Best for: cheapskates
Worst for: rockers, audiophiles
MONSTER'S BLUETOOTH STRATEGY seems to focus on undercutting its competitors. Although the iClarity HD lists for $119, it’s available at a much deeper discount than the other products I tested; I found it on Amazon.com for $75. At just 4.4 inches wide, it’s quite compact. There’s no denying, though, that the iClarity HD’s plastic chassis lacks the cachet of the chi-chi Jambox.
Judging from the spec sheet, you’d conclude that the iClarity HD’s guts are kind of the same as the Jambox’s. The iClarity HD has two 1.5-inch drivers and a top-mounted passive radiator for bass reinforcement. An on/off switch is on the back, and the right side has buttons for power, speakerphone, and volume up/down. Unfortunately, you have to hold the power button down for 4 seconds to turn the unit on or off.
I found the iClarity perfectly fine for streaming the Guitar Jazz channel from JazzRadio.com in the background while I was working, and for listening to talk shows such as NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” It has no bass at all, but there’s an upside to that — freed of the need to play deep, it can play about 6 dB louder than the Jambox and 3 dB louder than the Soundmatters FoxL v2, and its battery ran about four times as long. Listeners on the other end of the line reported that my voice sounded nice and clear, indicating that the iClarity has a pretty decent built-in mike. But there’s not much detail, the treble and midrange sound harsh, and the overall balance is rather thin.
Need a portable speaker system to play background music or talk shows — or something that runs for 2 full workdays without a recharge? The iClarity HD is your baby. Need more? Go elsewhere.
Wouldn’t you know that the unit with the weakest subjective performance delivers the flattest frequency response? This is partly because the iClarity HD’s drivers are close together and don’t interfere much with each other, and also because they have pretty good dispersion. It actually measures like a halfway-decent conventional speaker. This unit might sound a lot better if Monster had rolled off the treble to provide a psychoacoustic balance for the unit’s nonexistent bass response.
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