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iPod Accessory Reviews: speakers

i.Sound Plasma

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Reviewed June 2007 by Jacob Spindel, Chief iPod Correspondent

Pod speaker docks seem like they have reached a point where they can best described not by a paragraph, but rather by a checklist: syncing capability, check; remote control, no check. Rare is the dock feature that can actually make an iPod veteran exclaim, “Whoa! That’s different!” The i.Sound Plasma from DreamGear features a rounded base with powerful speakers for listening to your favorite tunes. On top of that is a plasma globe that puts on an electromagnetic lightshow. Whoa, that’s different.

i.Sound Plasma speaker system for iPod

Plasma Player

The base of the i.Sound Plasma is cylindrical in shape, with a diameter of about 9.5 inches and a height of 6.0 inches. The base contains the unit’s four speakers and is also the location of the device’s power and volume buttons, as well as the audio input. A large glass globe attaches to the top of the i.Sound Plasma to provide its signature lightshow, giving the device a total weight of about 4.1 lbs.

DreamGear does include non-electronic stands for you to place your iPod in, but it doesn’t have any actual Docking capability, so it can’t sync, charge, or control an iPod (or any other device). However, this also means that it is equally compatible with all standard audio devices. Overall, I found the audio quality of the i.Sound Plasma to be pleasantly surprising:

Bass: The i.Sound Plasma is a rather large device as far as speaker docks go, which gives it a strong advantage in the bass department. The bass tones of the music types I tested were played strongly and well emphasized. 5.0/5.0

Treble: Considering how strong the bass is, I almost expected the higher tones to be somewhat washed out in comparison, but the device’s treble range is also impressively powerful. 4.5/5.0

Clarity: Although there is really nothing extraordinary about audio clarity from the i.Sound Plasma, it is still more than enough to be able to use it for podcasts and various other types of audio without any of them becoming unusually difficult to understand. 4.0/5.0

Volume: The i.Sound Plasma can be adjusted anywhere from very quiet to VERY loud, so it scores well in terms of sheer volume capability, although I would soon discover that this also has a correlation with one of the device’s biggest flaws. 5.0/5.0

Plasmania!

Okay, so we’ve all seen speaker docks before—so what about the lightshow? Unfortunately, this turned out to be a weak point for the device. As I mentioned above, the i.Sound Plasma has the capability to be raised to a very high volume—but if you want to see any real reaction from the plasma globe, this high volume becomes your only option, since quiet and midrange volume settings don’t generate any lightshow at all. It would’ve been nice if the i.Sound Plasma had some sort of adjustable sensitivity level for the plasma globe, since currently, if you live in an environment where loud noise is not appropriate (or you just don’t like loud noise), you are likely to miss out entirely on the device’s most unique selling point.

 

 

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Once the lightshow gets going, it does seem at least somewhat coordinated with the music, with bigger beats and louder sections generating a greater reaction, and the lightshow can certainly be fun to watch. You can also cause the plasma globe to react by touching it with your hands. However, one thing that impaired the coolness of the plasma globe even further is that the lightshow causes a mild humming or buzzing noise, which is loudest when the unit is emitting the most light but is also sometimes audible even when there is no visible lightshow at all. This means that if you finally manage to get the lightshow going strongly enough to enjoy it, it might start to get in the way of enjoying your music.

Plasma Attack

A designer could attach just about any sort of gadget to an iPod Dock and hail it as the next big craze, but for this to convince buyers, unique additions like the plasma globe also need to be fun and well-integrated with the main product. Considering this, it is somewhat ironic that the i.Sound Plasma’s trademark feature is also quite possibly its weakest area, since it is hard to get the globe to react to the audio, and even when it does, it tends to interfere with the audio in the process. The speaker unit itself delivers impressive quality in terms of bass, clarity, and volume, so if you really just want a powerful, loud speaker for your audio device, the i.Sound Plasma could fit your needs while providing the plasma globe as an added bonus. However, if the plasma globe is your primary reason for purchasing the device, it might be better if your wishlist left the i.Sound Plasma under “no check.”

Pros: Good sound quality with strong bass and volume; unique concept that can be entertaining to watch.

Cons: Lightshow is often unresponsive and causes buzzing noises; no iPod-specific features.

Company: DreamGear

List Price: $149.99

Specs:

Audio: 4 speakers.

Compatibility: iPod and any audio device with a 3.5mm stereo out jack.

 

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