A tale of two speakers - iMainGo X and Jawbone Jambox
With all the video-enabled devices we're carrying these days it's like we have little movie theaters in our pockets. Using iPhones, Androids and iPads with Netflix and other video apps, you can watch and share a movie just about anywhere. But what about the sound?
As a video and multimedia professional I'm constantly looking for portable speakers that will deliver great sound in a small package when I need to give a presentation or just watch a video. Two new ones are out this holiday season and although they're very different, they're both outstanding.
The first of those is the iMainGo X, a battery-operated case and speaker set for your iPhone, iPod or other mp3 player. The iMainGo X zips open so you can sandwich your mp3 player inside using some included pieces of foam. As a case it's primarily designed for the Apple iOS line (except the iPod Shuffle) but can be used as an external speaker set for laptops, the iPad and other tablets and just about anything with a 1/8-inch headphone jack.
The production description says it has "premium high output stereo speakers, tuned porting for amazing bass reproduction and ultra-efficient digital music amplifier." When I took it out of the package I was thinking "this little thing can't possibly be that loud." Then I hooked it up to my laptop and played a video.
Wow! Wait, let me restate that.
The sound is unbelievable! Crisp highs, booming lows and incredible clarity. I only had the volume on my laptop up about 1/4 of the way and it was loud.
The iMainGoX runs on an included Lithium-ion battery rated to last 12 hours on a charge. It has two headphone ports (one doubles as an auxiliary out), and a microphone port too. So with a microphone you can use it as a mini public address system. Plug in an electric guitar to practice while traveling or a gaming system in your dorm room and you'll have big sound in a small package. And if the sound isn't big enough, you can daisy-chain units to make the sound even bigger.
Although the IMainGo X is a case for mp3 players, it really isn't intended as your everyday, walk-around-town case. It's just too bulky for that. But if you need a portable stereo system with big sound you can hold in one hand or hang on your shoulder (two traps are included), this is the ticket. You basically sandwich your mp3 player in the case and zip it shut. Several pieces of foam are included to get the right fit. Even with the thinnest piece of foam my iPhone was a tight fit. You want that, so the touch screen will be pressed snugly against the thick plastic cover on the other side. That cover protects things well but I found you need to press the touch screen with more effort to get it working.
This unit really shines as an external speaker system. With big sound, expandability and multiple connection options for various devices you'll find many uses for it.
The Jawbone Jambox just came out a few weeks ago and currently is hard to find locally. I found it in stock at the Apple Store. It's a wireless external speaker system that also functions as a speakerphone, so think of it as a big, Bluetooth headset that you don't wear.
Once again this is a product that was being advertised as having big sound. When I took it out of the package I was not expecting much. Wrong again! Wow, the Jambox jams! The sound is big and clean. Rated at 85dB a maximum output, this thing can fill a room. The highs are crisp and the lows are good, although not as good as the iMainGo X. Overall the sound is excellent.
This thing is so small you can hold it in the palm of your hand. It looks kind of like a large Lego piece and comes in four colors. The thing that makes it really shine is it's totally wireless. Using Bluetooth I had it paired with my MacBook Pro and my iPhone 4 in seconds. The first thing I did was fire up a Netflix video. Wow! It's like having a miniature home theater system in your hand, totally wireless. Paired with an iPad this thing would be part of a fantastic traveling entertainment system. It's rechargeable, Lithium-ion battery is rated to last for up to 10 hours per charge.
Now this is where the Jambox gets really cool. Because it has the same technology as the Jawbone Icon headsets, you can use it as Bluetooth speakerphone. Pair it with your phone and you can use it in a meeting for a conference call with colleagues. You can install various apps to expand the functionality. I installed the Voice on the Go app because it's the same one I use with my Icon headset. With the touch of a button I can listen to email, send an email, send a text, post to Twitter or update my Facebook status with my voice. The text-to-speech translation is very accurate and in my Facebook test, oddly enough, the only words it missed were Jawbone and Jambox. An audio file posts with the status so your friends can listen to your update if they so choose. Cool!
Voice on the Go is a paid service so if you'd rather, you also can use the free Dragon Dictation app. It works well too but requires you to touch your phone to send your messages instead of doing it all with your voice.
The Jambox talks to you and you can change it's voice. When I turn it on, a British woman from the "Ace" voice profile says "I'm activated, ready for action!? When the battery is low, she tells me. It's kind of like having an assistant who makes your calls.
As gadgets go, this thing rocks.
Which one is best for you?
Both the iMainGo X and the Jambox are fantastic portable speaker systems and you'll have to decide which ones fits your needs. If you want really big sound and tons of flexibility for connections to everything from an iPod to an electric guitar, the iMainGo X is for you. If you want an excellent, wireless speaker system that can also be used as a speakerphone, the Jambox is the one. Or you can get them both and be ready for anything.