- Sleek looks, Compact and portable, Decent sound quality, Good Bass levels
- No AC Power Pack included, Difficult controls, Distortion at high volume levels
It won’t blow you away, but the SBA290 delivers admirable sound for a portable and compact speaker unit – if you can put up with the poorly designed controls.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
The Philips SBA290 is a compact and portable speaker system for your iPod or portable media player that has respectable sound quality for a unit in this class.
The SBA290 has clearly been designed with portability in mind as the unit is small enough to fit into any bag or purse. Philips has also included a convenient carrying pouch, which means it's no hassle at all to slip it into the case and take with you on your travels.
The SBA290 is finished in a sleek black gloss plastic and we found its curves are quite appealing. The black finish matches almost perfectly with the new black iPod nano, so if you own one of these, then the SBA290's matching design and looks may sway you away from buying other accessories. The rear of the system is finished in metallic silver, which creates a purple-like colour when viewed in direct light - a nice touch, if for nothing but looks.
The unit is a basic design - two speaker cones on the front of the system, with the controls aligned in a row on the top. The most frustrating aspect of the SBA290 is the switches that Philips has used. They require excessive force to slide and if you don't have long fingernails, you'll find it difficult to access basic functions such as turning the system on and off and adjusting sound settings. Even the volume wheel is inconvenient, as it is sunk too low into the unit itself making it uncomfortable to use.
You can connect any music player to the SBA290 via the included cable which uses a standard headphone jack input. Conveniently, the cord winds up into the rear of the unit for storage, which is accessed by clipping off the rear plastic compartment. Also housed here are the batteries which power the unit - six AAA alkaline, (which are included) as well as a DC input for power supply. Unfortunately, Philips has failed to include a power pack in the package, so you'll have to purchase one separately or stick with batteries.
Philips has designed two intuitive sound functions into the SBA290 - Dynamic Bass Boost and Incredible Surround. The lack of stereo separation on such small units as this one is a real problem, so turning on the "Incredible Surround" function creates a wider sounding field. We found it made a substantial difference to the music quality and once we switched it on during testing, we didn't turn it off again. We did however, experience quite a fair bit of distortion at higher volume levels with this function switched on. The Dynamic Bass Boost was similar - excellent at low to medium volumes, but poor at the louder settings. For such a small unit, the SBA290 does sound fairly crisp and clear - just don't expect anything exceptional.
Bass levels were above average for such a system, but it was lacking a little in the treble department and with no controls to adjust these settings, you'll have to learn to live with it. For its size, the SBA290 is a notable system that won't blow you away, but offers good value for money.
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