Review: Zagg’s RockStic iPod Speakers - Macenstein

Review: Zagg’s RockStic iPod Speakers

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

Above: The RockStic is available in metallic black, pink, and silver for an introductory price of $49.99.

Portable speakers are a tricky animal to review. On the one hand, you want something portable which can run off batteries and is compact enough to travel with. On the other, you want sound that won’t embarrass you if you happen to throw an impromptu hotel room party. Zagg’s RockStic iPod Speakers deliver on the first count, and come respectably close to delivering on the 2nd.

Zagg, which recently bought ShieldZone (makers of the Invisible Shield), has come up with a pretty cool design with the RockStic. The unit consists of a 7.5-inch-wide black (or silver, or pink) tube-shaped speaker with a built-in iPod dock on top. The on board controls are simple, with only Volume Up and Volume Down buttons gracing the front. On the back, there is a small power switch, along with the power and Line-In ports. For extra controls, the RockStic ships with a “full-featured remote”. When an iPod is docked, the remote allows you to skip, pause, and shuffle/repeat songs, navigate menus, and of course control the volume.

Above: What’s in the box.

The Dock connector is a nice touch. When plugged in, the RockStic can both charge your iPod and holds it upright for video viewing. The speaker ships with varying sized docking plates to fit the nano and older iPods. For owners of iPod Shuffles, iPhones, or other MP3 players, the RockStic has a standard Line-in jack, which also means you can connect the RockStic to your computer/laptop. Like most peripherals, the iPhone doesn’t play well with the RockStic’s dock, (although it WILL charge).

A random side note; if you have 2 iPods, and one is hooked up via the dock and one via the Line-in, the Line-In sound has priority over the dock. This is useless knowledge, but I thought I would share, as it is the opposite of what I have found in most other speakers which sport both ports.

Above: The RockStic’s front; Volume Up, Remote sensor, Volume Down.

Sound quality

The RockStic’s sound quality is respectable given its size and price, but will not satisfy the true audiophile. Overall the sounds comes across with a very high mid-range, and you’ll want to adjust your EQ setting to attempt to compensate. Since the iPod/iPhone doesn’t give you a great visual representation of the EQ, you may have to go through some trial and error. What I did to find the best EQ setting was open iTune’s EQ (which mimics the iPod’s) and went through the presets until I saw one that came close to delivering the levels I want. Oddly enough, I found my never-used Latin EQ preset to work the best for most songs.

Above: I found the Latin EQ setting did a decent job of lowering the midrange for the RockStic.

The volume of the RockStic scales surprisingly well, and did not distort when raised until it reached very high levels. Unfortunately, the louder you crank the RockStic, the more a low hiss can be heard when listening to more “acoustic”-type music with lulls, such as Aimee Mann. The hiss was not noticeable in “fuller” songs from artists like Weezer and Stone Sour, and again, only became an issue at high volumes.

As you might suspect with a speaker this size, the true enemy of the RockStic is bass. Bass is not horrible, but this speaker does not “thump” either. With many EQ settings, the bass actually begins to distort a bit. Depending on the type of music you usually listen to, this may or may not be an issue for you, but I would say those looking to throw a Hip-Hop party should look elsewhere.


I ran into a couple issues when using the RockStic, none of which are major, but they are worth mentioning. First, after playing music via the iPod Dock connection and the music stops, or if you pause a song, quite often there is a faint electric “hiss/whine” sound. This is not evident when pausing music on the RockStic via the Line-in port, so I think it has to do with the dock connection. When music is actually playing the whine does not occur.

Second, for a portable speaker system, I think the RockStic should have come with a travel case. It’s nice to have such a compact speaker, but if you are bringing along the remote, power chord (with a big-ended connector), and possibly the included audio cable (for laptop hookup or something) suddenly you need to keep track of everything. To play up the travel aspect of the device, I would have liked to see a travel case that could accommodate the RockStic and its accessories.

Above: The RockStic’s power switch is a tad on the small side.

This is being nit-picky, but I’m not a huge fan of the RockStic’s diminutive power button either. In its favor, it is small enough and hard enough to switch on that it is unlikely you would accidentally turn it on in your bag and waste batteries, yet it is just too small, and necessitates a “side-to side” motion to move it, essentially meaning you have to pick up the RockStic. You have to pretty much use your finger nail to slide it, and this is hard from the front of the speaker for those of use who do not poses Gumby’s unique abilities. I suggest a vertical power switch orientation for the RockStic v2.0.

One last oddity I noticed. If you are playing music with the RockStic running off batteries, then plug in the AC power cable, the volume defaults back to about 5% or so, and you have to crank up it again. I’m not sure this will happen to the average user enough to be annoying, but it just seemed like a weird thing.


Zagg bills the RockStic as “a compact, portable speaker system that unleashes all the rock and roll fury of your iPod.” I would argue it unleashed about 78% of my rock and roll’s fury, and maybe only 60% of my Hip-Hop’s. Still, I enjoy the RockStic very much for what it is – namely a very compact, stylish and portable speaker system suitable for travel duties or for pre-teens and younger to use as a full-time speaker system. The dock-charging, remote, and ability to run off 4 AAA in addition to AC power make this speaker a good choice for the computer/iPod user on the go. At its introductory price of $49.99, the speaker is a steal, however when this price goes back up to its normal $69.99, it becomes a bit more debatable as to who is committing the crime.

The RockStic is by no means a replacement for your standalone stereo system, but with proper EQ adjustments, you can get a respectable amount of sound out of this little device.

Zagg’s RockStic iPod Speakers

Price: $49.99 (introductory price – normally $69.99)

Pros: Small/portable, looks cool, delivers decent sound given size, runs off AC or 4 AAA batteries

Cons: Sound is quite mid-rangey, Speaker hiss when music is not playing and iPod docked, no carrying case, “regular” price is too high

2 Responses to “Review: Zagg’s RockStic iPod Speakers”
  1. niclet says:

    I personally have a Think Outside BoomTube H2O1 which look alike this RockStic without the remote control and the iPod dock but it got 40 watt power and despite it’s more expensive, it have an awesome sound.

  2. Tex says:

    FWIW, I was at the zagg/ShieldZone site and the Rockstic’s are selling for $39.99. Not sure if they’re starting a fire sale due to lack of interest, or, if they’re readying a new and improved version.

    Thanks for the review. Its one of few that I could find.

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