Review: PodGear PocketParty Shuffle
Pros: A wearable iPod shuffle-specific speaker system that runs off of AA battery power, includes a lanyard.
Cons: While not wearable, earlier PodWave miniature speaker accessory delivers better sound quality, lower price, and virtually identical size. High-distortion audio is unimpressive and grating. Somewhat difficult to detach shuffle once attached, works only with iPod shuffle.
There’s only one explanation for PodGear’s release of PocketParty Shuffle (£23.49, approx. US$43.00, available through iPodWorld.co.uk): the company wanted to design a wearable iPod shuffle-specific speaker system and didn’t care much about the sound quality. The result is a cute little glossy white plastic box that looks a lot better than it sounds.
Each PocketParty Shuffle consists of five primary pieces: the speaker box, a detachable battery compartment panel and AA battery, a detachable iPod shuffle USB cap, and a white fabric lanyard. You pop the battery into the speaker box’s bottom, cover it with the panel, insert your powered-on shuffle into the cap and cap into the box, then flip the unit’s flat, bottom-mounted on-off switch to on. A shuffle-like yellow light appears in-between the two speakers to let you know the power’s on. Attach the lanyard if you want to wear it on your neck, or leave it off if you don’t.
Worn on your neck, the combined unit includes a pass-through headphone jack for personal listening when the speakers are off, and weighs about the same as an iPod mini. A detachable plastic clip on the lanyard lets you pull off the speakers without removing the cord. There’s no port for external power; it runs solely off of the included AA battery for a total of around 10 hours, depending on volume.
While the build quality on PocketParty Shuffle doesn’t feel great - seams are exposed, the bottom compartment feels loose, and the iPod shuffle is more than a bit of a pain to remove once inserted - there’s no denying that it looks nice, and is visually as good a match for the shuffle as any speaker system could be. If its sound quality was better, we could almost have forgiven these other issues.
But It’s not, and we can’t claim to be totally surprised that PocketParty Shuffle’s speakers don’t sound great. Despite possessing exterior gray metal grilles of nearly the same size as Macally’s PodWave (iLounge rating: A-), the actual speakers are flat and have no breathing room inside the chassis. They lack the comparatively controlled bass response of PodWave and PodGear’s first-generation PocketParty (iLounge rating: A-), which while not exemplary in the grand scheme of things sound very good for their size.
By further comparison with PodWave and the first PocketParty, which are both compatible with every iPod and actually do a good job of delivering low-distortion audio up to almost the peak of an iPod’s volume range, PocketParty Shuffle distorts audibly and unpleasantly at relatively low levels, getting worse as the iPod’s volume goes up. This appears to be because of a different amplifier which provides slightly more amplification, but at a lower quality level. We would go into greater detail, but suffice to say that the unit sounds considerably worse than the $30 PodWave, but costs more.
We weren’t even impressed by PocketParty’s stereo separation, which we’d describe as flat - almost pointlessly so for a unit with two separate speakers. PodWave and the original PocketParty both do a better job when the units are both horizontal; when worn on your neck, PocketParty Shuffle hangs vertically, losing its mere traces of the effect altogether.
If you need an iPod shuffle speaker system you can wear, PocketParty Shuffle is your only choice; this and its looks are the only reasons it didn’t score lower. But if you really want a “pocket party,” go with the cheaper PodWave. It works with more iPods, sounds better, and costs less.