It’s not everyday that I come across something that is as impressive looking as the Franklin Roadie Portable Speaker System. In photos, this thing looks really cool with its red, green and blue lighted buttons and brushed aluminum shell. Without any size reference, it looks big and powerful. Even the pricing concept looks appealing as the Roadie comes in three sections so you can buy each separately as budget allows or you can just buy the whole unit packaged together.
Well, guess what? Never trust a photo. When the Roadie arrived, I was floored. It’s just a little taller than a 12oz. soda can, about as wide and a slightly heavier than an unopened soda. This thing is tiny by audio standards. But I’ve heard other small speaker systems that were amazing in what they could pump out. So after I got over my shock, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt.
The EVS-4000 system reviewed here has all three components included. The EVS-2000 base unit contains the main speaker with all the necessary ports: USB, power, mic and aux. Connecting a microphone the mic input, it can become a small, personal PA system. The EVS-2000 can only be powered by a wall outlet.
The EVS-1000B component has an SD card slot and built-in rechargeable battery. It cleverly attaches to the top of the EVS-4000 base unit magnetically. All three pieces connect this way, so there’s no way to mess it up. The recharging capability allows for portability.
Finally, the EVS-1000C component sits on top and contains a tweeter, amplifier and 2-switch equalizer to round out the sound and complete the unit.
All in all, the Roadie is a clever – if little – audio device with a lot of options once you have all three pieces. However, there are serious issues I have with the unit.
Let’s start with the EVS-2000 base unit. When used alone, it provides decent enough sound volume for its size. The sound is like a cheap transistor radio until you set it down on a flat, hard surface. That’s when the bass kicks in and makes the sound richer. However, if you want anything louder than conversational volume, distortion kicks in. While I applaud how much bass this petite unit can produce, it’s not room filling by any measure. A semi-sticky base keeps the unit in place.
I had difficulty connecting the base unit to my iPod Classic via the aux port. It is extremely touchy. I had to slightly pull the plug back out of the unit before it would make a connection. Once it warmed up though, it worked fine. Oh, and here’s something irritating about the power button the manual doesn’t mention. You have to press and hold the ON button for about 3 seconds before it will power up. You can’t just quickly press it like any other audio device. It took me about 30 frustrating minutes to realize this. I was convinced I had a dead unit. The Roadie did come with a carrying bag and all the cords you need. Also, just about any country’s electrical plug requirement is included.
Adding the EVS-1000B didn’t do much for my set-up. Yes, it added an SD card slot and a rechargeable battery which makes it truly portable. However, when running on battery power, the volume is lowered significantly and you have to compensate by increasing the volume which also increases – you guessed it – the dreaded distortion. It’s a lose-lose situation. Adding insult to injury, the play/pause/skip buttons on the EVS-1000B only work if you have your music on an SD card (not included). The buttons are useless if you are listening to a separate MP3 player.
The EVS-1000C tops it off with a tweeter which improves the sound somewhat but is little help for the distortion. Also included is an equalizer, if you can call it that. It’s really just a Normal/HD switch that had minimal impact on the sound. Minimal can also be attributed to the amplifier included in the EVS-1000C. I couldn’t find a power rating on the amp, but it can’t be much. I think the tweeter has the more impact on the overall sound of the now completed unit than either the amp or equalizer.
If you want a (really) small, cool looking audio source for your desktop or quasi-portable setup, the Roadie could work for you. But the marginal sound quality and quirky buttons and connections make me want to look elsewhere.