Click to viewWe've covered a handful of new and modded Lasonic gear here at Giz, but I finally got up close with their fabled i931 iPod Ghetto Blaster. If you're unfamiliar, Lasonic made some classic boomboxes during the 80s, and now they've updated their TRC-931 boombox with a built-in iPod dock, SD card reader and USB port. The picture and description pretty much sum up what makes this $170 retro wonder so amazing, but I have a laundry list of reasons why the i931 boombox is one of my favorite gadgets I've ever laid hands on.
The main appeal of the i931 is it's nostalgia factor, hands down. If you have any sort of infatuation with the 1988, boom-bap era of hip-hop, you can't help but be in love with this thing. And after I spent a few hours with the i931, I was ready to march down to the nearest 7-Eleven, boombox in hand, and yell at the guy behind the counter for D batteries (This boombox takes TEN D batteries, but there's also a power cord, so fear not). The i931 also stays true to the historical design of Lasonic boomboxes. The speaker grates, the cheesy color graphics, the volume knob and power button, all taken from Lasonic designs of the past. The iPod dock even pops open like a tape player and you insert your iPod like a cassette. Awesome.
The iPod function works about as well as you could expect; the menu system is semi-complicated to learn, but functions efficiently with the external button interface, and the window in the dock face makes the screen clearly visible. The i931 is compatible with any iPod up though the 5.5g model iPod and the 1g and 2g iPod Nanos. I assume its also compatible with the iPod Classic and 3g Nano, but I wasn't able to test that, so I cant confirm. There is also an AV out in the back if you want to route video playback to your TV.
On the technical side of things, the i931 has an AM/FM tuner (w/telescoping antenna), 3.5mm stereo auxiliary input, USB input and an SD card reader for direct MP3 playback. It has a glowing spectrum analyzer and a 1/4" headphone jack. The two 15w speakers are powerful and clear, with no distortion until level 35 of a 40 point volume scale (with the bass turned up).This is all controlled by 10 buttons on the right, with the standard array of play/pause, stop, track up/down, random, repeat and function buttons. It also has a folder button for browsing file structures.
There are, however, a few issues I have with the i931. The most glaring problem is the lack of support for the iPod touch and iPhone. They don't close into the iPod dock, and they can't be controlled by the button interface. And the plastic on the door of the dock means you can't get to the touch screen. There are other minor issues like the omittance of the physical EQ sliders (pure nostalgia), which are replaced by presets and bass/treble controls. The AM/FM tuner graphic doesn't actually do anything, and the former tape deck buttons have been replaced with generic graphics that don't do anything. Also odd, is that the i931 will occasionally and randomly shut off during playback. Not enough to be an annoyance, but enough to notice.
That said, the i931 gets a big, fat Giz stamp of approval. The '88-'94 golden era of hip-hop occupies a special place in my heart, and the boombox was one of it's universal symbols. This isn't the most technically advanced or well-built audio gadget around, but that's not what this is about. The i931 gives a nod to the past with it's head in the future, exuding charisma along the way. At $170, you get a that sounds good, and it doesn't break the bank if you buy it just as a novelty item. Personally, this will be one of my favorite gadgets I ever play with. [Lasonic on Giz]
This review is dedicated to Radio Raheem, who was killed on the fictional streets of Brooklyn by the fictional N.Y.P.D.
Video by Chris Mascari