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iPod Accessory Reviews: speakers

XtremeMac MicroBlast for the iPod Nano

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Reviewed July, 2006 by Jacob Spindel, chief iPod Correspondent

Is it the world's smallest iPod Dock? Or maybe it's the world's most elaborate iPod case? It's the MicroBlast for iPod nano from XtremeMac, and it may well be addressing a niche in the iPod accessory market that has never been attempted before.

So What Is It?

The MicroBlast is a speaker Dock that is only 1" thick, with its other two dimensions measuring just 7" by 5.2". It features a clear plastic cover that serves two features: when rotated underneath the MicroBlast, it provides a sturdy stand for the unit, and when rotated to the opposite position, it becomes a protective cover for the entire speaker system, including the iPod, resulting in a unit that is small enough to be very easy to carry, while also keeping the iPod safely encased. For even more protection, a protective cover for the MicroBlast is also included. The unit weighs just 5.6 pounds when the iPod is not inserted.


Sound tiny? It is. So tiny, in fact, that it only works with the iPod nano. Not only will no other iPod models work, but there isn't even room for a thin silicone case, which you might happen to be using if you are a current nano owner.

The iPod nano is, of course, available in both black and white versions. So, should you look for a white speaker dock for your white nano, or maybe it would look better with a black one, or maybe your nano is black...? Not to worry! XtremeMac graciously includes both a black frame and a white frame for the MicroBlast in the box, and they are easily interchangeable by the user.

The MicroBlast includes an AC adaptor, but it can also be powered by 4 AA batteries. When plugged in to AC power, it charges the iPod, but it does not provide any syncing capabilities or controls for the iPod—in fact, the only "interactive" part of the MicroBlast is the power switch on the back. This means you'll continue using your nano's built-in controls, which are fully accessible when the protective cover is open. Incorporated into the small device are four speakers that provide an output of 3 watts per channel at 4 Ohms.

So how does it sound?

A cappella/vocal: The lead singers in a cappella songs came through forcefully and with a very high level of clarity, but the backup singers weren't as fortunate, especially bass singers.

Podcast/voice: Since podcasts have limited quality compared to commercial music, expectations were lower here. The MicroBlast does about the best that speakers can do with podcasts, and the voices were distinct and understandable.

Pop/rock: The volume is quite impressive for such a small device, adding a serious sense of power to the music, but the bass felt a bit weak.

Rap/R&B: As usual, this genre could've benefitted the most from a bit more bass, although the music was otherwise accurately recreated.

Country: Similarly to other music types, the lead singers of country music generally came through well, but the limited bass made country music sound particularly hollow.



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Let's Just Admire It

Frankly, the MicroBlast is simply oozing with coolness. It is almost fascinating just to look at it. But eventually, I had to ask myself... what, exactly, is it good for?

I have come to believe that there are two primary types of iPod Docks: systems you set up for special occasions, and systems where you just always keep your iPod, even when you're not using it. With its compact form factor, the MicroBlast would be a perfect candidate for the "replacement Dock where you always keep your iPod" category... that is, if it had the ability to sync the iPod. But since it doesn't have that, you probably won't be keeping your iPod in it most of the time.



It's not exactly suitable for the special-occasion market either, since, although the volume is impressive considering its size, it just seems a little too small and quiet for a large event. Also, since you can't leave your iPod in another case while using the MicroBlast, using it as an "occasional" device can be inconvenient simply because you'll probably want to use a different case the rest of the time, and you'll have to remove and replace the other case every time you use the MicroBlast.

So what does that leave? I guess you could use it when out of the house (and not needing to sync), while you are either by yourself or with a fairly small number of people. I'm not sure if it's worth $120 for a personal listening device when the iPod nano actually comes with its own individual listening system: earphones.

Call Me When the MicroBlast 2 Is Invented

If the MicroBlast had a sync port, it could literally establish a whole new category for the ultimate single device that replaces your iPod Dock, case, earphones, and spouse (oops, sorry). Unfortunately, without one, it feels a bit like the ultimate cool device that looks awesome while sitting in your closet.

-Extremely compact, elegant design
-Can be used as an enclosed, protective carrying case for nano, and the cover also doubles as a nice stand when opened
-Includes both white and black faceplates, which are user-interchangeable
-Excellent volume for its size

-Can't sync or control iPod from the MicroBlast, making it difficult to think of an occasion or purpose that the device serves well
-Can't keep iPod in case while using Dock
-Mediocre bass

Price: $119.95

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Compatibility: iPod nano.

Power AC or batteries (batteries not included) .


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