Back in 1984 (geesh, I’m old) I received a wonderful Christmas present. It was my very first boom box, and it had dual tape decks and a radio, and a line-in jack to plug up a microphone. I didn’t want one of those single tape deck boom boxes, no sir. I wanted to be big time. I wanted the ability to copy tapes and maybe record stuff, and I was the envy of the other kids on the block, let me tell you. It was big, heavy, and oh so cool. And my parents shelled out several hundred dollars to get it. Looking back now, it’s sort of laughable, but then again, so were the clothes we wore! Boom boxes were part of the lexicon of my youth, and apparently a lasting part, because you can still buy one today at your local Walmart. Fast forward to 2012 and enter the Boats To Go MP3 Boom Box. A mere fraction of the size and cost of its former brethren, but still big on cool.
My love affair with MP3 players
I collected CDs for years, and jumped on the MP3 bandwagon as well, filling up my computer hard drive. Which led me to owning numerous MP3 players in various forms, including 4 different generations of iPods. After a few years though, it became a hassle having to carry them around in addition to my cellphone. So over the last several years, I gravitated toward using my smartphone as my music player because the various apps for listening to music provide me lots of options. But listening to music on your smartphone, especially music in the cloud like Pandora and Google Music which uses a constant data connection, kills your battery quick. So I don’t use my cellphone to play music at a party, or lounging on the back patio in the evenings.
Enter the Boats To Go MP3 Boombox. (Herein after referred to as the ‘Boombox’.)
The Boombox is almost the size and shape of a small Subway sandwich. It is a little over 8 inches long, 1.5 inches thick, and 2.5 inches wide. Along the side edges and bottom edge is nothing. On the front is the speaker grill that stretches the entire length of the device, and 3 play buttons are above the speaker grill. The buttons are for Backward, Pause/Play, and Forward. A fold out kickstand is on the smooth back of the device and surrounds the battery door which houses a Nokia Li-Ion replaceable battery. The kickstand is a very nice feature because the device has rounded edges all the way around and won’t stand up without the kickstand. The downside is that the kickstand seems very flimsy to me and is probably the first thing that is going to break on this device.
Along the top edge of the Boombox are all the controls and ports. You’ll find a volume button, USB port, SD card slot, aux line-in port, mini-USB power port, a power indicator light, and the power button that switches between off/music/FM. If you slide it to FM, the radio turns on and you can use the forward and backward buttons on the front to scroll through the radio dial from station to station. If you slide the switch to music, then it will automatically start playing MP3 files on the SD card or the USB jump drive, whichever has been inserted into their respective ports.
In the box you’ll find the Boombox, a mini-USB to USB charging cable for charging with your computer, an aux line-in cable for connecting other devices (like cellphones) to the Boombox, the battery, and a clear water-proof dry-bag with lanyard for keeping the Boombox dry around water. To use the dry-bag you simply slide the Boombox in the bag, roll the top of the bag down several times and snap the fastener in place. You can now totally immerse the Boombox in water without fear! As a side note, I had no idea how to use the bag because there weren’t instructions in the box. I had to contact the manufacture to get instructions. I feel kinda silly now because of how easy it is, but I still had no idea how to use the bag.
This little sucker has a really nice sound. The speakers are rated at 3W, but they sound much bigger than that to me. When I turn up the volume all the way, I don’t even get that annoying vibrating distorted sound. It just sounds good, and honestly, turning it up all the way is a bit too loud for me. I used numerous sizes of SD cards and USB drives and the Boombox recognized them all. I even buried MP3 files in multiple sub folders on those devices and the Boombox found them all and played them. I plugged up my Android cellphone to the line-in port and played music from the phone, and I also did the same thing successfully with my iPad, and 3 Android tablets.
I only have a few small complaints about the performance. The 3-button controls on the front of the device are very simple. You can only go forward, backward, and pause/play. So you can’t go directly to the radio station you want and because there is no digital readout of any kind, you can’t tell which radio station you have landed on. Likewise, when listening to MP3 files from the SD card or USB stick, you can’t decide which MP3 files to listen to. If you organize your MP3 files into nice folders it doesn’t matter because you can’t control which songs it plays. It just grabs songs and starts to play them. So if I was in the mood for just Jimmy Buffet, I could only listen to him if his were the only songs on the SD card/USB stick. I don’t guess that would be a big deal as long as you loaded up the music you want to listen to, but if you plan on loading up your entire MP3 library on an SD card and using this as your daily MP3 player, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed.
Finally, battery life of course plays a part in the performance of the device. The company website states that you’ll get 4-5 hours of battery life, depending on the volume that you use. I got closer to the 4 hour mark myself. When the battery is getting close to dying, the radio performance tanks, which should be no surprise. So one way of knowing when the battery is close to dying is how strong the station comes through on the radio.
Even with the various misc drawbacks I have mentioned, with a price of $29 the Boombox is a huge value. Big sound, easy portability, multiple ways to listen to music, and a nifty kickstand make this device a wonderfully affordable gift for just about anyone. Boats To Go pitch this product as being ideal for situations where you are around water, like the pool and on the lake. But I think it is great for just about any situation, especially parties and gatherings where you want some music playing in the background. I highly recommend it.