Much to the chagrin of portable music-player companies, Apple and its iPod have cornered the market on personal audio devices. Sure, there’s the Zune and a host of other MP3 players, but the name “iPod” is as synonymous with “personal music player” as the name “Google” is with “conduct a search online.” So it’s not surprising that ifrogz has created an entire line of cases for the various iPod iterations, including the new 3G iPod, to let consumers feel a little less stressed about banging their iPods around in the pockets.
The ifrogz Audiowrapz 3G iPod Nano Speaker Case sounds simple enough: a rubberized wrapper that protects your 3G iPod Nano. However, to call it a case is to discount its biggest selling point: it also has three speakers. At first this seems like a silly concept. After all, the purpose of an iPod is to listen to personal music, not to broadcast your obsession with Tafelmusik all over the subway, and we can only imagine the flak you’d take for blasting Enya on the basketball court. Still, the Audiowrapz 3G iPod Nano Speaker Case has its uses.
When you put a Nano into the Audiowrapz Speaker Case, the device is held in place by a jack similar to that found on an iPod charging station. This jack transmits the sound to the Case’s speakers, which draw power from the iPod itself, thus eliminating the need for batteries. Still, there’s nothing requiring you to use the speakers, because the bottom of the rubberized case includes a headphone jack. If you choose to not use the speakers, the Case simply acts as a protective barrier between your 3G iPod Nano and the abrasive outside world, although it does remove the “sleek factor,” since the case is roughly the size of an original iPod.
The Audiowrapz Speaker Case has no seams, which is nice for taking it on trips to the beach and/or when near water, but this proved a little confusing as we tried to figure out how to get the Nano inside the case in the first place. Initially we thought we’d stretch the rubber around the screen opening and shove the Nano down, but we dismissed that option because we were afraid of ripping the case to shreds. Turns out, that’s exactly how to do it. For such a thin rubber case, the Audiowrapz Speaker Case is surprisingly durable, an important feature when you’re looking to protect your iPod against damage. Because of that durability, we soon lost all inhibitions about stretching the opening to insert and remove the iPod; this case is built to last.
With the 3G iPod Nano inserted, it was time to test the speakers. Much like our “stretching” conundrum, we were afraid that the earbud-like speakers would deliver mediocre results. This time, we were right. If you’re looking for a high-quality sound system for your iPod Nano, the Audiowrapz Speaker Case is not the best solution. The three speakers look like simple earbuds, and in fact, that’s how they sound, too. When you wear standard earbuds, marginal audio quality is somewhat permissible, because you know you’re not listening to a high-fidelity home theater system. But the speakers on this case, because they’re basically earbuds, deliver the same result as cranking your headphones high enough that you could hear the audio 10 to 15 feet away. Sure, you can make out the song, but the lyrics, music and bass are distorted and garbled.
This brings us back to the topic of how and why you might actually use the Audiowrapz 3G iPod Nano Speaker Case. In our estimation, the most obvious use is when you’re relaxing on the beach, camping, hiking or having a picnic and need an “emergency” speaker system. Unlike other setups such as the JBL Sound Stage, the ifrogz speakers are powered by the iPod’s battery, providing a “quick fix” for sharing music with a small group. During our tests, we didn’t notice any extra drain on the iPod’s battery, most likely because the speakers are no different from the earbuds you’d be using anyway. The audio quality may not win any awards, but the sheer convenience of having music in these situations can’t be denied. For everyday use, however, the Audiowrapz 3G iPod Nano Speaker Case is at its best doing what its name implies: being a protective case.
- Score: 7
- Having self-powered speakers is convenient, but the poor audio quality renders them more of an “emergency” feature than a useful one.
— Jonas Allen