Pros: Quality portable iPod speakers at a highly affordable price point; compact when folded.
Cons: Require larger carrying case for safe packing, sound quality and volume is preferable on incrementally more expensive portable speakers.
To date, all of the truly portable speaker solutions released for the iPod have several features in common: they use relatively small speaker drivers, at best have enough volume to fill a small room, and sound passable on an absolute scale — not great. They’ve also tended to sell for upwards of $100, most frequently for $125 and up. Consequently, we’ve advised our readers numerous times that portable speaker systems should be purchased over comparably priced stationary ones if and only if they plan to actually move the speakers around.
With that disclaimer out of the way, we enjoyed Logitech’s new mm22 portable speakers ($79.99, available for $58 and up), which are now the lowest-priced speakers in their class. By “class,” we refer to portable size and performance peers such as Altec Lansing’s inMotions, iM3s, iMminis and new iM4s, which start at $99 and climb upwards from there, as well as JBL’s On Tours, and Logic3’s i-Station, both of which are also more expensive than the mm22s. On the other hand, when folded and packed as intended, the mm22s are considerably larger than Pacific Rim Technologies’ recently released Cube Travel Speakers, and aren’t truly comparable in our view.
But by comparison with all of the other options, the mm22s are small, folding into a 2.4” x 9” x 1.5 brick – roughly twice the thickness and height of an iPod photo. When unfolded such that the speakers are raised to their maximum vertical position, they’re noticeably shorter than the iM3s or iM4s, hitting around 4.3” in height. You can also move the speakers outwards, extending their apparent stereo separation by a bit.
Not surprisingly, the mm22s are made from the obligatory white glossy plastic with black and silver speaker drivers, a metal mounting bar, and plastic accessories described below. There are two compartments for a total of four AAA batteries on the system’s rear, as well as ports for AC power and one audio connection. A power switch and two volume buttons are on the system’s top. A padded fabric carrying bag the size of virtually all of the above competing options is required if you want to carry the mm22’s around, and has space for the included AC adapter, two sets of iPod-to-mm22 headphone cords, and your iPod cradle(s).
That’s right — cradles. Some but not all of the aforementioned options include full iPod docking and recharging stations, which the mm22s do not. Instead, Logitech has opted to use a set of three detachable plastic cradles (sans Dock Connector pins) that attach like hanging cups to the front of the mm22s’ body. One cradle fits iPod minis, another thinner iPods, and the last all thicker iPods and iPod photos.
It’s a cheaper and simpler solution that works just fine, particularly if you couple the speakers with a wireless remote control and want to adjust the volume from afar. It’s worth noting that you can’t do that with any of the aforementioned competitors save the iM4s, which don’t include any sort of iPod mounting apparatus, or the iM3s, which are $100 more expensive and include their own remote.
Logitech’s metal mounting loop is similarly an inexpensive improvised replacement for the hard plastic bases found in most competing systems. It’s supposed to prop the system up, but Logitech actually relies on its custom headphone jacks, which include a unique plastic “leg” on the bottom to keep everything stable. While it works, the company could have used a ratchet in the metal loop to accomplish the same end.
The major cost of Logitech’s decisions to go cheap and simple on design should theoretically have been the mm22’s audio quality: connecting to the iPod’s Dock Connector port is generally a better way to pull a clean signal from the device. But in practice, few of the portable speakers we’ve tested are audio standouts. Consequently, at typical listening levels, you won’t hear more distortion in the mm22s than in the inMotion speakers. You connect to the iPod’s headphone jack with one of the two headphone jack-to-mm22 cords — one longer (24”), to connect to a computer or other source, one shorter (10”) and appropriate to a cradled iPod.
By comparison with the low-end iM4’s, the mm22s lack for bass and distortion-free “much louder than normal” volume. Altec has consistently emphasized bass in its inMotion speakers at the cost of accuracy and treble; the mm22s are closer to balanced response, but have next to no thump, even with the iPod’s bass booster equalizer turned on. You can also turn the iM4’s up much louder without seriously distorting your music; the mm22s do just fine at normal levels, but they’re not great when turned up to be heard from the other side of a large room.
Overall, the mm22’s are recommendable portable speakers, though like their portable peers a bit of a challenge to grade. On one hand, their price is very attractive, but we tended to prefer the sound of Altec’s solutions, and even though they’re smaller than their competitors, you need to carry them around in the large included case because Logitech doesn’t include plastic or metal shields for the exposed speaker drivers. We think they’re definitely a good choice for buyers on a budget, and most appropriate for normal volume applications and low-bass music.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.
Company and Price
Model: mm22 Portable Speakers
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo, iPod shuffle