Review: Portable Sound Laboratories iMainGo for Your iPod

Review: Portable Sound Laboratories iMainGo for Your iPod 1

We won’t claim to be excited by the latest iPod speaker genre – the hybrid iPod case and speaker combination – but since there are now multiple options out there, we’re doing brief comparative reviews for the three most prominent products: iHome’s iH19 ($70), Kensington’s FX 300 ($30), and Portable Sound Laboratories’ iMainGo ($70).

iMainGo

Of the three options, iMainGo could have been the best compromise overall, but its actual implementation left something to be desired. It combines the best features of iH19 – dual speakers and iPod control – with the smaller profile and AAA batteries (here, four, for a promised 30 hours of run time) of the FX 300. Unfortunately, its sound quality left a lot to be desired.

 

iMainGo

iMainGo’s single best feature is its approach to iPod control access. Rather than sealing the iPod inside and precluding your view of its screen or Click Wheel, like iH19 or FX 300, iMainGo provides a clear plastic rear window with full access to both items. Consequently, the case can be entirely zippered shut, yet still allow you to select any song in your iPod’s library – the correct way to let people enjoy their full-sized iPods and nanos on the go. Plastic and foam inserts are included to let the case’s simple iPod bracket system keep various models in place, and though the clear window clips a little of the 5G’s top corners, you get enough screen and Click Wheel access to use any model’s menus without a problem.

 

iMainGo

The case also includes a simple fabric carrying strap, which is durable enough to be hand-held, and a single zipper that shuts the entire unit when in use. A three-position switch inside toggles between “off,” “music,” and “alarm” modes, the “music” button a full-time on position, and the “alarm” button a low-powered way to have the unit turn on automatically when audio is sensed from the iPod. Alarm’s auto power-on lags about five seconds behind the iPod’s actual start of music playback, but can be used with the iPod’s integrated alarm feature if you desire, assuming that you don’t mind compromising either seeing the iPod’s screen, or having the speakers pointed at you when the alarm goes off.

 

iMainGo

Our biggest issue with iMainGo was its sound quality. Contrary to what was claimed by a viral marketer who posted a comment on this product, the $70 iMainGo is nothing close to the same-priced iHome iH19 in audio. When set to the 90% level of our test 5G iPod’s volume scale, our review unit’s left speaker shut off entirely, requiring that the power be switched off and on to restore functionality, while its right speaker distorted very audibly, together suggesting some amplification issue that should have been fixed before shipment. At above-average volumes, there’s also noticeable mid-bass and bass distortion – more so than in the much cheaper FX 300, which doesn’t try as hard, but doesn’t strain as much. But on the other hand, when iMainGo fully works, namely at low to average volume levels, it sounds richer and livelier than FX 300, which thanks to its flat-panel, monaural sound is flatter and less detailed.

Overall, for the dollar, iMainGo feels like a speaker that underperforms on sound quality relative to its expectations, and packs far fewer frills and benefits than iHome’s iH19. Though it has one very strong advantage over the FX 300 – the clear rear panel for iPod screen and control access – plus superior battery life, thanks to additional AAA batteries, few will find these features worthy of a premium of $40 over Kensington’s price, especially given the issues with its speaker and amplification performance. In our view, the best implementations of the speaker case concept are yet to come; iMainGo points the way better than most, but executes a bit less impressively, as well.

Our Rating

C+
Average

Company and Price

Company: Portable Sound Laboratories

Website: www.iMainGo.com

Model: iMainGo

Price: $70

Compatible: All iPods

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11 comments
  1. I don’t know what sounds you were listening to Jeremy, but this is by far the best sound I have heard from a portable stereo (I wouldn’t call the iH19 portable!).

    I purchased one of these yesterday after reading your reviews and it by far out performs the FX300 (see my comments after I ditched it). If it had an AC adaptor and rechargable batteries it would be perfect.

    I also stuck my mates Gigabeat in it and it just rocks as well, including the radio!

