We interviewed the creators of Tembo Trunks for our Designer Spotlight series recently because we were intrigued by their idea for a silicone, packable, natural amplifier for your Apple earbuds. That idea eventually transformed into a reality with Tembo Trunks ($40), which are meant to amplify the music coming from your Apple earbuds so that it’s loud enough to enjoy while traveling or on a picnic with a few friends. But how well do these work in reality? We put them through the paces to see whether they are worth the investment or not.
We’ve seen the idea of natural amplification before, and the biggest benefit here is that you don’t need any power source (other than your iPod) and you can take these things anywhere. They are squish-able, waterproof, and virtually indestructible. Stuff a pair of Tembo Trunks in your backpack or carry-on luggage, and you don’t have to worry about them getting damaged or ruined. The convenience of a product like this is by far the biggest benefit.
When it came to actual testing, our recommendation is simple, but two-fold. If you have an iPhone or a newer iPod Touch with a speaker, it’s not worth your while to invest in a pair of Tembo Trunks. If you like to play music from your iPod Classic, iPod Nano, or iPod Shuffle, however, these might come in handy while traveling. Here’s why: while the rubbery ‘speakers’ will amplify the sound from your earbuds just enough so that you can enjoy your music in a small room with a few friends, they will not (even at max volume) give you louder sound than the speaker from your iPhone. So, if you plan to use your iPhone to play the majority of your music, Tembo Trunks are a bit of a moot point because they won’t help you. If all you have is an iPod shuffle and you want to share some music with friends while you travel, however; having a pair of Tembo Trunks in your backpack will certainly do the trick.
Don’t expect speaker-quality sound from these little guys, but if a small iPod is all you’re working with, Tembo Trunks do exactly what they’re supposed to do — amplify the music coming from your Apple earbuds just enough to listen to in an intimate setting. If you have a smartphone with a speaker, or an iPod touch, don’t expect much. If you’re in the small percentage of people who want non-electronic amplification from an iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, or iPod Classic, you might find these helpful if you are willing to pony up the $40.