When I’m traveling, one of the most disappointing #firstworldproblem moments is when I check into a hotel room and there’s no way for me to connect my iPhone to an audio system. I’m a music junkie and I like to have something a bit better than my laptop speakers. The promise of Monster’s iClarityHD speaker system is to end my pain by providing a good-sounding, portable, rechargeable audio system that can travel with me.
First, a word about Monster. The company is somewhat-notorious for pushing products that are seen as overpriced for their quality. $100 HDMI cables, for instance, have earned the company more than a bit of ire from the technologically-inclined. Knowing this, I was hesitant to review Monster products at all, but I felt that I had to give the company a fair shake, so here we go.
Taking the iClarityHD out of its package, you’re greeted with a speaker, a small setup manual and a rather nice carrying pouch, designed to protect the high-gloss finish of the top of the device. Measuring at 4.25″ x 2″ x 2.75″ it’s small enough to toss into a corner of your bag. It’s also light enough to not add notable weight.
The iClarityHD is a 2.1 speaker system, as well as a microphone. It paired easily with both my MacBook Pro and my iPhone, but also includes a mini stereo jack in case your choose to use it or don’t have Bluetooth. On the side of the device there are simply 4 buttons – power, answer/end call, volume up and volume down. The back holds a MiniUSB charging port, a hard power switch and the audio input jack.
So how does it sound? Actually, it’s quite good. The iClarityHD was able to fill my 400 square foot office with enough volume to be enjoyable from pretty much anywhere, though the off-axis sound was a bit lacking. The actual quality of the sound is admirable given the size of the device, but does lack the clarity (ironically enough) to call it a truly high-end audio system. At higher volumes, the top-mounted woofer tends to bottom out, creating that all-too-familiar “burping” sound, but the front-mounted speakers tend to hold up well across the entire range.
Input sound from the built-in microphone is quite nice, as well. It’s a far step above the native microphones that you’ll find in most laptops, making the iClarityHD an ideal piece for doing Skype calls or other types of conferencing.
But should you buy it? Well, that comes down to price versus other offerings. At the MSRP of $119, there’s no way that I’d recommend that you purchase the iClarityHD. It’s simply outclassed in the price range. But you don’t have to pay $119. Amazon has the system available for less than $70, and you can find it elsewhere for around $85. There are other offerings in this range, most notably the Creative D200, but it’s considerably larger and not something that you’d want to toss into a bag. It’s also missing the microphone of the iClarityHD.
So the end result is that I’d call the iClarityHD a buy. It’s not an audiophile system and you’re not going to be blown away by the quality of the sound. But for the price it’s a capable and convenient alternative. If you’re looking for a last-minute gift for your frequent traveler, I think anyone would be pleased to receive it.
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Published December 16, 2011 — 19:14 UTC