REVIEW: The Banshee 5.0 surround sound speakers for iPod - Macenstein

REVIEW: The Banshee 5.0 surround sound speakers for iPod

Posted by Lab Rat

According to recent estimates, Apple expects to ship more than 52 million iPods worldwide by the end of 2006. Because of the iPod’s popularity, there seems to also be about 52 million iPod speaker systems out there to choose from as well.

As the price of quality audio components drops, choosing the right speaker system is becoming harder and harder. It seems these days that making a great-sounding, affordable set of speakers is no longer enough. To truly stand out from the competition, a company needs to grab the consumer’s eye with a unique sense of industrial design mixed with a couple never-before-seen features that set their speakers apart from the rest.

The Banshee 5.0 desktop speaker system by Banshee Audio scores on both fronts, offering a one-of-a-kind styling combined with 2 unique features I have yet to find in another speaker system, at any price.

The Banshee comes with a “remote dock” to hold you iPod or MP3 player.


The first thing you will likely notice about the Banshee is the way it looks. Perhaps the best way to describe the Banshee’s design is to imagine 5 hairdryers melted together, coated with a high-gloss black (or white) finish, and topped off with chrome speaker grill accents. This unique design does more than showcase the company’s skill with molding plastic. It is also functional, as the company claims it enhances the sound quality of the unit.

The Banshee’s streamlined design extends to its user interface as well. The controls consist of only three buttons; a power button, and volume up and volume down. That’s it.

Sounds pretty basic. So what’s so great about the Banshee?

Well, a lot, actually.

First, this thing sounds great (always a plus in a speaker system!). While measuring just under 12 inches long, the Banshee manages to pump 50 watts of power out of its 5 separate speakers, each of which is designed to emulate a different channel of audio (much like Dolby’s Prologic home theater systems). By using a unique blend of audio decoders and good old-fashioned audio engineering, Banshee manages to do a very respectable job of reproducing a 5.0 surround sound system in one small desktop unit.

Look ma! Surround sound without all the wires!

I found this surround sound effect is best heard from a distance of about 2 to 5 feet, meaning you need to be pretty close to the unit to really appreciate it. That being said, the Banshee has more than enough power to fill a mid to large sized room with great sounding audio, but the surround sound effect is greatly reduced with distance. For the past two weeks I have been listening to the Banshee as a replacement for my computer desktop speakers. As I write this review, they are sitting about three feet away from me, reproducing the soulful vocals of Neko Case with amazing clarity.

Another unique feature of the Banshee (although one I think is not likely to be utilized by many) is the addition of a LF out port on the back of the unit designed to power a separate woofer. The Banshee does a very nice job handling low frequencies, but just like Christopher Walken and cowbell, many people feel you can never have too much bass. Personally, I felt the Banshee delivered way more bass than I would have expected given its size, and I had a hard time even finding a woofer online that would plug into it even if I wanted more. The folks at Banshee Audio say they are working on a separate woofer (mimicking the styling of the Banshee) to be available in the not-too-distant-future.


The only category the Banshee may appear weak would be in the area of extras. While many competing iPod speaker systems boast such niceties as built-in docks for charging your iPod or remotes for skipping though songs and making volume adjustments, the Banshee comes only with a 6-foot audio cable and a “remote cradle�? (remote meaning you can place it away from the unit, not that it has any remote functionality). The cradle is deigned to hold all sizes of iPods, but also such music-playing devices as Sony’s PSP. As a result, the fit is not exactly snug. I found our 4G iPod sort of “floated�? a bit in the cradle, making pressing the buttons on the iPod a little difficult. It would have been nice if Banshee included adapters to fit different iPod models, like the iHome and Apple iPod Hi-Fi do.

Buying advice

Listing at only $129, the Banshee speakers sound as good as near-$200 offerings from Logitech and Altec Lansing. The Banshee’s 5.0 surround sound claim is more than just a gimmick. While you may not think you are in a THX-equipped theater, there is an enveloping sensation that one experiences when sitting close to the Banshee desktop speaker that needs to be heard to be appreciated.

Sound-wise, the Banshee owns the $100-$180 iPod speaker category. Assuming you are a fan of the Banshee’s styling (as I am), and are in the market for a great sounding, compact speaker system, there is no better sounding desktop speaker system for the price.

The Banshee is available at Radio Shack and Circuit City stores, so if you live nearby, I suggest you take the Banshee for a test drive.

The Banshee 5.0 desktop speaker system by Banshee Audio
Price: $129
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Pros: Great sound and bass given its size and price, cool design, works with all iPod models as well as other devices such as portable DVD players and the PSP, available in black or white.
Cons: Lack of dock and remote may be a deal breaker for some

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