Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


shoX mini speaker
by Chris Taylor

I give a lot of presentations. This entails schlepping around a modest amount of equipment, including a netbook, an AC adapter, a network cable, a VGA cable and a remote I use to drive PowerPoint presentations. Recently, I bought a tiny pico projector in case the projector supplied at my destination is missing or dies. And the projector has an AC adapter, a VGA cable, and an HDMI cable.

Last year, a couple of new presentations included video clips. Given that my netbook speakers really couldn’t pump out the volume I needed, I started carrying around some desktop speakers. That got old after one time and I went looking for some portable speakers. At Future Shop, I found an Insignia USB Sound Bar. At $38, this 9” long speaker clipped to the top of the screen and put out a higher volume than the speakers built into my netbook. And life was good.

Well, perhaps “better” is more accurate. I could live with it, but I found even the portable speaker was a bit on the large size.

Last spring, I attended an IT Architect Forum hosted by Microsoft and at the registration table they had a couple of door prizes. One caught my eye – the shoX mini speaker from Genumark in Toronto. The box proudly proclaimed “mini size MAX sound!” I could attest to the “mini size” part – the shoX is about 2 inches in diameter and just shy of 1.5 inches high when closed. When opened (more on this later) it stands 2 inches tall. But “MAX sound”? Out of such a small package? I doubted it.

I didn’t win the door prize, but I jotted down the web site listed on the box. Recently I came across my notes and visited the web site. I decided it looked interesting enough to give it a try.

When my shoX arrived, I plugged it in, expecting decent quality sound. I was plainly wrong in this regard. The sound quality was not “decent”. It was “amazing”. Not trusting my tin ears, I called my son into the room. Michael likes his music. He is in his 4th year of a music program at Ottawa University. He has 5.1 surround sound on his computer. He refuses to use the cheap ear-buds that came with his iPod, instead opting for a pair that cost $180. When he decided to buy an over- the-ears headset, he went for a Sennheiser that was over $100 on sale. Suffice it to say, Michael knows his music. I first played some music over the speakers built into Shaula, my latest netbook – an Asus Lamborghini, which has a Bang & Olufsen ICEpowerŪ sound system that Asus claims provides “crystal clear, dynamic and powerful sound that’s bound to sweep listeners off their feet and take them on a journey of adventure, whatever their fancy.”

It sounded pretty good. I then plugged in the shoX. A burst of loud, rich music flooded the room. The improvement was huge!

Michael grabbed the shoX, headed to the computer room and went sifting through his music library. When I asked what he was doing. I got hushed up. He was obviously deep in concentration. Finding what he wanted, he played a passage through his Logitech 5.1 surround sound speakers. Cello music filled the room. Did I mention Michael likes his music loud? He then plugged in the shoX mini speaker.

I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by saying the shoX mini speaker was better than the 5.1 surround sound. But it was amazingly close. Michael switched back and forth between the two and finally said, “That’s incredible. I chose this music because when you have harmonies with multiple parts that are similar and overlaid, poor quality speakers cause the multiple instruments to muddle together. But the shoX reproduces the sound so they can all be clearly distinguished.”

Over the next few days, as I demoed the shoX to multiple people, everyone showed similar amazement at the quality of the sound that comes out of the shoX.

A closer look at the shoX

The shoX mini speaker is a marvelous little round disk with a single speaker pointing directly up. In the closed position, it produces good sound. If you open it by twisting it slightly, it pops up an additional half-inch or so in height. This opens a chamber within the shoX and increases the bass quality with what Genumark calls their patented v-bass technology.

The shoX is a powered speaker with a built-in lithium battery that charges by plugging it into a computer’s USB port in 3 to 4 hours. Once charged, it will operate for 3 to 5 hours depending on volume. My contact at Genumark mentioned that you can also charge the shoX using any wall-plug adapter that has a USB mini-B output (this includes many MP3 players and cell phones) and charge the shoX in as little as one hour.

The speaker outputs a quite loud 2.4 W. I tried it in the auditorium at the Museum where we meet and, at half volume, it was pretty easy to hear even at the back.

The shoX can be used on any device that accepts a standard 3.5mm audio jack. This includes most computers, laptops, netbooks, MP3 players, smart phones, etc.

The single port on the shoX is a standard USB mini-B. However, the supplied cable is definitely not standard. It has two cords that come out of the mini-B plug. One ends in a USB Standard A plug that will plug into a computer’s USB port to charge the shoX. The other ends in a standard 3.5 mm audio jack. If lost or damaged, I know I could charge the shoX with an off-the-shelf USB cable. However, I have not seen a cable that has a 3.5 mm audio plug at one end and a mini USB at the other. I think my only chance of a replacement would be from Genumark. I would have preferred the audio connecting through a separate audio cable with standard 3.5 mm audio plugs at both ends.

Another concern I have with the shoX is the cost of shipping. The speaker is not available through any retail stores. You can only get it by ordering it off the Genumark web site or in person at their offices in Toronto. The cheapest shipping method is UPS Standard at $13.66. This feels a little pricy on an item that only costs $29.95.

Both my concerns are very minor. The main thing about the shoX mini speaker is the incredible sound that comes out of it. And I have absolutely no concerns over this. This is one amazing little device that has a permanent place in my bag of goodies I haul around with Shaula.


Bottom Line:

Product: shoX mini speaker
Price: $29.95 (plus $13.66 shipping)
web site:
http://www.shoxmini.com


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

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