Review: Memorex iMove Mi3005 Boombox with Remote Control
Pros: An iPod boom box with an integrated charging dock, LCD screen, and included remote control, capable of delivering acceptable sound quality for its price level at low or high volumes. Available in white and black versions, each with integrated carrying handle and dock adapters. Runs off of included wall adapter or eight D batteries. Superior to prior sub-$100 iPod boom box we’ve tested, and entirely adequate for iPod-only listening, especially outdoors.
Cons: Little iPod protection and other “frills” of competing boom boxes. Audio quality is not groundbreaking for the dollar. LCD screen is hard to view at greater distances or off-direct-center angles. Built-in FM radio tuner is mediocre and AM radio tuner is awful, rendering system inadequate for heavy radio users.
The sub-$100 iPod boom box market - read: at least two-speaker systems with integrated carrying handles and iPod docks - doesn’t have a lot of competition these days: DLO’s $150 iBoom (iLounge rating: D) has fallen in price to under $100, but other options, such as iHome’s iH30 (iLounge rating: B) and MTX Audio’s iThunder (iLounge rating: B) sell for $150-200, and we have yet to hear iLuv’s i552, which sells for $120. So when we say that Memorex’s new iMove Mi3005 Boombox with Remote Control ($100) is the best boombox we’ve tested for $100 or less, that doesn’t mean much, and won’t until this market segment has more options. In other words, Mi3005 is a generally competent speaker offering, but has some issues you’ll want to know about.
It’s worth noting up front that producers of big-speakered $100 enclosures generally have different goals from those making small-speakered ones at the same price: unlike JBL’s sub-$100, briefcase-ready On Tour, for instance, which lacks several of this product’s key features, iMove and its brethren are generally supposed to deliver loud, deep sound that can be enjoyed outdoors, FM radio reception, and a quality iPod interface of some sort. iMove does that much and more.
Both of Memorex’s units - the Mi3005 in white, and Mi3005-BLK in black - are one-piece glossy plastic enclosures, and include a small, generally readable near-white backlit LCD screen below a centrally mounted iPod dock, a 12W amplifier, a chromed radio antenna, and integrated left- and right-channel speakers hidden behind a large, unified metal speaker grille. At 15.7” wide by 7.9” tall and 6.0” deep, the enclosure is only an inch narrower than Altec Lansing’s popular, $250 MSRP inMotion iM7 (iLounge rating: A-), but the designs look and feel very different: iM7 is like a heavy tube, while iMove feels and looks like a lighter, triangular pipe. Both can run off of wall power or eight D batteries, though it’s clear from name and weight that iMove is meant to be carried around, while iM7 is best as a sleek, stationary home audio system.
From an audio standpoint, the Mi3005 is appropriately equipped for the price, neither especially impressive or bad as boom boxes go. Unlike the iBooms we’ve tested, it had no blatant technical flaws: its volume control worked properly, digitally adjusting its volume to a whisper at level 1 and a room-filling roar at peak level 16, and serving properly as a listenable speaker system at each step along the way. Predictably, the system isn’t a superstar on detail in any part of the audio spectrum, and distortion becomes increasingly evident as it reaches its top volume. Similarly, its left and right speakers are properly separated, but fairly flat on staging, and there’s no evidence of the “SRS Wow technology sound enhancement” mentioned by Memorex in the system’s marketing - no on/off button, and no “wow” factor when you’re hearing the music.
Some of the frills associated with newer iPod boom box-style designs are missing from the Mi3005. Rather than using a partially or fully internal dock like iHome’s iH30 or MTX’s iThunder, iMove’s dock is exposed on the unit’s front. Interchangeable cradle sizers cover only the iPod’s bottom from under its Click Wheel to below its Dock Connector, leaving its sides and top entirely exposed, somewhat similar to DLO’s dock design for iBoom. Memorex includes simple plastic adapters for 8 different sizes of iPods, but doesn’t include extras such as iHome’s surprising car charger cable or iPod shuffle dock: if you want to connect a shuffle or older iPod, you’ll need to supply your own auxiliary input cable, and connect it to iMove’s back. Headphones (or another audio source) can also be connected to iMove via an output port near the auxiliary input.
Mi3005 does have a few things that its competitors lack. The big surprise of the under-$100 package was a belt clipped remote control, which is identical to the one Memorex shipped with its iWake alarm clock (iLounge rating: B), providing track, play/pause, volume, power, mode, and radio preset access from a distance. In our testing, the remote reliably reached the speakers’ light sensor from a distance of a little over 20 feet without fluorescent interference, or 10 feet with interference - not spectacular, but better for sure than iBoom and more expensive boom boxes, which don’t include remotes at all.
Less of a surprise was an integrated AM/FM radio tuner - AM wasn’t included in DLO iBoom or iHome’s iH30 - though iMove’s AM performance suggests why: its tuning of all but the most powerful local stations indoors or outdoors was similar to hearing white noise speaker test tones, mostly static, and in a word, awful. FM reception is a bit better, but nowhere near as clean or well-filtered as what we’ve heard from our favorite radio receivers - stations came in, but with lots of noise. Our biggest positive on this topic is that the Mi3005’s tuning is easily accomplished through buttons on the system’s face or remote control, as are FM to AM and iPod transitions, all indicated on the unit’s LCD screen. The only issue with the LCD is similar to one we experienced with Memorex’s iWake alarm clock - though its digits are medium-sized, iMove’s angled screen is hard to see from a ten-foot distance, especially if you’re looking at it from the wrong height. It’s maximized for near-distance viewing.
Ultimately, we had a difficult time choosing an appropriate rating for the iMove Mi3005: considering its portability, remote control, and inoffensive audio, it is surely a good enough iPod boom box to satisfy, if not thrill people with only $100 to spend on an indoor/outdoor speaker. These factors weighed in favor of our standard B rating. But by the same token, its mediocre FM and terrible AM radio performance will disappoint anyone hoping for over-the-air performance rivalling that of the integrated iPod dock, factors weighing in favor of a C or lower rating. Our limited recommendation and final grade of B- are meant to state the following: if low pricing and iPod use on the go are your most important considerations, the iMove Mi3005 should be on your short list of iPod boom box picks, but if radio reception, audio quality or overall protectivity are your goals, you should probably consider other options instead.