A while back, we reviewed MacAlly’s PodWave, a diminutive (3.3″ long by 1″ in diameter) stereo speaker system. Although the PodWave’s small size prevented it from producing sound quality anything close to that of the larger portable speaker systems on the market, we found it to be a handy way to listen to your iPod’s audio — especially podcasts and audiobooks — on the go considering that it takes up less space in your bag than two C batteries (and is much lighter).
MacAlly’s latest ultra-portable speaker offering is the IP-N111, which, unlike the PodWave, is compatible with only the iPod nano. The circular IP-N111 — 1.4″ thick at its deepest point and 4.2″ in diameter — is still small enough to fit in a backpack, laptop, or carry-on, but is significantly larger than the PodWave. And instead of resting on the top (or bottom) of your iPod, like the PodWave, the IP-N111 provides an iPod nano dock: You simply slide your nano into the IP-N111 and a headphone miniplug connects to your iPod nano’s headphone jack; your iPod’s screen and the top of the nano are exposed at the top, and a circular opening provides access to your nano’s Click Wheel. (The drawback to such a design, besides nano-only compatibility, is that the IP-N111 won’t accommodate an iPod nano in a case; however, it does work with most thin “shield” accessories, as well as with Moshi’s excellent iGlaze nano.) The dock holds your nano securely enough that it won’t easily fall out of the IP-N111 if you turn the system upside-down.
In terms of sound quality, the IP-N111 is similar to the PodWave: It won’t blow you away — it’s fairly tinny and totally lacking in bass and even lower midrange — but it’s more than acceptable given the system’s diminutive size. And because the IP-N111 is powered by three AA batteries instead of just the single AA used by the PodWave, the IP-N111 can play louder without distortion. At louder volumes, you also get a bit more midrange than with the PodWave, thanks to the IP-N111’s larger enclosure.
The IP-N111 includes a dedicated on/off switch to help extend battery life — the unit should provide about 12 hours of playback per battery, depending on your listening volume. Since the IP-N111 connects via your iPod nano’s headphone jack, volume is controlled by the iPod.
The IP-N111 is one of the smallest iPod nano-specific speaker systems we’ve seen (surpassed only by PodGear/Gear4’s PocketParty for iPod nano). If you’re willing to sacrifice sound quality for size, it’s a nice unit to throw in your bag. However, if you want a bit more volume and bass, and are willing to put up with a bigger piece of gear, you should also consider Logic 3’s i-Station3, which is still quite small (6.3″ by 4.3″ by 1.2″) and should have a street price just slightly higher than that of the IP-N111.–Dan Frakes