Review: Macally IceTune Speakers
Pros: The least expensive dockable iPod speaker system yet sold, with two fully detachable speakers that can be moved around as you desire. Great style and cool blue light ring when powered on.
Cons: Sound quality isn’t great by comparison with more expensive speakers; missing pass-through Dock Connector of Altec iM series for computer synchronization.
If the ultimate measure of iPod-matching speakers was sound quality, there would be only one option at a given point in time, and everyone would buy it. But there are other considerations, including pricing, style, portability, and features, and for that reason, many different speaker systems are popular.
Several speaker systems we’ve reviewed fall into the same portability class: Bose’s SoundDock, JBL’s On Stage, Elecom’s ASP-700is, and Tivoli’s iPAL are all options we call “quasi-portable” - you can’t toss them into a briefcase and unfold them on a plane, but you could move any of them from room to room of your house without a hassle. As the lowest-priced system of the bunch, Macally’s new IceTune ($69.99) now joins these options, offering a uniquely attractive combination of features, style, and pricing. In fact, it’s the cheapest speaker system yet to include an iPod dock, and thanks to interchangeable sizer plates, the dock’s physically compatible with all mini, 3G, 4G and photo iPods.
IceTune separates its dock from its two speakers so that you can stack and rearrange them to your heart’s content: each of the pieces uses a hexagonal bottom mold that locks in to the other parts, so you can put one speaker on top of the other, and then the dock on top of one of the speakers, creating an iPod totem pole. Or spread the speakers far apart for wide stereo separation and put the dock between them. And so on.
An AC adapter is included to power the system, and when you depress the power button, a blue ring of neon-like light glows beneath the dock - a great effect. And you can even plug an external device, such as an iPod shuffle, into an auxiliary port in the unit’s side. From the standpoint of features, all that’s missing is a compartment for battery power and a Dock Connector to pass-through to your computer, both as found in most of Altec’s inMotion speakers.
Combined with the speakers’ malleability, their style is their most appealing aspect. Made with iPod-matching white glossy plastic save for their metal speaker grilles, IceTune is a study in attractive design - another unique riff on Apple’s curvy iPod aesthetic. Their round shapes are mirrored by a round power button and a round volume knob. Visually, we really like what Macally came up with.
With so much to like, IceTune’s flaws are a bit unfortunate*. Though we found that the speakers properly charged all of our test iPods without any incident, the unit’s power cable didn’t hold steady in its rear casing if we applied the slightest bit of pressure, and we had to re-plug it in every time we made an adjustment to the dock’s location. On a positive note, after publication of this review, Macally contacted us to let us know that the power adapter has been replaced in shipping units, and will not be an issue in ones that customers will receive.
We were also iffy on the system’s sound, and found it good only for the price. On the bright side, the volume’s enough to fill a medium-sized room, though distortion is evident at higher levels. But different listeners will come to varying conclusions about the quality and balance of the sound. It’s unquestionably on the treble-heavy (read: somewhat tinny) side, contrasting with the bass-heavy sound of systems like Altec’s inMotion series, and of roughly equal clarity - so-so. If you like bass-heavy music, the IceTunes probably aren’t right for you, but if not, you’ll probably be content with them. Picky listeners should consider spending extra money and looking at our A-rated options.
A Word on Made For iPod
The IceTune speakers are the first iPod accessories we know of to ship with Apple’s Made for iPod certification, a badge on the packaging that insures that the hardware (a) includes Apple-authorized parts, (b) has been tested by the manufacturer, and (c) is electronically safe to use with your Dock Connector-equipped iPod. However, the Made for iPod badge is not a guarantee of overall product quality, and appears to serve only as a minimal guarantee of electronic safety. As such, it has no bearing on our rating, but we mention it and point to our Made For iPod information page for those readers who may be interested in knowing more about the label and program.
Overall, the IceTunes are a nice low-cost addition to the quasi-portable class of iPod-matching speakers. If you’re looking for an iPod docking speaker system and are more concerned about price than audio quality, you’ll find a lot to like about the IceTune package. Step up $100 or so and you’ll find JBL’s On Stage a better option; look to JBL’s Creatures if you want a comparably priced but physically much larger and better sounding option minus a dock.
When size, features, and style are taken into account, Macally has a solid package on its hands, and one that we’d expect will be especially popular with younger buyers. Since our review rankings favor audio quality over style, we were on the edge of B+ and B ratings for the IceTunes, but concluded that they rate a B+ given their price level and size. Mark them up to an A- if you’re as impressed with the look as we were, and don’t mind treble-heavy sound.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.