Review: Kubxlab Ampjacket for iPad mini, iPhone 5 + iPod touch 5G
The name and general style are the same, but Kubxlab's Ampjacket for iPad mini ($40), iPhone 5 ($30), and iPod touch 5G ($25) are definitely three distinct cases with surprising differences. Each is designed to do the same thing: boost the audio output of your device through a passive audio amplification system, with the company claiming enhancements to volume and clarity.
Ampjacket for iPad mini is a single piece of semi-soft TPU, coming in your choice of matte-finished grey, black, or white. The playthrough-style case easily wraps around the body of the tablet, snapping over the edges to form a good hold. There’s no button protection of any sort, but Kubxlab did position and size each of the case’s openings well. Not only are they centered, but the headphone and Lightning port holes are big enough to accommodate oversized plugs without issue. The left edge is open, allowing for Smart Cover-compatibility.
The amplification system on the back of the case adds significant thickness, while diminishing the amount of protection Ampjacket offers. Two raised columns extend all the way from the speakers to the top of the case. They’re interrupted by an unnecessary circular opening for the Apple logo, and there’s a ravine between them that can hold the Smart Cover for an alternate viewing angle. On either side, a fan-shaped wedge of aluminum is exposed; this is where the redirected audio is released. More of the iPad mini’s metal is exposed than seems necessary.
Kubxlab’s iPhone 5 case is quite different form the tablet version. Instead of TPU, it’s made of hard plastic with a soft touch finish, with red, orange, green, blue, and pink models added to the mix. It snaps onto the phone without providing any real protective lip, and is also missing button coverage. Along the bottom, a single opening exposes the headphone port, microphone, and Lightning port, while the speaker is covered by an extended segment of plastic.
Instead of two distinct columns, the plastic is raised in an X shape with one central column. Like the iPad mini version, openings on either side port the audio. There are also small scoops at the top and bottom of the case.
Strangely, the iPod touch Ampjacket is an amalgamation of the other two versions. It looks like the iPhone model, but is made of TPU like the iPad mini version—a better material choice. Button coverage is still absent, but the lip is more pronounced. Other than separate openings for the Lightning and headphone ports, and the removal of the small scoop at the top, the back looks the same as it does with the iPhone.
Without a doubt, all three Ampjackets make their respective devices significantly louder. An iPod touch inside an Ampjacket becomes as loud as a bare iPad mini; the iPhone 5 becomes louder than the iPad mini or full-sized iPad, and the iPad mini becomes noticeably louder than a full-sized iPad. The iPhone 5 and iPad mini peak volumes are actually painfully loud for near-distance listening. Audio quality sounds similar to the unassisted speakers, but somewhat channeled, as if listening through a tunnel; however, we didn’t find any evidence of the enhanced audio clarity Kubxlab promises.
Yes, Ampjacket does its job. It makes the audio coming out of your iPad mini, iPhone 5, or iPod touch 5G significantly louder without requiring any electronic components. The openings on the back of each are less questionable than they would be on flat cases, as there’s enough raised material to protect the exposed aluminum in the event of a drop. Ultimately, though, we have to question just who these cases will appeal to. Who wants to carry around a bulging iPhone or iPod in their pocket, just to play their music a little more loudly? If that’s you, then you’ll appreciate what these cases have to offer, making the iPad mini and iPod touch versions worthy of a limited recommendation. The iPhone 5 model falls just short of that, due to the choice of less shock absorbent, more difficult to remove material.