Monster iClarityHD Precision Micro Bluetooth Speaker 100: Is That You Making All That Noise? [Review]

Monster iClarityHD Precision Micro Bluetooth Speaker 100: Is That You Making All That Noise? [Review]

Seems like there’s been an explosion of small, portable, Bluetooth speakers onto store shelves this last year — the most popular or well-known of which is probably the Jawbone JamBox — from the advance notices we’ve seen, in a few weeks the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas will herald a whole new crop of the little tribbles.

Monster’s take on the concept is the Monster iClarityHD Precision Micro Bluetooth Speaker 100 ($100). And like pretty much everything the company puts out, the iClarity is bassy and L-O-U-D.

The Good:

Man, does this lil’ guy’s ability to throw sound impress. A slack-jawed “Wow” was one reaction I got from a friend who heard the iClarity in action (and couldn’t figure out at first where the sound was coming from); and when I took it to the local basketball court/park, I was able to hear streamed talk radio clearly from across the court — even with a somewhat noisy background.

Sound quality is pretty good too, considering how tiny the iClarity is. The unit’s speakers proved exceptional when used for watching movies, listening to talk radio or taking phone calls, and there was a surprising amount of bass. And although it wouldn’t have been our first portable speaker choice to rock out with, it wasn’t bad; sound was deep, but somewhat muddied and got fairly buzzy on bass-heavy tracks. Overall though, the iClarity performed considerably better than its tiny speakers should have warranted.

Battery performance was also pleasantly surprising. The five-hour-rated battery ended up lasting over at least six at moderate volume — plenty of juice for a day’s worth of on-the-go sound. Charging the device up again took just over three hours through its rear mini-USB port (as a plus, the iClarity can be charged while being used).

Initial pairing was easy, and the iClarity automatically connected to the last device it was paired with each time it was switched on (though that was a slightly annoying two-step process — see below). A beep sounds and two very (annoyingly) bright LEDs glow blue when connected. There’s also a standard 3.5mm input jack for times when a Bluetooth connection is not possible.

The iClarity really is probably the most portable wireless speaker we’ve come across; besides its tiny size, its stable base made it easy to use, for instance, on a car’s dashboard. The icing on the cake is an included cloth bag for portage.
The Bad:

The iClarity’s noise-cancelling microphone doesn’t have the pickup sensitivity we would have liked; callers strained to hear me unless I was close to the device, or holding it closer to my mouth — sort of defeating its purpose.

Switching it on and connecting is a two-step process that requires toggling a rear power switch, then holding a power button on the device’s side; couldn’t Monster have consolidated this into a single step?

Forget using the iClarity for really long periods of uninterrupted time, because there’s no way to run it off anything but the battery, and it won’t charge unless switched off.

Correction: The iClarityHD can indeed receive a charge while being used.

Then there’s that pair of annoyingly bright blue LEDs on the very front of the unit that glow like a runway beacon — unfailingly, and with no way to turn them off except severing the Bluetooth connection.

Verdict:

If there were some contest based on the amount of sound per square-inch, the iClarityHD would win handily, and it’s few niggling little shortcomings aren’t enough to detract from its portability and mighty volume.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Monster iClarityHD Precision Micro Bluetooth Speaker 100: Is That You Making All That Noise? [Review]

Monster iClarityHD Precision Micro Bluetooth Speaker 100: Is That You Making All That Noise? [Review]

Monster iClarityHD Precision Micro Bluetooth Speaker 100: Is That You Making All That Noise? [Review]

Monster iClarityHD Precision Micro Bluetooth Speaker 100: Is That You Making All That Noise? [Review]

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  • Douglas Hornig

    I’m confused: can it be powered by and/or charge from the USB when it’s being used or not?

  • AngryOldMan

    If Monster was not owned by an idiot, I might be interested!

  • JoeHacker

    First you say it CAN be charging while using it then you say it can’t. Which is correct?

  • JoeHacker

    Btw, what camera and lens did you use in the first pic above? Just a curiosity. Thx

  • elimilchman

    Yes, thanks for pointing that out. The sentence about the speaker not being able to charge while on was from an earlier draft of the review and is incorrect — the iClarityHD will charge while being used.

  • elimilchman

    Canon 7D body with the stellar Tokina 12-24 f/4 lens. Nice shot, right?  :) 

  • JoeHacker

    Sure is !!! Thx.

  • JoeHacker

    What would be your first choice of mini Bluetooth speakers to rock out with? I am considering either the iClarity or the Jambox by Jawbone. Is there also another you would recommend?

  • elimilchman

    Check out the foxLv2.

  • Jeffrey Gee

    Yeah, they are way too lawsuit friendly to other small business with the word “Monster” in it.

About the author

Eli MilchmanWhen he was eight, Eli Milchman came home from frolicking in the Veld one day and was given an Atari 400. Since then, his fascination with technology has made him an intrepid early adopter of whatever charming new contraption crosses his path — which explains why he's Cult of Mac's test editor-at-large. He calls San Francisco home, where he works as a journalist and photographer. Eli has contributed to the pages of Wired.com and BIKE Magazine, among others. Hang with him on Twitter.

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