With countless plastic iPod speakers littering retail shelves across the planet, it’s refreshing to find a quality speaker system with an earth-friendly, wooden body. Sprout Creation, a Masachusettes-based company, recently released their $179 USD “Vers 2X hand-crafted wood sound system for the Apple iPod and other MP3 players. With an exterior design destined for a Dwell Magazine photo shoot, the Vers 2X seems like it would be a clear cut winner. Read our review to find out if the Vers 2X is right for you.
Features and Design
The most notable feature of the Vers 2X iPod speaker system is the beautiful wooden body. While the interior cabinet is composite like most speaker enclosures, each Vers 2X features a unique, hand-crafted cherry veneer exterior. Because the outer skin is made from actual wood (and not some hackneyed plastic copy of a single sheet of wood), each Vers 2X retains its unique look and feel. Running my fingers over the outside of the Vers 2X, I can feel the ridges, pores and changing grain of the wood exterior. It’s almost as if I had planed and sanded the wood cabinet myself. Not to get too graphic, but the cabinet exterior even has the faint smell of hand worked and preserved wood. Nice.
The Vers 2X has a detachable grille – perfect for that raw European audio look. Under the grille, we find two 3″ speakers. Their matte black texture contrasts beautifully against the wood. Just south of dead center between the speakers is a dime-sized IR receiver that communicates with the included remote control.
On the back side of the Vers 2X are the two rear ports for the speakers, helping to naturally push thicker bass out of the small cabinet. The power input is located underneath the Vers 2X cabinet – an odd location, for sure, but one that pays respect to the wood exterior and saves it from superfluous holes. Right next to the power input are two audio jacks. First an Audio Out, allowing you to send the audio signal from your iPod (or other player) to an external source, such as a laptop audio-in jack, an external receiver, etc. Second, an Audio-In jack allows you to use non-iPod MP3 players, laptops, desktops and other devices to deliver sound to the Vers 2X speakers.
The Vers 2X and remote control (with speaker cover off)
While the remote control itself is larger than most iPod speaker remotes and the buttons sometimes need to be pushed all the way down to affect a change (lazy me), the Vers remote more than makes up for size by sheer awesomeness. The top trio of buttons allows you to navigate and control your iPod’s menus! That’s right – use the remote to navigate from the main menu to playlists, to Artists, back up to main, over to Photos, down to Settings, change the EQ, etc. Anything that you can do with your finger on the iPod remote, you can do with the remote control, including putting your iPod to sleep. Wow.
In addition to the above, the remote allows you to fast forward and reverse within a song, pause, play, mute, sleep, shuffle, etc. There’s a replaceable 3V battery under a flap on the back side of the remote.
The Vers 2X speaker system is compatible with any dock-connector iPod, whether touch, nano, video, mini, etc. The Vers 2X comes with seven (7) dock adapters for various iPods and a universal adapter that will allow any MP3 player to rest in the dock. A spare audio cable is included for connecting non-iPod sources to the speaker system.
Unlike many speaker system power adapters, the Vers 2X power brick is relatively small. There’s only one piece – no connecting adapters or cables. This makes it easy to transport and makes losing a vital part virtually impossible (or at least less likely).
The main way of controlling the Vers 2X is by remote. For those times when it’s easier to control things manually on the speaker set, there are two buttons – power on/off and volume up/down. The remainder of controls are on your iPod. Pretty simple.
The 3″ speakers peak at 15 watts each, giving a total of 30 watts power. Frequency response is a could-be-better 60Hz-20kHz. How could it be better? Maybe a little more aggressive on the lows, like 30Hz-20kHz, for that serious boom-shaka-boom. Signal to noise ratio is a very decent 90dB. Total harmonic distortion (THD) is 5.7%, probably the weakest factor of the Vers 2X.
Setup and Use
Setting up the Vers 2X is an easy (and surprisingly pleasant) experience. Upon opening the product packaging, it’s easy to see that Sprout Creation (the makers of the Vers 2X) care for their product and your overall experience. The packaging is 100% recycled material. Each individual component (dock connectors, remote, etc.) are individually wrapped in what looks like (but is not) rice paper. There’s even a nicely designed user guide and inventory sheet, letting you know what’s in the box and what it’s used for.
