i.Sound MAX iPod and MP3 One-Piece Speaker with Wireless Remote Control
i.Sound by dreamGEAR
Price: $85-100 (depending upon where purchased)
MAX from i.Sound is a great one-piece iPod and MP3 speaker. I’ve been using it every day and night for the past three months, and I recommend it. MAX is not audiophile quality, but for general listening you get a versatile, compact, attractive, portable, high-quality speaker at a modest price. If you need premium sound reproduction, here is a product to consider in the same price range, but it lacks MAX’s remote and abundant feature set.
At first glance, before blast off, the diminutive, well-rounded MAX is more peculiar than impressive. It is as long as my outstretched hand, and as wide and deep as a clamshell cellphone case facade when closed. The speaker has a power button, a “surround” button, and one each volume up and down buttons on its contoured upper surface, in addition to a generic iPod dock connector. The company provides iPod inserts for all recent models.
Place the included flat battery into i.Sound’s remote unit, which is roughly the size of an iPod nano, then set your iPod into MAX’s dock. Press down the “surround” button, switch on MAX’s power, and you can control almost every iPod setting (4th generation and later) via the handy remote with its tactile press-blobs. Both wall AC power (cable included) or 4-AA batteries (not included) work fine, but remove batteries when you’re using the AC cable. There is no built-in battery charger, but rechargeable AA batteries are compatible.
Note: 3rd generation and earlier iPods may fit in the dock, but MAX’s remote will at best control play/pause, volume up/down, and track forward/back. This problem is not specific to i.Sound, so trust me here, and when in doubt, don’t!
At soft-to-medium volume, MAX’s output is crystal clear, with plenty of midrange and treble, and predictably average bass. At full volume, which is loud enough to fill a small house, apartment, or typical back yard, MAX distorts only at its peak, and bass response is improved. Most of the time in most situations, this unusual one-piece speaker is very good at doing what it’s supposed to do: provide a pleasant, portable listening environment.
Your iPod’s EQ settings are utilized, so you can determine the best one for a room, outdoor site, or car interior. Remote control buttons are (top to bottom, left to right): backlit, repeat, previous, playlist next, playlist previous, volume up, play/pause, volume down, mute, shuffle, next, album next, and album previous. MAX powers down by itself when not in use.
MAX can be ordered in black or white plastic, with a sturdy, protective grey metal grille over the drivers. The included generic auxiliary line-in jack and stereo mini-plug cable (very short!) work perfectly with every external device, including an iPod, when necessary. The dock charges your iPod, which is a nice bonus if you don’t own a charging brick, and a female dock jack is on the rear, just below the top-deck docking station. Nice touch.
You won’t learn much else at the company’s web site, except that you can buy MAX directly from i.Sound for $100 U.S. A better price is $85 from Amazon.com. I am so fond of this speaker that I would buy one at $85 without any hesitation, knowing what I do from using it week after week.
My favorite spouse-friendly feature is to fall asleep to a relaxing playlist of classical music. I set my iPod’s Sleep Timer to stop playing after 15, 30, or 60 minutes, depending upon how sleepy we are, or if we’re reading before heading to snoozeville. Then, if Barbara or I need music for any reason in the middle of the night, I pick up MAX’s remote, and control everything from there, because she always dozes off before I do (the blessed-curse of me having a musician’s brain).
Anecdote: Before we went on vacation, I was in the yard cleaning out our tank of aquatic plants, with MAX playing jazz from fifty feet away, plugged in on our covered patio. I could hear the music clearly, even with the pump filter running. When a visitor dropped in (not to help me with all the algae, unfortunately), after snooping around our garden for a while, he asked, “Where is that music coming from, Nemo? I hear it but I don’t see any speakers.” That’s how small and handy is this unit.
There aren’t a lot of other online reviews of MAX. Here is a thorough one by Jacob Spindel of mobiletechreview.com, whose score is 4.5 out of 5.
For this competitive price, i.Sound MAX delivers way above normal audio and usability. The company tells MyMac.com that Max is also available at in retail stores such as JCPenney, f.y.e. for your entertainment, Coconuts Music and Movies, Warehouse Music, Strawberries, Spec’s, Planet Music, Saturday Matinee, Sam Goody, and Suncoast. MAX is not sold at Apple retail stores, where you can find an array of inferior products with higher prices.
At the Las Vegas Consumer Electronic show, the curvaceous MAX was a CES 2006 Innovations and Engineering Awards Showcase Honoree in the Audio Accessories category. Bravo to i.Sound, who also receives our 4.5 rating here at MyMac.com.
Enough writing! Time to take Max, iPod, and Django Reinhardt down to Baker Beach for a hot jazz picnic. I just noticed (duh) one each small speaker vent hole on left and right sides, near the back curve. This is how “surround” is achieved. That’s clever engineering and subtle design, as we expect from i.Sound.