Tuesday August 26, 2008

500XL Speakers from Fred: A Review for Your Reading Pleasure

Fred 500XL speakers

I’ve been eyeballing these speakers ever since they hit the Fred website, so when Patrick Haney pointed me towards a store that was actually selling them, I had to buy. Like, immediately.

And they arrived today!


With a few minor discrepancies, probably due to manufacturing and assembly needs, the 500XLs faithfully duplicate the original iPod earbud design — just scaled up 500 times. They look really cool. As soon as I unpacked them, I had a small audience around my desk putting the giant earbuds up to their ears and such. The scaling up of such a small object achieves quite a humorous effect.

Size comparison: Original earbud compared to 500XL speaker


I wasn’t expecting too much as far as sound quality, but I have to say that, even with my lowered expectations, I was still pretty disappointed. I’m not a true audiophile so I can’t throw out any awesome jargon, but in layman’s terms the bass is really weak and the output is generally thin. In that sense, they truly are a faithful recreation of the Apple earbuds, which also delivered a fail boat full of bad sound quality. ZING!

In addition to the poor bass response, the speakers are very much unshielded, and pick up the glorious byproduct of our wireless lives: GSM buzz. Best to keep these speakers away from your phone, son.


I found the cords to be sufficiently long (both plug into the battery pack); the audio cable is 41” and the USB cable is 42”.

In Summation

Overall, I’d classify these speakers as a great novelty item, but not really suited for any kind of serious music listening. I was hoping to replace my Altec Lansing desktop speakers (which are “attractive” in a Windows XP sort of way), but I don’t think the 500XLs are going to be able to provide the level of deep, rich sound necessary to properly deliver the sounds of carnage as I play Team Fortress 2. Not that I’m terribly disappointed; after all, these speakers really are about novelty. I’d definitely consider them a chuckle-worthy gift for fans of Apple and/or design.

500XLs run about $40.

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