The Pringles Can Speaker: A Beggar's Banquet

I predict that 2011 will be for audio what 1962 was for the art world. In 1962, Andy Warhol's first solo shows in Los Angeles and New York swept away the prevailing aesthetic ethos of the era, demonstrating to the world that a Brillo pad box could be a work of art. In 2011, Pringles - yeah, the snack brand - swept away the assumptions of audio engineers and enthusiasts, proving to everyone that a mere potato chip can could be a speaker.

The Pringles can speaker is a simple speaker/amplifier assembly designed to snap onto the top of a Pringles can. It's powered by three AA batteries, packs a single 2-inch driver, and has a hard-wired cable tipped with a 3.5mm stereo plug. Plug it into a smartphone, an MP3 player or a computer, flip the power switch, and you've got - well, sound.

Pringles' magnanimous deal was simple: Send in your receipt from the purchase of four Super Stack cans, and Pringles mails you a speaker. For free. You didn't even have to pay shipping. Sadly, the deal ended on October 31. (I'd love to have published this before the offer ended, but the speaker didn't arrive until October 29 - nearly 12 weeks after I sent in my receipt.)

Those thousands of snack and/or sound enthusiasts who are now listening through the world's cheapest audio system ever in the history of the universe have to be wondering: How do I get maximum performance from a speaker that snaps onto the top of a potato chip can? Lucky for them, I'm here to help - and so is my Clio FW audio analyzer.

Cranking Up the Super Stack

You're probably thinking there's no way a free speaker snapped onto the top of a Pringles can could sound good. Well, that depends on the context. Compared to a great little Bluetooth speaker like the Soundmatters FoxLv2, the Pringles can speaker is pretty bad. Compared to the tiny Veho 360BT, it sounds awesome.

To me, the most important question was: Does the Pringles can speaker sound better than the speakers built into my laptop? Yes, it does. Vastly better. It plays much louder, for one thing. It delivers just a hint of bass, but my laptop speakers deliver no bass at all. Voices don't sound great, but they're a lot clearer and more present than with my laptop speakers. Sure, the can speaker sounds bright, tinny and unnatural. But playing at 60 to 65 dBC SPL at a distance of 0.5 meters, it's good enough for background music while I'm working, and adequate to fill a room with Internet radio sourced from my cell phone.

But could I do better?