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Kitsound X5: An iPhone vibrator everyone will want to play with

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kitsoundx5.jpg It's just small enough to fit into your pocket, uses a specially developed high-tech gel and vibrates like crazy. But this latest must have addition to the iPhone accessories cupboard is no sex toy: this is the Kitsound X5 Surface Speaker, and oh boy does it pack a satisfying punch.

The trouble with most portable speakers is they are either not actually portable, as in not pocket-sized unless you happen to be wearing a pair of MC Hammer trousers, or not actually any good. We've all heard the idiots on the beach or in the park with their tinny little travel speakers pumping out about as much bass as my mum playing a kazoo.

The rule of audio thumb being, of course, that the bigger the speaker the deeper the bass it will provide. Which does not bode well for pocket-sized speakers, now does it? One technological concept which attempted to get around this limitation was the surface speaker. Any number of these have popped up over the years and I've tried a few of them. They all apply the same basic premise, that you attach the speaker unit to a flat surface and the resonating of that surface adds the size and thus the bass to the sound. Unfortunately, while some have been a disaster and others have been OK, none have actually managed to deliver on the promise of a true take it anywhere and put it on pretty much anything to get blown away by the bass portable speaker.

Until now, that is.

I've just spent a couple of weeks in the company of the Kitsound X5 Surface Speaker which, frankly, I'm not happy about having to give back now the review period is over. Damn it, I might actually have to go and shell out £40 and buy one of these things - and that only applies to less than 5% of the gadgets I have ever reviewed. So what has grabbed my attention and loosened my wallet in this case?

First of all, the Kitsound X5 is reasonably small at 160 x 60 x 27mm and weighs a just 194g. So that sorts out the portability issue, this one definitely is pocketable although it's more jacket friendly than a trouser item to be fair.

Then there are the looks, which are distinctly not the usual plasticky pocket speaker affair that you might expect. what you probably were not expecting was this small rubberised black brick with a glossy black top (complete with square holes in a depleted Space Invaders formation) and a squidgy bottom. It actually looks really rather cool, in a minimalist kind of a way. I like that. A lot.

Especially when you plug it in and ramp up the sound from your iPhone, or iPod, or pretty much any MP3 player or laptop for that matter. Nobody was expecting the Spanish Inquisition and nobody was expecting this harmless looking little device to blow the bloody doors off either!

The secret is twofold: first there is the patented high-tech SFX GEL AUDIO layer on the bottom of the speaker, developed in the UK to amplify the sound through any item with a natural resonance; and then there is the item upon which you plop the Kitsound X5 itself.

Which is where the fun really starts as you explore your surroundings to see, or rather hear, which items produce the best sound and the biggest bass kick. Hold it against a large window and you'll be blown away, try a desktop or the fridge door and you'll be surprised. I cannot start to tell you how amazed I was to hear the sound coming out of my toilet when my 11 year old son tried it on the toilet seat lid!

I have listened to music through a biscuit tin, saucepan, car roof and even a hollowed out tree trunk and been pleasantly surprised with not only the real depth of bass and lower midrange (what one of my colleagues described using the audio engineering technical term of 'well fat man') but also the balance provided by a second hidden speaker covering the upper midrange and higher frequencies. The frequency response is 40Hz-20KHz in case you wondered.

All of which is as much use as a one-legged man at an #### kicking party if the battery runs out after 10 minutes or you need to carry a supply of Duracells around with you in another pocket. Thankfully, the Kitsound X5 has the power side of things covered by using a built-in Lithium Ion 700mAh battery which promises 20 hours of continuous play from a single charge and delivered 17.5 hours on test here, which is actually still pretty impressive.

In the box you get a bunch of mobile phone and MP3 device adaptors, and I am reliably informed these will mean it can work with most LG, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson phones as well as your iPhone and iPod or any MP3, laptop or device with a headphone jack. There's a hard case which is nice for suitcase travel but not really designed to be trouser friendly, oh and a USB charging cable to keep the battery going.

If there was anything that could be classed as a downer for the Kitsound X5 it would have to be that at low volumes the sound is marred by the noise of the vibrations as it uses the resonance of whatever it is sitting upon at the time. Of course, the answer to that problem is simple: ramp up the volume and pump up the bass!

The Kitsound X5 is available now from the likes of Amazon or Play, costs around £40 ($65) and if I were giving it points out of ten would earn a well deserved 9.

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Davey Winder

I'm a hacker turned writer and consultant, specialising in IT security. I've been a freelance word punk for over 20 years and along the way I have seen 23 of my books published, produced and presented programmes for TV and radio, picked up a bunch of awards and continue being a contributing editor with PC Pro - the best selling IT magazine in the UK .

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happygeek
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One point which I didn't make in the review is that the speaker unit is not magnetically shielded, so iPhone users will need to switch into airplane mode to prevent the annoying mobile phone signal 'beep-de-beep-beep-beep' noise playing every now and then. Not a problem with iPods or MP3 players, only phones.

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Lol i was just about to delete this as spam

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