Review: Livespeakr proves good things come in small, rotating, rechargeable packages
If you’re looking for a pretty cool last minute gift for that iPod touch or iPhone user in your family, I would highly recommend the Livespeakr iPod/iPhone speaker by Livespeakr.
The Livespeaker consists of a rotating cradle/dock which can accommodate both the iPhone and the iPod touch (due to the different headphone jack placements between the devices, the cradle pops off and flips so you can change the orientation of the speaker wire). Sound is handled via a standard mini stereo jack as opposed to a dock connection, which is good for a couple of reasons. First, it means you can use the Livespeaker with pretty much any device, including a DS or iPod shuffle (although they will not fit well in the cradle). But the biggest benefit of a mini jack over the dock connector is you can use the Livespeakr to play the sounds and music from your iPhone’s GAMES as well as music and movies.
Above: The Livespeakr’s speakers can fold out to the sides to give you true stereo sound. OK, just kidding, I think it’s just so their sound doesn’t get blocked by the iPhone.
In fact, I’ve actually been using the Livespeakr more or less non-stop for games since we got it last week, and loving it. The Livespeaker’s size actually makes the iPhone a bit easier to hold for most games, although its extra weight does eventually become noticeable after a couple hours (but hey, you probably should be taking a break at that point anyway). Livepseakr claims the unit is small enough to fit in your pocket, and while I found this to be technically true, I must admit I have giant pockets, and it DID create a rather unsightly bulge in my pants, so be warned.
For move watching, the cradle can rotate 180 degrees. It starts horizontally, with the speakers contracted into the body. A 90 degree counter-clockwise turn will orient the cradle vertically for normal iPhone use, and another 90 degree counter clockwise turn will cause the speakers to extend to either side of the device. Volume is controlled via the iPhone’s volume buttons (the cradle has a corresponding cutout), and the sound quality is really amazing given its size, and would actually be impressive even if it were twice as large. Pound for pound and dollar for dollar, I really haven’t seen a better sounding speaker for the iPod.
There is a foldable kickstand in the back of the speaker with 3 notched elevation settings to provide slightly different viewing angles.
Aside from its great sound, the big selling point for the Livespeakr is that it has a pretty robust internal rechargeble battery. Livespeakr claims you can get up to 16 hours of battery playback on a single charge, and we found this to be the case as well. I used Livespeakr for about 8 hours, then left it on all night (not playing) so I could use Alarm Clock Pro to wake to a specific music track, and then used it the rest of the next day without needing a charge. Odds are you will recharge your iPhone at least a couple times before needing to recharge the Livespeakr, which makes it a great choice for travel. Power-wise, you charge it via a standard mini USB power adapter (included) which you could also use to charge your iPhone or iPod (you’d need to bring your own cable, however).
Above: With an alarm clock app, the LiveSpeakr becomes a pretty sweet travel alarm clock, or alarm clock in general. Just be sure to keep it, and your iPhone, charged or plugged in.
With sound this good at a price this reasonable it’s hard to find much to complain about here, but I’ll try. My only real issue with the Livespeakr is that the iPhone/iPod cradle will not accommodate a case of any kind. Even my thinnest iPhone case was too thick to be able to jam the iPhone into the cradle. This is actually a pretty big pain the butt, as my favorite case for my kids’ iPod touch’s is a Speck Candy Shell case that is more or less impossible to remove, so having to do so daily is a bit of pain. We once reviewed an iPhone bike mount that had a great adjustable cradle design that allowed the cradle to adjust in width to hold more or less ANY device, and something like that, or perhaps a “spring-loaded” edge design that would allow for a snug fit with a little room to breath would be a better choice for the next version. Luckily the stereo cord, while short, is long enough that I can still use the speaker without putting the iPod in the cradle for those times when I really don’t feel like messing with the case, but this is less than ideal. You should also not that the cradle fits the iPhone perfectly, but the thinner iPod touch does not fit in quite as snuggly (another reason for perhaps a spring-loaded cradle).
I suppose in theory you could just always leave your iPod in the cradle, and detach it from the speaker when you want to have some portability (it DOES sort of act as a case) but it isn’t the most stylish, and doesn’t really offer the full protection of a real case.
One other thing I noticed was that when the unit is turned on but no music is playing, you can occasionally hear a faint hum, or staticy sound. It’s not really perceptible from more than 2 feet away or so, and you’d need to be in a dead quiet room, but as I was using it for an alarm clock I did notice it, so I felt it worth mentioning.
The only other thing I can think to complain about would be that there is no real indicator of how much battery is left. All you have is a green LED on the unit that lets you know it is turned on, and a similar LED on the charge plug that turns red when charging, and green when the unit is fully charged.
A final suggestion
Assuming Livespeakr is reading this, I have another suggestion for the next model of Livespeakr. First, while I have no major problems with the Livespeakr as is, and suggest they continue to make it, I would LOVE for them to make a slightly larger, pricier model with a dock connector which would serve as a charging cradle for the iPhone when plugged into an outlet. I found the Livespeakr’s size and form factor ideal for alarm clock apps like Alarm Clock Pro, and the sound is on par with (or better than) even the pricier $90-$100 range iPod alarm clocks. However, even though both the iPhone running a 3rd party alarm app and Livespeakr in standby mode CAN last the night, you need to charge them every day upon waking. The fact that I need to have my iPhone plugged into a power outlet as well as having the Livespeakr plugged in overnight just makes for a messy looking device and a waste of an outlet.
Pound for pound and dollar for dollar, I really haven’t seen a better sounding speaker for the iPod, and in fact I just bought two for my kids after reviewing this one. Depending on how you use your iPhone, you may or may not be looking for a portable compact speaker system, but the Livespeakr is a step above what you might expect in terms of audio, and comes very close to falling into the “bookshelf speaker” audio category. For the “iPod/iPhone gamer”, I say the decision to buy is a no-brainer, as it is for anyone who finds themselves watching a lot of TV shows on the iPod (as my kids do). In fact, it has somewhat lessened the headphone isolation syndrome my kids were beginning to succumb to, and now both my kids huddle around their 3-inch screen together… like idiots, as there’s a 46-inch LCD tv in the same room, but hey, it’s cute.
Price: $40 (Amazon)
Pros: Amazing sound for its size. 16 hour battery life, versatile design, adjustable kickstand for video viewing, compatible with both iPhone and iPod touch, available in White and Black
Cons: Not compatible with pretty much any case, no battery indicator, can’t charge iPod when plugged in, so you need to carry 2 plugs/cables