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Olympia Soundbug Review

Product Requirements:
A flat surface and a sound producing electronic device (personal stereos, mini-disc, CD or MP3 players, handheld games, camcorders or laptops, etc.) with a standard 3.5mm head-phone jack, 3 AAA batteries (included)

When Julie and I first let our Gadgeteer readers know that we were getting matching Fujitsu P2000 notebooks, we were not surprised by all of the e-mail and bulletin board postings expressing interest in a review,  relating other user’s personal experiences and asking questions about the laptop in general.

Of course, neither of us knew much of anything about the Fuji, since we had never actually played with one. We just knew that from the product specs we were reading on the Fujitsu website that the P2000 looked like a FAB portable laptop. So we each ordered, and we settled in for the wait.

While we were waiting, it seemed like every day we would come up with something new that we had just thought of and that we hoped our laptops would include – but that we weren’t necessarily positive would be there. Don’t laugh, but due to its small size – I was worried the Fuji wouldn’t have a PCMCIA slot since I didn’t immediately see that in its list of specs (Julie found that it did have one slot, by the way).

Near the end of our wait, we thought that we had figured out all of the features before actually receiving our laptops, but then I received an e-mail that threw us both for a loop. A Gadgeteer reader wanted to know if the P2000 had external speakers, and neither of us was sure. While the laptop was supposed to have excellent sound through the head-phone jack – we didn’t see anything mentioning whether or not it had built-in speakers.

Part of the reason that we ordered the Fujis was that they were incredibly portable. I simply didn’t want to have to hook my svelte new laptop up to a desktop speaker system, if I could help it at all. I don’t much like wearing head-phones unless I absolutely have to for privacy, so I knew I was going to have to look for some sort of portable “out-loud” solution for everyday use.

Then we received our Fujis and while we found that they did have external speakers – those speakers turned out to be quite lame.

Enter the Olympia Soundbug.I figured that if nothing else, this would be a good opportunity to give this interesting new listening device a try.

For those of you that have no idea what I am talking about, the Soundbug is definitely something different. It’s not a speaker, and it’s not a headset…what it is almost defies explanation.

If you are looking at it from the top, it looks similar to a portable radio; silver plastic, sleek body – but note that it has settings for volume instead of tuner bands.

There is also an LED that will blink when the batteries need replacing, or that will glow solid red when the Soundbug is working.

I bet by now you are wondering how you use the thing…

It’s when you flip the bug over on its back that you see there is no actual speaker, instead there is a large suction cup that takes up about ½ of the underside.

This suction cup is not only for holding the Soundbug to any smooth flat surface, but it is actually the means by which sounds coming from your audible device will be heard. More on this later…

Underneath the bug’s silver belly is a battery compartment that holds three AAA batteries, which I was pleasantly surprised to see were included with the unit.

The Soundbug comes with a protector for the suction cup, which is perfect for those times when you have to stow the bug in your gear-bag.

The Soundbug is very compact, measuring in at 6.3″ (9.2cm) long x 1.9″ (4.7cm) wide x 1.5″ (3.7cm) thick at its widest points. It weighs in at 6.1 ounces (176g) which includes the three batteries and its cord – not bad!

To use the Soundbug, you simply plug the cord into the head-phone jack of the device you want to listen to, then you lay the Soundbug on a flat surface. This surface can be anything from a flat table, to a window pane, to the smooth back of your laptop.

Just remember that the surface you are “sticking” the bug to must be smooth, flat, and clean. You then rotate the Soundbug ¼ turn clock-wise, and the bug is now fastened.

It is important that you realize that there are several ways to adjust the volume of the Soundbug: Not only do you use the “high vol” and “low vol” settings on the bug itself, you also use the volume control on the device you are amplifying. This makes a big difference in the output of the bug. You will not want to turn your audio device up all the way, as you will most likely encounter distortion; you need to find a balance.

The beauty of the Soundbug is that it can mount practically anywhere, and it creates a “sounding board” out of any surface you mount it to. I tried it on a variety of surfaces, and these were my results:

Glass – The thicker the glass, the better the sound. On a window pane, for instance, the sound just isn’t as loud or as “good” as it is when you mount it to a thicker glass object, like a glass table.

Back of my laptop Monitor – The Fujitsu has a smooth magnesium case, so I figured it would be a decent place to stick my bug. While it got “okay” sound, it still wasn’t loud enough for me. A note of caution: Julie played with the bug before she sent it to me, and when she stuck it to her desktop system’s monitor, it did “freaky things” with her picture…

Laminated Wood – I mounted the Soundbug to the top of my desk and believe it or not it sounded really good. Until I tried it on the underside of my desk, where for whatever reason, it sounded even better.

So that is where I wound up mounting my Soundbug. Under my desk it is out of the way and produces a decent sound. A single Soundbug can get as loud as 75 decibels, so while we aren’t talking about rock concert loudness, it is certainly adequate for the average person.

If you are interested in “stereo” sound, you can actually link two Soundbugs together. I suspect that this might produce a much louder sound, too.

Speaking of sound…the bug is not going to win any awards for booming bass or distortion free highs. In fact, I think for comparison’s sake I would have to say that it is about the quality of a very clear AM radio station. But, it is definitely better than
nothing.

Battery life on the bug seems to be quite decent. I am still on my original set, and I have had the bug for a little over a month.

Like all things that use suction cups, the Soundbug will not stay stuck forever, though it does manage to stay attached better than any of the other suction cup items I have, which are mainly in my shower and car. Probably the best thing for the protection of your bug, and the longevity of the suction cup, is that when you aren’t using it you go ahead and put the protective cover on the cup.

I hope I didn’t scare you off with my description of the Soundbug’s performance, because in truth – it actually sounds better and louder than the lame speakers that came on my new Fujitsu. I am going to keep my Soundbug in my gear bag, as I see it as a positive addition to the objects I already carry.

Price: $49.95

Pros:
Portable alternative to headphones or speakers that works on virtually any
smooth flat surface
Can link two Soundbugs together to create stereo sound
Easy to operate, doesn’t take up much space

Cons:
Doesn’t get very loud
Sounds a little bit “tinny”
Easily distorts when device’s volume is turned up while Soundbug’s volume is on
high

 

Product Information

Price:49.95
Manufacturer:Olympia Wave
Pros:
  • Portable alternative to headphones or speakers that works on virtually any
  • smooth flat surface
  • Can link two Soundbugs together to create stereo sound
  • Easy to operate, doesn't take up much space
Cons:
  • Doesn't get very loud
  • Sounds a little bit "tinny"
  • Easily distorts when device's volume is turned up while Soundbug's volume is on
  • high

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