Review: Portable WoWee One Slim Gel Audio - Gold Or Gimmick?

Written by Matthew Lentini     23/11/2011 | 05:36 | Category name i.e.REAL HI FI

Some compact speakers we've tested have punched above their weight, quite literally, vibrating at their peak volumes and interfering with the sound quality. The WoWee One Slim takes this flaw and makes it a perk with the 'Gel Audio' system - enter the gimmick.


The little, attractive unit is made up of a single speaker and what the company calls a 'gel audio' driver: a rubber strip on the bottom of the unit that turns whatever it sits on into a virtual speaker. This hybrid system vibrates against a surface to almost mimic the work of the cone in a speaker, resonating with the surface for a deeper bass response.

On its own, the speaker's nothing to brag about. Lifeless and tinny, as you'd often expect from a little two watt system. Prop it down on the right surface and the sound palette immediately widens with a meaty low-end that only deepens with different surfaces.

We experimented with the WoWee One Slim on everything from table tops to toilet seats to see its potential. Marble and granite surfaces like kitchen tops won't do much for the sound, but will give the low-end a presence (getting rid of the tinny, lone-speaker sound). Hard tables will run the same way, while anything too soft like a leather lounge cushion won't work at all.

Some of the best results came from firm surfaces that weren't too rigid, like a drywall. The volume is immediately increased and the sound becomes a lot more vibrant - better than the average portable speaker of its size. Similar results stemmed from sticking the unit down onto the closed lid of a porcelain toilet bowl, with the hollow basin echoing for a unique, reverberating sound quality.

WoWee spruiks the bass kick from the Gel Audio driver to push down three octaves below the bass cut-off on similarly sized devices. On the right surface, it wouldn't be surprising. At 120 grams, it's a good weight for its size, and this only helps the bass function.

What does this make the WoWee One Slim? A novelty. Sure, you can get some good sound of it in the right spot, but portable speakers are targeted at consumers on the go who want to enliven their music from a smartphone, iPod or laptop when they're not on their desktop. If you're carting around a laptop to a desk at the office, school or uni, then it's still an attractive little unit. But unless you're sitting at a table or just want to have fun with the novelty, this portable speaker isn't the most practical in its pool.

You'll get a max of 10 hours battery life out of this speaker, with the number decreasing a couple as you push the volume closer to the max. It connects to devices with a double-ended 3.5mm jack and charges via mini USB, and odds are you probably already charge many small devices from a single, shared mini USB. A pet peeve with the 3.5mm jack is that when connected to the speaker it turns on, even if no device is attached or any sound is being input. You also won't know when the batteries on the way out until it's nearly dead (with the LED changing colour). Not to mention that the gel pad is like glue for dust.

This slim model runs at $139.95 through JB Hi Fi or online at WoWee's Australian site, so it isn't the cheapest portable speaker. But the volume can push pretty loud, and the quality can be impressive on the right surface. It's a bit limited given the constraints of the Gel Audio system and otherwise the lack of connectivity, but its legitimately pocket-friendly form factor gives it a leg up. If you're looking for a simple, novelty gift idea, these have hit stores just in time for Christmas.

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

Sound can grow quite dynamically; Bass can be deep when sitting on the right surface

Cons:

Gel Audio system isn't effective on extra hard surfaces; speaker quality is shoddy when not placed against a flat surface