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Review: IK Multimedia's iLoud portable speaker delivers on sound, flexibility

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Being a portable battery-powered Bluetooth speaker, an amp, and a guitar effects modeling system, the iLoud and its dedicated iOS apps cram a lot of potential into a small package.

iLoud


IK Multimedia's iLoud is a 40-watt stereo speaker, which means it puts out a combined 40 watts of sound split between four drivers. That's plenty loud. By way of comparison, Eric Clapton's favorite tube amp only puts out 5W, and he mics it up to play big shows.

The iLoud isn't just a speaker, however, as users can connect and a variety of instruments for amplification by using one of IK's AmpliTube iOS apps.

Design



The most prominent physical feature on the iLoud is its perimeter-illuminated volume knob, which glows red when the unit is turned on. The hard plastic chassis is sturdy and includes a kickstand that swivels out from speaker's base for added stability.

iLoud


Located on the back are input/output ports, power control, charging port, status light, Bluetooth pairing button and gain control.

Behind the front grill sits four powered drivers, two 3-inch mids and a pair of 3/4-inch tweeters. Power is divvied up with 16 watts going to each midrange driver, while each tweeter is supplied with 4 watts of juice.

According to IK, the built-in battery is good for 10 hours of use at normal volumes and we found this spec to be accurate. Louder volumes of course drain the battery substantially faster, and the iLoud was built to rock. An included AC adapter charges the unit, while the tri-color LED status light notifies users when it's time to recharge.

The DSP-toting speaker has only two on-board sound controls: the central volume knob and the gain control around back. All other tweaks are handled through an attached iOS device.

In use



As far as using the iLoud as a vanilla loudspeaker, our tests showed sound fidelity does not suffer much when listening to music streamed over Bluetooth -- unlike many other Bluetooth-enabled audio products. Alternatively, users can patch in a media player through the 3.5-millimeter audio-in port for higher quality sound. Overall, audio reproduction was very good, with minimal distortion even at high volume.

iLoud


What makes the iLoud special, however, are its capabilities as an amp. Being part of the iRig line of products, the speaker sports a 1/4-inch jack and gain control. With a built-in iRig circuit, connect an iOS device using the included 3.5mm TRRS cable, fire up any one of IK Multimedia's AmpliTube products, plug an axe into the 1/4-inch jack, and you now have a very portable and capable guitar amp with multiple effects at the ready.

In our tests, we packed up the iLoud in a backpack and took it to the local guitar shop. We were able to try the setup with a number of guitars, from Les Pauls to Paul Reed Smiths, from Strats and Teles to unusual Taylor electric guitars. The iLoud and its dedicated app held up well and really showed off the flexibility of the system.

Along with guitars, any instrument with a suitable output signal can be attached. It should be noted, however, that an XLR adapter is required for professional microphones.

iLoud


When properly calibrated, sound output is great, but it takes a little effort to get there. Users have to balance the volumes of selected effects, the amp that's being modeled, and volume all from the iPhone or iPad app. Without an initial setup, it's easy to under-power the signal, which results in hiss.

Another detail about the app is that it's important to consider how you want to use it. iPhone and iPad versions are sold separately for $19.99 each. Add to that the licensed and branded versions of the app (AmpliTube Fender!) and in-app purchases for more effects, and it can be easy to make a double purchase if you aren't careful. For this review, we used AmpliTube for iPhone.

While the app-based system is flexible, there are limitations with the iLoud setup. With the embedded iRig circuit, any signal coming through the 1/4-inch jack is directed to the iOS device (itself connected via the 3.5mm jack) for processing, not the iLoud's speaker circuitry. This means users must have an attached iOS device to operate the unit in amp mode, connecting a guitar alone does not work.

iLoud


In addition, depending on the guitar we used, the gain needed to be adjusted for optimal results. While the iLoud sounded perfectly fine with gain kept at the "middle" point set by the factory, tuning it helped the speaker really come into its own. Without tweaking, we found ourselves reaching for the volume knob when the speaker was already at max levels.

