The tailgating parking lot is not just a place to have a sandwich and kill some time before kick-off. Tailgating has gone high tech with MP3 players, portable sound systems, plasma TVs showing the early football games and some people will bring out their laptops or tablets and surf the web all while sitting in a parking lot. The one thing that tailgating parking lots are short on is electricity. One thing tailgating parking lots have a ton of is sunlight. We recently discovered a cool new tailgating gadget that brings high tech to the parking lot while being environmentally conscience and also allows you to bring a little spark to the party. It is the Soulra XL from Etón Corporation.
(Editor’s Note: You can win your own Soulra XL Portable Solar Speaker system for free courtesy of TailgatingIdeas.com. We will be giving away one of these to a randomly selected reader. Details on how to get entered are at the end of this post.)
As you can see from the above photo it is a portable iPod/iPhone docking station and speakers that has a fold-up solar panel. The 72 square inch enhanced monocrystal solar panel powers the rechargeable lithium ion battery pack and can even charge your iPod or iPhone while it plays. It also comes with an A/C wall outlet adapter so you can charge it with good old electricity from your home wall outlet if you prefer. You’re probably saying, “Sure that’s great and all, but how does it sound?”. In a word, great. We were sent a sample of the Soulra XL to test out while tailgating and it passed the test with flying colors.
(Disclaimer: We received a Soulra XL for free. The fact this sample was provided to us in no way influenced our opinion of the product nor did it impact our ability to test and review the product fairly and objectively.)
When we first received the product, the first thing I noticed was how lightweight it was. You would think a speaker system along with a solar panel added to it would be rather heavy. I was wrong. It only weighs about seven pounds and is quite compact measuring 8.125″ H x 15.125″ W x 5.25″ D. But don’t let the size and weight fool you into thinking these speakers don’t put out enough sound. I was wrong about that too.
I placed the Soulra XL near a window in the evening as the sun was going down. Although it was not in direct sunlight, the charging indicator light illuminated. It was charging already and didn’t need to be in the blazing sun. I then moved it to a room in the interior of the house with little sunlight. I turned on the lights and the charging light was still illuminated. So I am guessing the solar panel on the Soulra XL works much like those small solar panels you find on solar calculators that work while under incandescent light bulbs. I then moved it to the garage where I have fluorescent lights and the charging indicator light went dark. The moral of this story is that the Soulra XL will charge in direct sunlight, low light and even indoor incandescent light, just not fluorescent light.
The next test I did was I popped in my wife’s iPhone 4 in it to see how compatible it was with newer technology. As soon as I put it in, the display lit up and the charging icon showed up on her phone. The Soulra XL was not only ready to play music but also was charging the iPhone’s battery. My wife also has an iPhone 3 she has kept so our kids can play the games or use the apps on there. I put in the iPhone 3 and I got the same result as I did the iPhone 4. The big test came when I put in an older iPod that we purchased back in 2006. With the way technology changes so quickly, some accessories designed for Apple products like the iPod or iPhone are not compatible with older equipment. I placed the older iPod in the docking port and it lit up and was ready to play. The good news is that even if you do not have an iPhone or iPod, you can still use the Soulra XL by using the audio line-in jack to connect other MP3 players via their earphone jacks.
The above photos all show the Soulra XL with the solar panel extended however, the solar panel folds down and lays flat against the back of the unit making it more of a triangle shape. This is great for packing it into tight spaces in your tailgating vehicle. Also, the solar panel will charge and power the unit no matter what angle the solar panel is in as long as it is getting light.
Now that I had tested the compatibility with a number of iPhone’s and iPods, it was time to crank this thing up and see how loud it could get. I took it outside and placed it on the bumper of my car and turned it on. I turned it all the way up and it got pretty loud. I was getting a few strange looks from my neighbors and they had the puzzled look on their face as if they were asking themselves, “why is Dave blasting White Snake’s “Here I Go Again” in his driveway at 6:30 in the evening?”. Then again, they know what I do and probably figured it was another one of my tailgating product review tests.
