If there was an audio-themed superhero, this would be his costume. ThinkGeek's Personal Soundtrack Shirt slaps a speaker squarely on your chest, so you can simultaneously exude fashion sense and decibels.
At $40, the shirt might seem pricey for a nerdy garment, but it comes packed with some very clever home-grown tech. The lads at ThinkGeek managed to tuck a speaker, an SD card-based MP3 player, and a wired remote control into the shirt. The speaker hooks onto a discreet grommet on the chest via velcro, and the player and remote stay hidden in a small inside pocket on the side. Plenty more details below the break!
Don't worry about frying your new sound-shirt in the wash. All three components can be disconnected from each other and removed from the shirt, for when it starts to get grody. Unplug the remote and speaker from the player, pull the speaker wire up through the fabric tube connecting the grommet to the pocket, and you're ready to do laundry.
By default, the shirt comes with a quarter-gigabyte SD card loaded with 20 sound effects/generic music tracks. They're a nice sampler, and the player comes with a handy sticker that lists all of them for reference, but you're probably going to want to put in your own tracks pretty soon. IF you don't want to mess with an SD card at all, the player also has a minijack input, so you can just plug in your iPod, Zune, or any other audio device. Unfortunately, the shirt doesn't come with a male-to-male minijack cable, so you'll have to hunt one down on your own.
The player (and included remote) is designed around a set of 20 tracks. Press a button on the remote, play that track. It's not exactly built for long playlists, but if you need a quick Foley sound effect for a fake fight scene, it's just a button push away. You can set your own sound files in MP3 format to each button; when loading the SD card, just name each track 01.mpg, 02.mpg, all the way up to 20.mpg. You can even set them to loop by tacking a capital L to the end of the filename (renaming 05.mpg to 05L.mpg will make the file play over and over when you press the 5 button on the remote).
It's far more likely the shirt will be run through a washing machine sooner than it'll be run through our speaker testing regimen, but it's fairly obvious it won't produce the best sound out there. A single bare speaker powered by 4 AAA batteries does not an audiophile-quality sound system make. However, it can become satisfyingly loud, and its range is surprisingly broad for such a simple, low-end device.
I loaded the shirt with the Star Wars Imperial March, Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice, the THX Deep Note, and a few other notable geek choices. All files played without a hitch, and sounded recognizable and reasonably clear. The speaker might not be powerful enough to fill a room, but it'll still turn heads when you enter one to a John Williams score.
It's a novelty, but a remarkably fun novelty. Perhaps next year, ThinkGeek will put out a 3-piece, full-range wearable sound system: a white, 3-piece suit with midrange/woofer in the vest, tweeter in the breast pocket, and subwoofer in the hat. And, with luck, it'll come preloaded with Smooth Criminal.
— Will Greenwald
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