When it comes to portable media, the sad truth is that speaker quality generally goes out the window as speaker sizes decrease. Today’s small laptops prove this trend, as recent releases like the MacBook Air contain only a single speaker beneath the keyboard. While these solutions are inexpensive and gentle on battery life, they leave something to be desired when used for anything beyond system sounds.
While manufacturers have, in part, circumvented this issue with the prevalence of headphone jacks, what about situations where you don’t want to (or can’t) use headphones? Small Dog Electronics’ Chill Pill speakers were created for that purpose, and today Icrontic will be taking a look at them.
There are many points to evaluate when considering audio equipment: Sound quality, ease of use, size, cable management, and more. Many mobile speaker competitors can get a few of these right, but things like size and sound quality are often at odds with each other, so tradeoffs must be involved. What did Small Dog Electronics give up when producing these speakers?
Starting with audio quality, the Chill Pill speakers are wonderfully surprising for their size. As somewhat of an audio nut, I was certainly not expecting much out of these little things, but it was vastly better than my laptop speakers.
While the mid-range was a little muddled, the dynamic range is significantly better than my laptop. There was even a hint of bass that arises from the clever design of the Chill Pill: Gently twisting the tops of the speakers reveals an expandable resonance cavity which helps to produce bass. You might have noticed we’ve implied another element that’s key to portability: They shrink for storage.
Regarding size, the speakers have a diameter of approximately two inches and an individual height of roughly 2.5 inches when expanded. Collapsed, the speakers rise a little under 2 inches. In another excellent design decision, the two speakers are actually magnetized to each other at their bases. When you’re done with the speakers, you can collapse them down and join them at the base for a very portable 2×4″ “pill.” The speakers also retain enough internal space to hold retractable cables, thus negating the need to carry any obvious wires.
When it comes to ease of use, these speakers aren’t terribly hard to use: The speakers are linked via USB Mini-B, power is provided by a battery that lasts up to six hours, and the audio source is provided by a standard 1/8″ stereo jack.
For those of you with quiet internal speakers, you’ll be pleased to know that the Chill Pill can be much louder. However, in testing we found that particularly high volumes did result in both distortion and greatly reduced battery life.
When the battery did get low, the blue power LED turned red to indicate that the unit required a charge. Charging the Chill Pill makes use of a USB Mini B-to-USB adapter that can be used with a compatible wall plug or the USB ports on a computer.
In sum, Small Dog’s Chill Pill speakers fit the bill: they’re small, self-powered, self-contained, portable speakers with surprisingly good sound. These perfect stocking stuffers for the traveling techie run about $40 and arrive with a one-year warranty. When all things are considered, the Chill Pill speakers are a great package, and as such, we’re awarding the Chill Pill speakers Icrontic’s Stamp of Approval.