When it comes to portable speaker systems that work with the iPhone and various flavors of iPod, the iMainGo 2 (US$39.95) from Portable Sound Laboratories has been an inexpensive and powerful favorite of many Apple fans. Now the company is turning up the volume -- literally -- with a new version known as the iMainGo X ($69.95).
What It Is:
Like the previous version, the iMainGo X is a deceptively simple box that looks like a large clutch case for an iPhone or iPod touch. One half of the case is made up of the tech -- a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery pack, the speakers, and the electronics -- while the other half holds your device behind a waterproof shield. The rechargeable battery pack is a solid improvement over the 4 AAA batteries that were required with the iMainGo 2. They don't last as long (12 hours as opposed to 30 hours for the AAA batteries), but will save you money in the long run over the disposable batteries.
The iMainGo X also has slightly larger bass speakers as well as the ability to daisy-chain up to three of the devices for loud surround sound. It does this through the addition of another headset port on the front of the box, which can be used to connect your iMainGo X up to two more devices.
After the initial recommended battery charge of six hours, I zipped my iPhone 4 into the iMainGo X to give it a try. The controls of the iPhone 4 are easily accessible through the waterproof / sandproof cover, making it a piece of cake to keep your phone or iPod safe when listening to tunes on the beach. I initially tried fitting the iPhone 4 into the iMainGo X while it was wearing a Mophie Juice Pack Air, but the added thickness made it a very tight fit. The iMainGo X comes with foam padding in several thicknesses so you can make sure that your touch-screen device is flush with the clear plastic cover.
There's an auxiliary microphone / instrument jack as well, making the iMainGo X perfect for musicians on the go. Of course, it's not just made for an iPhone or iPod; you can plug in anything that can be connected with a 3.5 mm audio jack. Put together three iMainGo X boxes with an iPad running Algoriddim's DJay app, and you have an instant party.
The best way to test a speaker system is to listen to it, so that's what I did. My iPhone 4 contains a huge cross-section of music ranging from classic rock, classical, and opera to punk and electronic music. The sound quality has improved, with more kick to the bass and very clear highs. You don't get a tremendous amount of separation between the channels, as you'd expect with a device with only about three inches of space between the speakers, but it still sounds pretty good.
Although I didn't test the iMainGo X with a microphone, it seems like this would turn the device into a great little portable PA system for would-be buskers or crazed conspiracy theorists spouting nonsense in parks... not that TUAW or Portable Sound Laboratories would condone the latter.
There was only one issue that I had with the iMainGo X when using an iPhone 4 in it -- the clear plastic cover doesn't extend far enough down to make the Home button easily accessible. You can see this in one of the photos in the gallery. This problem would also occur with other iPhone and iPod touch models. I also felt that the included audio in cable with 3.5 mm connector was a bit short for use with a laptop or desktop computer -- it would be great if it were a bit longer or if the kit included a 3-foot (1 meter) extension adapter. My final gripe? The size of the external power supply / charger. It's about half the size of the iMainGo X, which for me would be a deal-killer in terms of taking this on vacation with me. A smaller charger or just a common USB adapter for charging would take up much less room.
If you're in the market for an inexpensive yet powerful speaker system to connect to your iPod, iPhone, iPod touch, or computer while on the go, the iMainGo X speaker system is an excellent choice, It's compact, seals out sand and moisture, and pumps out sound at an astounding volume.We'll be giving away our review unit soon, so keep your eyes open and locked onto TUAW for all of the details.