With a gimmicky design that evokes an old-school gramophone, the Bone Horn Stand Amplifier offers an impressive sound boost considering its diminutive size. This passive iPhone amplifier ($24.95) provides more volume than you'd expect for such a small package, and it doesn't use any battery life. What's not to like?
Available in black, green, light brown, and white, the uniquely designed Bone Horn Stand is compatible with the original iPhone, the iPhone 3G/3GS, and the iPhone 4. We like its soft-touch, rubbery texture, and its light weight (just 3.2 ounces compared to 11.2 ounces for the Griffin AirCurve and 1.2 pounds for the Clingo Universal Parabolic Sound Sphere) makes it easy to toss in your bag (or jacket pocket) and take with you.
The Horn Stand can hold an iPhone both vertically and horizontally; while it can accommodate a rubber iPhone 4 bumper, bulkier cases will have to be removed first. When an iPhone 4 inserted, we could easily connect our sync cable, and a raised rubber home button made it easy to activate that function. Unfortunately, the amplifier tipped over with the cable inserted; without the cable Bone Horne stood upright.
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The Bone Horn is rated to increase your iPhone's sound by 13 decibels, and--to our pleasant surprise--it delivered plenty of volume. "Hong Kong Garden" by Siouxsie and the Banshees registered 8 decibels louder (90dB versus 82 without the speaker). In fact, unlike the Sound Sphere, this speaker reliably boosted every song we played. Blasting Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" gave us a 10 decibel advantage over the iPhone's speaker (66dB versus 76dB), though the track sounded warped. However, the $19.99 Griffin AirCurve delivered 86dB for the same song--and the bass sounded clearer.
Loudness is one thing, but sound quality is another. While the Bone Horn Stand Amplifier offers a significant boost in decibels, it does have a limited range. Thanks to the speaker's horn shape (which acts as a sort of funnel), your amped-up music won't travel very far beyond the speaker itself. Additionally, we detected a fair amount of tinniness when using the speaker, and bass-heavy tracks often sounded muffled and distorted. If you're planning on listening to your music while doing a task nearby (such as cooking dinner), the amplifier should add the necessary decibels to enjoy your beats. Still, the Griffin AirCurve reliably bested the Bone Horn Stand by as much as 10dB--and its sound traveled farther.
The Bone Horn Stand amplifier for the iPhone offers a clever, compact way to boost your tunes. The accessory added as much as 12 decibels to our music. Overall, we prefer the sound quality offered by the $19.99 Griffin AirCurve, but if you're looking for something you can stuff in your pocket, the Bone Horn is the way to go.