We're now well into the season when scores of Brits leave their homes behind for foreign shores, country camping sites or the Great British seaside. In my youth, this meant either doing without fripperies like music, everybody arguing over the Walkman (these were early days, so we only had one between the whole family) or lugging around a cheap boombox and a carrier bag full of tapes and batteries.
Now things are different. First the iPod meant you could take half of your record collection with you wherever you went, then mini speaker systems like the Gear4 Black Box Mini made it work as a mobile sound system. Now the K3000ST takes things one step further: there's no need to pack batteries when you can get all the power you need from the sun!
Like the BlackBox mini the K3000ST is a micro speaker system, weighing in at a miniscule 355g and taking up less space in your backpack than a single can of beer. It's not as attractive a unit and the only controls are an on-off slider switch and a pair of tiny volume buttons at the back, but you can easily use the controls on your iPod or alternative player to alter the volume and navigate between tracks. What's more, it's very solid, with the sturdy metallic back and front joined by a rubberised centre portion that should be able to take the odd knock.
A standard iPod dock sits in the middle at the top of the case while there's a mini-jack input and the PSU socket at the back. Unlike some iPod docks no adaptors are provided to handle the different forms of iPod; you just sit your model on the dock and hope the little metal platform underneath supports it. It was an absolutely perfect match for my venerable second generation iPod Mini, but owners of other, larger iPods shouldn't have any concerns.
Now here's where things get interesting. Along with its AC power adaptor - which comes supplied with the most common worldwide power plugs - the K3000ST can also run off two AA batteries or the bundled solar charger, which appears to be a SolarMonkey without the additional iPod, phone and digital camera/PSP connectors. It's rated at DC 5V,300mA and provides not just enough power to run the speaker, but enough to run the iPod too and even charge it when not in active use. In other words, the sun provides all the power you need to get your music fix, either publically or privately, no matter how long you are away.