Here in the Netherlands, beer is somewhat cheaper than it was back in the UK.
The beer companies also do some fairly interesting offers. This is one of them. Heineken have recently (November/December 2007) been selling six packs of tinned beer with a set of computer / MP3 speakers.
The speakers are styled like Heineken beer crates, hence the name "speakerkratjes".
These attractive packages have been in the local supermarkets for as little as €5.99 a set (i.e. about £4 or US$8 ). The box includes the following contents:
Yes, not only speakers... but beer is included in the price ! How can you go wrong ? (note that the beer without the speakers costs €3.99.
Inside the box
Each speaker is about the same size as a tin of beer, but shaped like the crates that bottles come in.
The speakers connect using a 3.5 mm plug to either a computer sound card or to an MP3 player and they take power from either the USB lead supplied or a set of batteries fitted in a battery compartment in one of the speakers.
The speaker containing the battery compartment and amplifier also has a very small volume control on the front, a red LED which lights when powered up and a lead to connect to the other entirely passive speaker.
Inside the speakers
The power amplifier chip used is a tiny surface mount CSC4863 which I believe is a clone of the National LM4863. This provides two bridged amplifiers in a tiny chip and can put out 1-2W of power. It uses PCB tracks as heatsink.
The chip has remarkably low distortion for this class of device, a near hifi level of 0.3% is quoted and it's actually lower than this at some frequencies and levels. It has low noise and great PSRR, too, both quite likely helped by it being a bridged amp.
In all, it's a step beyond older small power op-amp chips like the LM380 and LM386.
With the tiny drivers you have to expect it's a bit lacking at the bottom end, but overall sound quality isn't bad at all for a computer speaker (especially given beer including in the price !). I think these could be combined with a subwoofer to fairly good effect.
A very very cheap minimal setup could be made with speakers like this and a Chinese MP3 player.
I'll not be giving up the proper speakers for these, though...
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