A compact, cost-effective speaker system for iPhones and iPods

When we reviewed Logic 3’s US$30 iStation Traveller, a tiny speaker system for iPods, we found it to be a fine value and surprisingly good-sounding for such a small and inexpensive product.

The company has since released an iPhone-friendly version of the Traveller, the appropriately-named iStation Traveller for iPhone and iPod touch, and it picks up where the original left off.

(Note that the name of the product line is sometimes spelled i-Station, and this particular model is also seen as just Traveller for iPhone.)

The $60 Traveller is approximately 6.7 inches wide, 3.5 inches tall, and 1.3 inches thick when collapsed for transit; it weighs just 11 ounces with 4 AAA batteries installed. Instead of a traditional iPod dock, the Traveller connects using a standard headphone cable; the cable, which features an iPhone-friendly headphone plug, is permanently attached to the system and stores neatly in a groove on the back for travel. You control volume using the iPhone or iPod; the Traveller has no volume control of its own.

To listen to audio, you give the two sides of the system a gentle tug; they pull apart, revealing a cradle for your iPhone or iPod touch. You just plug in the audio cable, turn on the Traveller, and press play. And if you want to watch video, a firmer tug opens the Traveller even wider to accommodate a horizontal iPhone or iPod touch. Two pop-out legs on the back of the Traveller hold it upright.

This design is clever and works well, but it does have a few drawbacks. The first is that although the Traveller’s cradle is a good fit for a bare iPhone, or even one in a thin case, thicker cases don’t fit. The second is that when the Traveller is configured to hold a vertical iPhone or iPod touch, the cradle is a bit too wide–your player can slide left and right. You can slide the Traveller closed a bit to eliminate this extra space, but then you can’t see your the entire screen of your iPhone or iPod touch. (The extra width is a consequence of the Traveller being able to accommodate a horizontal player.) When used with an iPod touch in vertical mode, the touch’s bottom-mounted headphone jack requires you to connect the audio cable before putting the touch in the Traveller, and then the touch rests–a bit awkwardly–on the headphone plug. Finally, although the Traveller’s legs hold the system in a good position for listening to music, I found that the system didn’t lean back far enough for comfortable video-watching; I ended up using a small object to lift the front of the Traveller for a better angle.

(The Traveller for iPhone & iPod touch can be used with other iPod models; note that a nano’s bottom-mounted headphone jack makes for slightly-awkward positioning in the cradle. You can also connect the Traveller to your laptop’s headphone jack.)

As with the original Traveller, the iPhone version’s standout features–especially given its relatively-low price–are its size and its performance for that size. The system is small enough to fit in a large pants pocket, so it’s easy to throw in a laptop bag or carry-on. Yet despite this small size, the Traveller sounds quite good. As you’d expect from two 1.25-inch speaker drivers, you don’t get much bass, and the maximum volume isn’t ear-splitting. But midrange and treble are decent, and the system isn’t nearly as tinny as many speakers of this size I’ve tested.

Included with the Traveller are a tiny AC adapter, an adapter for using the Traveller with mobile phones that feature a 2.5mm audio jack, and a thin-fabric carrying pouch.

Buying Advice

Like previous Logic 3 speaker systems, the iStation Traveller stands out not necessarily because it offers superior performance or features compared to other systems on the market, but because it’s a good combination of small size, good sound quality, and a reasonable price.

With a few tweaks, its video-viewing feature would be ideal for a desk or airline tray table; however, the current viewing angle is a bit awkward. And if you don’t plan on watching video at all, consider the original i-Station Traveller, instead; although its sound quality is a bit more “tinny,” it’s half the price and about half the size.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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