Like sumo wrestlers, there’s typically an inverse relationship between performance and portability when it comes to speaker performance. In my experience, for example, the smallest portable speakers typically feature teeny “tweety” sound without a hint of bass.
But like smaller sumo wrestlers with great technique, I’m pleasantly surprised once in a while when I come across a device that breaks the mold. Is the Spider E500 Pocket Speaker one of those? Let’s take a closer look.
Nicely portable: Many “portable” speakers aren’t exactly that portable. But as its name implies, the 3.4-ounce Spider E500 Pocket Speaker actually does fit in your pockets once the extending speaker module is pressed back into the bottom housing. Even if you don’t want to put it in your pockets while traveling, it’s quite easy to pack into a suitcase or bag. It’s also easy to move around the house — like if you want to listen to music in the bathroom for instance (keep in mind it’s not waterproof, though).
Internal battery: Adding to the Spider E500 Pocket Speaker’s portability is the fact that it comes with an internal battery. Battery life is quite good. I’ve had the speakers last several days of regular use. Actual battery life is rated at eight hours with charging requiring two hours for a fully drained speaker.
Built-in volume control: In addition to being able to adjust volume via your music source, the Spider E500 Pocket Speaker also comes with its own volume controls for added flexibility.
Linkable: The device has a buddy link feature that allows you to link together as many Spider E500 speakers as you want to. The biggest benefit when daisy chaining is an increase in maximum volume.
Sounds good: While extra features are nice, the most important thing about any speaker is sound performance. For its small size, the Spider E500 Pocket Speaker actually sounds pretty good. The fact that it has a decent amount of actual bass is what separates this from typical portable speakers of similar size. Bass quality also changes based on the surface you place it on (I got nice results on top of an old CRT TV for example) and, of course, the equalizer settings on your player. Volume is also surprisingly loud for its size.
No stereo sound when linking: The Web site said one of the advantages of linking speakers together is creating surround sound music. I’m not exactly sure if they meant actual surround sound or just being surrounded by sound. While testing two Spider E500 speakers that were linked together, I noticed that both still played the music in mono, with no difference between the left and right speakers. You also get distortion at high volume.
Minimal instructions: I admit, there have been several cases when I’ve felt like an idiot through no fault but my own. But the limited instructions that come with the Spider E500 Pocket Speaker don’t exactly help. I was pressing the “Power” text on the speaker, for example, because I thought it was touch-sensitive like the Speakal iBoo speakers I reviewed before. Turns out you need to press the silver trim below it. And yes, I miraculously figured that out on my own somehow. There’s hope for mankind yet...
Price: At $49.99 for one speaker, pricing would be the biggest drawback for the Spider E500 Pocket Speaker. If it was more affordable, I would’ve actually rated it much higher. But as it currently stands, the cost-to-benefit ratio is steeper than I’d like to see.
A neat expanding resonator and nice bass for its size makes the Spider E500 Pocket Speaker a nice little achiever. It certainly sounds better than many similar sized speakers I’ve tried before.
Unfortunately, the high price puts a blemish on an otherwise promising device. While the E500 sounds nicer than many similarly sized speakers, you can also get better sounding — albeit larger — speakers at the same price.
Basically, if you value a highly portable speaker that comes with an internal battery for listening to MP3 players on the go without earphones, then the E500 is worth a look. Otherwise, there are other choices as well. In the end, it all boils down to that classic question of portability vs. performance and how it suits your needs.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Disclosure: A review sample was provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.