Short Version: The Eton Soulra is a nice portable iPod/iPhone radio that often found its way into my bag when leaving the house. I carried it around during summer night bike rides in Ann Arbor and took it to the hot southern sun in Myrtle Beach, SC. Even though it’s solar powered, it remains versatile and compact enough to take wherever.
• Rechargeable lithium ion battery pack
• Rugged/rubberized splash proof case and aluminum body
• Audio line input
• Stereo sound with full range speaker drivers and bass boost
• Battery charge indicator
• AC power input
• Very rugged
• Decent battery life when charged by AC adapter
• Sound quality from such a small unit
• Lots of use out of the handle
• Charges iPhone
• Distortion at high volumes
• Takes a long time to charge in the sun, too long
• Charging in the Michigan sun caused iPhone to over heat, everytime
• $199 Price
Full Review: Eton has been known for making good short wave and weather radios, but much more recently they’ve decided to enter the portable iPod audio arena. Conquering the sun for power is mans highest summit of conquest. Eton will try to make it with the Soulra, a solar powered iPod/iPhone audio dock. It’s portable and can be charged by either alternating current or nature’s current.
The relatively massive 5 square-inch solar panel on the Soulra can trickle charge both itself and choice Apple device—very useful when outside for awhile. The Soulra will charge all iPhones from the onboard battery, except we could not test the original iPhone.
To charge from empty, it will take about 4 hours over AC and 10 hours from sunlight—don’t expect to charge from death by the sun very often, it just takes too long. However, it is worth fully charging over AC and maintaining over solar since battery life was nearly 8 hours playing at a very decent volume.
The speakers have a total output of 11 watts and are considered full-range, but we couldn’t notice much low-end even with the bass boost on. When turned to full volume the Soulra’s sound got muddy and distorted, partially expected, though not acceptable for the price. When at a more reasonable volume the Soulra’s sound was fine and loud enough to hear at the beach and pool, even turning people heads while bumping the new Pretty Lights EP.
The Soulra costs nearly $200, putting it in the range of the JBL On Stage. For only a $100 more, you could grab a Bose, Bowers and Wilkins or a Geneva Sound S. So the question is, how much are you outside, not near a power source and need music?
One of the downsides of the whole thing happens during solar trickle charge. The unit gets so hot that the iPhone supplying the music overheats and asks for a timeout—a considerable design flaw that may annoy customers.
The Soulra came in handy many times and even created new experiences bringing sound into a more remote location. One could say the battery life is similar to what other portable docks are offering—even with the solar cell out. The Soulra offers a niche market a product geared right for them (lifeguards, construction workers, farmers). It will sell for its obvious environmental direction and for its rugged body, keeping sand and water out. For those who can’t accept an overheating iPhone we say, Sol Invictus, or unconquered sun.