As you may have surmised by my previous posts, I love the multimedia that my iOS devices provide access to. Be it content synced from iTunes or streaming from various sources, whether I’m at work or lounging about the house I tend to have some form of media playing. While wired or Bluetooth headphones work best when jogging or mowing the lawn, I would rather have my ears free when possible (especially when using my iPad). The single speaker built into the iPad produces acceptable sound for video, but it’s not optimal for music. The iPhone’s speaker may be audible, but it’s obvious that it just wasn’t designed for much more than providing audio for handsfree phone conversations. So what’s a music lover to do when they’d like to enjoy their tunes sans the white earbuds?
Thanks to Apple’s AirPlay, there are plenty of options. You can bounce your audio to any of a number of AirPlay-compatible devices, from a high-end boom box like the Jawbone Jambox to simple speakers attached to an AirPort Extreme. Sadly, those that either can’t afford the pricey audiophile-esque Jambox or need something more portable than the speaker/AirPort Extreme combination don’t have nearly as many options.
My friends at MobileFun.co.UK have one for you to consider- the SoundWave. This diminutive accessory doesn’t look like much; the device is small enough to fit into a palm and looks more like an art-deco paperweight than a multimedia accessory. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from it when I opened the package. I’ve used wired mini speakers for the iPhone and iPad before and have been uniformly underwhelmed by the volume and sound quality. Even when powered by an internal battery these inexpensive options are rarely better than the iOS device’s internal speaker.
The SoundWave quickly proved my initial impression to be wrong. It feels sturdy- the unit is heavier than it looks, and perches on nonskid feet that hold it quite steady. The SoundWave pairs with your device via Bluetooth; the sync process took all of two minutes (including the time spent perusing the instruction booklet). Just hold down the multifunction button for a few seconds, then select the SoundWave on your device’s Bluetooth menu.
I tested the SoundWave on a fairly wide selection of sources and media, and was somewhat taken aback by how good the sound quality was. Bear in mind, it’s not going to unseat something like the Jawbone Jambox in either volume or fidelity, but the SoundWave actually has some audio presence. Midrange was well represented without being muddy, the high range was crisp and clear, and bass reproduction was respectable. While it is a mono speaker, it easily filled my work office with music, be it instrumental, blues rock, rap, or pop. It handled both internal content and streaming from Pandora and Stitcher Radio equally. The Bluetooth connection to my iPad was also strong; the sound was steady over 20 feet away and only started to sputter when a wall came between the iPad and unit.
The SoundWave speaker has even more functionality when paired with an iPhone. The multifunction button can be used along with an internal microphone making the unit a speakerphone: press once to answer a call and once again to end. Coupled with the SoundWave’s small footprint it makes for an excellent desktop accessory when space is at a premium.
The device’s internal battery is rated for about three hours of use, and is recharged via an included miniUSB cable. For those that need a small, inexpensive, and portable means of enjoying audio from their iOS device (or other Bluetooth-enabled device) you can’t go wrong with the SoundWave. In just an afternoon’s worth of testing it’s already earned a place beside my iPad at work.