Provides: HD audio output via Bluetooth
Minimum Requirements: Bluetooth device or audio source with 3.5mm audio out
Availability: Out Now
Monster has a contender for the portable speaker market: iClarity HD. This unit is a Bluetooth enabled set of speakers which will let you connect your iDevice without cables for portable music and hands free phone calls.
The unit is compact enough to carry in one hand but has a “larger” sound than you might expect. Hold no illusions of a home stereo, this is intended as a hands free phone speaker and for travel audio; and as such it functions very well and sounds quite good.
The iClarity HD measures a scant 4-3/8” wide by 3” deep by 2-1/8” tall. The model I tested has a silver/grey plastic housing with very shiny dark grey top plate (it looks a bit like the hematite rocks in nature stores) with the Monster and Bluetooth logos on it. On the front of the housing is a tiny window for the LEDs. The LED indicators serve a few purposes: when the LEDs are flashing blue and red, the iClarity is in discovery mode; when the unit is on and operating normally, the LED is a steady blue; and when the LED is a steady red, your battery charge is nearing the end.
The owner’s manual says the iClarity should get five hours of run time—during my test I got a bit more than the five hours of play time with the red LED (low battery) warning coming on at about one hour before the unit shut itself off. If you think, “Oh, I’ll just turn it back on and squeak a few extra minutes out of the unit,” be prepared for disappointment. Once the battery is gone, it’s really gone; however, a one hour warning should be plenty of time to get the device plugged in to charge.
Speaking of charging, the manual says to keep the primary power switch “on” while charging (unusual, but whatever works…) and that it takes about three hours to fully charge. While charging, the light will blink the blue LED and shut off the LED when the charge is complete. During my test, to go from fully charged to fully drained took well over five hours, and to get from fully charged actually took only a bit over two hours. Not bad.
To connect your iDevice to the iClarity HD you will need to go through some button gymnastics. First, turn the unit main power (at the back of the unit) to “On,” then press and hold the power button on the side of the iClarity until the LED is flashing red/blue. On your iDevice, follow this path—Settings, General, Bluetooth. Make sure the Bluetooth is set to “On” and tell your iDevice to Pair to the Monster iClarity. You should get a confirmation beep once the devices are on speaking terms. If you power down or wander out of range, you will need to go back through your iDevice settings to reestablish the Bluetooth connection.
Another important connectivity note: if you tell your non-iPhone Bluetooth enabled cell phone to connect with the iClarity, it will work just fine as a speaker phone. However, you will need to tell your iPod Touch (or other iDevice) to remove the iClarity and go through the “discover” process again—the iClarity can only handle one device at a time.
Speaking of phones, if you connect the iClarity to your iPhone, you can listen to your tunes or, with the press of a button, take a call hands free. This feature can turn your phone and iClarity into a really nice speaker phone for conference calls or hands free calls while in your vehicle. As hinted at earlier, since the iClarity is a “generic” Bluetooth device, you can connect any Bluetooth enabled cell phone, music player, etc.
[Dad mode on.] Warning – Do not try to make the Bluetooth connection or fiddle with any other “setup” with this device and/or your phone while driving; wait until you are parked to do the setups. If you know, or reasonably suspect, you will need to make or take a call in the car, turn on the iClarity and get things set up before you put the car in gear. Please keep your mind on driving while you are moving – it helps to avoid all those nasty crashes and stuff. [Dad mode off.]
Be careful where you put this unit in your car—the iClarity HD has four small rubberized pads to help hold it in place, but take a sharp turn and it will still slide across your dashboard like a yippy dog on linoleum. In the car, you will need to find a good place to set it, and you may want to consider alternative anchoring methods (duct tape would match, but the adhesive would ruin the pretty factor).
The iClarity sports a cluster of four buttons on the side: Power on/off at top left, phone at top right, volume up at bottom left, and volume down at bottom right. The power on/off and the volume down buttons are embossed so you can feel the controls and use them without the need to look at the unit (refer to Dad Mode info). On the back of the unit is a master power switch, a (mini) USB charging port, and a 3.5mm audio in port. The iClarity comes with a USB to mini USB charging cable, but you are on your own for the 3.5mm audio in. That’s okay because there are so many different connectors it would be impractical to try to accommodate the world of dongles with this device. Besides, the whole idea with Bluetooth is get away from the cables.
Let’s talk capabilities. The range is specified on the box at 33 feet (10 meters). I travelled about my place and had two interior walls between my iPod touch and the iClarity at a good 20’ away and the signal was unimpeded. As mentioned, the battery life is easily five hours, and it only takes 2-1/2 to 3 hours to fully recharge. The speakers are a pair of 35 mm drivers which produce some impressive volume and clear mid and high range sound. The iClarity touts a “Passive Radiator Subwoofer” which helps fill in some of the low end. As stated, this is not a home audio unit so don’t expect thumping bass.
On the top of the unit is a pin-hole for a small condenser microphone. In phone tests the mic sensitivity was as good as any regular speaker phone and the audio for the recipient of my call was clear enough that they couldn’t really tell a difference between the iClarity and the phone mic. The audio output of the iClarity during the call was much better than a standard cell phone, but that was not really a surprise given the iClarity has two speakers that are about ten times larger than cell phone speakers and Monster Cable’s focus on good audio.
As a music player, you get some surprisingly good sound for such a small unit. At full volume on both the iClarity and my iPod Touch I could hear the music clearly from a couple of rooms away. The sound quality was pretty good and there was no distortion.
I’ll also throw in this handy aside: If you create a short playlist (30 to 60 minutes) you can build an easy “go to sleep” music player. Since your tunes will keep playing when you turn the power off with your iDevice you can connect to the iClarity, start your playlist (set to “once through”) and power down your iDevice. I tried this with my iPod Touch and the charge on both the iPod and the iClarity were hardly touched when I got up in the morning.
To sum up, the unit is designed for casual, portable audio and hands free phone calls. On these fronts, Monster scores another hit. The only cringe factor is the price tag: $119.95. If you need this sort of device for your travels, the iClarity is a good option.
Buy the Monster iClarityHD Bluetooth Speaker