Wearing headphones is without a doubt a calculated risk. There is the potential for hearing loss, but more importantly not hearing or being aware of your surroundings, such as an out of control dump truck. Add into the mix a bicycle and we’re talking about a serious road hazard to both yourself and drivers.
So with that all said the TuneBug Shake surface speaker makes perfect sense. You place it on any surface – the more hollow the better – and it amplifies or resonates the speaker to an audible level.
The device itself is relatively hefty considering its amplitude. It includes a headphone input jack (also doubles as a charging port when connected to a USB port), Blutooth connectivity, and two touch sensitive buttons (single bump decreases volume, double bump increases volume) on its face for controlling volume and powering the unit on/off. The manufacture claims about a 5 hour battery life per charge (we didn’t have enough patience to test this), but of course that will be variable with volume and how you connect your MP3 player; Bluetooth will suck more juice.
Pairing the device is a simple process. After an intial charge you hold down both touch sensitve buttons to power on the Shake and enter pairing mode – this is noted by an alternating red/blue flashing light in rapid succession. I used my iPhone and the Shake was listed as “Shake 001EDE”. Tap pair and you should be good to go – no pairing passcode was requested, though if your device does ask for one “0000″ should work.
In terms of testing in the field I chose the bicycle, which is one, if not Tunebug’s targeted market. Included is a plastic mount (Gecko Mount) that can be fixed by sticky velcro pads to the top/back/side of the helmet and works in tandem with a mount that allows the device to be popped in and out as needed. Alternatively, a velcro strap and nylon like pouch is also included if you’d like a less permanent fix. It’s paramount that the speaker portion is facing down onto the helmet’s surface, otherwise the technology will be rendered useless. Once complete, you just need to start the tunes.
In terms of sound quality the Shake isn’t horrible, not great, but definitely lacking in the fidelity department. Placing it on a hallow surface, such as a guitar will result in much better sound, but that’s an impractical surface given the Shake’s purpose, which I suppose is to bring sound to those who’d otherwise wear headphones in risky situations (i.e. bicycling).
At full volume, which is necessary to just barely hear the tunes while biking, the Shake distorts. And by distort I mean unintelligible sound. I tested this with both my iPhone over Bluetooth and my iPod Shuffle via a wired connection – the results were mirrored.
As mentioned in the intro the Shake is relatively heavy. After cycling miles and miles the added weight starts to take its toll – hence why serious cyclists look for the lightest helmet on the market. Clearly, no one on the professional circuit will be wearing this device during a race, but it’s worth noting if you cycle a significant amount of miles per day.
Fixing the Shake to the helmet is a bit of a fiddley affair and then there is the fact, yes a FACT, that you appear even more geeky in the already awkward bike helmet. Adding insult to injury, the touch sensitive buttons are riddled with sentivity issues. More often than not you’ll find yourself turning the device on, even though you’re not holding both buttons down for a few seconds. Or you’ll cause the device to freeze up all together, making it useless until it’s plugged into a USB port. Additionally, you might find yourself inadvertently increasing the device to max volume.
At $120 the Tunebug Shake is an overpriced piece of speaker tech. It lacks significant amplitude, distorts at high volumes and is riddled with control problems that can easily be quelled by a pair of $20 headphones combined the iPhone Awareness App.
- Novel idea
- Cool design
- Headphone jack doubles as charging port
- Distorts at high volumes
- Lacks enough amplitude to be useless
- Touch sensitive controls are flawed
If you so dare you can buy it via Amazon for $120.
[starreviewmulti id=4 tpl=20 style='starrating' size='30']