) But also like the PodWave, the IP-S111’s sound quality is much better than I expected — definitely listenable in a pinch, such as when you’re on a trip and are tired of headphones. The IP-S111 is also an ideal accessory for listening to podcasts and audiobooks without headphones — for these types of audio, the system’s limitations are much less noticeable. And even at full volume, the IP-S111 exhibits little to no distortion.