Review: Boostaroo Revolution

Boost Sound from iPod, computer, or any MP3 player (February 9th, 2006)

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Product Manufacturer: UpBeat Audio, Inc

Price: $79.95 US

The Good

  • Very, very loud. Only 6 ounces and small. Splits signal without losing power.

The Bad

  • Very, very loud. Slight hiss. Only two outputs, could have handled more.

The Boostaroo Revolution does a fine job at its intended purpose, but it is a hard product to recommend when you attach it to one set of earphones. It is a very small audio amplifier and splitter. Basically, you plug a device into the Revolution using the included male-to-male mini-jack cord, and then plug one or two sets of headphones into the Boostaroo. According to the Boostaroo website, the output is 400% louder than what you would get without the Revolution. In practical tests, I found this to be true. When I would normally turn my iPod almost all the way up, now turning the dial about a quarter of the way produced a similar volume. I never turned the volume all the way up with the Revolution attached, because I didn't want to risk my hearing. This is my reservation with the device.

Small and Very Portable

If you need a headphone amplifier, this is it. The Boostaroo Revolution is small, unobtrusive, and lightweight. It runs on AAAA batteries; so small that I had no idea they existed until I had to buy one for the unit. But, how many people really need a headphone amplifier?

Is Louder Better?

Do you want to hear your music better, or do you really just want it louder? You probably want to hear it better. To that end, you should just buy a pair of headphones with sound isolating technology. Not to be confused with noise canceling technology, which generates frequencies that oppose and cancel the noise you hear, sound isolating means headphones that end in a pair of earplugs. They block noise even when they are not turned on, and some of them use similar foam earplugs you use at a rock concert or on a rifle range, just like the Etymotic Research ER-6, or the Shure E-series. Noise canceling is good for airplanes and train rides, where a constant audible annoyance is present, but bad for streets, where you want to hear the not-so occasional car horn. Sound isolating is good everywhere.

If you have a good pair of sound isolating headphones, you should find yourself turning your volume down, because you don't need to overpower the external noise. The headphones themselves block much of this out. With the Boostaroo Revolution, on the other hand, you will overpower external noise and, if you use it improperly, or frequently, you could seriously harm your eardrums.

Use Good Earphones and Be Careful

If an iPod can generate 100 Decibels (dBs) of sound, which was part of the 3G iPods specifications, and Boostaroo claims a 400% increase with the Revolution, you're talking about loud. (The iPod specifications are still available at PowerMax.) Conservatively, sound levels above 85 dBs are considered harmful. A raucous concert generates about 120 dBs, and your ears will start to seriously hurt somewhere in the 130 dBs range. So, how loud do you want to boost your iPod?

If your recordings are very soft, and you need some serious amplification, the Boostaroo Revolution may be right for you. If you want to share your music with a partner, this device allows you to split your headphones. It lacks the four outputs found on the previous models from Boostaroo, and it quadruples the volume, while the original only doubled your output.

If, however, you just want to feel your head kicked in by the bass on your music, buy a better pair of headphones. At a suggested retail cost of almost $80, you could certainly afford an okay pair, or be halfway to something really nice. MacNN will review some of the new headphones in the upcoming weeks.

The bottom line is that the Boostaroo Revolution is a fine product, but remember to protect your hearing health. I did encounter some slight hissing from the device, even when no music was playing or cued up. I tested them using the standard iPod headphones, as well as my sound isolating Shure E3c headphones. As a splitter, it works better than your average, non-powered splitter, because those devices do cut your output for the individual headphones, while the Revolution is more than capable of handling the job. In fact, it may just be too capable for its own good.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Philip Berne


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