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Reviews

Think Outside BoomTube H2O1 Speaker System

By Legacy May 5, 2006, 12:00 am

INTRODUCTION

Mobile music is everywhere. We have iPods, MP3 players, PDAs, and phones with digital music stored on them. Some of us even still have portable CD players (that's so 1995!). These devices are convenient and help us to take our music with us wherever we go. The problem becomes sharing the music with others when in a mobile situation. Sure, you can buy a headphone jack splitter and share the music with another person, but what happens when you want to share your mobile music with a lot of people? Enter Think Outside and the BoomTube H 2 O 1 , a device "Designed to work with nearly any portable music source, that transforms personal MP3 players, Cellular MP3 phones, or even laptop computers into a portable party." So let's get this alleged party started, and test the claim on this new release. Read on for our test results!

POCKETNOW VIDEO OF THE DAY

WHAT'S HOT

2 O 1 sports these features:

  • Dual amplifiers that deliver more than 40 watts of total system power
  • Four 2-inch drivers with dual-neodymium magnets and MaxxBass technology
  • Integrated crossover and EQ
  • Anodized aluminum housing resists stains and scratches while delivering better sound quality than plastic
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery for up to 5 hours of play

SETUP

The BoomTube box is nicely designed and highlights many of the product's features.

Included in the box (from the top, clockwise) are the BoomTube itself, a nylon carrying case, ear plugs and their case, a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter, 2 RCA-style cables to connect the speakers, a mini-jack to mini-jack cable to connect the audio source, the instruction manual and the AC adapter.

Think Outside has a sense of humor. The sticker on the ear plug case says: "For your neighbors"

Before you can use the BoomTube, you need to charge it. The unit is powered from an internal (and non-user replaceable) lithium-ion battery. Charging is accomplished via an included AC adapter. The unit cannot be charged while it is on. Once the unit is charged, it is time to remove the satellite speakers and connect your audio source. Removing the satellite speakers is very simple, simply rotate them towards the front of the BoomTube and they come off. Reverse this process to re-attach them. The satellites "click" into place quite securely and I am confident that the connection mechanism is durable. After removing the satellites, you need to connect them via cable back to the main unit. This is accomplished using the included RCA cables. Finally, you need to attach your audio source using the included mini-jack to mini-jack cable. A nice touch is the included 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter so you can use a the headset jack from a music phone or Smartphone as the audio source.

The jacks on the back of the BoomTube (from left to right) are power, headphones, right satellite, left satellite and audio in. Each satellite has a color-coded RCA jack that corresponds to a jack on the back of the BoomTube.

Unfortunately, once you get finished connecting all the cables, you are left with quite a mess. It would be much better if Think Outside had included retractable cables.

PRODUCT FEATURES

First of all, the BoomTube is very sexy. The aluminum housing is very attractive and it is textured to resist scratches. The device has a good solid feel to it, and isn't too heavy or too light.

The BoomTube looks great when it is together.

Operation of the BoomTube is very straightforward. Press the power button on top of the unit for a few seconds and the BoomTube comes to life.

The dial on the left is for volume and the one on the right is for the subwoofer. The power button in the center is surrounded by an LED which is green when fully charged, orange when powered-on and blinks orange while charging.

To test the sound quality, I connected my 4G iPod to the BoomTube. All the music I used in this test were MP3s encoded at 320kbps variable bit rate. The good news is that the sound coming out of the BoomTube is very crisp and has no audible distortion. It can also get reasonably loud. The bad news is that there is very little bass coming from the unit. This is in stark contrast to the claims on the box which proudly state, "It's all about big bass. Adjust from bouncing to booming." I tried different settings with the EQ on the iPod and nothing really improved the bass output even when the BoomTube's subwoofer dial was turned up to maximum. I did find that it was good to set the EQ on the iPod to Treble Enhance as this helped to clear the high range for the BoomTube.

Here is the BoomTube with my 4G 30GB iPod. This picture should help you get a sense of the size of the BoomTube.

The main unit, which is supposed to be a subwoofer, was putting out all of the midrange sound, while the satellites put out the treble. I think there is a problem with the way the crossover is set from the factory. Treble and midrange should be coming out of the satellites while the main unit should be dedicated to bass. There is also no air port for the subwoofer, and since most subwoofers have one, it makes you wonder if one would have made any difference here.

To make sure that these results were not the fault of my iPod, I connected the iPod to my computer speakers, the Logitech z-5500. Needless to say, the iPod was not at fault. To see how the BoomTube performed with a different audio source, I dug out my Sony Discman portable CD player and tried that as well. The BoomTube gave much better treble with the portable CD player, which I expected as MP3 compression cuts out a lot of treble. Unfortunately, the bass was not improved with the CD player.

All of the speakers look very similar, although the satellites have a dome in the middle.

Basically, if you like the kind of sound that Bose satellite speaker systems put out, you may like the BoomTube's sound. As I said, the sound is very crisp and clear. Unfortunately, like Bose computer speakers, there is not enough depth and fullness to the music. Many people prefer crispness to fullness, so your ears may react differently to the sound coming from the BoomTube.

Think Outside also includes a nice nylon carrying case which is big enough for the BoomTube and all of the cables with the exception of the AC adapter. Considering that this unit is meant to be portable, the carrying case is a great addition.

Oddly, despite the name BoomTube H 2 O 1 and all the pictures of water on the box, the BoomTube is neither waterproof nor water-resistant. The side of the box makes note of this in small print. As for battery life, I can agree with Think Outside's estimate of about 5 hours.

HELP SUPPORT

The included instruction manual is very easy to read and contains enough information to get the BoomTube up and running. I cannot imagine any additional help or support would be needed.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

To use the BoomTube you need to provide a source of audio. Any device with a 3.5mm or 2.5mm mini-jack will work.

BUGS AND WISHES

My primary wish would be for Think Outside to increase the bass from this unit. All the music I tested with sounded very flat without good bass. To be frank, I have heard more bass from high-end ear-buds such as the excellent Shure Ec3 which costs a lot less. Considering the price of the BoomTube, I expect much better bass. My next wish would be for retractable cables. Considering the intended mobility of this product, it would be nice to not have to deal with tying up cables or untangling them. My final wish would be for the BoomTube to be water-resistant. I say this not just because of the product's name, although it is slightly misleading. I think that a great use for this product could be at the beach or by the swimming pool. With all of the various water-resistant cases available for iPods, a water-resistant portable speaker system would be cool.

Pros

  • Great-looking and easy to use
  • Crisp, clear sound with no distortion even at maximum volume
  • Includes carrying case
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Bass is almost undetectable
  • Requires some adjustments to the audio source's EQ for best results
  • Cables become messy and tangled
  • A bit pricey

OVERALL IMPRESSION

The BoomTube is a great idea that falls a bit short in execution. The unit is well-designed, cool looking and easy to use. Unfortunately, the lack of bass really hurts the sound quality.

If you need portable speakers that come with a built-in battery with a great design, the BoomTube is definitely worth considering. If you are an audiophile and sensitive to the way your music sounds, the BoomTube is not for you.

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