Raised eyebrows. That was my first reaction when I spotted Philips Electronics’ ShoqBox digital music player/FM clock radio at a Philips press event in Manhattan in June.
The unit, also marketed as The Personal Sound System, resembles a shiny white Twinkie with silver eyes. Even its zippered carrying case could double as a hot dog and bun holder. Despite the somewhat whimsical look, the unit does deliver much better sound than one would expect out of such a small package.
The ShoqBox comes with something you don’t expect in a digital music player: speakers. When tested, the small titanium drivers easily filled a bedroom with rich, distortion-free music which sounded as if it was coming from much larger speakers. Two small port holes behind each speaker did indeed seem to enhance bass response.
ShoqBox model PS110 ($129.99), available now, comes with 256 megabytes (MB) of storage; enough for 60 songs in MP3 format or 120 songs in Windows Media format. Model PSS120 ($149.99) comes with 512MB of storage and will be available in September, said Philips.
A small monochrome liquid crystal display panel on the front of the ShoqBox keeps track of the song that’s playing or the radio station that’s tuned in. You can tune in radio stations manually or let the unit automatically scan the FM band and install the ten strongest stations as presets. Some of the fonts for the configuration menus are small, however, so keep your reading glasses handy.
The ShoqBox comes with Yahoo! Inc.’s MusicMatch Jukebox 9 music-management software (Version 10 isn’t supported yet), but works fine with other music software like Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Media Player as long as you install the basic ShoqBox drivers in your PC.
Free firmware updates available on the Philips support Web site can add new functionality to the ShoqBox. For example, the ShoqBox I tested came out of the box with a 24-hour digital alarm clock. After I installed a firmware upgrade, however, a new item was added to the configuration menu which allowed me to switch between 24-hour and 12-hour AM/PM format.
Behind a flip-down plastic cover on the rear is a headphone/antenna jack, a line-in jack, a USB port and a power socket for the included AC adapter and charger. You can connect a notebook computer, CD player or other device to the line-in port and use the ShoqBox as a set of external speakers. The built-in rechargeable battery provides up to ten hours of operation per charge, according to Philips.
While the ShoqBox is fine for outdoor use, its shiny white case might make you think twice before you take it to the beach or anywhere where you might get it dirty or sandy.