Monday, October 10, 2005

Pop Goes the Speaker: Saitek's A-200

Your assignment: Design a portable speaker that lets you take room-filling, rich audio on the road without filling up your suitcase. You could stuff a couple small bookshelf speakers in your duffel bag, but where are you going to shove that big subwoofer?

Saitek, known for its joysticks and game controllers, solves the big-sound problem not with smoke and mirrors, but with thin air--with an assist from your hand.

The new Saitek A-200 Portable 2.1 Speaker System ($99.95) looks unique enough with its boomerang-style curves but its most interesting aspect is its stowaway subwoofer.

When closed, the dark plastic section in the center of the A-200 is even with the rest of the unit. Push down firmly, however, and it unlocks and rises slowly and silently until it's an inch or so high. This creates an echo chamber above the bottom-mounted, three-watt subwoofer. This design, called the Expanded Air Volume System, is meant to enhance the bass produced by the subwoofer.

In practice the concept seems to work. When connected to an old Sony Walkman, the A-200 indeed yielded a rich and full-sounding audio that seemed to emanate from a much larger speaker system. The two top-mounted three-watt speakers provided ample stereo separation and the bass response was more than adequate. The design is clean and simple: Only an on/off LED and two volume buttons grace the top of the unit. The audio input and AC jacks are on one side.

So how does it sound once you push the air chamber back down? It's hard to say since closing the chamber shuts the A-200 off.

With a fairly compact triangular footprint, the unit could be used as a viable replacement for a conventional two-speaker-and-subwoofer setup for a PC. It can also be used to improve the audio from laptop-driven presentations. You can power the A-200 with four AA batteries or with the included AC adapter. Also included is a carrying case and a buffing cloth so you can keep the shine on the smooth plastic body.

No, it's not your father's speaker system, but that's probably a good thing. Would you give this one a try?

(Photos © Saitek)

1 comment:

Oliver said...

I'm guessing, because there's no additional object in those photos to give them scale, but is this thing about 10 or so inches across?

i'm gonna link to this off of technology filter, but this isn't really an optimal config for portability is it? Big enough to completely take up a compartment in my knapsack, and awkward enough to discourage space sharing. plus that nice smooth finish isn't going to travel well, is it?