A simple but effective way to share MP3 player audio. (September 27th, 2009)
The iMainGo2 is not just a unique case and speaker hybrid but also Portable Sound Laboratories' only real product so far; as such, we have pretty high expectations for its sole offering. With a bargain basement retail price of only $40, is the iMainGo2 a sleeper in the portable speaker market or a relative novelty?
Product Manufacturer: Portable Sound Laboratories
- High quality sound for the size.
- Protects the body and screen.
- Touchscreens still responsive inside.
- Low price.
- Players with bottom 3.5mm jacks are upside-down.
what's in the box and the design
The iMainGo 2 comes in a small retail box with some documentation and, in a rare move for the class, name brand batteries to power the system right away. The speaker system itself is fairly small, but the overall build quality is good and the materials used in the units construction feel first-rate. The only notable ‘feature’ of the unit is a small switch inside that allows users to turn the unit on or off to conserve battery power or to allow an alarm on an iPod to play through the speakers.
The iMainGo 2 can house nearly every popular portable MP3 player, from Apple's iPods and iPhones to the Microsoft Zune. The method that the iMainGo 2 employs to link the player with the speaker system is slightly unique, though. Once the unit is zipped open, you must loosen a Velcro strap on the left side and wiggle the backplate loose to insert your MP3 player. Once your MP3 player is in place, the backplate is re-inserted and the strap tightened. For audio to make it to the speaker you simply plug in the audio jack into the headphone out jack on your MP3 device.
The strap and backplate inside the iMainGo 2 keep MP3 devices tight inside the unit and the setup seems to work well. It’s not simple to use, but it is effective at holding the MP3 player snugly in the case. The decision to use a generic 3.5mm audio jack instead of the Apple-only Dock Connectior is an interesting one, as Apple users dominate the MP3 player market and much of the iMainGo 2 promotional items portray it as an Apple device. It does mean the case won't be obsolete if you switch platforms, though. And regardless, the audio connection works properly without noticeable static. The only true downside to using the headphone jack is that some MP3 players have the headphone output on the top of the unit, while others have it on the bottom -- a problem as Portable Sound has to accommodate both. Our iPod touch (pictured below) seemed to be ‘upside down’ in the unit while an iPhone was right side up. It’s a minor complaint as it doesn't actually affect functionality, but the device was clearly designed with the iPhone or classic iPods in mind.
user experience and sound quality
We were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to interact with our iPod touch through the clear plastic cover. With the backplate in place and velcro strap secured, our iPod touch was pressed firmly against the clear plastic cover and we almost forgot the extra layer was there. Some similarly designed systems end up making the user feel like their finger is sticking to the plastic in front of the iPod which detracts from the user experience -- we did not experience any side effects of the sort with the iMainGo 2.
For a physically small speaker, the iMainGo 2 has good sound quality and the volume gets reasonably loud considering the size of the unit. The titanium drivers give crisp mids and highs, while the tuned porting design allows for reasonable bass reproduction. Don't expect audiophile performance, but as a sort of portable radio it can sound surprisingly good.
Other than the inherent quirk of the headphone jack placement, the iMainGo 2 is a great portable speaker system. The unit is small and lightweight, but with ample volume and good sound quality. For a sub-$50 MP3 player speaker, the iMainGo 2 is an excellent option.