Using an old iPhone as an iPod, 5.1 vs 7.1.2 surround, more options for audio on-the-go (Week 39, 2022)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 39, 2022

Q. I read your recent article about playing iTunes music without an iPod. I am in a similar situation but want something more mobile. Would buying an iPhone SE with enough storage capacity to fit my needs be a good idea? I would not get phone service, but just use it as my iPod. I have around 55 GB of music.

-B.G., Minneapolis, MN

A. This is indeed a good idea and since that column ran several readers have written suggesting using an old iPhone as an iPod Touch. Just take the old iPhone and remove the SIM card, turn off cellular and turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and you have an iPod Touch equivalent. In your case you will need at least 64 GB of memory, and 128 GB would be an even better choice since it will give you room to grow. I also suggest buying as late of a model of an iPhone as your budget allows to ensure that Apple will not cease supporting it in the near future.

Q. I am shopping for a receiver and am unsure if I need a 5.1 or a 7.1.2. What do the numbers mean?

-F.R., San Jose, CA

A. The first number, 5 or 7 in this case, stands for the number of speakers in the surround array. A 5 means left front, right front and center, and 2 surround speakers for a total of 5. A 7 first digit means left front, right front, center, 2 surround speakers and 2 back speakers for a total of seven. The .1 means one subwoofer and the .2 in the 7.1.2 means 2 Atmos height speakers.

What you need is going to depend on your budget, your room and what level of realism you are trying to create. I really love the effects of a good Atmos soundtrack but it performs best with speakers that are mounted above and pointing down into the listening area, not speakers in the room that point upwards to bounce off the ceiling. That said, some Atmos is better than no Atmos and I use am Atmos soundbar with wireless Atmos surround speakers in my living room.

I also think you are better off with five outstanding speakers than seven mediocre speakers. If you have a $3,000 budget for your speaker array five speakers means $600 per speaker. For seven speakers it works out to about $425 per speaker, which will likely not sound as good as the pricier models .

Tribit StormBox Micro 2 for music lovers on-the-go: Last week I discussed bone conduction headphones for those who want to enjoy music and audio programming without isolating themselves from the world around them. Another popular product I have featured in the past is the TriBit StormBox Micro speaker, which includes a sturdy strap for securing the speaker to bicycle handlebars and backpacks. Recently upgraded to the StormBox Micro 2, it now features more power to the speaker, longer battery life and the ability to work as a power bank to recharge portable devices. It can also be paired with a second StormBox Micro 2 to produce room-filling stereo sound in small to medium-sized rooms. This has always been one of my favorite small speakers and I find that the low profile and upward-firing speaker drivers produces an excellent sense of spaciousness, even when used as a single unit. With more features and improved sound, the StormBox Micro 2 is a winner. It regularly sells for $59.99 but if you sign up at you receive 10% off of your order.