Worrying about your iPod in the great outdoors is no way to enjoy your music. Sandbar's NXT-100 SoundMate is designed to not only play tunes from any MP3 player but protect it from any unanticipated harm. While the player's music quality won't have you bragging to your friends, you will be able to keep your iPod in relatively clean condition.
SoundMate NXT-100 Design
The size of a large juice box, the rectangular SoundMate (available in five colors) is soft and rubbery with the simulated leather exterior. Inside, the lower part of the case is lined with velour and holds a mesh pocket for any size MP3 player; we were even able to cram in a Sirius portable Satellite radio. The upper area of the case is sealed by a similar black velour flap that is velcroed shut. Under the flap is the slot for the required AAA batteries as well as the on/off switch for the speakers.The 3.5mm audio jack cord protrudes from below.
Though the case will protect your player from some moisture, don't expect it to keep your iPod dry if you drop it in water. We didn't have the nerve to risk our iPod, so we placed a piece of paper inside the case and dunked it into a pool. The paper came out damp and there were beads of water inside the case. Sand didn't get in the case, but we found it quite annoying that we had to unzip it to change our songs or adjust the volume.
We had no problem pumping sound out of the NXT flat-panel speakers. Loud does not mean good, however. At lower volumes, our iPod's music sounded fine; when we turned up the volume it became distorted. Listening to Sublime's "Garden Grove" was unbearable; we had to turn it down to hear the words and melody. Even lower-pitched songs had echo and were terribly muffled. From five feet away the NXT-100 was still painful for our ears, so we didn't even bother listening from greater distances. Continuously playing lower-pitched tunes at a low volume, the battery lasted 4.5 hours, a lot longer than we could tolerate.
SoundMate NXT-100 Verdict
For $29.99 the MP3 SoundMate will buy you a decent MP3 carrying case but not much more. It'll protect your iPod against moderate harm, but you might need to buy some extra protection for your ears.
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