Over the past couple years, Logic 3 has released a number of iPod-specific speaker systems that have stood out not so much based on pure performance, but because each offered an impressive bundle of features, along with good sound quality, for a price well below similar products from bigger name vendors. The company recently released the Traveller, a system that differs from its earlier systems in three ways: its small size, its low price, and compatibility with any audio source with a standard headphone minijack.
The $35 Traveller — which Logic 3 notes should be available for under $30 at retail — is just 5 inches wide, 3.2 inches high, and 1 inch deep when folded up for travel, and weighs just over 7 ounces (including the required four AAA batteries, provided with purchase). The body of the Traveller is plastic, but each 1.3-inch driver is protected behind a metal screen; a blue light behind the right-hand screen indicates when the Traveller is on. The system is quite attractive given the low price and is available in six silver-and-a-color combinations: black, silver, green, red, blue, and pink.
To use the Traveller, you pull the middle of the system towards you; it rotates down and around, a little over 270 degrees, and becomes the unit’s stand. You then pull the speakers apart to accommodate the width of your media player. Players from 1.15 to 2.56 inches in width will fit in the “cradle” between the speakers; two rubber-surfaced flaps prop your player upright without scratching it. A similar rubber pad on the stand keeps the player from slipping, and three rubber pads on the bottom of the Traveller keep the system itself in place. The Traveller’s design is quite clever and much sturdier than you’d expect. On the other hand, the Traveller’s cradle area doesn’t expand much wider than the largest iPod, which means that although a full-size iPod in a “skin” case fits fine, many bulkier cases — such as Contour’s excellent Showcase video — don’t. You can still use the Traveller with such an encased iPod; you’ll just have to sit the iPod next to the Traveller.
You connect the Traveller to your iPod (or other media player) via a four-inch cable, built into the Traveller, that plugs into the player’s headphone jack. (Logic 3 also includes a handy 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapter, which lets you connect the Traveller to many media-playing mobile phones.) The audio cable fits into a groove in the back of the Traveller when not in use. This headphone-jack approach, which is considerably less expensive for speaker vendors than providing an iPod dock-connector cradle and partly explains the Traveller’s low price, means that you adjust the system’s volume using your iPod’s own volume control.
The back of the Traveller hosts the aforementioned cable groove, a power switch, and a jack for connecting an optional AC adapter, available directly from Logic 3. (Unfortunately, at $15 this adapter is approximately half the cost of the Traveller itself.) The Traveller includes a fabric pouch for minimal protection while packed away.
Despite its clever design, the Traveller’s best feature — considering its low price — is its audio performance. Before testing the Traveller, the only speaker system I’d seen in this price range that was enjoyable for an extended period of time was Pacific Rim Technologies’ Cube Travel Speakers, which has a similar $35 MSRP. But the Traveller was exactly that: enjoyable. In fact, I actually preferred it a bit to the Cube Travel Speakers thanks to better treble and midrange (although less bass). I used the Traveller as my main speaker system for several days straight during testing; although the tiny speaker drivers can’t produce much bass or extremely loud volume levels, and the overall sound is the slightest bit tinny, I was impressed by the overall sound quality.
If you’re looking for a compact speaker system on a budget, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a system this small that sounds this good for such a low price.–Dan Frakes