Think Outside Boomtube H2O1
Unique is not a word to throw around lightly. To be unique, a product has to be like nothing else out there. Even by the strictest standard, however, the Boomtube from Think Outside can wrap itself in the mantle of uniqueness. This little emperor is well clothed.
The tubular audio system is 13 inches long and 3 wide, about the dimensions of a large coffee thermos. Small, built-in pedestals keep it from rolling around. Unscrew the 2.5-inch-long end caps and you'll see a quartet of 2-inch aluminum cones, two in the end caps and two in the middle cylinder. The latter serve as bass drivers, making this a 2.2-channel system. Each driver receives 10 watts for a total of 40 watts.
Setup is easy. Detach the end caps, insert cables between them and the middle, plug in a signal source, and go. Be warned that this product does not have the 30-pin iPod docking connector despite the iPod shown on the packaging. There is, however, a 3.5-millimeter minijack and cable that are compatible with any iPod or other portable audio player. Also provided is a 2.5-mm to 3.5-mm adapter for devices (like cell phones) with smaller minijacks.
Don't you hate boom boxes that eat D cells like there were no tomorrow? The Boomtube has no need of them. It's got built-in lithium ions, just like an iPod, that run five hours per charge. Unlike an iPod, the product comes with the necessary AC adapter.
At 3.2 pounds, this Boomtube weighs less than an average laptop and comes with a black fabric case with carry strap. It will fit in a large briefcase or small knapsack. Perch it on the shallowest bookshelf, a windowsill, your kitchen counter—pretty much any place with three inches of depth will work. Though it's not positioned as a multimedia speaker system, you might also place the thermoslike object behind your flat-panel monitor with the two little baked-bean cans on either side.
The 2-inch bass drivers don't go deep enough to act as real subwoofers. However, with the top-mount bass control turned up nearly all the way, they do fill out the low end enough to make male voices sound natural. The main speakers achieved a moderate listening level at about two-thirds of the main volume control's potential (when used with an iPod nano, itself turned two-thirds up). Cranked to the max, the system might sound loud enough for outdoor use as long as you're not expecting miracles. It does not distort at the top end of its range. The sound is musically reliable, with relatively little coloration by compact-system standards, delivering rock and chamber music with equal ease.
Incidentally, you may see the Boomtube sold under the Virgin brand. Think Outside collaborated with Virgin on the product's original design. When Virgin's electronics brand went belly-up, Think Outside made minor changes and ported the Boomtube to its own brand.
The Boomtube is everything a portable audio system should be: good sounding, good looking, easy to carry, smart, and fun. Finicky ears will find it a delightful companion for casual listening.
Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater. For links to the latest edition, visit www.quietriverpress.com.