If you have a favorite animal, chances are you can now find it in the form of an iPod speaker. We've seen everything from pigs and pandas to cats and dogs. Heck, even insect-lovers are not left out in the cold, thanks to Vestalife's array of winged speakers. One of these is the $130 Firefly, an iPod and iPhone speaker dock with a solid feel, compact design, and pleasing audio quality. For those who are after a different-looking portable speaker with a reasonable smattering of extras, this unit could fit the bill.
Despite the obvious fact that the Vestalife Ladybug is modeled after a cutesy insect, the speaker is not overtly adorable. When the wings containing the speaker modules are folded in, the unit forms a compact ball (roughly 6 inches in diameter) that nonetheless retains an insect-like and vaguely alien look. That is, if a technologically-advanced, insectan species of extraterrestrials sent exploratory pods to Earth, you could imagine them looking something like this speaker. Naturally, such a creature would offer its pods in an array of metallic colors: red, silver, or black, in this case.
Unfolding the wings of the Firefly reveals a central iPod dock, for which Vestalife includes five snap-on adapters for the various iPods. Just in front of the cradle you'll find a pair of tactile volume buttons along with a row of LEDs that indicate the current level; these all glow purple when the unit is powered on. A power key located on the front bottom edge is the only other button on the speaker. Playback controls are found on the included remote, which can play/pause, shuttle through tracks, adjust volume, switch between shuffle and repeat modes, and navigate among menus.
Flipping the Firefly around and checking out the backside reveals the majority of its features, as well as a 3-inch subwoofer concealed beneath a plastic speaker grille and circled by a shiny accent ring. A variety of ports line the bottom edge of the subwoofer, including the standard AC power jack. In addition, there's a Mini-USB port for pass-through syncing, an AV out jack, and an auxiliary line input for using the speaker with the iPod Shuffle and non-iPod MP3 players (cable included). The bottom of the unit conceals a battery compartment that takes four AA batteries for true portable use. The Firefly does not offer an alarm function or an FM tuner.
The sound quality offered by the Firefly speaker is surprisingly good for a unit of its size, though it must be said that positioning has a lot to do with one's listening experience--it's best to have the speaker pointing directly at you. Clarity is good and the unit gets exceptionally loud for its size; it would not be a stretch to use it as a living room speaker or for a small party. However, the highest volumes can suffer from some distortion. Music sounds warm and open with only a touch of the hollowness that one sometimes experiences with compact speakers. Of course, the not unexpected downside is the relative lack of low-end oomph; don't expect heart-thumping bass here. It's present, but certainly won't satisfy some users. Still, if you're looking for a unique speaker dock with a small footprint and solid audio, the Firefly is a reasonable choice.