Review: Gear4/PodGear PocketParty for iPod nano
Pros: A pocket-sized stereo speaker system made specifically to hold the iPod nano upright, performing audio properly through its left and right drivers for up to 10 hours on a single AA battery. Offers a simple mounting and audio solution, available in black and white versions. Stronger bass than tube-shaped pocket speaker systems made for earlier iPods.
Cons: Distortion is evident at top volume level, making use of the speakers at the nano’s 85-90% volume mark preferable; price tag approaches larger, non-nano specific audio options.
Like Macally’s PodWave / IP-A111 speakers (iLounge rating: A-) and PodGear/Gear4’s prior PocketParty speakers (iLounge rating: A-), the concept behind PocketParty for iPod nano ($45) is simple: it’s a set of pocket-sized speakers that attaches to your iPod - here, only the nano - to perform audio at a maximum volume level appropriate for a group of two or three people sitting nearby. As with the similarly shaped PocketParty, volume is adjusted on the nano rather than the speakers, which have only an on-off switch (with a hidden yellow front power light) and single AA battery compartment to modestly complicate the squared off tube design. The AA runs the system for around ten hours; no power is provided to or by the iPod nano, and no wall charger is included, either - the latter a difference from slightly larger and more powerful systems such as Pacific Rim Technologies’ Cube Travel Speakers (iLounge rating: A).
As all iPod nano owners know, speakers for the nano have two unique challenges to overcome: they need to mount on the nano’s bottom rather than its top, and also need to stand up straight rather than falling over, which the nano itself is prone to do when unassisted. Gear4’s design takes these factors into account, and therefore is the first PocketParty to sit underneath an iPod, using a firm integrated plastic stand and a passive plastic Dock Connector insert to keep nano upright and straight. The design is slick, and aided by the company’s decision to produce both white and black versions of the system for owners of both nano body colors. Gear4’s only aesthetic flaw is its overreliance on plain text markings, which litter the unit’s rear - thankfully this time out of sight under most circumstances.
Attached to PocketParty, your iPod nano becomes a small audio system, properly outputting left and right channel audio through its metal side speaker grilles, and actually delivering a bit more bass and volume than both PodGear and Macally’s predecessor models - enough to make this version of PocketParty sound noticeably better than the earlier versions - under one condition. Regrettably, the added bass comes along with added distortion at the unit’s peak volume, which practically made us want to turn the unit down to the 85-90% mark rather than higher. Even at this level, we preferred this model’s sound balance, though we don’t like to hear distortion at the top end of such small speakers.
Overall, there’s no doubt that iPod nano owners considering pocket-sized speaker options should have PocketParty for iPod nano at or near the top of their lists - while not inexpensive by comparison with larger alternatives, the $45 asking price buys you miniaturization, convenience, and mounting that other options generally lack. Though these little speakers have the disadvantage of being nano-specific and thereby useless for other iPod models, they sound better than similar pocket-sized offerings - so long as you don’t crank them up to their maximum volume level.