Conclusion



Overall, the iLoud is a good Bluetooth speaker and an excellent portable guitar amp. The app-based effects and amps sound good and are much more convenient than lugging around a pedalboard, power supplies, and patchboards.

With a bevy of options to tweak vocal and instrument input, as well as Bluetooth and hardwire connectivity for media playback, the iLoud system represents one of the most versatile portable platforms on which to reproduce music, both pre-recorded and live. Plus, it's loud.

Score: 4.5 out of 5



ratings_hl_45.png

Pros:
  • 40 watts of power means plenty of sound
  • Bluetooth connectivity makes this more than an amp
  • Amp and effects modeling offer versatility when playing guitar


Cons:
  • Multiple volume settings take some tweaking to avoid hiss
  • iPhone and app needed for amp duty


Where to buy



IK Multimedia's iLoud is available now for $260 from B&H Photo (tax-free outside of NY) and Amazon.com (tax-free outside AZ, CA, KS, KY, MA, NC, NJ, NY, ND, PA, TX, and WA).
post #2 of 19

So, Airplay is dead then?

post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by designguybrown View Post

So, Airplay is dead then?

Don't know how you got that idea...
post #4 of 19
1) It looks like Scott Forestal designed the Amplitude for iPhone app.

2) No word on weight in the article but Amazon states the shipping weight is 4.6lb/2.1kg which iI find surprisingly light given it's apparent durability, containing speakers, and 10 hour battery life.

3) Looks like a great product overall and, to me, the $260 doesn't seem excessive.

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #5 of 19

A guitar with an iPhone dock.  Recessed so the phone can sit secure.  Then you can have the screen as an interface for controlling the effects of the guitar.  Connecting to the box displayed here.

An Apple man since 1977
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An Apple man since 1977
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post #6 of 19
Nice review. Can you kick it over after playing a long set of metal songs for a crowd?

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #7 of 19
The review doesn't mention that the unit goes into a "standby" mode if it doesn't receive input for a period of time. According to the little manual that comes with it, that period of time is supposed to be several minutes and the iLoud is supposed to go back into the active mode when it receives input again. The unit I have goes into standby intermittently when it doesn't receive input for only a few seconds, and does not come back on again when input is resumed. I have found that pulling the plug out of my iPad and plugging it back in will reactivate the iLoud, but it is quite annoying to have to do that repeatedly when you are practicing. I think I will try adjusting the gain control, but I am not optimistic that will make a difference.
post #8 of 19

So the battery lasts 10 hours, however how long does the battery on the iOS device last playing a BT stream? I get the idea of iOS adding effects and all but it seems like it just introduces another complication rather than just plugging in a guitar. I'd rather have foot switch/pedal operated effects so you can activate it without having to take your hands off the instrument. I guess I'm just old school. I'm sure it sounds great, but I like the naturally warm sound of my Fender tube amps. I have a 1963 Super Amp and an early 2000s Pro Junior. Sounds great with my 68 Strat.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

So the battery lasts 10 hours, however how long does the battery on the iOS device last playing a BT stream? I get the idea of iOS adding effects and all but it seems like it just introduces another complication rather than just plugging in a guitar. I'd rather have foot switch/pedal operated effects so you can activate it without having to take your hands off the instrument. I guess I'm just old school. I'm sure it sounds great, but I like the naturally warm sound of my Fender tube amps. I have a 1963 Super Amp and an early 2000s Pro Junior. Sounds great with my 68 Strat.

The bluetooth is useful if you want to stream recorded music from another device, but you wouldn't use it for playing live. There is too much latency. For playing live you attach the iLoud to the headphone jack of your IOS device. I think the intended purpose of the iLoud is for practicing when you are away from where you keep your real amps. It is really much more portable than even a tiny Fender amp. The emulations are mediocre, in my opinion, but ok for practicing. (The one thing they do a good job of emulating is the hiss you get from having a string of stomp boxes connected, but they have a noise gate virtual stomp box you can put at the end which does a good job. I don't see anything in the review that makes me thing the reviewer knew about it.)
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by designguybrown View Post
 

So, Airplay is dead then?

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chadbag View Post


Don't know how you got that idea...

