Have you ever wanted to amplify the sound of your iPhone, but didn’t want to spend a bunch of cash on a speaker system? Or maybe you’re trying to be as ‘green’ as possible, and don’t want to make your carbon footprint larger with yet another device that requires batteries or AC power… If either are the case, then Griffin’s AirCurve might be a viable solution.
So, what exactly is the AirCurve, if it’s not a speaker system? It’s an acoustic amplifier, that’s what. :o)
iPhone 3G adapter
The AirCurve is a 4.75 x 3.625 x 1.375 inch two piece clear polycarbonate box.
The interior of the box has a custom-engineered waveguide that requires no power to operate. Think of this waveguide like the horn on an old time victrola / phonograph. It starts out with a small opening that funnels sound out through a much larger opening.
To use the AirCurve, you first have to install the adapter for either the original iPhone, or the 3G iPhone. Unlike other devices that require docking adapters, you actually MUST use one in the AirCurve. If you don’t, the iPhone won’t even be able to stand up in the ‘dock’ area.
Two adapters are included and are both made of semi-flexible White plastic. You’ll notice that there’s an opening for the docking connector and a smaller opening to the side of it. That smaller opening creates a sound tunnel from one of the speakers on the iPhone, through an opening in the AirCurve docking area, through the waveguide channel.
If you like, you can feed the USB cable that came with your iPhone through the AirCurve, so that you can use it as a sync / charge dock. There’s a opening that goes straight through the AirCurve, for this purpose. I tried to use one of my iPod cables for this purpose, but I couldn’t get the USB end of the cable to fit through the opening… I’ve misplaced the cable that came with the iPhone, so I’m not ruling out the possibility that it will fit. Griffin also sells their own cable that you can purchase.
Once the adapter is in place, you can just set the iPhone in it.
It will balance perfectly without falling over.
Before I even unpackaged the AirCurve, I was trying to figure out a good way to test it. I knew I could just try it out and tell you my impressions, but I wanted a more technical way to show the results of playing music through the AirCurve vs. playing music without the AirCurve. After a little thought, here’s what I came up with…
I would choose a song to play in the iPod app on the iPhone, and would make a Garageband recording using the BlueMic Snowflake microphone. I would then place the iPhone in a non-amplifying dock-like device (for this test, I used Griffin’s Simplifi USB dock / card reader) and record the same song using the same microphone, setup at the same location. I would then compare the resulting sound waveforms. Brilliant huh? :o)
I have to tell you, that the difference between the two tests were immediately obvious without even needing to look at the recording waveforms. I was really surprised that the AirCurve could amplify the sound volume so drastically without any electronics. Of course, don’t take my word for it, take a look at the results of the recordings…
The top track is with the AirCurve and the bottom track is of the iPhone in the Simplifi. The waveform is noticeably more pronounced with the AirCurve track.
You might wonder if the Simplifi’s dock somehow muffled the sound from the speakers, since they are located on either side of the docking connector. When the iPhone is sitting in the Simplifi dock, it doesn’t sit so low that the bottom of the iPhone touches the bottom of the dock. For that reason, I don’t think using that type of dock was a bad idea.
I also did some tests where I would play music holding the iPhone a few inches above the AirCurve and then sit it in the AirCurve dock for a few seconds, then lift it back up, etc. I could tell an immediate and obvious increase in sound volume through the AirCurve. After doing this numerous times, I came to the conclusion that using the AirCurve doubles the iPhone’s volume level. Setting the iPhone volume to 50% and placing it in the AirCurve, is the sound equivalent to setting the iPhone’s volume to maximum and not using the AirCurve.
You might be wondering if the AirCurve enhances bass or treble. As far as I can tell, it really only increases the volume and doesn’t make the music sound any richer or brighter. So why would you even want to spend $20 on this product, if you could just turn up the volume on the iPhone in the first place? I’ve come up with two reasons. One reason is that cranking the volume up and listening to music through the iPhone’s speakers, will use more battery power. The other reason why the AirCurve might be useful is that it can make a nice stand for your iPhone, if you use it as an alarm clock in your bedroom. It would be super easy to just sit it in the AirCurve’s dock before you go to bed, and then grab it in the morning as you’re going out the door.
The Griffin AirCurve is an interesting product. It might be the first such product I’ve reviewed in the 11yrs that I’ve been testing and writing about gadgets. For $20 it will give you 50% more volume out of your iPhone and will give you an unusual conversation piece as well.