Those who saw the popular Nimzy Vibro Blaster, released last summer, probably won’t be surprised at the capabilities of the successor. Others are in for a wacky experience; this portable sound unit uses electro-acoustic technology to turn any surface into a speaker by vibrating it in such a way as to produce sound. We saw something similar a few years ago with the Olympia SoundBug.
The Vibro Max unit is a solid metallic box a little smaller than a Rubic cube, finished in piano black. It succeeds the Vibro Blaster by offering more power (claiming 20W RMS instead of 15) and a supplied remote control that includes bass and treble adjustment and a loudness setting. It’s mains powered, which reduces the portability somewhat, but to get it to work you simply place it on any flat surface and plug in an MP3 player.
It’s quite amazing how effective it is. If you were to place it on one side of a desk and rest your ear close to the other end it would sound like you’re pressing your head against a giant speaker. It’s only when you lift the Vibro Max off the surface that you realise how much work it’s doing as sound is reduced to a quiet, tinny rattle. There’s a distinct ‘wow’ factor, then, in the capabilities of the device as an innovative new technology, but once the initial excitement has subsided you’re going to need good quality sound to do justice to your audio.
Results on this front were mixed, as quite literally sound varies depending on the type of surface you rest the unit on. On a standard wood/chipboard desk, perhaps the most common medium, results were impressive, even though you do have to fine tune bass and treble levels to find the right balance. Try it on another surface – and believe us, you will want to – and you’ll notice differences similar to changing between environment presets on graphics equalizers, e.g. Concert, Cave, Auditorium, etc.
We didn’t reach a definitive conclusion on the best possible material to press the Vibro Max against: expect Internet forums to rage on this one for quite some time. We did notice that large surface areas that were relatively hollow, for example plaster-board walls, offered an excellent combination of deep bass and responsive mid-tones. Windows were also pretty good and cupboards act a little like a giant boom-box. In general the larger the surface area of the thing you’re resting it on, the more wholesome the sound.
Audio tends to get lost somewhat in denser, heavier materials like brick, and metallic surfaces reverberate fairly poorly, but overall there should be an abundance of suitable surfaces around wherever you’re likely to use the device. Drawing a conclusion as to the quality of the audio is somewhat difficult then, but we’re confident to say that the ‘potential’ quality is extremely good, perhaps not quite up to a powerful pair of dedicated speakers but certainly close.
Once you’ve settled on a surface or placement for the Vibro Max it’s worth mentioning that you can fine tune the audio quality in rather bizarre ways. Placing it closer to the centre of a surface usually improves the sound, but strangely you’ll find that rearranging your desk, for example lifting up a printer, or placing something heavy down, alters the audio as well.
This sounds a little more awkward and frustrating than it actually is, but those who appreciate gadget appeal – probably the target audience for the Nimzy – will find the process quite fun. You could consider other applications for the device too, like mounting it on a wall (although you’d have to invent a craftily-designed bracket of some kind) or floor.
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