Ever feel bored of just listening to music from your speaker, headphones or laptop, and craving something more? There are actually so many unusual ways to play your tunes that you may never have even thought of, like a pillow and a light bulb. Yes, an actual light bulb.
We took a look at five ways to listen to music that you may never have heard of to show you how affective they are in action, and whether they’re actually necessary, or just a novelty.
1) Stelle Audio Mini-Clutch Speaker
When I first heard about the Stelle Audio Mini-Clutch Speaker, I was very excited. A clutch bag that’s also a Bluetooth speaker? What more could a girl ask for? It just sounded like the best idea ever; an amalgamation of two of the best things. But then I started to think; when would one actually be in need of a clutch bag that also plays music?
Surely, any time that I’d need to take a clutch bag out with me i.e. a party or club, there’d be music playing quite loudly anyway? It’d be a pretty lame party otherwise – I don’t feel like 400 people at a wedding would appreciate having to dance to some random girl’s clutch bag, unless the music system suddenly broke, and I saved the day with my clutch bag. I’d be a legend – that girl who saved a wedding disaster from happening with her clutch bag come Bluetooth speaker.
That being said, I opened the box containing the Stelle Audio Mini-Clutch Speaker with an open mind, and the first thing I noticed was that it looks way more like a purple and gold speaker than a clutch bag. I don’t think I actually own any outfit that goes with a purple and gold clutch, if I’m honest, especially one that has rubber gold buttons embellished on the front of it.
Inside the clutch bag is a mirror taking up one entire side, and the tiniest bit of space you’ve ever seen in a clutch on the other. It’s so small, in fact, that I struggled fitting just my phone in it. So, not exactly a practical bag to take on a night out, although having a mirror within a bag is actually quite useful! Within the space available for possibly one lipstick, there was a ‘gold’ chain, and tacky bangle. The chain, while useful for turning the clutch into a shoulder bag, is so plastic-ey, that I’d rather just keep it as a clutch bag.
Where the clutch falls down on its uses as a bag, it really does more than make up for it in its ability of being a speaker. With a six-watt digital amplifier, it’s surprisingly loud, considering its size, managing to fill our office and be heard clearly by everyone. It’s also incredibly easy to pair with your phone or laptop via Bluetooth. It can also be used as a speakerphone, so when it’s connected to your phone via Bluetooth, you can speak into it with a built-in microphone. Think how fun business meetings could be if you used a clutch bag for conference calls!
What’s also fun about the Stelle Mini-Clutch is the voice of the polite Australian woman greeting you with a ‘hello’ when you turn it on, and leaving you with a ‘goodbye’ as you turn it off. Bizarrely, her voice really did make us laugh every single time, without fail.
While the Mini-Clutch isn’t great as a fashion accessory, it’s a very good speaker, and would be perfect for a teenage girl’s dressing table.
Audio rating: 8/10
Necessary or Novelty? Absolute novelty. There’s no space in this bag whatsoever.
The Mini-Clutch Speaker is available to buy from the Stelle Audio website for £129, or £169 for the Dazzling Diamond design.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next”]
2) HomeScapes Duck Feather Music Pillow
As someone who can’t fall asleep without listening to a podcast, I was so excited by the prospect of a pillow that acts as a speaker, as I assumed it meant that, if I had someone else in my bed, they wouldn’t be disrupted by the musings of Scott Mills and Chris Stark. Plus, it would also mean that I wouldn’t have to get up from my bed every time I woke up throughout the night to switch on a podcast again from my laptop again.
In a cruel twist of events, it turns out that I’m allergic to duck feathers, and waking up with a clogged up throat every morning, even after taking an antihistamine, while using the pillow wasn’t fun. Aside from my personal allergies, however, the pillow was SO comfortable, and the speaker did the job, although sometimes it was louder when I didn’t have my head on the pillow, rather than when I did, which was really strange.
Once I worked out where in the pillow the speaker actually was, I managed to angle it in a way that I could hear it clearly when I was lying down, and that it wasn’t as loud for my friend next to me, which meant that the pillow was serving its purpose perfectly for me, although giving me allergies in the process.
Audio rating: 5/10
Necessity or Novelty? For people like me, who can’t sleep without music or a podcast – necessity.
The duck feather speaker pillow is available to buy from HomeScapes for £9.99.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next”]
3) Sony Walkman NWZ-W273 Sports Player
I just about remember the days of the Sony Walkman being a huge, clunky tape player we had to carry around with us, so when I found out that this is now what a Walkman looks like, I felt that I simply had to try it out. It’s so futuristic-looking, that we didn’t even understand what it was when we first opened the box at ShinyShiny, however we soon learned that it’s basically headphones with all of the MP3s built in, and that’s it.
The W273 sports headphones are the latest ‘active’ headphones from Sony and are designed for runners, or those keen to ditch the need for a headphone cable trailing somewhere over their body, when they exercise, but I’m not sure if they actually do their assigned job that well.
Looking at it, I did worry that the headset was going to be really heavy, and fall out of my ears constantly. At first, this is exactly what happened. I ran on the treadmill with the headset in, and it constantly fell out. However, I realised that was what the different sized earbuds I’d been given in the box were for. You get small, medium and large earbuds, so that the headset actually fits your ears, regardless of the size of your lobes, and once I’d sorted the fitting out (small earbuds, FYI), I took them for another spin, and all was well, and the sound quality was obviously much better than when they were half-falling out my ears. They were also actually surprisingly comfortable, and didn’t come out at all, although they were quite a bit heavier than the headphones I’m used to.
