It’s been almost five years since I reviewed the Soundbug, a suction cup-based “speaker” which would utilize whatever surface it was attached to in order to produce sound while hooked to an audio source. Today I am going to look at the , a device that similarly uses whatever surface it is resting upon to produce sound. The suction cup is gone as is the slightly cheap and cheesy silver plastic body, but the parallels are still there. This is not a traditional speaker, the sound produced will depend upon the surface upon which the i-mu rests and a few other variables as well.
Is this an audio device that you might be interested in? Read on to see…
Vavolo was gracious enough to provide a review sample, and I had no idea what to expect before the box arrived. The pictures make the i-mu, short for “I Love Music” look like an iPod-esque joystick, which didn’t inspire much confidence in me. Sarah on the other hand took one look, asked what it was, and then asked if she could have it when I was finished with the review. Ah to be 17 again.
According to the Vavolo site, “i-mu Magic Audio Frequency Singer is a fairly magic audio frequency fixture .It is quite different from the traditional ones base on electro-magnetic coils. It makes any hard surface produce euphonious musical notes, such as wood tables, glass, floor, metal surface, etc. You can hear various materials around you annotate the music quality in different sides, and you enjoy yourself in the freedom of music. The new sound principle will bring a new musical life style to you. It is inside a new revolution in the audiovisual field. i-mu Magic Audio Frequency Singer exploits new times that high quality audio equipments are joining in the trend of fashion and portability. i-mu is not just an audio box, it is a new stylistic product of audio frequency.”
The i-mu measures approximately ?4.75″ tall x 3.5″ wide, and it weighs one pound 2.5 ounces. Although it is compact, I wouldn’t consider it portable. It is made to be used with notebook PCs, digital music players, portable media players…basically anything that can accept a 3.5mm headphone jack.
– Input voltage(AC) 120-250V
– Output voltage(DC) 24V
– Static current 38MA
– Frequency response: 70HZ-30KHZ
– Output power: 30w
Included in the box are the i-mu device, the i-mu AC cable with attached power box, an instruction manual and a warranty card.
The I-mu has a 60′ long cable between the plug and the power box; at the power box there are two 42″ cables from the power box, each? tipped with a 3.5mm plug. One plug is for the jack on the user’s laptop, the other is used to power and transmit sound through the I-mu. These cables can seem a bit much when snaking accross an otherwise clean desktop; it would be great if the i-mu were a rechargeable wireless device, but it is not. I am sure the sound quality would suffer if it were, so that’s the trade-off. The power box has an LED which will glow green when the i-mu is attached and the box is plugged in. The volume of the music being played can be adjusted either at the audio device or via?a black volume wheel on the i-mu’s power box.
The i-mu is composed of a heavy metal core wrapped with milky white plastic; chrome accents and clear plastic are thrown in to add to the futuristic and slightly phallic design. As I mentioned, the i-mu is surprisingly hefty; it feels quite substantial and not at all cheap. The device is branded on its front with the i-mu logo, and on the top of the clear plastic encased “joystick handle”.
When the power cable is connected to the jack on the back of the i-mu and to an audio device, the i-mu will begin to play a muted version of whatever is on. Resting the i-mu on various surfaces such as glass, wood, marble, or others will produce different depths of music played. The key is to not turn either the music player or the volume control on the i-mu’s power box up too high at first; volume should be adjusted up or down once the music is playing so that it will not distort. After the i-mu has been continuously playing for 30 minutes or so, it will begin to warm up a bit; according to the Vavolo site this is normal.
The i-mu will only produce deep rich sounds while placed flat upon the metal circle at its base. Depending upon the composition of the surface?on which it is placed, the i-mu’s sound may or may not be satisfactory to the listener. For instance, I discovered that my wooden desk sounded much better than a tile countertop in the kitchen?or the plastic surface of my printer / scanner.
As long as it is not butted against a hard surface, tilting the i-mu on its side will dramatically lower the music’s volume,?practically muting it.
I found that the music produced by the i-mu sounded pretty good overall. Obviously this type “system” shouldn’t be compared to a traditional speaker?set with a sub-woofer, but the bass and treble produced sounded quite all right, with only a little bit of mid-range mud showing on certain music track types. The?music I thought sounded best playing on the i-mu was more of the acoustic guitar heavy type; songs with driving bass drums tended to bottom out quite a bit, although lowering the volume did help.
Other than the tinny playback, this video from Vavolo’s site gives a good representation as to the types of surfaces that the i-mu will play well upon, and it also helps give a sense of what a unique player the i-mu is.
If you have been looking for a slightly futuristic and less than conventional way to listen to the music on your portable music devices, then the i-mu might be something you would want to consider.
The Vavolo and from other retailers.
MSRP: $130.00 (On sale at the Vavolo site for $89.00)
What I Like: Interesting concept; beautiful design; conversation starter; better than expected sound?at lower volumes
What Needs Improvement: Distorts when volume is turned too high; mid ranges can be slightly muddy; cables add distracting clutter is available directly from