So what I ended up bringing for music was a few iPods, a couple laptops and the Rock-It Portable Vibration Speaker System.
A fun little novelty, the Rock-It is a compact speaker system that plugs into an audio device (iPod, MP3 player, laptop, etc.) and works as a speaker - without an amplifier. Instead, the speaker sends strong vibrations from its underside that is then attached to any item (it has a sticky pad), turning that item into the amplification for the speaker. It runs on two AAA for use with a portable player, and has a USB connection for powering via a laptop, and then plugs into the headphone jack on your audio device. It’s easy to set up, just power it up, plug it in, and start sticking it to stuff.
So does it work well? That all depends.
When we first got here, I ran all over our flat, sticking it to any surface I could find. Tables, lamps, glasses, dishes, beer cans (full and empty) and my face - all with mixed results.
First of all, therein lies the most fun of this little piece of hardware - finding all the things you can stick it to in order to obtain the best results. And all the things that make it sound horrible as well.
Generally, the more hollow the item, the better the volume. Giving the vibrations a chamber to resonate within supplies a bigger sound, and I found decent results from cardboard boxes in general and inflated plastic bags, as well as a metal filing cabinet. But the best results - the biggest sound - came from the shade to a metal desk lamp and from a simple plastic bowl. I think the hollow space combined with an outlet replicates the shape of a speaker.
For the record, sticking it to my face didn't work that well. Although if one makes an “o” shape with one’s mouth, it sounds quite silly, like a band has set up for rehearsal somewhere in your esophageal tract.
Once I figured out how to get the most sound out of the speakers, I shifted my focus to what it actually sounded like. And I discovered that all depends on what you're listening to.
To be fair, you're not going to get high-end sound out of this little speaker. It wasn't designed for that. But you do want to be able to understand what you're listening to.
In general, basic three-chord punk rock and garage punk plays best on this - stuff that was a bit fuzzy and simple to begin with. The Ramones sound great, as do the Germs - even if they occasionally sound like you’re hearing them from outside a club, it’s at least a club with a good sound system inside. But if you want to listen to anything very intricate, fast or complex, and it turns into a lot of muddy noise. For example, the latest from iwrestledabearonce didn't fare very well when given the Rock-It treatment.
At the end of it all, the Rock-It remains a fun little toy, something good for playing around and showing off. It will by no means replace your sound system, or ever be better than a decent set of headphones. What it is great for is to be a compact speaker system which, when used with a plastic bag is perfect for a skateboard session or slapped on anything else to play some music in your office or bedroom.
Just don't expect anything very high end out of it.