The iNuke Boom Junior ($179.99 list) does one thing and one thing well—it plays your music loud. Available online exclusively at Costco, the iNuke Boom Junior recalls the company’s iNuke Boom, the eight-foot-wide, 10,000-watt monster speaker that debuted at CES 2012 for an insane $30,000. This much smaller version delivers powerful bass punch, but its veiled midrange and tinny treble mean it’s purely for kicking out the jams at a party. Audiophiles should consider spending more for better sound, such as the Editors’ Choice Bowers & Wilkins Z2, or by going with a smaller but smoother-sounding wireless speaker like the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II.
Design and Connectivity
Thankfully, the iNuke Boom Junior isn’t nearly as big as the original—but it’s no svelte portable speaker, either. At 8.7 by 16.5 by 9.8 inches (HWD) and 10.6 pounds, this is one speaker dock you’ll want to set up once and then leave it where it is. It’s made entirely of textured black ABS plastic, with the exception of the black cloth grille on the front. The speaker actually doesn’t feel all that heavy when you pick it up, mainly because the enclosure is large enough to distribute the weight evenly. If you’ve ever carried a 1980s-style boombox, it’s basically that size, but deeper.
The top panel features a dock with a 30-pin connector; it works with iPods, iPhones, and iPads, but not any of the newest models with Apple’s Lightning Connector. A tall, clear plastic slab sticks up behind the docking connector and works as a brace to hold up your iDevice; behind it is a 3.5mm auxiliary input. Below that are three LED lights indicating the currently selected input (line in, Aux, or iPod) and a pair of volume buttons. The bottom row has five additional buttons, for Power, Source, Back, Play, and Forward. When the iNuke Boom Junior is powered on, all of the buttons light up with white rings around them, while the power button and LED for the selected input both illuminate in green.
The back panel features an oversized, tuned bass port, an additional stereo RCA audio input, a composite video output, and a jack for the included power cable. The video output lets you play movies from your Apple device on a television screen, although it’s not a digital connection and consequently won’t offer the best video quality. In addition to the iNuke Boom Junior and the power cord, Behringer includes a remote control, as well as cables for both aux inputs—a thoughtful gesture.
The remote is a plastic black slab with plenty of functionality. In addition to the usual Power, Volume, Skip, Mute, and Play buttons, you get playlist controls, buttons for each of the source inputs, and Up and Down buttons for both bass and treble.
Performance and Conclusions
You probably won’t need to increase the bass very often. The iNuke Boom Junior features a three-way design, with a 1-inch tweeter, a pair of 3-inch midrange speakers, and a 5.25-inch woofer. Sound quality-wise, the iNuke Boom Junior delivers on its promise. This beast puts out some serious bass, with enough extension to add the proper weight to hip-hop tracks like Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild.” On our standard bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the iNuke Boom Junior pumps out the synth bass notes and 808 kick drum with enough power that the walls in a small room off of our test lab began to vibrate. As I turned it up further, though, the sound completely fell apart, as the unit distorted heavily. Keep it just shy of maximum, and you’ll be thrilled with the amount of power the iNuke Boom delivers.
Its midrange and high-end response isn’t as impressive, unfortunately. While the speaker sounds reasonably well-balanced from about 200Hz on up, with a balanced midrange, I couldn’t hear the air around Bill Callahan’s voice in “Drover,” and the strummed acoustic guitar strings didn’t sparkle the way they do on higher-end systems. The eighth-note repeating kick drum was louder than usual, thanks to the system’s heavy bass tilt. With the electronic chill-out track “Indian Rope Trick” from Flunk, the hi-hats and the lead singer’s voice edged toward harsh. And while the electronic bass had plenty of extension, it was a little flabby sounding, and the tight electronic kick didn’t quite push through the way it usually does on other systems.
The best sound I heard from the iNuke Boom Junior was when I played Rage Against The Machine’s “Fistful of Steel.” The bass response and extension gave as much weight to the powerful kick drum and growling electric bass in the song as I’ve heard from some 2.1 systems with powered subwoofers; it was truly awe-inspiring, coming from a desktop dock. That said, while the guitars came through with sufficient bark, the hi-hats sounded thin and tinny, and almost like white noise, and it was difficult to pick up the reverb on the instruments as well.
So the iNuke Boom Junior is a little rough around the edges. At $180, and with occasional heavy discounts, it delivers excellent value if you need a lot of volume and bass from your music. Otherwise, audiophiles seeking a more balanced and transparent sound for the same price will have to give up sheer volume and bass. The Bowers & Wilkins Z2, our current Editors’ Choice for speaker docks, costs a lot more and still doesn’t go as loud as the iNuke Boom Junior. But the Z2′s sublime midrange and high-end performance is second to none at the price, and it still delivers plenty of bass punch. Plus, it has a Lightning Connector for the newest iOS devices, as well as AirPlay support for wireless streaming. A less expensive wireless option is the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II, which doesn’t go nearly as loud as the iNuke Boom Junior, but sounds nicer with a wider variety of music, and is also portable to boot.
|Wireless Remote Control||Yes|
|Power Rating (Left and Right, Each)||50 watts RMS per channel|
|Type||iPod, iPad, iPhone|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc