When it comes to gadgets, I think product design is a key area to think about. Some people might argue that build quality is more important and ultimately, I may tend to agree to an extent. However, when a gadget has an eye-catching design that really turns heads, then it certainly has to be worth a second look!
Keeping this in mind, Bytelove recently sent me the Fred 500 XL Earbud Speakers to review, which have been carefully and manufactured to look exactly like the original iPod earbuds. They’re just… well, much bigger! 500 times bigger in fact.
Basically, they’re a pair of inexpensive speakers which can be used with your iPod, MP3/CD player or PC/Laptop. During the review, I used them with my laptop and also my Blackberry 8900.
They can be powered by either 3 x AAA batteries (not included), by USB from your laptop/PC or you can plug in your own 5v power supply (not included).
So, let’s have a closer look!
The speakers arrived in a clear, clamshell-style pack which allows you to have a good look at the size of them and also the funky design & colours.
- Speaker Size: 32mm Diameter
- Dimensions: 100(L) x 85(D) x 170(H) mm
- Rating: 3 Watt
- Impedance: 4 ohms
- Frequency Response: 250 – 10000Hz
- Weight: 415g (without batteries)
- Power source: USB Power (DC 5v) or Battery Power (3 x AAA) or external power supply
- Maximum Power Output: 1.5w (USB) or 1.4w (Battery)
- Accessories: 3.5mm Audio Jack Cable x 1 & USB power cable x 1
- Speakers & Power box
- USB (DC) cable (42″ in length)
- Audio cable (41″ in length)
You also get a very basic instruction card to refer too, which advises which part is which, however as it’s as case of ‘plug and go’ you’ll probably not need to refer to it at all.
Simply plug in the USB cable (or your own power supply) to the power box DC input and plug the other end into your devices USB port (or indeed, insert 3 x AAA batteries into the power box) and then plug in the audio cable. Then, just flick the switch to the desired choice of power (USB/DC or battery) and you’re wired for sound!
The quality of the 500 XL’s is really what you’d expect for a pair of inexpensive speakers. They do have a built-in amp and although it’s not very big, the sound of the audio produced isn’t too bad. I did crank up the volume to the maximum level, but the speakers couldn’t handle it and distortion took over. Also, the finer detail of both bass and treble isn’t crisp throughout the volume range, but overall the sound produced from a mix of music was ok.
However, I would add that these speakers are most certainly not designed to be used for any serious music listening. They also managed to pick up a little signal noise from my cell phone, so keep it well away.
Using the speakers with batteries, I managed to drain the power from them within a days listening. So, if you are thinking about using them on the move with your MP3 player, keep some spare cells in your gear bag. Mind you, the cells I used weren’t the best on the market, so use something decent and they’ll no doubt last a little longer.
They do sit nicely on a flat surface, with the face of the speakers angled up slightly towards you and there is enough cable length to have one either side of your laptop or monitor, and beyond if you prefer, so you can have them at either corner of your desk for instance.
One downside of the speakers design is that there are no external volume controls. Therefore, all volume changes must be done from your device only. This itself isn’t a huge problem, but an addition of a volume control to maybe one of the speakers, or even the power box would certainly be very advantageous.
Even though they are giant earbuds, they are small & light enough to fit into any gear bag (They went in mine ok!) so you could even use them when travelling on the train or plane, if you really wanted to. They will turn a few heads though, I’ll warn you now. I’ve had numerous people at work pick them up and put them to their ears!
All in all, the Fred 500 XL Earbud Speakers are a great purchase, if indeed you’re looking for a pair of desk speakers that are just a bit different to the rest. The price won’t really shock you and the sound produced is fine for general day-to-day listening and they really do look the business. For these reasons, I would certainly recommend them.
The only downsides as mentioned are the lack of volume control, poor top end bass performance and they did drain my batteries fairly quickly.
As I mentioned at the start of the review, sometimes the design of a gadget works more in its favour than build quality and this is certainly the case for the 500 XL’s.
Do you know any Apple geeks? Then I think these would make the perfect gift!