  2. I bought this speaker system today, for travelling, and I am very impressed by it. Most of what I listen to is podcasts and audiobooks, and they sound great. The few songs I have tested sound fine too. Perfect for a hotel room or office and small enough to take up very little space in my suitcase, unlike the other two travel speakers I have tried before – the SonicLogic i-Fusion and the Logic3 iStation, the power bricks for both of which take up way too much space.

    I was very nervous about the speakers when I first saw that they work through the headphone jack rather than the dock connector, but my concerns were unfounded.

    This one looks to be a keeper!

  3. I got one today and the sound that comes out of this Imaingo is amazing. The unit is very well built and looks great. I tried it with a variety of music from jazz to hip hop , i mean the thing cranks , nice bass even outdoors. Maybe a tiny bit of distortion but maybe your ipod had the limit to high on the volume in the settings menu. even the headpohones that come with an ipod distort at the highest limit. Everyone i have shown it to says the sme thing. Where can i get one.!!!

  4. I experienced to same bass distortion problems. I just experimented with the equalizer setting on ipod til i found a solution. I put equalizer on bass reducer and this solved the problem. You still hear plenty of bass. I also was disappointed in the volume output. Outdoors imaingo isn’t loud enough. To solve this problem i used and application called ivolume only for Mac OS X found at http://www.mani.de. I raised the perceived loudness of my music from 92 dB to the max 100dB. Now the volume output is much higher. I listen to the imaingo in a room 20′ x 15′. i place it on a bookshelf about 5′ from the floor. I can truly hear how incredible this little speaker sounds. If you are looking for a portable speaker which sounds great and is very well made, you must buy imaingo.

  5. I forgot to mention, ivolume does what soundcheck in itunes is supposed to do… make all your music play at same volume level. I use to hate it when i had to adjust volume on some songs because they were too low..

  6. While I like the alarm function, they forget that many people also like to fall asleep to music. I set my ipod to go off after 30 minutes, but the maingo speaker does not shut off, and even though you are not hearing any sound, the battery drains overnight. I used this two nights in a row, only 30 minutes each night actual listening time with the ipod ‘sleep timer’, and the batteries were drained! (that’s one hour of play time and 16 hours of wasted time as the speaker is still on while you sleep) Why can’t they incorporate a ‘sleep function in these things? This would not be a problem if there was an ac adaptor option. Also, tripe a batteries are hard to find, and hard to buy cheaply.

    – another small negative is that while the ipod is accesible through the clear plastic, it’s not very accessible. I have a 40 gig version with the click wheel and the 4 smaller buttons above it. Forget about accessing the smaller buttons through the plastic screen as it’s too thick. Most of the time I’m exerting tremendous pressure on the plastic and the buttons are still not responding. If you have an ipod that is only ‘click wheel’, it probably works better.

    – I don’t know if you can get 30 hours on a battery. I’ve been using rechargeable NIcad triple A’s, rated at 800 ma. This gives you about 15 hours play time. Alkaline batteries may give you a bit more.

    – other than these gripes, the sound was very good, even at high volumes and I had no distorion problems. Bass was fine. You can hear the stereo seperation quite well, which is surprising considering how close the speakers are to each other. The unit is so small I can even prop it behind my pillow at night and get the full stereo sound while I go to sleep, and you don’t even notice that it’s there.

  7. Update to above post: I just talked to maingo direct, and they told me that if you leave the maingo on ‘alarm’ setting all the time, it will power on 15 seconds after you turn on the ipod, and will power off when the ipod goes off. So my previous complaint about having it drain battery all night is now VOID. 🙂

    I also found out it’s very easy to make your own ac adaptor for this, but they will incorporate it in a future model

    – The best rechargeable triple A’s can be found at hobby stores or by searching a real battery retailer. I was not aware that there were any over 900 ma, but maingo told me that you can now buy them at least as high as 1600 ma! Excellent. I am now a satisfied customer.

  8. There are some SERIOUS design flaws in this product:

    1) There is no way to recharge the batteries
    2) The iPod must be removed to recharge it, using a flimsy velcro strap a cheap plastic shims
    3) The power switch is concealed inside the unit
    4) connects via headphones jack, not docking plug

    If you need a portable iPod speaker system, look around. This one is overpriced for the features and there’s better options available.

    Recommended:
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