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Get better, louder sound from mobile devices and laptops

By Craig Anderton

 

 

It didn’t take long for people to realize that the sound quality from smart phones, laptops, and tablets tends to be less than wonderful, but Bluetooth provides a solution: stream the audio wirelessly to a decent speaker. Most portable Bluetooth speakers are designed for consumer applications, but this review covers IK Multimedia’s iLoud because it’s the only Bluetooth speaker I’ve seen that’s designed specifically for musicians.

 

iLoud isn’t cheap (typical price, $250 but I've seen it for under $200 from time to time) for a reason: it actually sounds good, and not only is it loud (iLoud qualifies as a description, not just a product name) but the sound quality is clean—it doesn’t fuzz when you turn it up. Also, iLoud is voiced like studio monitors instead of having the “scooped” response (i.e., boosts the highs and lows) found in many consumer speakers. You won’t get insane bass extension, but it’s much better than expected from a unit that’s about the same width and depth as an iPad, and 2.4” high. Nor will you get exceptional stereo imaging given that it’s a single unit, although as with the bass, it’s better than expected.

 

THE FEATURE SET

 

There are two sets of two speakers (3” neodymium woofer and 3/4” neodymium tweeter) powered by four Class-D Amplifiers. IK claims the four amps add up to 40 watts, but I suspect that’s peak power and not RMS. In any event, it’s loud. And at just under 3 pounds it’s not a featherweight, but is easy to carry around.

 

Two other useful features include a 1/8” stereo mini-jack input so that you can avoid Bluetooth’s typical 20-30 ms latency by using a wired stereo connection (a male-to-male cable is included), along with a ¼” phone jack input that interfaces with guitar amp apps on smart phones and tablets (e.g., IK’s AmpliTube, Positive Grid, Line 6 Mobile POD, etc.). Note that iLoud doesn’t work stand-alone as a guitar amp; instead, think of iLoud as having iRig built-in so you can use it with guitar amp apps.

 

QUEST FOR POWER

 

iLoud gets its power from a 14V AC adapter, or an internal Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery. A full charge lasts about 10 hours at normal listening volumes, and up to three hours if you crank it. iLoud’s only major faux pas is that the battery is not user-replaceable, which is neither good for the environment nor for your wallet if at some point the battery loses its ability to stay charged. Then again, you can still run it from AC power but then that defeats the portability factor.

 

In addition to the two jacks mentioned previously, the rear panel includes a Bluetooth pairing button, power on/off switch, power LED, and gain trim for the guitar input.

 

Registering iLoud unlocks some useful accessories for iPhone and iPad: four AmpliTube models (two amps, two stompboxes) and two mic models for the Mic Room app. Of course you can also use the free version of AmpliTube, which has the option for in-app purchases if you want to expand on it.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

IK’s web site goes into a lot of detail on the iLoud, so there’s no need to cover specifics. In terms of subjective impressions, although the entire case is plastic, it has a substantial feel. I wouldn’t drop it onto a concrete surface, but if it’s sitting on a table and someone knocks it over, you’ll be okay. However given that it has a cute little retractable kickstand to keep it upright, it’s hard to knock it over anyway.

 

The front panel knob with its red halo looks very cool, but is fiddly to adjust unless you have fairly skinny fingers. Aside from that, the key features are sound quality and clean volume—iLoud scores big-time with both. I suspect that not just musicians, but a lot of on-the-road salespeople are going to be snapping these up so they can have quality sound with the presentations they do on their laptops. As for me, my laptop never sounded so good…and neither did my iPhone or iPad.

RESOURCES

 

Buy iLoud:

B& H

Sweetwater 

Musician's Friend

Guitar Center

 

                                     

______________________________________________ 

 Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

 

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