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Little Projectors and their Big Audio Problem

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WOWee One Portable Speaker: A Solution for
Little Projectors and their Big Audio Problem

Elizabeth Dourley, September 20, 2010
ProjectorCentral.com

If you travel with a small, lightweight projector, but are frustrated with its lack of decent audio, you aren't alone. As a pico projector devotee I've been watching the early products incubate in the palms of gadget geeks for a couple of years now. The image quality of pico projectors makes them viable for presentations to an audience of about ten or fewer. However, they all have a common problem: weak audio. The same is true for pocket projectors and mobile units under 4 lbs that are designed for the traveling presenter. The little, anemic onboard speakers just don't get the job done. Buying an external speaker system defeats the aim of traveling light, but adequate audio is a must for many presenters. Fortunately, the WOWee One, a tiny "Power Bass Portable Speaker," can solve the problem.

The WOWee One isn't much bigger than a cellphone.

I came upon the WOWee One quite by accident. I had been looking to avoid using headphones with my iPod while housecleaning and was tired of carting an iPod docking station from room to room. When I saw the WOWee One's tiny size and heard its deep bass from the iPod's audio out, I realized I had more than a solution to the household cleaning doldrums. I had effectively found an audio solution for: the pico or portable-toting traveling sales rep who needs enough audio power to satisfy up to forty ears (around 20 bodies) seated at a conference table.

The WOWee One is a unique gadget that sells for around $80. Designed and developed in Scotland, it is a hybrid speaker that uses tried and true speaker technology to provide mid to high frequencies. But in addition, it incorporates a gel audio driver to give the deep bass frequencies so often missing from portable speakers of comparable size and larger. The kicker is that when the user positions the speaker on a flat solid surface like a desk-or even a window or wall-it enhances the bass response to a claimed 40HZ-20KHz range providing a level of sound and quality that could easily be used in a small conference room environment.

I tested the WOWee One with an iPhone running the movie Star Trek projected by the Optoma Pk201 pico projector. For perspective, I first attached external speakers-the Sony SRS T57 collapsible speaker system which was at least three times the size of the WOWee One and had to be positioned to face the audience. The sound was tinny but acceptable. I then attached the WOWee One which is as small as the Optoma pico and 1.5x the thickness. It lay flat on the table, adhering to it because of a special rubber lining on its underside. The WOWee One provided a sound that indeed filled the small room with a rich bass not requiring any directional adjustments to potentially detract from a presentation.

I did find that when connected to my iPod the vibrations gave it the tendency to dance off of the table when played at full volume. I remedied this by applying a thin layer of moisture between the speaker and the table and that helped it to stay in place when on a flat surface. However, this fix was useless with a window or wall placement.

The WOWee One comes with a case, a USB cable for charging as well as a 3.5 mm jack cable. The rechargeable battery is built in and according to the specs will play for 20 hours without requiring a charge. Although not marketed for this application at all, it is a great way to enhance the audio of a pico or portable projector. A notebook computer, portable projector and the WOWee One will leave more than enough room for personal necessities when packed in even a small carry-on bag. Some day a traveling presenter will be able to give full multimedia PowerPoint presentations with a projector and no computer, and carry his or her entire "bag of tricks" in a coat pocket. Until then, it's good to know the current bag just got a whole lot smaller.


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