ATLA Hands-On Review: iMainGo

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We here at ATLA don't normally receive home electronic devices for testing. But we're not going to say "no" when a local based business sends us an interesting device to review. Unlike the myriad of iPod home docking audio systems, the folks at LA-based Portable Sound System have been able to distinguish their iMainGo by combining the elements of an external and portable speaker system with that of a protective carrying case. It's this extension of utility and portability that make for an interesting product.

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How does it sound? Audio quality is by far the biggest strength of this product. Turning it on for the first time was like hearing a lion's roar out of the body of your pet cat. Okay, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but at normal volumes, the iMainGo really surprised us. The small speakers reproduce midrange with clarity without too much of a tinny note, partially supporting their claim, "Small system, HUGE SOUND!". Of course, the lower range and treble aren't as impressive, and if pushed to higher volumes, vibration and distortion becomes evident. But we've been using the iMainGo with our iPod nano the last two weeks (which fits using a foam sleeve adaptor) while doing household chores like washing the dishes and vacuuming, and we were pleasantly surprised with the unit's ability to stay above the din when listening to it at 40-60% volume levels. Battery life seems more than adequate; we're on our 20th hour of use with no issues yet (they claim 30 hours of use using four AAA batteries). The case is built solid, with the ability to house the 1st gen Shuffle, any of the nanos, and of course, any of the iPods (actually, any device with a headphone jack can be connected). There's even an alarm setting, for iPods with the option.

We're not exactly fond of the design aesthetics of the device, mostly because of the speaker housing. Although the case housing is handsome, with it's handsome sewn in black neoprene padding, the diagonal speaker placement looks a bit unrefined, and the exposed plastic around the speakers look like they were meant to be hidden underneath from view. Although we didn't drop the case from heights beyond that of our desk, we could imagine an ill placed fall on harder surfaces could result in cracked plastic. But we did like we were able to control our nano without open the case, thanks to the clear vinyl window which exposes access to the iPod's controls.

Overall, we think the iMainGo is a nifty device that will have a place in our home for it's ability to bring the beats into our kitchen, bathroom (This American Life podcasts while in the tub!), and also serve as a portable audio system for picnics or other outdoor outings. We'd love to see other colour options and a new exterior speaker design, but this is nitpicking about something you could easily store away when not in use. Easy to use, flexible, impressive performance, and a quality finish all make the iMainGo an accessory worth the $69.95 price tag.