Creative’s TravelSound speakers should have been a great product. The speaker dock baggage buddy to the Zen Stone DAP sounds good enough, is incredibly light and portable, and looks pretty decent to boot.
Unfortunately, it was as if Creative’s designers were asleep at the assembly line. This is a product with so many glaring mistakes that it really feels like a study in bad design. Lets go over them one at a time…
INCOMPATIBILITY (MORE OR LESS)
In order to hook up with your Zen Stone, the TravelSound doesn’t rely on any fancy proprietary docking systems. Instead, it uses a very familiar headphone jack — the same kind that would, in theory, fit into any and all MP3 players. Unfortunately, this jack is shoved to one side of a Zen Stone-sized docking wedge in a manner that leaves virtually no room for any non-minuscule player. For kicks, I tried plugging an iPod in. Shockingly, it worked. However, the mutant device I had in my hands was so grotesquely unnatural and unbalanced, that it was good only for scaring Mike Kobrin.
I suppose you could Frankenstein together a series of adapters and plugs that stretched the jack a foot or so away, and thus pluggable with any on-hand device, but that’s insane, as is the fact that there is no Sound In jack.
The bottom line is that it is simply great that the TravelSound used a headphone jack and not some proprietary dock. Unfortunately, all of this greatness is sucked away because, rather than relying on proprietary jacks, they instead used propriety product shape in order to make it essentially a Zen Stone-only accessory. Shame.
This thing uses AAA batteries. Stick in a rechargeable battery and we’ll talk. Double shame.
In a colossal oversight from the design department, this product simply refuses to sit straight up. The bottom is curved in a way that makes it’s natural sitting position flat on it’s back — it quite simply can not stand up straight on a flat surface. Do I want my speakers facing up? No. I want them facing at me, bombarding me with rock. Triple shame.
THE SPEAKER BLOCKS BUTTONS
The Zen Stone fits into the dock like a jigsaw puzzle. Unfortunately, the power/play button is completely inaccessible when it is jacked into this thing. They are on the top edge which sits snugly out of the way against the player. It is absolutely insane that you can’t turn the player’s power on or off without first pulling it out. Quadruple shame.
OKAY, IT’S NOT ALL BAD
And now for some good news: The sound is decent enough. It doesn’t get terribly loud, but it’s enough to fill a hotel room or annoy a Greyhound. You will always lose some subtleties in your sound with tiny plastic speakers that weigh about a pound, but Creative does a good job of minimizing the damage.
And these things are portable. I typically suffer from gadget clutter when I travel, but I wouldn’t mind toting these suckers with me–they’re probably worth the space if you have a Zen Stone.
Unfortunately, they are entirely useless for anybody who doesn’t have one, leaving their target market as incredibly small. If only Creative had fixed some of the above points, they could have been a great travel companion to anybody toting any DAP, not just a Zen Stoner who is willing to make compromises.