Give the K3000ST something less meaty, like Sandy Denny’s ”Who Knows Where the Time Goes” or Neil and Tim Finn’s ”Won’t Give In” and the sound fares better. Vocals are actually quite clear, while the instrumentation doesn’t get so muddled. It’s noticeable that the K3000ST has a real sweet spot. At lower volume levels the sound is at its worst, with clarity and body both short on supply. At the higher volume levels, meanwhile, distortion begins to creep in. The K3000ST actually goes much louder than you might expect from such a small box, but push it up there and the bass notes break up while snare drums and cymbals take on a nasty sibilance. In between the K3000ST sounds alright” better than your average clock radio or laptop speakers, but not what you hope for from a decent iPod speaker system.
Normally this would be the end of the matter and I’d be declaring the K3000ST unfit for purpose, but I have to say that – provided you can live with the mildly disappointing sound quality – there’s a lot to be said for the K3000ST in terms of convenience. I’ve had several people say ‘ugh’ about the sound, but then say how much they’d like one to take to the beach or out to the greenhouse or on their next camping trip. It seems that some people are prepared to put up with less-than-perfect playback if it means they can do without batteries or in-car chargers for their speakers or iPod, and the fact that it all works – and recharges – from one solar panel is a winner. And know what? I think they have a point. The price isn’t exactly bargain-tastic, and with the Black Box Mini available for less than half the price you really have to want the solar charging facilities to make the extra cost worthwhile. But if you want freedom from the bulk and batteries of more conventional mobile music systems, this isn’t a bad way to go.
Low marks for sound quality, high marks for concept and convenience. Provided you can put up with the less than impressive tone, the K3000ST is still a decent buy for travellers, festival goers and tourists.
Score in detail
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