gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Saitek A250 Wireless Speakers

Originally written for

With the growing popularity of podcasts and such we all want the best sound quality there is. Will the Saitek A250 do the job?

There are expensive solutions in the guise of wifi enabled sound-blasting boxes, some with a limited amount of storage and the ability to play local files, some with remotes, and all with far more features than are really needed to simply deliver music to obscure household locations, and a price tag to match. That is to say, they are prohibitively expensive.

Saitek have come up with the A250. A simple, wireless audio solution following in the footsteps of wireless headphones to create a clean, reliable 2.1 speaker system you can place anywhere in your house and stream music to from your PC or Mac.

The speakers resemble the head of a mechanical plastic hammerhead shark, the design is strange but incredibly sleek with a fingerprint-magnet gloss finish (cleaning cloth included!) and a red/black/gold colour scheme. The subwoofer points downwards and is surrounded by the circular stand for the system, and the two satellites are mounted either side in what might be the “eyes” of the hammerhead. A simple LCD display indicates battery, play/pause, volume and connection status. There are buttons for volume, the aforementioned play/pause, previous and next track and the requisite power button for turning the system on and off.

Performance wise the sound output by the A250 is surprising considering its size, it’s no audiophiles dream but the maximum volume is more than anyone not in a noise-war with their neighbors would ever need. The bass is excellent thanks to the dedicated subwoofer which far outclasses that used in Saiteks laptop subwoofer system which was their first sign of entry into the computer audio market.

The A250 uses a tiny round and stylish USB dongle with a cable long enough to sit it on top of your computer or desk for best signal quality, the dongle is essentially an external USB sound card only rather than output the sound to a pair of speakers or headphones it transmits it over the 2.5ghz wireless range to the A250 speakers themselves.

When plugged in the A250 dongle replaces your existing sound card as the default audio output. It is perfectly possible, however, to configure Windows Media Player and other applications to use the A250 exclusively and keep the sounds for anything else you happen to be doing coming through the local speakers. The A250 dongle works perfectly out of the box with Macs, also, but the aforementioned back/next and play/pause buttons on the speaker do not. The nearest competition in the Mac world is Apple Airtunes which, to my knowledge, does nothing but get the audio from one place to another with no remote control functionality and no inbuilt speakers.

The price of the A250 isn’t bad considering the specialist role it performs, it’s about on par with the price of wireless headphone solutions and with a bundled power adaptor and cleaning cloth to sweeten the deal it’s an excellent choice for streaming audio around the house. The A250 also takes 4 AA batteries (not included) making it completely portable within range of the dongle. Battery life will vary depending on the quality you use, but 4 2600mAh rechargeables should get you through the day. The range boasted is 30 feet which is more than enough for house and garden coverage in most places, the only downside is you will need to go back to your computer to change between internet radio, podcasts and mp3s (Although you can use a bluetooth mobile phone and the inexpensive Salling Clicker software to do this remotely, the range of bluetooth is not as good as that of the A250)

Overall the A250 is an excellent and useful product for listening to episodes of Nobody Likes Onions, or your favourite podcast whilst you cook, lounge around in the living room, or go about your other day-to-day business away from your PC. It even has a stereo line-in, so you can hook your iPod or other mp3 player up to it instead of using the wireless functionality.

Monday, November 13th, 2006, Computer Gaming, Home Entertainment.