GraphicRockStic iPod Speaker SystemRockStic iPod Speaker System

RockStic iPod Speaker System
Manufacturer: Zagg, Inc.
Retail Price: $49.95

My wife works in an office cubicle environment where she relies on her iPod Nano to help her through her day. When she was ready for a replacement set of portable iPod speakers for her desk, she presented a list of criteria: Low cost, small size, sturdy design, decent sound, and iPod charging capability. In the $100 - $300 price range, there is a seemingly endless array of product choices that meet those expectations. But my budget was much lower, and I started shopping in the $30 - $50 range.

We happened upon the Zagg RockStic, and after spending a couple of months with the device, we found it to be an exceptional product, especially for its price. The Rockstic is designed in the form of an aluminum tube (available in black, pink, or silver) mounted onto a short plastic base. Speakers are placed into either end of the tube, pointed towards opposing directions, giving the listener an impression of a wide stereo field.

We found the audio quality of the Rockstic to be quite good, and an improvement over many of products we've tried in this price range. But this is primarily a product of convenience, and is not intended for true audiophiles. Overall, music sounded fuller than expected from such a small device, although some frequencies were lacking in clarity. At only 2 watts per speaker, the RockStic is not intended for arena events or backyard blowouts, but it does easily provide ample audio levels for office cubicle environments and mid-sized rooms. The hollow tube design adds a little extra body to the lower frequencies and the volume can be turned up quite high with only minimal distortion.

A recess in the top of the tube accommodates full-sized dock compatible iPods as well as the iPod Nano. (Special Note: This dock currently does not support the iPhone.) The RockStic includes an AC power adaptor, but also operates on 4 AAA batteries for convenient portability. As an added bonus, it also charges the dock-connected iPod when plugged into the AC power adaptor. This was the primary selling point for my wife. For those without a dock compatible iPod, the RockStic offeres a Line-in feature with a 3.5mm stereo jack, and includes a stereo cable for connecting devices such as the iPod Shuffle, other mp3 players, laptop computers or other digital media gadgets.

The selling point for me was Zagg's inclusion of a full-featured remote control for the RockStic. This remote allows the user to navigate all of the iPod menus with ease, including repeat, shuffle and mute commands. Although full-featured remotes may be standard for higher end units, this level of remote functionality is unheard of in this price range, and is especially useful for those who like to keep their iPod and speakers on a shelf or otherwise out of the way.

Not everything is perfect with the RockStic. There are a few factors that Zagg may wish to improve upon for a second version;

1.- The RockStic does not include a travel case. This is only a minor flaw, but for a product that is marketed as a portable device, the lack of a travel case is surprising. I recommend holding onto the original product case since it packs pretty well for travel.

2.- The RockStic appears to suffer from self-induced EMF interference. There are numerous reports of anomalous noise or audio hiss present when using a docked iPod and AC power with the RockStic. It is most evident in quieter sections of music or when playback is paused. This anomaly is believed to be the result of the iPod hard drive generating an EMF field that interferes with the RockStic's AC current, and is not evident when using the RockStic with a solid state device like the iPod Nano, or when operating on battery power.

3.- There has been confusing fluctuation in retail pricing of the RockStic. When Zagg first introduced this product, it carried a suggested retail price of $69.95. Early reviews of the product indicated a faulty electrical design resulting in reversed stereo fields. Whether related or not, Zagg lowered the retail price to $49.95, making the RockStic a much more compelling product to own. I can't complain since I purchased it at the amazing low price of only $20 thanks to their MacWorld Expo promotional pricing (no longer available). For $20 this purchase was a no-brainer.

At the earlier $70 price point, I would probably expect a little more from the product, such as better sound quality and a travel case. At the current $49.95 retail price, the Zagg RockStic's unique design, integrated dock connector, and full-featured remote make it a cut above its competition and a strong contender in the field of low to mid-range portable iPod speaker systems.

Review by NCMUG member Jon Jones