portable charger adds speakers

PowerSound, $99, www.powerstick.com

With its latest product, the PowerSound, the Canadian portable charger company PowerStick.com ventures into new territory: portable speakers, a hot trend that is quickly saturating the marketplace.

The PowerSound transmits sound through Near Field Audio, a relatively new technology used to reproduce sound through induction. When a phone is placed on top of the PowerSound, it picks up the sound from the phone and amplifies it though its speakers. .

The PowerSound also charges mobile devices via a lithium polymer battery, but it does not include any adapters, so you have to supply your own charging cable. Because of its size, it has lost the portability that makes other products in the line so convenient.

Also, Near Field Audio tends to produce poor sound quality. And in the case of the PowerSound, music played through the Bluetooth connection was even worse, as if the speakers were cracked.

The PowerSound is in an identity crisis: It can't decide whether it wants to be a speaker or a charger, and it got stuck somewhere in the middle.

Headphones designed for work or play

Relays, $80, www.solrepublic.com

Sol Republic is pitching Relays as the headphones that people will wear all day, whether at work, at home or at the gym.

Using a proprietary technology called FreeFlex, Sol Republic assures a secure fit from earbuds that will adjust to any ear size. The secret, the company says, is a flexible ring around each earbud, which allows secure placement in the ears. Four sizes of ear tips are included for a proper fit.

Inside the flexible earbuds are tiny drivers that deliver full sound with a booming bass, a hallmark of Sol Republic. An in-line control and a microphone allow users to switch to an incoming phone call, but a volume control is not included. Sol Republic says a three-button control is forthcoming.

In a test, the Relays delivered the fit that Sol Republic promised. The Relays were remarkably lightweight, so you can indeed wear them throughout the day.

But the fit was so good that it could be hard to hear people talking, so you would need to take them out from time to time for conversation. That was a minor inconvenience.