IK Multimedia's range of iOS music making peripherals has so far focused on helping you to get audio and MIDI into your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, but its latest - the iLoud speaker - works at the other end of the signal chain.
A portable, Bluetooth-enabled product, this is designed to give you "studio monitor sound" anywhere and everywhere you go.
We've just taken delivery of an iLoud, and first impressions are pretty favourable. It's about as wide as an iPad is long but not quite as tall, and despite being made of plastic, it feels like it could handle being slung in a bag and carted around. It's slightly heavier than we were expecting, though this feels reassuring rather than annoying.
The front panel is dominated by the speaker grill and large light-up volume knob that sits in the centre of it. This looks nice, although the one on our unit does make a slightly disconcerting grinding noise when you turn it, and the fact that it's endless and doesn't have any numbers around it makes it impossible to know what the current level is. As a result, you never quite know where you are in the iLoud's volume range.
The rest of the controls and all the connections are round the back. The iLoud can be mains-powered and features a built-in rechargeable battery (this can go for up to 10 hours depending on how loud you have it set), and there's a dedicated button that enables you to pair the speaker with up to two Bluetooth devices at a time.
We should point out that it's not just iOS devices that the iLoud will sync with - we successfully paired it to both an iPad and an Android phone. If you want to use a cabled audio connection, a mini-jack input is included to help you out.
The final connection is an interesting one - a 1/4-inch Guitar/Mic input that works like an iRig audio interface in that it sends its signal to any connected iOS device (via the iLoud's mini-jack input and your iOS device's headphone output) and enables you to record using a suitable app. It's a nice little feature that helps to make the iLoud feel more like a musicians' product than a straight-up 'music listening' one.
That said, it's the sound that's going to make or break the iLoud, especially when you consider that, at £239.99, it's significantly more expensive than many Bluetooth speaker systems. The good news is that it also sounds significantly better than many of its cheaper rivals, and - as its name suggests – delivers plenty of volume (there's a total of 40W of power in the tank). The iLoud is no substitute for a good and well-positioned pair of monitors (for one thing, it's hard to get much of a sense of the stereo field given its left/right speakers' close proximity), but if you want a punchy, well-rounded tone in a small package, it's got the goods.
Of course, there is that relatively high price to consider - it remains to be seen how many people will be willing to spend so heavily on what almost certainly won't be their primary speaker system - but if IK Multimedia's intention was to create a portable monitoring solution that's a step ahead of the pack, it seems to have succeeded.
Find out more on the IK Multimedia website.