Little see-through speaker update

Unique Hardware NF01 speakers

Regular readers will know that Unique Hardware are the makers of the hilariously-named but great-looking and, more importantly, surprisingly-good-sounding "HUMP" series of USB computer speakers.

A while ago, I reviewed their NF01 and NF02 speakers, which differ only in the USB amplifier module. The NF02s...

Unique Hardware NF02 speakers

...have an amp with buttons and an auxiliary input.

In brief, these tiny (but surprisingly heavy) speakers sound quite remarkably good for their size. Which really is astonishingly small.

When I reviewed them, though, they cost about 75 US dollars delivered, and you could only buy them on eBay.

You still can buy Unique Hardware speakers on eBay; the US store is here, and the Australian-dollar version is here. The price is now down to about $65 delivered, which would be too much to pay for ordinary crappy plastic USB speakers, but is quite a good deal for the Unique Hardware products. They're unquestionably the finest "pocket sized" speakers in existence. If you ask me, their only weakness is that if you treat them roughly and fracture the cables - which you could easily do in less than a year, if you're chucking them into your laptop bag twice a day - you're going to have a dickens of a time repairing them.

I've recently updated the review to mention that ThinkGeek have started selling "Crystal USB Desktop Speakers" that're obviously actually NF01s, for only $US39.99 plus delivery. That's a great price, if you're in the USA and don't have to pay much for delivery.

Oddly, however, Unique Hardware tell me that they aren't actually wholesaling any speakers to ThinkGeek. In truth, they've been having some trouble making money on the product.

It's not likely that the ThinkGeek speakers are inferior copies, though. The rock-solid machined-acrylic cabinets that make the Unique Hardware speakers special also make them rather difficult to clone. Unique Hardware believe that ThinkGeek have actually bought a crate or three of NF01s from some other outfit that earlier bought them from Unique, then found the speakers hard to sell.

(If you're a ThinkGeek insider with more info, do feel free to fill me in.)

It's not surprising that people - including the manufacturers - have had trouble shifting these speakers. As I point out at the beginning of the review, little tiny computer speakers, as a general rule, suck. Sucky speakers that cost ten bucks are one thing; sucky speakers that cost more than $50 are quite another. When Engadget mentioned the "new" ThinkGeek product, they therefore quite reasonably assumed the Crystal USB Desktop Speakers sounded lousy.

But they really, really don't.

No, these little speakers don't have much bass, and no, they don't go up to party volume. But they really are a very great deal better than you'd think.

I invite US readers to buy up ThinkGeek's entire stock, which Unique Hardware figure isn't more than about 500 units. Then they may have to start buying direct from Unique, who deserve more business.

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