Tomorrow’s Speakers Today, Part 2: IceTune

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We’ve seen plenty of iPod-matching speakers, but none of them has been stylish enough to just floor us. Macally’s IceTune is the exception – one of those “wow” concepts that drops jaws and makes people ask the standard salivatory questions: “where did you get those?”, “how much are they?”, and “how do they sound?”

Answers: Macally’s selling them to stores all over the place, they retail for $69.99 (or $55 and up if you shop around), and they sound good – so long as you’re not looking for any thump in your music. They’re stronger in the treble and midrange departments than the bass, the latter fact a bit surprising given the size of their speaker chambers and the bass-heavy performance of Altec’s substantially smaller iM4 drivers. However, as with all the speakers we test, we asked a less critical listener to render a comparative opinion on the IceTunes versus another pair of speakers – in this case the iM4s – and the IceTunes won out. Considering how inexpensive the IceTunes can be, that’s saying something.

But that said, they’re entirely different pairs of speakers. IceTunes aren’t portable – you only plug them into a wall – but they’re a truly wicked idea. Stack them up for a wall of sound or spread them out for true stereo separation. Dock and recharge any Dock Connector iPod on top of them, or alongside them. There’s a line-in for iPod shuffles and non-iPod audio devices, too. And did we mention the glowing blue ring that turns on when you hit the power button? We’ll say it again: jaw-dropping design.

Our review unit has one and only one issue: the AC power connection to the dock is way too loose, and assuming it’s like that in other units, desperately needs to be stabilized or used someplace where you’re not tugging or moving around the dock too much. It’s a minor and annoying problem in an otherwise smart little package. If Macally produced a $120 version with better sound quality and a remote control, we think they would wreak havoc on the iPod speaker market. As-is, we think these are going to do some major damage on the low end.

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