I didn’t have a decibel meter on it but I can assure you it got plenty loud. The Soulra XL boasts a total of eight speaker drivers (two tweeters, two woofers and four passive radiators) all wrapped up in a 22W output with bass boost. Needless to say, it may be small, compact and light in weight but it sure puts out some good sound.
The next test we did was take it to the tailgating parking lot. Testing how the sound is in my driveway is not comparable to the sounds you encounter out there in the tailgating parking lot. I wanted to know how it would compete with the noise of other tailgaters’ electronics parked nearby. The Soulra XL held its own while tailgating prior to the Chargers/Dolphins game and I did not have to turn up the volume all the way to hear it over all the other noise.
While tailgating the Chargers game, two San Diego police officers who were walking the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot walked past our tailgate and then backed up. Thinking we had done something wrong, we all were waiting for the inevitable question of, “Who’s responsible for this tailgate?”. Much to our relief we heard, “Is that a solar power iPod speaker?”. When we answered yes, the other cop remarked, “We’ve seen a lot of tailgating gear but we haven’t seen one of these before. That’s really cool.”. I figure if the cops that have seen almost everything in the parking lot dig it, it has got to be “Tailgate Approved”.
Here are all the specs you could possibly want to know about the Soulra XL:
- 72 square inch enhanced monocrystal solar panel
- Rechargeable lithium ion battery pack
- Charges iPod and iPhone
- Rubberized end caps
- Anti-glare tinted iPod chamber
- 8 speaker drivers (2x tweeter, 2x woofer, 4x passive radiator)
- 22W output with bass boost
- Remote control storage
- Removable gel-cushioned carrying strap
- Dimensions: 8.125″ H x 15.125″ W x 5.25″ D (206mm H x 384mm W x 133 mm D)
- Weight: 7 lbs. (3.175 kg)
- 5 hrs to fully charge in sun (depends on sun intensity)
- 8 hours of playback (depends on audio volume)
- 4 hours to fully charge iPod/iPhone (depends on model)
If you couldn’t tell by now, we are giving the Soulra XL the TailgatingIdeas.com “Tailgate Approved” stamp of approval. We have added the Soulra XL as a permanent fixture to our a tailgating kit. No longer will we need to worry about making sure the old MP3 speakers were plugged in and charged fully before leaving for the game. All we need to do is bring the Soulra XL, point the solar panel towards the morning sun and we have tunes all day long.
The Soulra XL costs $250 and you can buy one directly from the Eton web store right HERE. If you don’t want to buy one of your own, read further for details on how you can win one of your own directly from us here at TailgatingIdeas.com.
The folks at Eton Corporation were kind enough to provide us with two Soulra XL units. One was intended for the testing process and review and the other was designated as a give-away to one lucky, randomly selected reader of TailgatingIdeas.com. The second unit is still in the manufacturers box and has not been removed so it is still brand, spanking new. Here is how it will work. There are two ways you can enter.
1) Facebook – All you need to do is scroll to the bottom of this post and hit the Facebook share button and post this review to your wall on Facebook. Feel free to make mention of how badly you would like to win or whatever else you can think of. After you have posted this review to your Facebook wall, click over to the Tailgating Ideas Facebook Page. There you will see a wall post promoting this review and give away. Just comment on that post confirming you posted this to your wall so that we can validate your entry. After you have done that, you are now entered into the random drawing via Facebook.
2) Twitter – Simply cut and paste the following piece of text into a Tweet.
@TailgatingIdeas is giving away a #SoulraXL portable iPhone solar speaker system. RT this #giveaway & be entered too http://t.co/SdPj1oyd
Each time you tweet that exact piece of text will earn you another entry. Keep in mind only one tweet per day will gain you an additional entry. You don’t want to annoy all of your followers by tweeting that same thing over and over to increase your chances of winning.
The deadline to post to your Facebook wall or via Twitter is 11:59 pm pacific time, Thursday October 13, 2011. A winner will be chosen at random from all entries and will be notified privately via Facebook or Twitter to provide their address. We will announce the winner publicly on Facebook and Twitter once the winner has confirmed their address and the Soulra XL is in the mail. And the best part is if you win, we will even pay for the postage to get it to you.
To enter just click the easy to use sharing buttons below. Good luck!