With a chic and user-friendly design, the Clingo Parabolic Sound Sphere ($34.99) scores high in the aesthetics department. Still, what it has in elegance, this unpowered amplifier for smart phones and MP3 players is lacking when it comes to actually boosting the volume of your tunes.
At 8 x 8 x 5.2 inches and 1.2 pounds, this Parabolic Sound Sphere is too bulky for travel. But for something that's sure to be a permanent desk fixture, the Clingo Sound Sphere looks classy. The clean lines of the white orb give the speaker a futuristic look--like a 60s-era capsule chair--and the green circle in the middle adds a tasteful punch of color.
As a nifty bonus, the speaker's shape helps cut out ambient light, so the Sound Sphere makes an attractive stand for watching media on your iPhone. We also like that Clingo included a cutout for charging your phone. The design is as low-tech as can be; just rest the sphere on the flat, circular stand, add a phone or MP3 player, and you're good to go.
To amplify your iPhone's volume, simply attach the device to the sphere's sticky green center. This means any music-streaming device with speakers--not just the iPhone--works with the Sphere. While it couldn't be easier to use, the stickiness became less effective with repeated use. We had to clean the Sound Sphere for our phone to remain attached.
Clingo claims its spherical speaker will boost your iPhone's volume by up to 10 decibels. In our tests, music often did not sound much louder than on our iPhone 3GS' speaker, but there were some exceptions. The accessory managed to crank Audionom's "Kein Bock" from 78dB up to 94dB, and we were able to better appreciate the track's driving drums. Music with softer instrumentals didn't sound as clear; we had trouble distinguishing the layers of drums, vocals, and strings in Mew's "New Terrain." Playing TLC's "Waterfalls" gave us a solid 80dB (versus 70dB with just the iPhone), but both the Bone Horn Stand Amplifier (82dB) and the Griffin AirCurve Play (86dB) sounded louder and richer.
In general, even when music was loud, it sounded muffled. When we blasted our tunes at full volume in our office, we could hear it from across a row of cubicles--but not from across the room. By contrast, the audio from the AirCurve Play reached the farthest corners of our office--and even managed to disturb a few coworkers.
While it's not the speaker to tote to parties, the Clingo Parabolic Sphere offers an attractive design and a convenient dock for watching video on your smart phone. The problem is that this $34.99 accessory doesn't boost the audio of your music much unless your music is bangin' to begin with. If it's ample volume you're looking for, you're much better off with the cheaper Griffin AirCurve Play ($19.99), which is also more portable and sounds much louder.