Ellula Hot Air Inflatable Portable Speakers
Review

On August 28, 2002, in Review, by John Nemerovski

Ellula Hot Air Inflatable Portable Speakers
Company: Ellula Sounds Ltd.

Price: $49.95
http://www.ellula.com


Imagine audio system hardware that is software, or airware, or bloware, and you are heading in the direction of this unusual product. I noticed Ellula speakers mentioned in a recent Thursday feature in New York Times’ Circuits technology section, which I highly recommend.

My first set of HotAir inflatables was defective, and died while playing a Bob Dylan song. A replacement package just arrived, and these new speakers work as advertised.

Inside their colorful box are:

  • two collapsed, inflatable 10 watt RMS magnetically shielded speakers
  • power brick
  • on-off amplifier unit
  • battery pack for six standard AA 1.5 volt batteries
  • vinyl repair kit
  • registration card.Instructions are printed on the box exterior, with a setup diagram. The manufacturer alerts users, “This product is not a toy, is not a flotation device, and should not be immersed in water.” You have been warned.You must compress the valve during inflation (and deflation), or you will be huffing and puffing forever. I learned this technique from the company, because no blowing instructions come with the package. 

    Once inflated, each speaker is roughly 9 inches tall and 7 inches in diameter. They are unconventional and amusing to the eye, and elicit “Whazzat?” from everybody who sees them.

    Ellula suggests plugging into a powered audio out jack when available, but headphone jacks work fine. Let’s do a quick “can music fill the room?” comparison test, this time playing Bob Seager’s rousing rendition of “Katmandu.” I’ll be right back with the results.


    LEGACY iMAC SPEAKERS (with Control Strip volume set in the middle) sound tinny and annoying.

    HOT AIR SPEAKERS using headphone jack (same computer volume level) fill the room, but only when their HotAir amplifier is cranked all the way to maximum.

    HOT AIR SPEAKERS using powered audio out jack (same computer volume level) are no louder than from headphone source.

    Result: HotAir speakers produce equivalent volume as built-in iMac speakers.

    Next let’s evaluate quality of sound.

    iMAC SPEAKERS sound awful.

    HOT AIR SPEAKERS sound okay, with emphasis on the midrange and very little substance in treble or bass.

    But this comparison is unfair! Ellula’s HotAir units are no match for serious computer speakers, such as top-rated SoundSticks from Harman-Kardon. A much better relationship is with Imation’s RipGo, another portable MP3 player, or your favorite Macintosh iBook/PowerBook. For audio on the go, HotAir speakers have as much sound value as novelty value.


    “Fun factor” is more appropriate than “quality factor” when using Ellula’s speakers. Bill Wagoner, president of Ellula USA, tells MyMac.com:

    Although the focus of mymac.com may be geared towards a slightly more tech
    savvy audience, our inflatable speakers are not. They are positioned as more of a fun, fashionable, portable — though completely electronically operable — piece of equipment, as opposed to a hi-fi unit. Of particular merit are HotAir’s portability and “novelty value,” as you call it. Thank you, however, for mentioning the soon-to-come Subwoofer, which will be
    a much better product to compare to hi-fi and other tech products. Please tell your readers to expect a review of this new line of Ellula speakers before the end of this year.


    Three caveats for more serious listeners:

  • audio VOLUME is never louder than barely acceptable
  • audio QUALITY is never better than barely adequate
  • audio CLARITY is so-so, and speakers distort easily.Ellula tells MyMac.com that a home audio quality big sibling to HotAir speakers will be released in a few months, and we will receive a review unit as soon as possible. Meanwhile, for their stated purpose, HotAir speakers receive a rating of THREE MAC MICE.MacMice Rating: 3 out of 5

    John Nemerovski

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