 

Brain fart?

post #11 of 19

I love the sound of my tube amps. I have an old 4-10 Bassman amp that has a thick sound.  My late 70's twin reverb and a Hot Rod Deluxe are also in my faves as I have hung onto them for so long. The Bogner I had for a few years was my favorite gig amp. It's 1-12 bottom was easy to carry about, unlike that beast Twin Reverb - and the Bogner just sounded so organic.

post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post
 
I think the intended purpose of the iLoud is for practicing when you are away from where you keep your real amps. It is really much more portable than even a tiny Fender amp. 

I've been considering buying the Apogee Jam ($99) and using Garageband. With headphones I won't be disturbing anyone while practicing. Honestly I don't really play that much anymore. I have an old Boss JamStation which works but with Garageband I would get a lot more versatility.

 

I have a ton of old analog equipment. All professional stuff like Mackie board and Alesis studio speakers, AKG mics with phantom power, lots of analog effects pedals, Sony tape recorders, etc. I'd like to get rid of it all but nobody uses that stuff anymore.


Edited by mstone - 3/30/14 at 10:31am

Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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post #13 of 19
Does it support the old Apple Pro Speakers on the new Macs?

I mean, without the mess:

How to bring your Apple Pro Speakers Back To Life!
http://www.tonymacx86.com/customization/55434-how-bring-your-apple-pro-speakers-back-life.html
post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post

 
I've been considering buying the Apogee Jam ($99) and using Garageband. With headphones I won't be disturbing anyone while practicing. Honestly I don't really play that much anymore. I have an old Boss JamStation which works but with Garageband I would get a lot more versatility.

I have a ton of old analog equipment. All professional stuff like Mackie board and Alesis studio speakers, AKG mics with phantom power, lots of analog effects pedals, Sony tape recorders, etc. I'd like to get rid of it all but nobody uses that stuff anymore.

Don't say nobody 1wink.gif
post #15 of 19

J-O-K-E

Save your damn money.

post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by maccherry View Post

J-O-K-E
Save your damn money.

Do you have alternative option to proffer?

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

Reply

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

Reply
post #17 of 19
If u play guitar buy an amp much cheaper and less shit.
post #18 of 19
"IK Multimedia's iLoud is a 40-watt stereo speaker, which means it puts out a combined 40 watts of sound split between four drivers. That's plenty loud. By way of comparison, Eric Clapton's favorite tube amp only puts out 5W, and he mics it up to play big shows. "


Eeeek, that's terrible. Mainly, a watt is a watt but comparing outputs of SS and tube guitars amps is meaningless and not because of how they sound. You generally need 2 or 3 times the wattage in SS to match the perceived volume of a tube amp that's otherwise identical.

Plus, the rating of the speaker says nothing about the amp, just what the speaker is rated at. And a stereo speaker/amp is there for imaging of the fx and won't be 40 watts of guitar power.

Nice widget, but bad promo material.
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post
 

I've been considering buying the Apogee Jam ($99) and using Garageband. With headphones I won't be disturbing anyone while practicing. Honestly I don't really play that much anymore. I have an old Boss JamStation which works but with Garageband I would get a lot more versatility.

 

I have a ton of old analog equipment. All professional stuff like Mackie board and Alesis studio speakers, AKG mics with phantom power, lots of analog effects pedals, Sony tape recorders, etc. I'd like to get rid of it all but nobody uses that stuff anymore.

I hear you mstone...I didn't have as quite an elaborate setup as you, but I did sell all my mics, headphones, cables, speakers, midi piano, midi interface box, guitar cables, pickups, mic stands, music stands, Martin guitar/case and guitar stands, etc., etc.

 

My intent is to end up with an iPad Mini (GarageBand), a Martin acoustic guitar (hung on the wall), a blue tooth wireless mic, a BT wireless headphones and a few apps. But no cables, boxes, or pwr bricks. Especially, no cables! :)

 

Ok, maybe one cable for the John Lennon inspired, naked Epiphone Cassino I'd like to get so I can play "I've Got a Feeling!" :)

 

Maybe that setup Jimmy Fallon had with Billy Joel would do the trick?

 

Best

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