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AudioGlove's Smart Design Makes iPhone Speakers Scream

AudioGlove's Smart Design Makes iPhone Speakers Scream

The iPhone's tiny built-in mic doesn't exactly thunder with sound, and its microphone doesn't always make for a great speakerphone experience. AudioGlove is a case with a slide-out chamber that adds an acoustic boost to mic and speaker performance. Don't expect earth-shattering bass all of a sudden, but it does give the phone's sound power a good kick.

If you're like me, you're not impressed with the Apple's ability to create a decent speakerphone experience on any of its iPhone models. At the same time, occasionally you want to watch a video or listen to music on your iPhone and all you really have is the tiny built-in speaker. Maybe you don't have headphones, or maybe they aren't applicable at the moment in time you want to play something. Of course, you and I would be idiots to expect a loud music or video experience out of a tiny built-in speaker, but that's not to say we wouldn't appreciate a bit more volume now and then.

Audioglove
AudioGlove

Enter the AudioGlove case by Audio Design Innovation. It's part case and part acoustic amplifier.

On more than one occasion, I've found myself cupping my hand behind the speaker on my iPhone 4 trying to reflect some sound waves back to myself. The AudioGlove case works on a similar principle. Fortunately, it doesn't look like a big ear cupped around the base of your iPhone. Instead, the case slides open when you need it and closed when you don't.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Audio Design Innovation says that this case is an acoustically engineered retractable waveguide chamber that naturally amplifies the sound coming to and from the iPhone. Apparently this is a patented "Natural Sound Amplification" technology.

To me, it looks a lot simpler than that. It's a case that slides open, and because it's a polycarbonate case with an external structure that fits the iPhone 4, the engineering seems to be a lot more about how the case slides rather than the chamber itself. I was expecting a curvier, more rounded chamber, but in order to create that, you would need extra material around the base of the iPhone, making the case bigger and bulkier than most people would want. Hence something that looks like the bottom of a case that pops open.

Still, there appears to be empirical evidence that the case works: According to Audio Design Innovation, the Natural Sound Amplification technology has been independently tested and verified by acoustic engineers at Dolby Laboratories, who found that it increases volume by over 10 decibels (about 20 percent) and enhances tonality for a warmer, richer sound. Plus, it improves the performance of the microphone and helps block background noise and wind.

How Does It Work?

Pretty well, actually -- though I must admit my expectations were higher than what I noticed in actual usage. I was looking for a dramatic boost, which was out of line with the realities of physics. So I started testing it. With songs and TV shows, it did seem to increase the volume of the sound, making it a bit easier to hear, though it's not enough of a boost to make you feel like busting out dances moves in a hotel room. And it seemed to make TV-show conversations between the characters a bit easier to discern. As for a car explosion, I detected no difference, just big fuzzy noise coming from a tiny speaker.

As for using my iPhone 4 as a speakerphone, I do believe it gave me a bit more quality sound that was easier to discern when other people were talking. While I don't recommended trying to use an iPhone on speakerphone while walking a street -- due to an urge to throw the thing into the gutter -- AudioGlove seems to make it a bit easier to hear people talking to you.

On the other end of a call, the results appeared less noticeable to the friends and family I spoke to -- who were bewildered by my questions about call volume and their ability to understand me as I moved the iPhone around my head and walked next to noisy things like fans. I'm sure I could be rigorous here and set them up properly with a series of controlled tests, but seriously, I'm a consumer, not an engineer. The thing either makes a real difference or it doesn't.

So where does the AudioGlove fall under that real-world criteria? It works, and I think a 20 percent improvement is a fair assessment -- it's like the difference between having five really small cookies for a snack and adding just one more little cookie.

A Solid Case

Of course, the whole greatness of the AudioGlove is its ability to easily do two things: amplify your speaker and mic response when you need it and be a case too. As a case, it seems durable enough, as well as solidly manufactured with nice clean lines. With a screen protector on my iPhone 4, I had to pay attention as I slid the iPhone into the top part of the case, but once in, it was snug and fine.

The bottom slider rubs only on the top portion of the case so it's not scratching the back of your iPhone. Smart design there. The sliding mechanism feels solid in action, and it actually has a satisfactory clunk sound when it hits the end spot of its travel. If you're on the go -- say, walking in a public place -- you can talk on the iPhone with the slider down, normally, with the phone to your ear, and the acoustic chamber should also make it easier to direct your voice to the mic. Of course, if you're a heavy breather, the chamber will just make that worse.

One last thing: How do you plug in your iPhone with this case if there's a chamber at the bottom? There's a U-shaped cut in the bottom that accepts the cord and gives you room to plug in and charge your phone without bending the cord.

All in all, if a 20 percent improvement sounds reasonable to you, the AudioGlove is an easy recommendation.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.


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