Works With: Anything
To save time, here’s my advice: If you have an iPad or iPhone, a guitar and $300 to spend, then spend it on the iLoud. It’s a small, portable Bluetooth speaker that is way louder than any other Bluetooth speaker, and it lets you plug in your guitar and use your iPhone – wirelessly – to add effects using an app like IK Multimedias’s AmpliTube.
More importantly, the iLoud rocks.
What It Is
The iLoud is a portable, battery-powered studio monitor speaker, which is to say that its sound is uncolored and without bias toward extra bass or punchy vocals. The idea of a studio monitor is to be as neutral as possible.
It packs 40 watts, which doesn’t sound like much if you’re used to the way speakers were measured back in the 1980s and ’90s, but is plenty loud enough in real life. In fact, I couldn’t ever really get the thing up to full volume as I’m scared to annoy my neighbors, who hate me enough as it is.
You pair your iDevice (using the dedicated pairing button on the back) and control the volume from the giant, red-lit knob on the front. And you can leave it there if you like.
But there’s another trick. If you plug a guitar into the quarter-inch jack socket on the back and fire up the AmpliTube app on your iPhone or iPad, the sound from the guitar will be sent to the app, processed by whatever amp and pedal effects you’ve dialed in, and sent back to the speaker. And thanks to Bluetooth, this all happens without a delay. I was testing using a Fender Strat plugged and a Retina iPad mini and I noticed no delay whatsoever (except when I dialed in a delay pedal ba-dum-TISH).
The sound of the iLoud is as clear as you like. I tried it next to the $400 Wren AirPlay speaker and it comes out looking great. The bass of the Wren is a little richer (it’s likely tuned to sound more pleasant), but the iLoud punches out just as much low end, and it seems more controlled, too.
In fact, the speaker is precise across the range, and copes well with classical, acoustic guitar and rock, as well as electronic music. I decided I could spend a few minutes scaring my neighbors, so I played Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” (the last track on Electric Ladyland) far too loud and it duly rocked. Hard.
The speaker is also tough. Before I discovered the flip-out stabilizing foot in the base, I kicked it over far too many times, and it’s still working (and looking) great. I also like the big knob for volume, although I don’t like the red light around it. If I was playing onstage, though, I’d appreciate this always-on power indicator. Speaking of power, the 10-hour reported battery life sounds about right, or maybe a little optimistic. It really depends how loud you crank it.
A bigger problem is the fact that the battery seems to die even when you’re not using the speaker. Leave it switched off for a week and when you toggle the switch on the back, nothing happens. You have to plug it into the mains to get it to fire up. However, if you leave it plugged in for just a few minutes and then unplug it, the battery seems to be full, or at least a lot better charged than it should be after just a couple minutes.
This makes me think that the speaker is just getting confused, and only thinks it’s dead. Kind of like an actual rock guitarist, I guess.
The other thing that drove me crazy was the Bluetooth connectivity. Usually, once a speaker has been paired, it’ll show up in the AirPlay menu on your iDevice whenever it’s switched on. Not so with the iLoud. I have to open up the Bluetooth prefs and select it in that list, waiting for it to connect every time. It’s like the bad old days of iOS 6 all over again.
Like I said at the top, the iLoud is an amazing bit of kit. These days I only play the guitar if I find one in somebody else’s home (I borrowed one for this review), but I used to play, and I had my own sweet combo amp and a few pedals and a rocking old Charvel Jackson. If you could have shown my old 1986 self this tiny speaker and an iPad running the AmpliTube app, I would have swapped my old Sessionette 75 and my Boss pedals for it in a second.
Plus the iLoud doubles as a great speaker for music and movies. A real all-rounder. Considering this, $300 seems like a steal.
Product Name: : iLoud
The Good: Loud, clean, pretty.
The Bad: Battery drains even when off.
The Verdict: A fantastic practice rig, and a pretty good all-round speaker.
Buy from: IK Multimedia