Growing one of my earliest memories is visiting a museum – possibly the Exploratory in Bristol – and getting to experiment with a number of different things to prove their scientific basis. One of the exhibits was a huge – it seemed huge – plasma ball that showed static electricity. Fast forward a number of years and plasma balls are a lot more common than they once were – common enough that 1byone has launched a combined speaker and plasma ball.
For all those who don’t remember plasma balls fill a glass dome with an inert gas like xenon and an electrode is put at the centre. This excites the ions in the gas and it fluoresces providing ribbons of light. Touch the outside of the dome and it gets a path to ground and will connect with you. It’s a great show and one of the few places that you can really see electricity.
The unit has two modes – plasma ball on with or without music and on but reacting to the music it is playing. The plasma ball is as intriguing and touchable as I remember them being and the globe feels solid and well made. It’s less bright than I’d hoped perhaps due to the low wattage it can command from its USB power connection but in a dimly lit or dark room it is impressive. The reactive mode has less of an effect than it might. From my research, the gas takes a moment to build static charge so turning the electricity on and off quickly doesn’t result in as fast a change as you would expect.
In sound terms, the speaker can be best regarded as an addition rather than something to buy the unit for. It is of low wattage and while it serves to accompany the plasma ball would not be usable on its own. In addition despite trying it in multiple locations and with music fed in different ways it had a continuous level of background interference that was bothersome after a while.
Speaker/plasma ball combination, 3.5mm speaker cable, USB to microUSB cable, quick start guide.
About Manufacturer: 1ByOne
1ByOne is a Chinese consumer equipment manufacturer that makes a very wide variety of devices including door bells, cables, batteries and smoke machines.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The unit is versatile and can have music piped to it via either Bluetooth, 3.5mm audio jack or have MP3s put on a microSD card.
Unfortunately, all of these have drawbacks – microSD is impossible to do anything with other than play music forward and back and the Bluetooth supported is of an older standard. Perhaps more crucially the unit has no internal batteries and the cables are white which makes them stand out. Bluetooth usually implies batteries and while I can see that not having them would have been cost saving the unit does miss them.
By virtue of the fact that the unit has a large glass ball on its top, it is something that is potentially quite delicate. It does feel well constructed and well weighted with a rubber base that makes it stable on your desk. The Amazon listing and packaging also states in a number of places that the unit cannot be used for more than 5 hours at a time to prevent overheating and I found after a couple of hours on that it did get quite warm.
The unit has an ergonomic design with well sized and clicky buttons to control volume and skip on the front of the device and a single sliding switch between off, on and reactive on the back. It gets its power via USB and can be plugged in almost anywhere with music streamed to it via Bluetooth but if you want to put it out of the way on a shelf make sure you can get to the power on the back.
Environment & People
We are unaware of any specific environmental or social aspects to the unit. Neon and Xenon are naturally occurring gasses and the amount used in the ball is not enough to be toxic or problematic. Post use the top glass ball is probably recyclable while the base would be difficult to recycle.
The unit is priced at £19 on Amazon which is equivalent to similar or slightly larger plasma balls also available. The speaker makes for an interesting addition, but the unit is not designed to be your main speaker system – it is a novelty item or desk ornament.
Size: 21.6 x 10.9 x 10.7 cm
Colour: Red or Black
Output Power: 5W
Frequency Response: 100Hz – 20kHz
Powered by: USB DC 5v
Audio input: 3.5mm or Bluetooth
Warranty: 30-day money-back guarantee, 3-month warranty for quality-related issues
Office and desk toys are something that creates a bit of a split between some people. Some find them annoying and others find them fun and relaxing and a way to distract yourself and clear your mind. The 1byone Magic Music Plasma Ball falls clearly into the second school for me. The unit has some design decisions that I’d not agree with, but it makes a good conversation piece and is relaxing to use when trying to think of something other than work. Add to this its potential educational value actually showing electricity and its got a good case. Don’t buy this expecting to be able to use it as a speaker on a day to day basis rather as a toy and you will be pleased with your purchase. Recommended for teaching kids about electricity and as a desk game.
The review is based on the 1byone Magic Music Plasma Ball kindly provided by 1byone. This post contains affiliate links. First published on 6th November 2015.