Review: MUSAK Laptop and iPod Case

A unique portable music bag. (August 2nd, 2005)

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Product Manufacturer: Techwiz Innovations, Inc.

Price: MSRP $99.00 US

The Good

  • Unique, niche product. Sound quality should satisfy most casual users.

The Bad

  • Some design flaws make the bag frustrating to use. Not suitable as a book bag when laptop is inserted. Better instructions are needed.

Lots of types of accessories are available for the iPod. Techwiz Innovations' Musak iPod Case is one of the more innovative accessories. It is a padded laptop messenger case with an external flip-up iPod pocket, an amplifier, and two built-in speakers. It is a mobile sound system. Although the well-made bag offers reasonably good sound quality, it is unnecessarily clumsy to access the amplifier's controls. Two models of the bag are available, with pockets for the white iPods or the iPod Mini.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Instructions?

Musak doesn't seem to think you need detailed instructions, but others using the Musak iPod Case shared my experience. How the heck do you hook up the iPod? How do you turn on the Musak so you can hear your music? How do you install the batteries? I spent 10 minutes figuring out the system before I discovered business card-sized instructions in with the amplifier, plus batteries were not included. Instructions printed on the retail tag, instead of hidden in the amplifier pocket, would have made setup less frustrating.

Mobile Sound System

The Musak, like boom boxes of the 1980s, is designed share your music experience with others, whether they want it or not. Fortunately, the Musak's size makes it easier to carry than a boom box, and the fact that it is a laptop case makes it considerably more practical. The Musak's sound quality is not bad for its size. Between the iPod and the amplifier, the Musak can be turned up enough to drown out nearby environmental noise, plenty loud enough for a mobile sound system.

The amplifier is the heart of the Musak mobile iPod sound system and the heart of the problem with the Musak. The amplifier is concealed in a snug zippered pocket. To activate the system, you must open the small zippered pocket, root out the amplifier, activate the on/off switch and adjust the volume, and then put the amplifier back into the pocket and the Musak back over your shoulder. Do this once every few minutes. Sometimes, when putting the amplifier back into the pocket, the volume is bumped as it brushes against the insides of the pocket. The whole experience of using the Musak becomes annoying quickly. It is hard to understand why the amplifier isn't more accessible, or a remote isn't included.

Laptop Not Required

The Musak is a structurally sound messenger bag. Classic black-and-gray lightweight canvas, it boasts features of the typical small multi-purpose bag; pens slots, snap pocket, ID and card pockets, adjustable shoulder strap, plastic buckles and a zippered pocket in the flap. The Musak offers just enough room to carry a couple of books with a 12"-15" iBook, PowerBook or similar laptop. The sides and top are padded, but not the bottom. Without the built-in iPod sound system, the Musak is a durable carryall for those with moderate space needs.

Not as Convenient As You'd Like

If you're an iPod user with high expectations, the Musak will disappoint you. This mobile sound system is inconvenient to turn on/off and adjust its volume, plus it hangs awkwardly because one side is wider and the top is much wider than the bottom. The long strap is better suited for a tall person also. In addition, once in the attached case, your iPod's corners are not protected. In the end, the $99 MSRP is considerably bloated for the Musak. It does seem to be the only product of its kind in the iPod market though. A few design tweaks and alterations would make this a better-rated product.

You can order the Musak through Techwiz Innovations or through Dr. Bott.

Editor's rating note: This product lost 1/2 a star for the design flaws discovered. The flaws include amplifier pocket is too tight, hard to reach controls, iPod isn't well protected, hard to locate instructions, and price is a bit steep.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Mike Swope


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