Devotec introduced the Solar Sound 2 portable speaker a few months ago, and I had the opportunity to get a hands-on look.
The Solar Sound 2 is a rather simple device. In the box, buyers can expect the speaker device itself, plus carrying case, a charging cable (connects via USB) and a standard 3.5mm plug for connecting to compatible media players. Devotec says "any" MP3 player, but computers and anything else with a headphones jack that plays music should work as well. Users can also transfer audio from the Solar Sound 2 to Hi-Fi devices from the Line Out spot. Note that at this time, the Bluetooth function on the iPad is not compatible with this speaker.
Upon opening the box, don't forget to charge the internal 1600mAh battery with the included plug. After that, users can expect up to 10 hours of playback time. Best of all, if you're in a sunny location, your worries are over thanks to the solar panel on top of the speaker. Given how light and tiny the speaker is, the Solar Sound 2 would be a great accessory for most small to medium-sized parties and picnics. (Otherwise, the sound might not be auditory.) Unfortunately, if you've forgotten to charge the battery enough and it's dark or foggy, make sure you're near an electrical socket as the power cord is pretty short.
I first tested it out with my iPhone 4 with the 3.5 connector cable, which worked nearly immediately. Playback isn't always instant, as the Solar Sound 2 scans for Bluetooth-enabled gadget first. This can take up to a few minutes, which becomes a bit annoying. Users can recognize this process based on center logo, which flashes a series of different lights from time to time. Devotec has included a chart in the user's manual for each kind, but expect red and blue lights flashing when searching for your favorite Bluetooth device.
Surprisingly, the iPhone 4 worked well with the Solar Sound 2 rather quickly. Often times when hooking up an iPhone to a stereo accessory (especially whatever the latest generation is), there's a lot of static emitting from the speakers. Usually, I have to set the iPhone to "Airplane Mode" to remedy the problem, but it wasn't necessary with this gadget. Devotec even suggests using the Solar Sound 2 as a speakerphone, especially as there is a built-in microphone that is hardly noticeable.
I also tried it out with a MacBook, which turned out to be a bit more complicated. First of all, the max distance allowable between the Solar Sound 2 and the Bluetooth-enabled source is 33 feet/10 meters. I turned the Bluetooth on my computer on and it was set to "discoverable." I waited a few minutes for the red and blue lights on the front of the speaker to stop flashing, until the green light that means "standby" appeared. When I went to search for the Solar Sound 2 on my computer's list of connectable devices, it wasn't there. My laptop was literally less than a foot away from the speaker, yet the two were never able to find each other. Nor was the Solar Sound 2 discoverable on my iPhone, but the laptop and the smartphone were able to detect one another.
Volume can be controlled either on the media source or the box itself, but playlists, play/pause, rewinding and forwarding needs to be done from the media player itself.
If you want your own copy, you can pick up a Solar Sound 2 from Devotec's online store now for $99.99 (not including shipping and taxes). If the Bluetooth works for you, then that's a worthy price. Otherwise, it's a bit much for a portable speaker that doesn't have a very high volume level/