Review: Ten One Design SoundClip Passive Sound Enhancer for iPhone 3G
While we don't feel completely comfortable offering praise for what must be acknowledged up front as a tiny $8 piece of plastic -- one that you'll need to remove from your iPhone 3G as often as you attach it -- there's no way that we can ignore the legitimate value offered by Ten One Design's SoundClip ($8). While its price is at least a few bucks too high given how simple it is, and what it does, SoundClip is one of the rare accessories we'd describe as useful enough to recommend to iPhone 3G game fans.
The idea is simple: Apple’s recessed iPhone 3G bottom speaker is extremely easy to cover with a finger during gameplay. Attach the black glossy plastic SoundClip to the iPhone’s Dock Connector port and it adds a little “passive sound enhancer”—read: a molded plastic cup—to the device’s bottom. All of the sudden, no matter how hard you try or where your fingers wind up, you won’t muffle audio that comes out of the 3G’s speaker. Even covering the cup that now sits slightly below the speaker won’t block the audio; it seems that once it’s in the cup, it’s there to be heard. And SoundClip is not easy to accidentally dislodge, either.
To be clear about one thing, Ten One Design’s web site claims that SoundClip lets you “increase the clarity and volume for movies and music,” but in truth, the amplification provided is modest and limited solely to treble, bumping up the treble in a song just enough to regain a little of what it loses to the bassy iPhone 3G speaker. In many songs, the result will be slightly sharpened high-frequency beats, such as cymbals, but you shouldn’t consider a purchase if you’re expecting radical sound enhancement. You might well hear no difference if you don’t know what you’re listening for.
From our perspective, the only issues with SoundClip relate to its storage, pricing, and aesthetics. Having to take it off the iPhone every time you want to recharge or sync is a non-trivial concern, and the fact that such a small part is being detached increases its risk of loss. Ten One has molded an Apple cable-sized groove into the back of the plastic cup to hold SoundClip to the sync and charge cable, but given the variety of charger types out there, there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually take the time to attach this to anything. If you lose it, you’ll be out $8—more than we’d pay for such a thing. Additionally, as SoundClip is sold only in black, it’s worth noting that users of white iPhones might prefer a second color option.
Regardless of these factors, and the minimal benefit it offers under some circumstances, there’s no doubt that SoundClip’s utility for gamers—and others who hand-hold their iPhones rather than laying them on flat surfaces—is legitimate. Like the second-generation iPod touch, there’s real value in being able to play games with guaranteed audio directly from the iPhone 3G rather than needing to wear headphones; the only question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether the benefit is worth $8 to you.