Fashionation Eco Speakers [review]

I like to think of myself as a “realistic” iPhone user. I love my iPhone, but I fully recognise that it has its problems as well as benefits… Take the recent news about the alarms not working, for example – big disadvantage if you hope to get up on time!

One of the advantages, for me, has been that there’s a built-in speaker, and it’s an absolute joy to be able to put some music on, hand the phone over to my children, and watch them dancing to the music they’re holding in the palm of their hands. However, for a meatier audio experience, the iPhone speaker doesn’t really cut it.

I was contacted by MobileFun, who offer a range of iPhone 4 speakers, just before Christmas to try out a set of Fashionation Eco Speakers. These are two cardboard boxes with passive speaker cones in one side. The idea is that the boxes can be flat-packed for transport and storage but open up to act as the speakers’ horn/sound box. Great idea, but are they any good?

First up, those passive speakers. What I mean by that is, they aren’t externally powered, but get their energy from the headphone jack of whatever device they’re plugged into. This is how most earphones and headphones work, so not really much of a problem. However, earphones and headphones sit very close to your ear, so the sound they need to deliver doesn’t actually have to be very loud. Speakers are, on the other hand, designed to project sound out into a wider environment and require a bit of amplification for best results.

With that in mind, the Fashionation Eco Speakers are never going to rival a powered iPod dock or HiFi system. They’re certainly good enough for, say, a camping trip, a quick tune in the school common room, or providing some ambience at work (if your co-workers are OK with that, obviously) but the lack of bass and inability to really pump the music out could be a limiting factor. The weird thing is that, although there isn’t much bass to the sound, it’s not offensively trebly either. With your media player of choice cranked up to full volume you will get a decent enough level of sound, but nothing that’s going to set the windows rattling.

One more sound-related point is that the speakers are directional. If you’re sitting to the side or behind them you’ll notice a significant drop-off in sound compared to being directly in front of them.

Next, what’s the “eco” part of their name all about? Well, the bottom of the boxes states that they’re made from 70% post-consumer recycled paper, although every product image I can find says, “100% recycled materials”, including the one above. Battery-free operation eliminates waste from spent batteries as well. If you’re particularly worried that buying a set of speakers may harm the environment, these ones could be right up your street.

I guess the big question is, should I buy these? If you’re looking for high-volume, high-fidelity sound… no. You’ll need something meatier for that, most likely powered. But if you’re looking for a set of speakers you can fold flat and stick in your laptop bag, camping kit, or even the glove box of the car, give these a look. They will work with any device with headphone output, so you don’t have to be toting an iPhone or iPod to use them, and you’ll be helping take care of the environment at the same time.

Fashionation Eco Speakers are available from MobileFun.co.uk and, at time of writing, cost £9.67.

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