Monster’s little monster – iClarityHD.

Everything is in HD these days. Kinda like when Tubo not just meant a mechanical component in cars to increase boost for more go.. anything Turbo’d meant it was just that much cooler. Now its HD sunglasses instead of Turbo sunglasses from the 80’s. Since TV’s went HD, the world has in a silly sort of fashion followed suit. And so, with no surprise a brand ubiquitous for overpriced and overhyped products should come out with a little bluetooth speaker laughably named the iClarityHD. Monster went even so far as to throw in the alphabet “i” in there to appeal to the isheep crowd. Just how gullible do they think people are?

What its touted to be, is a “high definition Bluetooth stereo speaker with built in mic for hands free calling.”, all in a package that fits in the palm of your hand. Big sound, small size, great versatility… apparently.

Theres always that occasion for the need to have portable audio of better quality than what my mobile device or netbook s tinny output can provide, and small packs better, taking up less space and wireless was the next logical upgrade from my wired, and tired creative travel sound 200 portable speaker. (used as a reference here)

First off, while theres nothing wrong with the packaging, theres a couple of things wrong in the description. Even if it did support the highest possible definition codec for bluetooth,  high quality audio will be lost on tiny drivers in a even more impossibly small enclosure. And stereo? Are you kidding me? Unless you’re a gnat squarely centered between the two micro drivers, there is no stereo separation to speak of. Even if you get close enough until you squint,.. no stereo. The  drivers are simple too close together. This is a rule. Unless there is separation between the drivers, stereo is pretty much inappreciable. Most everything you see sitting on store shelves with two speakers crammed into one enclosure will not have any appreciable stereo effect even from 5 feet away. Stereo doesn’t work that way.

What i got out of the box, is a small well built pastic block with contoured edges with some buttons on its side, two micro drivers and something that resembles a passive radiator up top. I didnt have much expectations truth be said but It felt well built and had reassuring heft. Always a good sign. It comes bundled with a nifty carrying case as well. The instructions are straight forward and i had no problems pairing it with my android powered HTC Evo 4g and Sony Xperia. Being a card carrying Applephobe, i didnt have anything applish to try pairing it too. The apples in the refrigerator were decidedly uncooperative.

After giving it a full charge, (it will work just fine while its charging) I powered the little sucker up to see what it could do. I played a few tunes using Audiogalaxy on my HTC Evo to stream from my media server outside on the patio and gave it a listen.. and listened, and came to the conclusion that the “HD” in its name must be for optimizing the little speaker for the reproduction of vocals. Vocals came across remarkable clearly… and this was outside, with the usual outside noises filling in the background. The iClarityHD sounds decidedly peaky, and nothing of the lower audio spectrum is reproduced, well it is tiny after all. But to its credit it sounds remarkable full for its size, and boy does this thing get loud. And i mean loud without really distorting. An active digital sound processor tailors the audio to what the speaker can handle while cranking the volume up. It works all right. A passive radiator also adds a little ommph to the mid bass, if i can even call it that.

Overall the presentation is definitely a notch above  what i had expected something so small to sound like. What ever voodoo Monster built into it was certainly doing its magic. Vocals came across clear and loud, and the music was, while overly bright, still engaging enough for me to tap my foot to. For a bluetooth speaker this size… where portability is the primary concern, it does pretty darned well for itself.

The speakerphone aspect of the iClarityHD fared well. It auto connected every time and sound quality of a call in progress was no less or worse than my other bluetooth speaker, the BlueAnt Supertooth. I was heard and i could hear reasonably well. The Supertooth though,  does do better in a noisy environment with its aggressive noise cancelling. All the buttons did what it was supposed to just fine.

Creative Travel Sound 200. Have batteries will travel.

Compared to my trusty wired Creative travel sound 200, the iCreativeHD certainly does get louder with more semblance of “bass”. The Creative scores points by having a gimmicky but entertaining surround wide effect that gives the illusion that the sound is more dispersed. The fact that is runs off four AAA batteries means it has survived the last eight years pretty well and I don’t expect to see it give up on me unless something electronic fails. Between the two i personally prefer the output of the Creative Travel Sound 200 just a little bit better, but the convenience of having a wireless bluetooth connection more than makes up for it. Nothing quite like having control over my tunes in my pocket while the iClarityHD belts them out. In a hotel room, boardroom table or on the patio the iClarityHD serves it out loud and clear.

In my opinion, the iClarityHD is  not worth Monsters asking price of a hundred bucks. Fortunately, as it turns out, the iClarityHD frequently goes on sale for about $50 on Amazon.com and other online retailers which then, makes it great value. It is a remarkable little thing for what it can do in such a compact package and really has no need to hide behind the silly HD moniker or crave Applenistas approval by tacking on an “i” to the front of  it. Its downright demeaning is what it is…

Soundfreaq Sound Kick.

For the MSRP of the iClarityHD, Soundfreaqs $100 slightly larger sound kick would soundly kick the iClarityHDs plastic patootie across the room. Its better in every way and easily worth twice as much. The size difference makes as much difference as no difference. Like my old trusty Travel Sound 200, it folds compactly flat for storage.

There we have it,.. if you have a hundred bucks to spend on a bluetooth speaker, the Sound Kick is money well spent. If you really want something thats smaller and about as half as good, grab the iClarityHd when it goes on sale. Monster.., as always, overpriced. Theres a gem here in the form of Monsters iClarityHD, stupid name aside, but only if on sale for not more than fifty bucks.

– asmd.

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