September 1, 2014

IK Multimedia's iLoud Wireless Speaker [REVIEW]

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Walk into the Apple Store—or any electronics shop—and you’ll see that the number of available wireless, Bluetooth speakers is nearly endless. One is the size of an iPod, one looks like a bass tube, one has a charging dock, while another comes in myriad colors to match your mood and outfit on the day.

For playing back limited-quality MP3s and catching up on missed podcasts, these are all fine avenues. But pro-level options were seriously lacking. Enter Italy’s IK Multimedia to fill the gap and do so in flying colors.

The iLoud is the first portable, wireless monitor that was designed with musicians and DJs in mind. It offers all the usual features you might expect on a compact speaker, like: rechargeable battery, Bluetooth receiver (for wireless operation), and stereo speakers.

But where the iLoud really excels is in its ability to push not just high-quality sound, but lots of it. The company claims 40 watts, which is impressive in such a small box. But in the real world, all that matters is that iLoud is both loud and clear with plenty of bass, which allows it to reproduce modern dance music and hip-hop tunes very well.
As simplistic as it seems, another great feature is the well-positioned (backlit) volume control on the front. Many monitors rely on your ability to access a “booth volume” knob of some sort on your mixer or controller. But IK Multimedia’s iLoud has taken this out of the equation by giving the DJ an easy to way to regulate the volume. There is a very-easy-to-pair Bluetooth system and an ingenious little retractable leg on the back, which helps with stability and placing the speaker in nearly any space in your booth where it will fit—without worrying about it falling over.

One other impressive feature, which will appeal to traditional musicians more than DJs, is called the iRig dynamic microphone/instrument input. This ¼-inch plug-in allows you to run a guitar or microphone through the iLoud unit—and then process that signal in any number of external digital iOS audio processing applications (AmpliTube/VocaLive for example).

In the studio and just playing tunes at home—in a bedroom-DJ situation, say—the iLoud is outstanding. The sound was strong and rich, the battery took a strong, long-lasting charge and delivered sound at fairly high volume levels for three-plus hours (more than nine hours at home playback volume levels), and the range was surprisingly good. I got more than 25 feet from my Mac, and the speaker was still working flawlessly.

In the field, I was equally impressed. Of course, this isn’t going to deliver the kind of earth-shattering monitor sound that you’ll require in a top-flight nightclub and this certainly won’t replace professional monitors in loud settings. But at a wedding or smaller club/bar venue as a means to project your program material and make mixing easier, the iLoud was exceptional.

There were a couple omissions that kept the iLoud from getting full marks, however. There is no battery indicator, so you have no idea if you have 99-percent or 1-percent of your available charge left. In addition, there is no way to mute the sound quickly or to know where you are in terms of volume level.

But those relatively minor quibbles aside, IK Multimedia’s iLoud is a really great piece of gear. Easy to set up, easy to transport, affordable ($299 MSRP) and great sounding—I really like the iLoud.

If you have any questions for Sounding Off, please send them to djtimes@testa.com.

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