After removing the Vers 2X from the packaging, place it on a desk or table. It’s a good idea to rest it upside down on a towel or other soft surface to help prevent scratching the wood body. Plug the power cable into the bottom of the Vers 2X and flip it upright. Plug the power adapter into a wall outlet. Find the appropriate iPod dock adapter from the packaging and pop it onto the dock bay on top of the Vers 2X. Then set your iPod on the dock and turn on both the Vers 2X and the iPod. That’s it – you’re ready to use the Vers 2X to enjoy your music!
As mentioned above, you can either use the iPod’s interface to select songs or playlists, or use the remote control included with the Vers 2X. Once you find the music you want to listen to, press “play” and adjust the volume to your liking.
Because the Vers 2X doesn’t have its own controls for adjusting bass and treble, you’ll have to use the EQ presets on your iPod to find an ideal balance of sound.
When playing the Vers 2X, it seems that the cabinet is fairly well braced and dampened. There’s little to no vibration on desks or tables.
The back of the Vers 2X shows the two ports
The Vers 2X speakers sound very nice under most circumstances. As with any speakers, the higher quality the source audio, the better the final output. In the case of the Vers 2X, it seemed that the bit rate and encoding format had more tangible effects on the listening experience. Songs with heavy bass sounded solid and deep when encoded at 256kbps or higher, but their 128kbps counterparts seemed to be accompanied by intermittent flatulence of the bass and, in some cases, the flawed lows overpowered the clean mids and highs.
When setting up the Vers 2X speaker system for desktop use, I tested it at various distances and angles from my main work space. In almost every configuration, the 2X pushed sound in a super-defined, narrow pattern. This gave a sensation that the two 3″ speakers were acting as one – a combined power – instead of taking advantage of the duality and sound separation that two speakers can (and should) produce.
Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson: Jack Johnson songs don’t have a lot of heavy bass, but what bass is present sounds very good. Mids and highs are clean and seem to represent the original recording quite well.
Shoulder Holster by Morcheeba: The opening moments of this song carry deep bass, pulsating mids and razor-sharp highs. It’s a sonic crucible of sorts, as with many Morcheeba songs. The Vers 2X handles the low lows with clean, natural effects. The mids and highs are equally pristine on their own. When the lows, mids and highs combine, the output seems to go on overload, mostly with volume levels above 30%. The same song plays fine on high-end studio speakers at all volume levels.
Say it Right by Nelly Furtado: Bass – one of the most critical elements of this song – sounds chunky and forced above 40% volume. Mids are very good, but the troubled bass interferes the otherwise crystal clean highs. High volume output distorts, no thanks to the 5.7% THD.
La Fin Justifie Les Moyens by MC Solaar: The heavy, pulsating bass line prominent throughout this hip hop classic sounds clean and strong. Mids and highs are nice, and vocals sound fluid and smooth. This song survived playback at higher volume levels.
In short, most music sounded good or very good, but never excellent. At lower volume levels and with high-bitrate audio files, the Vers 2X sounds great. Distortion was present at times; often too present.
The natural wood encased Vers 2X is a good looking, good sounding speaker system for iPods and other MP3 players. It’s very unique in design – excellent for hip lofts and offices. The fact that the remote can control all the menus on an iPod is a huge bonus. The sound quality is good to really good, but never graduates to excellent. Of course, it is a 30 watt 2.0 audio system, so audiophile quality sound cannot be expected. At $179 USD, we expect an iPod speaker system to have a more dynamic range and less distortion at higher volume levels.
The Vers 2X would be a fine purchase (or gift) for those who want a good, compact speaker system for dorms, apartments, small offices or any other place where music can be enjoyed but not “turned up to 11″.
• Beautiful design
• Lots of accessories
• Sounds very nice in most cases
• Remote controls iPod menus
• Distortion at higher volumes
• Lacks deep bass