Way back in the mid ’80s, when petrol was affordable and just before I started learning to drive, my dad had a Mk2 Ford Escort.
It was baby blue, had furry seat covers with a matching steering wheel and smelled slightly of damp, which was probably linked to the wet passenger footwell. I used to make the old man drive me around with my CB radio gaffa taped inside the glove box and a Magmount aerial on the roof while I breaker-breakered and annoyed the truckers on channel 19 with my echo echo echo echo mic mic mic mic… My handle was Cannonball (after the Burt Reynolds film) and later on it became Deltic (my favourite train).
I was a bit spoddy back then.
Aaaaanyway, it also had a MW/AM radio cassette player hooked up to two God-awful speakers on the back window shelf which were domed plastic affairs peppered with little holes in neat rows.
This portable speaker from Nokia puts me in mind of them, hence my captivating story above.
I have to be honest and say that before I got my hands on one I thought that, because of the Escort’s somewhat basic sound system, it would be rubbish. I thought it would be weak, tinny and a bit… you know… all-round meh.
But it’s not. It’s actually rather roger dodger 10-4 four four good buddy buddy buddy.
Domed on top and flat on the bottom it’s roughly the size of half an orange and sits neatly in the palm of your hand. Peppered with the aforementioned holes it features an on/off button on the side, a small white LED power light above it, a jack plug socket for linking two together and a wire protruding from the base which is tipped with a common or garden 3.5mm jack plug for your iPod/Phone/Pad, MP3 player, laptop etc – anything with a headphone socket. This wraps up neatly as part of the base.
The MD-11 is powered by three AAA batteries which fit in the heart of the speaker, accessed by a removeable rubberised back cover which forms the base.
The only other feature on this thing is the extension to the rubber base which forms an O, has an arrow embossed in it, and is designed to double-up as a hook/tab to remove the cover. And it’s here I want to start with what amounts to my only real issue so far.
I’m not the brightest tool in the drawer so when the huge multilingual instruction sheet told me to ‘pull the tab in the direction of the arrow’, and I saw the arrow was pointing parallel to the base it was on, I tried to pull in that exact direction. I already knew that couldn’t have been right unless the base was secured with runners in a similar way to the back of my TV remote and because it was a round disc there was no reason why that should have been the case. But I pulled anyway. And the rubber stretched. So I pulled again. And the rubber stretched again. Mrs Muz then read the instructions and had a go – and the rubber stretched again.
So we then set about prising the back off a little with the good lady’s fingernail, at which point we realised the instructions meant to pull the tab away from the unit in the same way (ish) that you peel a narna. So we did that. And the rubber stretched as the base begrudgingly came away.
My point here is that not only do the instructions fail the idiot test but I’m not sure how much abuse the rubber O will take, especially if you keep sticking your finger in the hole to pull it. Missus.
Luckily you won’t have to remove the cover all that often if my first test is anything to go by. The other thing I thought about this speaker is that it would eat the batteries but after roughly seven hours of playing music at a reasonably loud volume they’re still going strong and I haven’t had to replace them at all. They’re the supplied Motoma 1.5v jobbies by the way, if that means anything to you. Nokia says the batteries will last up to 50 hours, which seems outlandish to me, but all the evidence I’ve seen so far suggests they won’t be far off that especially if you don’t keep the volume (adjusted by your device – there’s no knob) ramped right up. They could die tomorrow though, so I’ll keep you posted.
Of course the all-important thing here is how it sounds. And, courtesy of WCCC The Rock in Hartford, West Virginia, it’s excellent. That’s interweb radio in case you were wondering.
Admittedly the 2W output sounds like a rapid-fire series of sloppy farts at full volume, but even though it’s mono (that’s why there’s a socket for a second unit) it handles three-quarter volume admirably, considering its size. The sound is meaty with good depth and there is excellent clarity with both music and speech. The actual volume of the volume is also very impressive, even at 75%, to the point where it can become uncomfortable if you’re mid-way through a half-hour shower, with dripping wet hands and no way to turn it down. For instance.
Because of this good quality I’m happy to forget about any issues I may have had with the lack of tone knob on the unit. It just doesn’t need one.
Although I’ve only tested this in and around the house so far I know it’ll be a God-send in a tent and the only way I can see it struggling is when competing against the ghetto blaster in the tent next door at a festival.
Do they still call them ghetto blasters these days or am I stuck in the 80s? Mel and Kim. Remember them? Take or leave us, la de da believe us, la de da da gonna be respecta-BAW…
SUMMARY: The MD-11 has a kind of retro look about it and it packs a very impressive punch for its size. Far better than any other portable speaker I’ve used and subsequently lost. Battery life seems good so far but if you don’t already it might be worth switching to rechargeables to keep any running costs down. At £13 this seems to be a very good buy for (*cliché alert*) music on the move.
The only reason this doesn’t get five hammers is because you need to shell out again for stereo.
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