One of the things I most eagerly wanted in the new iPad was a better speaker. I didn't expect it, mind, you, but when some early reviewers mentioned the new iPad had the loudest speaker they've ever heard on a tablet, my ears perked up and I became very excited. That's simply because Apple thus far hasn't been willing or able to put a decent speaker into any of their mobile devices. For the company that revolutionized music with the iPod and iTunes, that's mind boggling. Yet year after year I have a hard time hearing my games and movies out of the tiny, tinny iPad speaker, and find myself cupping the speaker with my hand and craning my ear down just to make out the dialog. Sure, I could put on headphones or use a Jawbone JAMBOX -- which admittedly the iPad handles really well -- but that should be an option, not a requirement.
Back to the new iPad. After hearing that the speaker may, mercifully, be louder, I tried listening to some music and playing some videos and... I couldn't tell the difference. Both the new iPad and the iPad 2 sounded about the same to me. I turned off volume control and pushed the levels to the maximum on both and repeated the test. Still no difference.
My next step was to download an app to measure what, if any differences there might be. While not as scientific as a proper, soundproofed lab full of carefully calibrated equipment, it was enough for our real-world tests. The app I chose was Decibels [free - Download now]. I then placed my iPhone, armed with the Decibels app, a finger's width away from each iPad's speaker, and played a video.
The Decibels read out never reach 90. (Based on the car I was watching in the video, my inner geek really wants to say it never hit 88!).
To be absolutely sure, I asked Rene to repeat the same tests on his new iPad and iPad 2, and he recorded the exact same results. (So even if the app wasn't scientifically accurate, it still showed the same result for both.)
All this means that, in the end, the speaker for the new iPad isn't any louder than the speaker for the iPad 2, and to my ear there's not much, if any, difference to the sound it produces.