Boy there is no classification for the range of goodies we get to sample here at MBT. As the warmer weather greeted us this year, we tore into a box containing a small plastic skull that, upon first glance anyway, was reminiscent of a prop from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Closer inspection revealed that this little skull was actually a fully functioning portable amplified speaker designed to bring the noise as it were to the track, trail or bike park.
In the event that you've been living under a rock for the past decade, the MP3 player (and perhaps arguably more so the iPod/ iPhone) has turned the mobile music scene. However the problem is that generally require the operator to wear headphones, ear buds, or some other method of direct sound-to-ear transfer. While nice for privacy, the trouble is that when riding (especially if roads enter the equation in any capacity), being unable to hear the world around you can be dangerous at best to illegal at worst.
The $49.95 Skully Boom remedies this situation by providing a personal speaker that can be clipped to your belt or waistband with enough output to be useful regardless of the type of cycling you enjoy.
Since we're not roadies, cyclecrossers, BMXers or commuters, the type of cycling we happen to enjoy is mountain biking and we are pleased to report that the Skully Boom is built sturdy enough to handle the type of abuse off-roading provides. It is made out of tough vinyl and has a smooth matte finish that we were unable to scratch or mar. The speaker grills are metal and equally sturdy/ flex free.
It's also lightweight enough to go unnoticed even during the rough and tumble off-road environment although its bulk prevents it from being completely undetectable while riding. In technical situations, we sound it best to simply slide the speaker directly behind us on the waistband to allow for easier seated to standing transitions.
The units are drop tested at the factory and water resistant out of the box and even though we were unable to damage the unit in our abuse, it's reassuring to note that Skully Boom stands behind the product by offering a replacement "no matter how" warranty for a full year.
It's the kitschy styling that draws the most attention to the Skully Boom bit it's the audio performance that really impressed us. For such a little speaker system (rated at 3W, maximum 5W), this thing packs surprisingly strong and non-distorted sounds (even at maximum volume).
Bass was even present, and thumped nice and crisp throughout the entire range.
Odds and Ends
It could very well be the little things; the attentions to detail that separate the Skully Boom from other portable speakers on the market today. For starters the unit runs on a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery that we were able to get nearly six-hours of continuous play from before requiring a recharge.
It contains a USB cord for charging the internal (and replaceable) battery pack and a 3-foot retractable standard 1/8" audio connector (male to male), basically making it compatible with most any and all MP3 & MP4 players, iPods, iPhones, iPads, tablet PCs, laptops, netbooks, CD players, and even your desktop if you're so inclined.
Additionally it contains its own 1/8" (female) headphone jack so that rider's do not have to choose one form of output over another. We found it worked best to alternate between headphone and speaker use depending on the situation (which also helps extend battery life of the speaker).
Finally, not only is the Skully Boom available in 4 unique colors, it has interchangeable "eye" screens for even more customization options.
Love or hate the styling, there's no doubt that the Skully Boom delivers on the promise of spilling clean, crisp audio and is compatible with virtually any electronic gadget that uses a 1/8" headphone jack.
The only downside, and this is in no way a reflection on the manufacturer itself, is that riding around, especially in public riding areas, with music cranked up is not something we advise generally. One person's symphony is another's cacophony and since noise pollution is a legitimate cause for protest groups to try and get mountain bikers banned from parks, it is with implied personal responsibility & restraint that we recommend the Skully Boom.
For riding on one's own land or privately owned property, we have found the unit extremely beneficial, and even for camping it's been an absolute joy. The fact that it has proven weatherproof and quite resistant to shock, assures that it has earned a place in our gear bag and we think it'll fit nicely in yours too.
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