Road trips aren't always spent on the road, and when it comes to camping, a cottage or some other getaway, having the means to play music without needing a constant power source can be liberating. These three units are markedly different in a number of ways, but they're effective at what they do.
Eton Rukus Solar
- Available at: Amazon.ca, Indigo, EtonCorp.com
Eton is known for coming up with solar-powered portable speaker systems, and the Rukus Solar is a step up from others, mainly because it's easy to carry and charges from the sun's rays a little faster, too.
Rather than have a connector specific for the iPhone or iPod, Eton has made this universal, so you can either connect a smartphone or MP3 player through an auxiliary 3.5-mm cable or use Bluetooth to pair with the Rukus. Should you need to charge a mobile device from the Rukus, there's a USB port in the back you can plug into, including a pouch for the device to fit snugly in.
Sound quality is decent for something of its size, but not quite boisterous enough for a huge gathering. It does help that you can lay it down flat or prop it upright, depending on how you want the audio to come through the speakers. Expect up to 10 hours of playback on a single charge and, as long as it has daylight hitting the panel, the battery is always pulling in a charge.
Ion Block Rocker
- Available at: Costco, AVshop.ca
At first glance, the Block Rocker resembles a guitar amplifier, which is not far off in practical terms. Big, bulky and weighing in at 40 pounds, the unit packs a punch in showering a crowd with pulsating beats. The 22-watt amp is complemented by a seven-inch speaker and one-inch tweeter.
In pure roadie fashion, it even has wheels at the bottom and dual handles on the sides for easier transport. The iPod/iPhone dock at the top is the most obvious playback option, though there are RCA stereo jacks, a mic input for the included microphone and a quarter-inch jack for plugging in a guitar. The microphone and guitar can work while music plays on the iPod, making for some interesting karaoke moments.
Expect about four hours to fully charge the battery inside, which should then last 10-12 hours. The lack of a remote is a real downer, and not having Bluetooth onboard also doesn't help. But for an outdoor event of any kind, this unit will do just fine.
Jawbone Big Jambox
- Available at: Apple Store, Apple Store online
Taking the same premise of the original Jambox, Jawbone has made this one bigger, and thus more capable in pumping out tunes at greater volumes. The look and feel is essentially the same as the previous one, except that the added heft and weight don't make this quite as portable.
Like the other two in this list, it can also run on battery power, where you can expect somewhere around 10-12 hours on one charge. You get a 3.5-mm auxiliary cable, micro USB cable and a power adapter in the box, but you can also listen to audio by pairing via Bluetooth. Also, like the other two, you won't be able to utilize WiFi or Apple's AirPlay here, either.
Jawbone touts its LiveAudio feature, which is 3D sound, but this really only comes into play when standing right in front of it. Audio fidelity, overall, is surprisingly good, though you should expect it to struggle with tracks that are bass-heavy.