The most interesting factor in the Walkman is that they’re 100 per cent waterproof up to 2m, which means they can be worn while swimming. I went swimming for the first time in years just to test them out, and can confirm they’re very waterproof. However, they felt a bit strange while I was swimming, and the sound quality wasn’t nearly as good underwater as it was out of the water.
The small headphones feature all the controls you would expect, including play, pause, skip forward and backwards, and volume. I found it really hard to remember what button I was pressing, but there is a voice telling you what you’ve pressed which is handy. However, there were quite a few times, where I skipped a song accidentally, which was rather annoying.
The new Walkman offers 4GB of storage in black, white, pink, orange and blue colour options meaning it should be more than enough for your average run or workout. A really great aspect of the Walkman is that it has the ability to be charged for just three minutes, and you’ll get 60 minutes of run time. I didn’t believe this was possible until I experienced it for myself. It’s so handy for when you’re in a rush and have forgotten to charge it!
Music transfer to the headphones is really quick and easy. The charging station plugs into your PC or Mac, where the MP3 player simply appears as a standard USB drive on your computer, when it’s docked on the station.
All in all, there’s not much to complain about, when it comes to the Walkman. However, for looks alone, I’d probably recommend some other Bluetooth headphones over these, as they’re just that bit too heavy.
Audio rating: 7/10
Necessity or Novelty? Even if you’re an avid runner or swimmer, the Walkman is still a bit of a novelty.
The Walkman is available to buy from the Sony website for £59.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next”]
4) The Vamp
10,000 speakers a month are sent to UK recycling centres. That’s the stat that The Vamp works on, transforming any old speaker into a portable Bluetooth speaker. Sounds crazy right? It’s true!
The idea is that you can give life to your old HiFi by giving it a Bluetooth connection, without even using a separate amp if you don’t want to.
It’s a simple idea, and pretty cheap too at £50. Plus for a limited time you can order one and get a free, recycled vintage speaker. They’ll even pay for the postage! It’s incredibly easy to use and works great in practice too.
We were sent The Vamp, a tiny USB battery-powered Bluetooth amp (that little red box you can see on top of the speaker), along with a pretty old and battered speaker to plug it into and instructions on how to set it all up.
Apart from me having never seen the old-style cables found on this ancient speaker, it took no time at all to connect the Vamp and play some tunes from my Macbook. While the speaker looked old, it didn’t sound it. It had exactly the same sound quality you’d expect from any other Bluetooth speaker.
There are limits to how loud The Vamp can go. It’s not terrible, but maximum volume on my laptop didn’t fill the office. The battery power seemed fine for us. It’s said to give nine to 10 hours, and we haven’t had to charge it yet, after about six or seven. Obviously, it’s not the 15 hour lifetime you can get from more expensive Bluetooth speakers, but you get what you pay for!
If you’re looking to get a longer lifetime out of a gorgeous-looking old speaker or amp that you’re about to chuck out, then The Vamp is a really great way of keeping it alive. However, we wouldn’t expect any audiophiles to swap their high-end Bluetooth speaker for The Vamp just yet.
Audio rating: 7/10
Necessity or Novelty? If you’re hoping to hold on to that lovely-looking amp that’s lost its mojo; absolute necessity![/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next”]
5) MiPow Playbulb
You’re probably looking at this picture thinking ‘Great, it’s a light bulb’, but this light bulb plays music all controlled through an app on your phone. Pretty nifty.
The MiPow PlayBulb has a standard E27 Edison fitting and that bulb is an LED fitting, so good for the environment probably. The fact that it was an E27 fitting, meant that I had to go out and buy the cheapest, and therefore ugliest, lamp I could find, as there were literally no lights in my entire house which fit it. The bulb is definitely bigger than your average one too, which I think makes the lamp look even uglier, as it’s just protruding out, as you can see in the picture.
I screwed the MiPow PlayBulb in like a normal bulb (something I’d never done before, so this alone felt like a victory), and it switches on immediately. However, if you leave it powered on all the time you can control the music and light through your phone, rather than at the mains. The Bluetooth audio is easy to setup, with my phone finding PLAYBULB instantly.
After this you can stream anything that comes out of your phone, which gets annoying when a phone call comes through, as I kept having to quickly turn the light off so that other people didn’t hear my conversation, and then set it all up again, once I switched the light back on. It doesn’t connect to Bluetooth automatically.
The audio quality from this bulb isn’t great. It sounds a bit muffled at its loudest, and there wasn’t a great deal of bass response from it, but it does the job, and is much louder than most phone speakers.
Once you download the PlayBulb app, you can connect it to multiple bulbs and alter the settings on them, adjusting the brightness via a big dial, or by shaking your phone, which was actually just a nuisance more than anything. I’d stick to using the dial. The fact that it does all this is pretty cool, especially if you’ve screwed the bulb into a ceiling light. You’d never have to get out of bed to turn the light off again – basically near enough to clapping the light on and off, just like the Olsen Twins in Passport to Paris.
Another really cool feature of the app is that you get the ability to program your bulb to different settings at different times. So, for instance, you could set it to turn off at the time you go to bed, and light up and play music at the time you wake up too. You can also adjust the volume of the speaker automatically too, so you could perhaps have some soothing music waking you up first thing in the morning and some equally soothing tunes sending you off to sleep. It’s an alarm and light in one!
Overall, the PlayBulb is a pretty clever product, especially if you’re in need of an alarm clock and light bulb at the moment, but it’s really the app that’s the best part. The sound quality isn’t going to win any awards.
Audio rating: 5/10
Necessity or Novelty? Necessity for the lazy in us
The MiPow PlayBulb is available to buy from Case Hut for £60.[/nextpage]