Logitech mm50 Portable Speakers for iPod

What's in a name? Logitech bills this iPod accessory as a set of "portable speakers," not a "system." That makes it smaller than such other iPod-compatible notables as the Bose SoundDock, Klipsch iGroove, and Apple's own Hi-Fi. It also signals a reduction in pricing, features, and expectations. The mm50 doesn't try to blow you away. It just provides an intravenous feed of music to keep you from going bonkers. In that respect it should not be underestimated.

The mm50 is the size of two fat paperbacks laid end to end. Build quality is impressive for the price, with gleaming aluminum speaker grilles fronting an enclosure that comes in black or white to match your iPod. The unit stands on two hinged metal tabs that fold under the unit, reducing it to near-flatness for easy carrying. A hard case is supplied. The four drivers visible behind the grilles include a pair of two-inch active drivers and another pair of three-inch passive drivers.

Like an iPod, the mm50 comes with a lithium ion battery. It runs 10 hours per charge using the supplied power adapter and replenishes the iPod's battery while charging its own. Controls include volume minus/plus, power on/off, and a "3D Stereo" button, all at top right. The supplied mini-remote handles pause/play, skip up/down, volume up/down, 3D, and power. An analog stereo mini-jack on the back accommodates non-iPod devices, so you can plug in a portable CD player or even a museum-piece Walkman cassette player if you wish.

The iPod docks in the front of the unit but, please note, not at the top. An inch of my nano jutted above the upper edge of the system—oops, I meant to say speakers (sorry, old habits die hard). But the remaining 2.5 inches fit securely into one of the supplied inserts, which come in different sizes for different iPod models. I was extremely impressed at the snugness of the fit behind the iPod. It enabled me to exert pressure on the nano's buttons without any bending of the mm50s's male connector or the iPod's female connector. In this respect Logitech's design bested every iPod-compatible docking device I've reviewed.

Sonically, the best-known "systems" outperform the mm50 in bass and dynamics. The mm50 simply does not play loud, though it does have an amiable tonal balance that's appealing close-up. It is clean and gently voiced enough to play at very close range. I placed it on my desktop 18 inches from my face, with the volume three-quarters up, at about 75 decibels, and was quite comfortable. The 3D Stereo effect widened the soundstage audibly, especially when I sat near the device. In a live recording, it caused the crowd noise to detach itself from the music, giving the "speakers" a slightly bigger sound.

Is the Logitech mm50 right for you? That depends on a couple of things. If you want something that will play loud across the room, then you should spring for a bigger system. On the other hand, if portability is the key consideration, and you don't mind having the speakers playing close to your face, the mm50 is a much better choice. Somewhere between earbud bondage and compact-system commitment, there's a pragmatic middle ground, and this is it.

Price: $150.

Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater. His other book, Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants, is now a free resource on the web.