Trust 2012 USB SoundForce review

Price when reviewed

It’s no secret that you get what you pay for with speaker systems, and this proved true with these portable models on test. Starting with the budget Trust 2012 USB SoundForce speakers, you get a pair of decent-looking, but small, units. Since the set connects via USB, power is drawn from the notebook. Effectively, like the Altec Lansing set, the Trust speakers are an external sound card – you have to install drivers from the CD and then select the C-Media audio output from the control panel before you’ll hear any sound. There’s no volume dial – you have to use Windows’ controls instead. Being rated at only 0.5W per channel, volume isn’t one of the SoundForce’s strengths. They weren’t much louder than the HP dv5000’s speakers and didn’t add to the frequency range – the lowest frequency is 100Hz. However, they were louder than most notebooks, so if volume’s all you’re after the Trust set is reasonable value.

Trust 2012 USB SoundForce review

Altec Lansing’s XT2 set is a step up in every way. Instead of Trust’s soft case, the XT2s have a hard foam case that zips up. Each speaker is around 185mm tall -a third larger than the Trusts. Each has a stand that folds flat for storage. A separate USB cable connects to the rear of the right speaker, which also has power and volume controls. The left speaker has a handy retractable cable that’s just long enough to stretch behind a 400mm wide notebook. There’s also a 3.5mm output for a subwoofer.

At 2W, the XT2s are nominally four times as powerful as the Trust’s and sound leagues better. As the volume buttons simply control the Windows volume level, adjustments are coarse. However, at full volume, we heard virtually no distortion and bass lines were much more distinct than with the other sets here. Vocals were crisp and instruments distinct from each other. Two more bonuses were that no drivers are needed under Windows XP, and there’s a handy 3.5mm aux input. But at £54, they’re don’t come cheap.

Much better value at £31 is Creative’s TravelDock 900. As well as being simple to set up and use with a notebook, the 900 has a flip-up 3.5mm input for a Zen Nano Plus and a port to charge an iPod shuffle (using the optional PSU). Two cables are included – one for a shuffle and a standard stereo mini-jack lead. Power and volume controls are accessible once you open the clamshell and closing it automatically powers off the set. Each neo titanium driver is 2W, the same as the Altec Lansing set. This meant overall volume was roundly similar, but the TravelDock lacked the XT2’s bass. Basslines can be heard, but not loudly – mid and high frequencies are reproduced far better. But, considering the small size, neat carry case and simple design, the TravelDock is our pick of the speakers here. Four AAA batteries are included and Creative claims they’ll last for up to 32 hours.

At the top end this month is the Saitek A-200. It’s the only 2.1 set here, cleverly incorporating a 60mm subwoofer into the base of a unit only 40mm tall. The trick is EAVS (Expanded Air Volume System) – the pop-up section that not only turns the unit on and off, but provides a larger cabinet and a port to give better bass response. It works too, providing the best sound of the group. No doubt the Mission tweeters help, but the overall result is a well-rounded sound. Volume is no problem – the A-200 is easily loud enough to fill a small room without distorting.

Although no rechargeable batteries are included (like the TravelDock, it takes four AAA cells for up to 24 hours of playback), Saitek bundles a power adapter, a mini-jack cable and a soft carry case. The colours might not be to everyone’s taste and the £64 price is comparatively high, but if these aren’t issues the A-200 is a great portable speaker set.

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