Review: Gear4 PocketParty V2 Micro Speaker System

Pros: A good-looking pocket-sized speaker that mounts on any Dock Connecting iPod, including nanos and 5Gs, providing more than adequate sound and volume for its size. Powered by its own AA battery for 10 hours.

Cons: iPod has to lay on back when in use. Only two volume control positions, neither of which is really quiet. Left and right stereo channels are reversed, and left channel is inaudible in speaker’s “low” volume setting.

Review: Gear4 PocketParty V2 Micro Speaker System

This new version of Gear4’s (formerly PodGear) PocketParty connects to the bottoms of iPods rather than their tops, but does not feature a stand like the one used with PocketParty nano, and so cannot stand up while the iPod’s attached. Rather than a volume knob, a new two-position audio switch on each PocketParty V2’s rear lets you toggle betweeen high and low volume levels.

Back when Macally released its PodWave/AP-A111 (iLounge rating: A-) and PodGear (now Gear4) released PocketParty (iLounge rating: A-), we were pretty enthusiastic about the idea of an inexpensive, pocket-sized speaker system with just enough horsepower for two- or three-person listening. Each of these devices sat neatly on each iPod’s top, and the iPods could stand up while the speakers were plugged in.

Changes to recent iPods, however, have wreaked havoc with these devices: Apple’s decision to move iPod nano’s headphone port to its bottom, and the 5G’s port to its far right side, have made new pocket speakers all but necessary.

So Gear4 has taken up the revision challenge, first with PocketParty for iPod nano (iLounge rating: A-), and now this: the PocketParty V2 Micro Speaker System for Dock Connecting iPods (£25/approx. $45). In concept, these accessories should be rated near-identically: Gear4 uses the same general, attractive white- or black-colored chassis, preserves the same price point, and sounds basically the same. They both include a simple on-off switch, mounted on their bottom sides, and use a single AA battery for roughly 10 hours of playback.

Review: Gear4 PocketParty V2 Micro Speaker System

There are only three problems, one worse than the others. PocketParty V2 connects to an iPod’s Dock Connector port rather than its headphone port, which means that it’s always going to mount on an iPod’s bottom rather than its top. This wouldn’t be a problem if Gear4 repeated the smart decision it made with PocketParty for iPod nano, stabilizing the speakers’ bottom so that an iPod could stand up with the accessory attached.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t, so iPods have to be laid down on their backs when connected. If you don’t mind craning your neck to see the iPod’s screen, this won’t bother you, but in our view the company’s prior speakers were better in this regard.

Review: Gear4 PocketParty V2 Micro Speaker System

Second, connecting to an iPod’s Dock Connector has a known limitation: unlike the headphone port, you can’t use the iPod’s controls to change the Dock Connector’s output volume. For that reason, basically every company with a Dock Connector audio accessory includes dynamic volume controls. Gear4 hasn’t. Instead, it mounts a tiny two-position switch on V2’s back, labeled with plus and minus marks. “Minus” is low volume – roughly 70% on the iPod’s volume slider.