OUT OF THE BOX
Well I could not wait to open the box that was just delivered. Today is the day I get to do a hands on with IK Multimedia’s entry into the portable Bluetooth speaker market the iLoud The box contained the iLoud itself, power adapter, TRRS 3.5mm connector cord, quick start manual along with a product registration card.
If you own previous IK Multimedia products you know how important it is to register your product as it qualifes you for not only top level support but also adds Jam Points to your user account for use on future purchases.
STANDING OUT IN A CROWD
So what makes iLoud different from all of the wireless portable speaker systems already available?
Well first and foremost the iLoud is the first wireless speaker that was designed from the ground up with the needs of musicians in mind. Other products out there might sound great when used as a speakerphone but as you will see (and hear) iLoud takes things to another level.
THE WALK AROUND
The iLoud takes a no nonsense approach in its design. Clean lines and understated color scheme present a device that can blend in without any trouble. The front of the iLoud features a very nice protective grill featuring a very prominent volume control in the middle.
This control features a very attention grabbing red LED ring encircling it. This indicator conveys several things during the operation of the iLoud. It is active when the iLoud is powered on as well as when pairing your chosen Bluetooth device. The LED ring will flash when you have turned the control to the loudest volume position providing some nice visual feedback.
The iLoud’s back panel reveals (from right to left) the charging port, power switch, Power/charging indicator, Bluetooth Pairing button, external input gain control, 1/4 “ external input connector, 3.5mm TRRS connector. The bottom of the iLoud features a rubberized non-skid pad enclosing a rotating kickstand support to provide some additional stabilization for the iLoud.
40 WATTS OF LOUD
I noticed when listening to other Bluetooth speakers that as you approached the maximum volume level things started breaking up, becoming distorted and non-musical. The iLoud on the other hand delivers the power and volume while avoiding some of these limitations.
THE HIGH AND LOW
The iLoud uses a combination of high and low speaker drivers. This allows the iLoud to reproduce a wide and balanced frequency range. The speakers use very strong and lightweight neodymium magnets (the kind that revolutionized personal audio) resulting in amazing results.
They have paired these studio quality speakers with a well thought out amplifier setup. Made up of 4 discreet amplifier modules delivering 16 watts to each low frequency driver and 4 watts to each high frequency driver. This bi- amped approach follows similar techniques used in high end audio and concert installations to ensure sound quality is not compromised.
Also having this much power available gives you valuable extra headroom so you have extra power in reserve. This allows for a higher than average sound levels without introducing distortion or the sound falling apart when the volume is turned up.
The iLoud has that little extra shimmer and sparkle in the high frequency range that other speakers do not seem to have.
THAT LITTLE EXTRA SPARKLE
When I first powered it on and began listening, I was very impressed with how clear and full everything sounded. I asked my wife what she thought of the sound and she responded that it was very “crisp”. This revealed the importance of the iLoud using separate high frequency drivers. This design choice is another reason the iLoud sets itself apart from the rest. The iLoud has that little extra shimmer and sparkle in the high frequency range that other speakers do not seem to have.
Remember the iLoud is a stereo speaker. Many Bluetooth speakers are actually mono so you are hearing only half of what you are supposed to. In many instances that is alright but to get the full fidelity iLoud delivers.
The iLoud uses what is referred to as “Time Aligned” signal processing to make sure the sound arrives in your ears at the time it is supposed to. This is critical to stereo imaging as well as avoiding phase cancellation issues. Again a big win and shows the passion to focus on audio quality.
PAIRING IT UP
Using Bluetooth standard A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) allows the iLoud to be used with a wide range of devices. This includes mobile phones, tablets, Macs and PCs that have compatible Bluetooth adapters (either built in or as an add on accessory).
The process is really straight forward. Using my iPhone I was able to see the iLoud listed as an available Bluetooth device and using the pairing button on the back of the iLoud I was able to get them talking to each other very quickly.
You can use the device volume control or control the volume using the cloud control knob. Also on the iPhone the audio still streams even when placed in standby mode which is nice.
THE MUSICIAN’S SPEAKER
One of the interesting features of the iLoud is its focus on musicians and singers. With this in mind the iLoud includes some interesting input jacks on the rear panel a 1/4” as well as a 3.5mm connector. This allows you to plug in external devices such as an audio player, phone, computer or other device that might not be equipped with Bluetooth.
The other thing these extra inputs provide is allowing you to use the iLoud directly with IK Multimedia’s other iOS music and performing applications. If you are a guitar player then AmpliTube is the way to go as you will have an entire arsenal of efects and processing right at your fingertips. You connect your guitar to the 1/4’ input jack and use the included 3.5mm TRRS cord provided to connect your iPhone or iPad running the application to the iLoud. The iDevice (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) processes the audio and passes it back through the iLoud.
This is the perfect setup for someone who might be rehearsing or even performing in a small venue or get together.
This is the perfect setup for someone who might be rehearsing or even performing in a small venue or get together. You can use the iLoud as your personal PA system, using it to play back tracks on your iPhone or iPad while using the IK Apps to process your vocals or the instrument you have connected to the iLoud input.
BIG SOUND, SMALL SPACES, BIG CHOICES
I have tried a couple of Bluetooth speaker solutions and have to say they come up short in some key areas, primarily the overall sound delivered.
You have to make some very calculated and purposeful choices when designing these devices. These choices include the size and weight of the speakers or drivers, the amount of amplification, material used for the enclosure, additional features (speakerphone, external input, etc.), and so much more play into the design decisions companies have to deal with.
These decisions also affect where the devices will fit into the market as far as price. Cut corners to lower the price or stay focused on quality and sound even though the price may be a little higher than other brands. I think the iLoud brings a nice balance in all of these areas.
I think the iLoud brings a nice balance in all of these areas
I observed three tiers of Bluetooth speakers out in the marketplace. Prices seem to begin right at $99.00 for the entry level speaker, then progress to the $199 range for the mid level and topping out around $299 for the higher end devices.
The high end is where the iLoud sits proudly. With the superior sound quality and flexibility for musicians I say it holds its own in this crowded and sometimes confusing world of Bluetooth wireless speakers.
Like I said earlier I have been really anticipating this review and I was not disappointed. The iLoud really exceeded my expectations when I ran it through my initial listening tests. Is it a perfect speaker?, no but it brings together the best that current audio and Bluetooth audio technology has to offer. The iLoud gives the musician, singer or listener on the go a tremendous device to share their music with a larger audience while being wrapped in a deceptively small and portable package.
There is nothing more priceless than watching the eyes of your friends pop out when they first hear the iLoud, so make sure you have the volume turned down a little first. Please visit the official iLoud page on the IK Multimedia website for more information, videos and of course where to order an iLoud so you can hear for yourself!