IK Multimedia iLoud Review – Pump Up The Volume

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I know. It may sound unusual, but so far I haven’t been a great fan of those compact Bluetooth speakers on the market. For one reason or another, their mix of size, power, sound quality and features never did it for me.
This is why I’ve just been using my (good old) Acoustic Research powered speaker, coupled with one of those affordable Bluetooth adapters. But while that sounds good, I kept looking for a more convenient solution. And here it is – IK Multimedia iLoud ($249 on Amazon US – £175 on Amazon UK – 234€ on Amazon DE) is a 40W Bluetooth speaker with a great sound and some unique features.

Look and Portability
iLoud’s design is quite minimal and simple yet pleasant. The hard plastic casing looks and feels sturdy. The device may not be as light as other speakers (3 pounds/1.2 kg approx.) but it has a nicely compact form-factor that makes it perfect for a backpack. On the front, you’ll find the slightly recessed volume knob. On the back you’ll find the power switch and all the connections, including an Aux/Line in. This means you can plug in an iPod/music player, as well as a synth or a drum-machine. It will actually play two different sources at once through the Bluetooth and Aux.
The battery lasts up to 10 hours (3 hours at peak volume). If yours is a non-stop party, you can always plug in the power adapter at some point.

Hell yes, this thing IS loud! The first time I cranked up its volume my neighbors must have thought I was having a party. Seriously, if you have tried other similar-sized Bluetooth speakers, this one is likely going to surprise you.
It wasn’t loudness what I was really looking for, though. To me, the sound balance is way more important, and iLoud truly delivers. Don’t expect cheap, boomy bass or hyped frequencies, not to mention weird resonances due to a poorly assembled casing.
iLoud’s 4 powered amps and its 2 woofers and 2 tweeters make for a clear, well-balanced and very enjoyable sound.
I’ve tested iLoud with a varied music program, featuring Massive Attack, Royksopp, Radiohead, Miles Davis, Pink Floyd as well as classical music artists like Mischa Maisky. The result was always pleasantly tight and quite natural, with a good stereo image (especially if moving a bit away from the speaker).
I’ve also used it with several apps on the iPad, jamming with my piano (plus some of my hardware synths). What a relief, not having to deal with cables and adapters!

I’m not a specs-obsessed guy (sorry, I trust my ears), so I won’t go through all the details here. IK Multimedia’s website has an interesting page though, where you can find an extensive description of the most relevant technical features, plus some videos that show a comparison between iLoud and other speakers.

For Guitar Players
If you’re not just a passive listener (or an active music tinkerer, like me) but also a guitar player, you will have one more reason to consider iLoud. Plug in your guitar to the guitar/mic jack, your iPhone/iPad to the other, and fire up IK Multimedia Amplitube. The speaker features an iRig-based circuit that will let you take advantage of the real-time sound processing of the app. Pretty nifty.

Especially considering that iLoud is the first speaker produced by IK Multimedia, the results are impressive. Great sound quality, capable of being really loud without nasty side-effects (I could hear some artifacts only going full-blast, but honestly I wouldn’t be able to bear that sound level anyway!), good design, easily portable and with a unique guitar-friendly connectivity.
I enjoyed using iLoud in my bedroom and in my kitchen (streaming music from Tidal and my Google Music library), as well as adding it to my music-making setup. I would also use it for a small party, no doubt.
Small niggles? I’d like the power switch and the charge led to be on top of the item. Also, the recessed volume knob, while looking cool may not be very handy for guys with big hands.
Mission accomplished for IK Multimedia. If you’re shopping for a serious Bluetooth speaker, add iLoud to your list. You may be in for a surprise!

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