Location, location, location. It’s as critical a factor in speaker placement as it is in real estate, but never in my life would I have thought it would be such an issue with a $49.99 portable speaker designed for laptops and portable media players.
I travel a lot. A very lot. Trade shows, training seminars for advanced control systems, press junkets… even the occasional weekend out of town just for (gasp!) fun. So the Edifier MP250Plus Sound to Go PLUS – an upgrade to the company’s popular Sound to Go All-in-One Microspeaker — is an appealing alternative to my laptop’s built-in speakers during late-night writing sessions, far from the comforts of my home theater, when I need a bit of extra oomph from my music to get the creative juices flowing. A good set of earbuds is usually my go-to, but a cheap, portable speaker that connects to my laptop and actually pumps sound out into those lonely hotel rooms is seriously way more tempting.
Of course, these days there’s a lot of competition in this space: ultra-itty-bitty speakers designed to deliver upgraded in-room sound on the go. Most worthwhile options, though — like the FoxLv2 Bluetooth speakers by buddy Brent loves so much — cost upwards of four times as much. At fifty bucks, the Sound to Go PLUS is almost an impulse purchase, but if it sounds like crud, that’s still fifty bucks wasted.
So, does it? Sound like crud, that is?
That’s actually quite a complicated question. The short answer is, no. It actually kinda sounds fantastic for what it is. But there’s a caveat to that, my friends: the quality of sound all depends on where you place it.
Setup is easy — just attach the included USB cable (for computer sound transmission and charging — and you’re good to go. The Sound to Go PLUS is best placed on your laptop, in that little bit of real estate between screen and keyboard probably already occupied by the icky built-in speakers. And at just 44mm (1.75 inches) deep, chances are good that, if your laptop is of any appreciable size, it will fit there just fine. In my case, though, with speaker placed there, my F keys are covered up, and my typing fingers are a little crowded. There’s no denying, though, that the upgrade in sound quality is tremendous. Music is actually listenable via its four 1.25-inch drivers (two per channel) and capsule shaped bass driver. The tonal balance is quite good, with reasonably rich bass for a speaker this size, good stereo separation if you back away from it a bit, and ample volume… although it does strain a little bit when cranked to the max.
Speaking of cranking, one of the upgrades of the PLUS over the previous model is better volume control. The volume up button is on one side, volume down on the other, and pressing them both for three seconds acts as the power toggle. There’s also the fact that the USB connection actually charges it now, which makes the Sound to Go PLUS much more portable. It also makes it viable as an on-the-go solution for iPhone playback, via the aux jack right beside the USB connection.
Using it with the iPhone independent of a laptop does bring the placement issues to the forefront, though. Like I said, perched on a laptop, the Sound to Go PLUS kinda rocks for a fifty dollar speaker. Even on my little air-permeable lap table, which I tend to perch my laptop upon, it sounds good. Placed on a hard surface, like a desk or counter top, though, and the sound becomes really dreadful. Like, AM radio quality. This is true whether you placed it near the edge, or back on the desk or counter a bit, so it’s not an issue with sonic reflections from the drivers themselves.
It’s also a completely counter-intuitive thing. Simple speaker physics would tell you that a stable surface should reinforce bass, not destroy it. But that’s definitely the case with the Sound to Go PLUS. Put in on stable ground and the low frequencies diminish, and upper mids and highs take the forefront, which results in a sound that’s still better than stock laptop speakers, but not by much.
Again, I won’t even begin to try to explain this, because it runs contrary to all of my experience with speakers. But the bottom line is that, if you give the Sound to Go PLUS a less-than-rock-solid spot to sit — again, over the speakers of your laptop computer is probably the spot to go with, if you have room — this is a heck of an audio upgrade for the price. It’s an incredibly well built, well-designed speaker with incredible finish and a style that I absolutely dig.
And as portable as it is, the Edifier MP250Plus Sound to Go PLUS certainly going to be traveling with me from now on, to knock a little of the gloom off of those hotel rooms hither and yon.