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Photos: Top 10 portable speaker systems

review A new breed of portable speakers sound a lot better than the tinny models you might remember from the Walkman days.
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By Bill Detwiler, Contributor on
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1 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

Altec Lansing InMotion iM7

You want to take your tunes on the road, but headphones don't always cut it, and even the smallest home speakers and receivers/amplifiers aren't portable. Technology has come to the rescue with a new breed of portable speakers that sound a lot better than the tinny models you might remember from the Walkman days. These useful devices are the hot ticket for travelers, dorm rooms, the beach or the office; they plug into iPods, MP3 players, and laptops' headphone jacks, with sound that can easily fill a small to medium-size room.

In this photo gallery, you'll find the top 10 contenders that have been reviewed by CNET. Some are perfect for frequent travelers, while others are best suited for the office or trips to the beach, and all of them have the option of being powered from built-in or replaceable batteries.

1. Altec Lansing InMotion iM7

The good: Seamless integration with any dock-connecting iPod; eye-catching design; includes remote; charges the iPod while plugged in; works on AC power or batteries; impressive sound with thumping bass; auxiliary line-in port for use with other audio devices.

The bad: No meter display for bass, treble, or volume adjustment; a bit too bulky for ultimate portability; remote can't navigate through menus on the iPod.

The bottom line: The Altec Lansing iM7 offers good sound quality, flexible listening options, and handy features, making it a solid choice for any iPod owner in the market for a complementary sound system.

Read CNET's review
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2 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

Sonic Impact i-Fusion

2. Sonic Impact i-Fusion

The good: The Sonic Impact i-Fusion offers great audio quality in a travel-friendly package and at a reasonable price.

The bad: The Sonic Impact i-Fusion neither includes a remote nor natively accommodates the latest iPod.

The bottom line: The Sonic Impact i-Fusion portable speaker system for the Apple iPod is a compact and efficient powerhouse that enables you to share your music with the world--or at least with those around you.

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3 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

3. LG Portable Stereo Speakers MSP-100

3. LG Portable Stereo Speakers MSP-100

The good: The LG Portable Stereo Speakers MSP-100 is really tiny, has a rechargeable internal battery, and sounds better than we expected, considering its size.

The bad: There's no volume control on the LG Portable Stereo Speakers MSP-100.

The bottom line: If you're looking for ultracompact speakers that don't sacrifice on sound quality, LG's Portable Stereo Speakers MSP-100 fits the bill--and it won't break the bank.

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4 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

Logitech mm50 Portable Speakers

4. Logitech mm50 Portable Speakers

The good: Travel-friendly folding design; built-in rechargeable battery; includes travel pouch, wall charger, and remote; great sound; acts as an iPod charger when plugged in; line-in port for non-iPod MP3 players.

The bad: Slightly larger than other travel speakers; sound distortion at highest volumes.

The bottom line: The Logitech mm50 Portable Speakers for iPod are useful and affordable--and they sound good, too.

Read CNET's review
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5 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

Logitech PlayGear Amp

5. Logitech PlayGear Amp

The good: Styled to match the PSP; includes case and adjustable PSP stand; can use both AC adapter and battery power; compatible with any device that has a standard headphone minijack.

The bad: Closer to backpack size than pocket size; weak bass response results in thin sound; exposed speaker cones are vulnerable to damage.

The bottom line: The Logitech PlayGear Amp is a great audio solution for users looking to get more sound out of their movies, music, and games on the PSP.

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6 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

Altec Lansing InMotion iM4

6. Altec Lansing InMotion iM4

The good: Excellent sound; portable music players fit nicely on the rubberized base; retractable minijack cord; speakers tilt at any angle; can be powered with batteries.

The bad: No remote control; slightly large and heavy compared with other small speaker sets.

The bottom line: The Altec Lansing iM4 finally delivers the bass we've been craving in small portable speakers, and they're not iPod-centric, so you can use them with any MP3 player.

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7 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

JBL On Tour Portable Music Box

7. JBL On Tour Portable Music Box

The good: Innovative, compact design; high-quality sound.

The bad: Limited controls and extras.

The bottom line: JBL's On Tour is a good choice if you want great-sounding music to share on the road.

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8 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

Creative TravelDock 900

8. Creative TravelDock 900

The good: The Creative TravelDock 900's stereo-expanding switch makes music seem bigger, and the speakers pack a decent punch despite their small size.

The bad: Though relatively compact, the Creative TravelDock 900 looks a bit clunky when closed.

The bottom line: The Creative TravelDock 900 puts out some decent power for its size, but it's not as small as one might wish for a low-end portable speaker set.

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9 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

Creative TravelSound 400

9. Creative TravelSound 400

The good: We dig the travel-friendly design, the swiveling speakers, and the "enhanced stereo" option of the affordable Creative TravelSound 400.

The bad: Unfortunately, the Creative TravelSound 400 offers virtually no low end, and it distorts at high volume levels.

The bottom line: Creative's TravelSound 400 is a snazzy, compact set of travel speakers with an "enhanced stereo" option that manages to make sound seem more spread out--albeit with very little low end.

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10 of 10 Bill Detwiler/ZDNET

Think Outside Boomtube H2O1

10. Think Outside Boomtube H2O1

The good: Think Outside's Boomtube H201 features a slick, eye-catching design and an internal, rechargeable battery for use on the go.

The bad: The pricey Think Outside Boomtube H201 offers so-so bass response, and there's no holder or slot for portable music players.

The bottom line: The overall design of Think Outside's Boomtube H201 might be unique--even cool--but we could have done with a bit more boom.

Read CNET's review
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