If you have a favourite 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. Heckers, even insect lovers aren't left out in the cold, thanks to Vestalife's Butterfly and Ladybug speaker docks. The Ladybug goes for about £60 and rather outshines its cousin in terms of design and sound quality.
Despite the obvious fact that the Ladybug is modelled on 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 152mm in diameter) that appears to have a rather unhappy face on the front, with the drivers acting as eyes and the hinges at the base of the wings looking like jowls.
Unfolding the wings reveals a central iPod dock, for which Vestalife includes five snap-on adaptors for the various iPods. Beneath the cradle are the unit's only integrated controls: power and volume buttons. 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.
The Ladybug comes in four paint jobs: all-red, all-silver, red/black and silver/black (the last two have black speaker grilles). Vestalife has also teamed up with Element Skateboards to offer two limited-edition versions: one is black (with a skull-and-crossbones design) and the other is blue (with a paisley-and-flower design). The Element-branded speakers cost about £40 more than the standard versions.
Flipping the Ladybug around reveals the majority of its features, as well as a 76mm (3-inch) subwoofer concealed beneath a metal speaker grille. A variety of ports line the bottom edge of the subwoofer, including the standard DC jack for powering the unit via the power-brick adaptor. 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 portable use. The Ladybug doesn't offer an alarm function or an FM tuner.
The Ladybug speaker offers considerably better sound quality than its only slightly cheaper cousin, the Butterfly. Still, audio isn't great across all genres. Hard rock and alternative rock in particular come through with a slightly muffled quality, and the bass is muddy. Also, the quality of sound is highly dependent on how you are positioned in relation to the speaker -- it's best if you sit directly in front of it. All that being said, low-key hip-hop from the likes of Common and The Roots sounds good, with reasonable clarity and an acceptable amount of bass. Other genres also sound fine. The volume level of the speakers is appropriate for a bedroom or office, but probably wouldn't be sufficient for a larger space.
The Vestalife Ladybug is a good choice for iPod owners who want a speaker dock that combines an unusual design with decent sound quality.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet