The iPhone 5′s speaker shortcomings are well documented, music can sound tinny, harsh, and too quiet. It’s part of the reason for the recent surge in popularity for portable speakers like the Jawbone Jambox. But carrying an extra speaker and keeping it charged isn’t always the most useful or elegant option—not to mention the often steep price tag. Kubxlab offers a simpler solution with its Ampjacket ($34.95 direct) acoustic amplifier case. It’s a snap-on case that uses molded channels to passively amplify your iPhone’s audio output—no batteries or recharging required. Surprisingly, it really works.
The Ampjacket is a very lightweight case, made entirely from a single piece of thin, rubberized plastic. It’s available in a number of colors (white, black, gray red, orange, blue, green, and pink) and has cutouts for accessing all the iPhone 5′s ports, buttons, and camera. From the front, you’d be hard pressed to guess the Ampjacket was anything other than your standard snap-on case, save for the small chin that juts out from the bottom edge. Turn it over, however, and you’ll instantly see the molded channels at work here. The channels form a curved X-like shape across the back of the iPhone, with cutouts that expose parts of the iPhone’s aluminum back. The channels jut out about a half an inch, but the iPhone and Ampjacket together are still relatively pocket friendly.
The contoured channels along the back of the Ampjacket converge at the aforementioned chin, which covers the speaker grille on the bottom of the iPhone 5 on the right side (the left grille conceals the microphone). The entire back enclosure resonates, which helps boost the audio coming from the covered speaker grille. We didn’t have a decibel meter on hand to test Kubxlab’s claim of doubling the loudness, but the acoustic amplification was impressive. I tested with music, videos, and speakerphone calls, all of which benefited from a significant boost in volume. However, keep in mind, the Ampjacket isn’t going to improve the actual sound quality of the iPhone speaker—it just makes everything a good deal louder. The effect is also more dramatic with the iPhone face down, with the Ampjacket facing towards you.
The Kubxlab Ampjacket isn’t going to blow you away, and is certainly no replacement for a real set of external speakers. But in a pinch, it can push the iPhone 5′s audio output from not-quite-loud enough to clearly audible. It’s a useful trick when it comes to speakerphone calls and sharing a quick YouTube video with a group of friends. My only reservation is the added thickness, as it bulks up the otherwise svelte iPhone 5, but at $34.95, it’s reasonably priced and definitely worth a look.
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