Solar Sound 2 review: Solar powered portable stereo

With it looking increasingly likely that there will be actual sunshine this summer, more and more people will be heading outdoors for picnics, barbecues and general frolics. Devotec’s Solar Sound is a nifty little gadget for outdoor weather music.

Solar-Sound-2

In the box you get the unit, a 3.5 mm retractable stereo audio cable, mains plug that also works with USB and a little carry case.The unit itself is a medium-sized brick that connects via either Bluetooth or an analogue audio cable, making it ideal for mp3 players, tablets or laptops with awful built-in speakers.

Analogue playback is obviously straightforward. Just plug in the supplied stereo audio cable and press play for 5 – 20 hours. In testing this worked out to about 18 hours indoors, but your milage may vary.

Bluetooth is obviously a little trickier. Battery life goes down to 5 – 10 hours, which is still pretty good and playback has a range of 10 meters. I could stand reasonably far from the device and still get a signal and it works through walls as well. Line of site is obviously best.

Bluetooth support extends to all the acronyms you’d expect – Bluetooth 2.0 EDR with HFP, HSP, A2DP and AVRCP profiles so it’s pretty extensive. I tested the Solar Sound with a variety of laptops, tablets and phones and pairing was quick and painless. Bluetooth playback gives you access to the nifty music controls at the front of unit enabling you to skip ahead, rewind or pause. You can also use the audio output port, which enables you to playback Bluetooth devices on a regular hi-fi.

There is also a mic built into the device that enables a Bluetooth paired phone to be used as a speakerphone. You can start and stop calls from one of the buttons on the device and music is automatically paused. Whilst not the best conference-calling device I’ve ever used, the integrated speaker is however handy for dealing with incoming calls on a smartphone and is well suited to lazing around outside.

The most amazing aspect of the Solar Sound is the solar panel that stretches across the top of the unit. If you leave the unit in direct sunlight the battery will slowly recharge. 12-24 hours of full sunshine is stated in the manual although I lacked the weather to test this. During music playback, the solar panel can technically power the unit, either supplementing battery power or replacing it all together is the music is not playing full blast. Theoretically infinite playback is possible and in practice you can eeek sounds out of the unit after the battery is long gone, harnessing the power of the sun – which is pretty amazing for long sessions in the park.

The Solar Sound 2 is £69.99 from here

Garden gadgets roundup

Summer’s here, it’s time to get out in the garden and enjoy the sunshine (hopefully) while you can. But don’t leave your gadgets behind! We’ve found some great al fresco gear for the long hot summer ahead (yes, we are trying to be optimistic!).

Garden-Gadgets

Anyone who’s tried to use matches to light the Barbie with a gale force wind blowing (well, we Brits are pretty resilient when it comes to al fresco dining) will appreciate the brilliance of the Zippo Flexible Neck Outdoor Utility Lighter. Like its famous stablemates, it’s windproof, so even in the worst weather you’ll still be able to light fires and candles without burning your fingers and impress your family with your BBQ prowess. Available in black matte or chrome it’s a very reasonable £13.70.
www.zippo.co.uk

Once the barbie’s lit, you’ll need some sounds. We’ve been to many a barbie where the music’s died halfway through because the battery has run down on the iPod, so how about the Solar Sound 2 portable stereo speakers? The system plays music wirelessly via Bluetooth, while charging its battery from the integrated solar panel – now that’s what we call multitasking! Produced by Devotec, this is the second generation of this system, with improved sound quality, louder maximum volume and less distortion at higher levels. Playing time from a charged battery is between five and 10 hours, but of course if it’s in the sun, it can keep going! The Solar Sound 2 works with almost every model of phone that has Bluetooth and the A2DP profile; iPhones, Nokias, Blackberries and so on. £69.99 from here

If you want to listen to the summer of sport while you’re catching some rays, then the latest digital radio from Vita Audio should be on your shopping list. The Vita Audio R1 MkII has impressive credientials: its predecessor was dubbed the Aston Martin of digital radios by the Daily Telegraph. The new radio offers greater control over bass and treble, has an input for playing sounds from an iPod or other music player and has an optional CarryPack in tan or black full-grain leather for greater portability. Prices from £159.99 (CarryPack £39.99). From House of Frasier, John Lewis and Selfridges or www.vitaaudio.com

As long as your garden’s big enough, you can take a trip back in time to the heydays of 80s TV and this remote control Airwolf helicopter replica from Heliguy.com. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 60mph, it’s a pricey toy at £299.99, but think of the fun you’ll have! Recommended for the more experienced flyer, so get it out before you start on the tinnies.www.heliguy.com

If you’re actually planning to do some work in the garden, rather than just sitting back and relaxing – and you’ve got a spare £799 to spare – you could invest in an electric autobarrow to take the weight off your shoulders. This battery-powered wheelbarrow is designed to take the effort out of moving heavy stuff such as turf, paving slabs and plants. It has a semi-automatic tipping mechanism to make unloading easier too.
If the price tag is a tad heavy for your taste, you could soften the blow with its green credentials – no fumes, and an eco-friendly 250-watt electric motor.
Available from the Really Useful Vehicle Company.

A far cheaper addition to your gardening arsenal is GardenID, an iPhone app that tells you what to grow when based on your location. Once your location is set, you can choose the right fruit and veg to grow for the time of year, follow full steps for planting, growing and harvest – and read lots of helpful tips. There’s even a facility for identifying and solving any gardening problems.
More at: here or download from the AppStore for $2.99

The Royal Horticultural Society has just upgraded its Grow Your Own iPhone app. Now, on top of the 20 fruit and veg listed in the free app, you can add another 16 for £1.79. The upgrade includes calendar alerts to remind you what to do when in your garden, frost alerts based on location and watering reminders and drought alerts, also based on location. More upgrades, adding on extra varieties, are expected to follow.
Log on here
Or download from the App Store.