Review: Memorex Mi2290 Travel Speaker for iPod
Generally speaking, we've been really impressed by Memorex's value-conscious approach to iPod accessory design, but not every one of its products is a winner. Case in point is the Travel Speaker Mi2290 ($60), a physically cool white or black plastic audio system that has two things in its favor -- clean design and an attractive price -- but also a couple of strikes against it, namely so-so sound and limited features. If you're not concerned about sound quality and just need something cheap to bulk up your iPod's audio capabilities, it's not a bad option, but there are many portable speakers we'd recommend first.
Mi2290 is a simple, attractive little unit with a folding speaker half and a clock-laden dock half. The entire body of the black version is black, while the white one has a partially silver underbelly that folds up to parallel the silver backs of some iPod models, a cute touch. Both come with surprisingly nice little neoprene carrying sleeves, black for the black speaker and gray for the white one, as well as a color-matched power supply. But that’s pretty much it: you supply the Dock Adapter for your own iPod, there’s no remote control, and no radio to be found here, either, all steps back from the company’s earlier iTrek Mi3000 model. Given the price difference between the models, this isn’t totally surprising, but Mi2290 feels as if it was surgically tailored to be inexpensive without feeling that way. Thus, even though the neoprene sleeve comes across as a nice little bonus, it’s easy to look back at the ballistic nylon case of the Mi3000 and realize that it was even more sophisticated.
Buttons and inputs on the system are sparing. Mi2290 is equipped with track, volume, play/pause and clock-setting controls, all on the system’s top surface, and a power switch on the unit’s left side. An auxiliary audio input port is located on the back near a port for the power supply, and that’s it. Unlike the Mi3000, no cables—audio, video, or otherwise—are found in the package.
The one and only feature upgrade in this model is a backlit LCD clock that’s found below the iPod dock on the unit’s top and front. Due to its shallow display angle and position, we found it hard to read when it was sitting on a desk; it’s aided only modestly in that regard by the bright blue backlight that turns on when you flip the Mi2290’s power switch. It seems like Memorex included the clock without really wanting to spend the time or money to make it useful; if you tilt your head the right way, it’s a little easier to quickly check than the ones integrated into the iPod nano and classic, but not the iPod touch.
We were surprised only by the fact that Memorex includes a lithium battery to keep the clock running even when the unit’s unplugged, something it left purchasers of its Mi4290 Clock Radio to do on their own. Mi2290 users simply have to keep feeding the system sets of four AA batteries for audio; they’ll last for around 12 hours depending on how loud you turn up the speakers.
Mi2290 does best in styling. Subtle, interesting curves on the unit’s face and a metal speaker grille make the system look modern and feel interesting; the flip-up speaker half of the system seems familiar from dozens or hundreds of prior iPod portable systems without coming across as completely derivative. Sonically, however, it’s not impressive. The metal grill hides two 1.5” audio drivers and a 4-Watt amplifier, stepping down somewhat from the speakers in Mi3000, and the results are only decent: Mi2290 has little bass, only acceptable midrange, and a tendency to distort in the treble and elsewhere even at average volumes.
Songs with wall of sound-style presence sounded worse, rippling with little bits of distortion and sibilance, even at average volume levels. While you can turn up the speakers to an ear-damaging level, the audio quickly gets more shallow and radio-like as you do so, which isn’t a surprise given the nature of the drivers, amplifier, and price tag here. Young kids mightn’t mind these sorts of sonic issues, fans of bass and users who take their music even a little seriously won’t be impressed.
Overall, though we like the price and the way it looks, Mi2290 is hard to recommend on either sonics or features: Memorex has stripped the system down enough that there isn’t much left to recommend it. We’d consider it to be a fine option if you’re looking for something that’s almost disposably priced with enough durability to withstand abuse from young kids, but otherwise, we’d say this is the sort of iPod speaker that demonstrates the value of spending more to get more.