On Thursday IK Multimedia announced the release of iLoud, a new Bluetooth portable speaker that is aimed at musicians and consumers alike. It costs $299.99. I've had a chance to put one through its paces, and I'm quite pleased with it.
iLoud is about the length and width of an iPad, though it's considerably thicker - 2.3 inches - but still small enough to fit inside a backpack or bag. The device is powered by an included AC adapter but it also works off internal lithium ion batteries, so it can work for up to 10 hours of operation without being connected to a power outlet (at modest volume, anyway - crank it up and the batteries won't last nearly as long).
iLoud is Bluetooth compatible, so you can stream audio wirelessly from a Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone or other Bluetooth equipped device. It also has a 1/8-inch mini-jack input to connect to other line-level devices - stereos, mixers, MP3 players and so on - so if you turn up your nose at Bluetooth audio quality, you can hard-wire iLoud to your system too. Sadly, iLoud doesn't support AirPlay.
iLoud comes up a bit short on style. Its plain black plastic rectangular exterior exerts function over form. But who cares? It sounds great.
Aimed at musicians
You may know IK Multimedia from their audio/MIDI interfaces for Macs and iOS Devices, like the iRig. The 1/4-inch input socket on the back of the iLoud is, in fact, an iRig input - not a jack like you'd find on a guitar speaker.
That means you can connect your guitar, bass to that input, then use the included 1/8-inch TRRS cable to connect to an iPhone or iPad. Then you can use IK's own Amplitube app on your iPad for multi-effects processing, stompbox simulation and recording.
If you're a vocalist, you can use a dynamic mic the same way, paired with IK's VocalLive app to add processing and effects to your vocals. A gain dial next to the 1/4-inch input jack lets you get levels just right for your jam session.
Lives up to its name
Even if you're not a musician, iLoud is one of the best-sounding portable speakers you're going to find that's this compact. It's a 40 watt sound system that lives up to its name - a front-facing dial surrounded by a red light (steady when on, pulsing when in low-power mode) lets you turn it up until it gets really loud.
Inside the box is four speakers - two full range speakers and two tweeters, along with a bass port out the back. The bi-amped iLoud isn't just loud, it's clear too - the system reproduces crisp highs, meaty bass and neutral mids at everything except the loudest volume, where you will, predictably, get distortion.
IK has designed iLoud to tilt up at a slight angle so you can put it on a table or the floor and get a nice broad stereo field. A stabilizer folds out from the bottom if you're worried about iLoud tipping over.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, iLoud plays to IK Multimedia's core strength as a tool for musicians. If you're familiar with IK's Amplitube or VocalLive and you can get the sound you want out of its collection of effects processors, iLoud goes from being a great-sounding playback speaker to a great-sounding performance speaker.
If you're just interested in listening to music, iLoud may not look impressive, but it earns its stripes to that end the second you fire it up. Bluetooth gets knocked by audiophiles for having low-quality sound reproduction, but iLoud is easily one of the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers I've found for this price and in this size.
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