Enhancing the Zen
Although MP3 players, of whatever variety, are generally designed as personal mobile devices that has not stopped the development of products to enhance and widen the functionality of such units. One area that has benefited especially is that of external speaker units that allow multiple users to enhance output without the need of sharing headsets. Both original developers and third parties have produced speaker units with or without the additional function of recharging the MP3 player. While some of these speaker units are agnostic with regards to the supported MP3 brand, Creative has produced a speaker system that is specific for its ZEN V or ZEN V Plus player.
Entitled TravelSound Zen-V, this predominately black, with silver trim, unit has dimensions of 240 x 135 x 54mm. Constructed mainly of compressed plastic with hessian material covering the front-mounted speaker outputs, the TravelSound is powered either by four AA batteries (not supplied) or using the supplied main lead. Connection sockets are located at the back of the speaker unit for power, LINE IN, subwoofer out and USB connectivity for linking to a computer when downloading tracks to the ZEN device.
Running along the top of the TravelSound are a series of buttons for activating various features. You can turn the power on/off; switch between normal and wide stereo effect; adjust the volume level; and alternate between FM radio and MP3 mode. This last feature is only available for the ZEN Plus device. There is a built-in adjustable and extendable aerial to help with reception. The rear of the unit is also home to the battery compartment and a swivel stand to ensure a firm base.
Positioned between the speakers is a cutaway compartment that houses the ZEN unit. Due to the size of this compartment, it does mean that you will need to remove any belt clip attachment that you may have added to the ZEN. This compartment has a swivel top that contains the connections linking to the ZEN's output and USB connection on the ZEN. The swivel top does make it very easy to make the necessary connections before slotting the ZEN into its designated station.
Although you can control the output from the ZEN device by using its own built-in control and navigation pad, it is more convenient to use the remote control that comes as part of this kit. This lightweight device has membrane buttons that let you stop/start/pause; adjust the volume level; navigate between tracks; switch to wide stereo; turn on the radio feature; and mute sound. In order for the remote to work you need line-of-sight.
Earlier I mentioned that this product was specifically for the ZEN V and ZEN V Plus. While you can only fit either of these Creative units in the docking section, it is possible to attach other MP3 players, including the iPod family, by using the LINE IN socket and a lead that is provided by Creative in the box.
Along with the previously mentioned remote control device, this kit also comes with a soft carry pouch with draw-string; adapters for 2 and 3-pin plugs; plus a short (54cm) lead for linking to another audio device. The TravelSound Zen-V is a reasonable piece of kit that is capable of producing adequate audio quality. It is not likely to satisfy hifi enthusiasts, but for general listening it should pass muster. However I was disappointed with the stereo widening effect which just seemed to increase the volume output and do little else. The TravelSound has been officially priced at £69.99.
It's available for considerably less than this - including from Amazon for £56, including delivery :
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