Options are limited for those who want to make an obnoxious amount of noise outdoors--boom boxes take batteries, bullhorns are abrasive, and that Marshall guitar stack doesn't travel easily. Thankfully, the rechargeable battery-powered Ion Block Rocker ($299) has arrived to deliver bone-rattling sound to even the most quiet, far-flung corners of the earth.
Designed more like a guitar amp on wheels than an iPod boom box, the Block Rocker combines a 12-hour rechargeable battery, 22-watt amplifier, 7-inch speaker, and 1-inch tweeter into a single portable audio system. Just like your luggage, the Block Rocker includes built-in wheels, and a telescoping handle for moving its 40-pound mass around without breaking your back. Two metal handles are planted on the side if you ever need to lift the system into your car, and there's a recessed 1 3/8-inch hole on the bottom for placing the Block Rocker onto a professional PA speaker stand.
You'll find an abundance of audio inputs on the Block Rocker, including an iPod Dock, RCA stereo jacks, XLR mic input, and quarter-inch instrument jacks for plugging in a guitar. The iPod dock slapped on the top of the Block Rocker isn't the safest way to travel with your iPod, but it does include a tension screw to prevent your iPod from easily shaking loose. All other audio inputs are located on the front of the Block Rocker, along with large plastic knobs for adjusting input gain and volume output.
A standard, three-prong power cable input is located on the back of the Block Rocker (a power cable is included), which is used to provide direct power or recharge the system's internal battery (it takes about 4 hours to reach full charge). The back of the Block Rocker also includes a power switch, an output link for pairing with another speaker, and a battery level indicator.
We're happy to see that all of the Block Rocker's audio inputs can be used simultaneously, allowing you to combine your iPod with a microphone or instrument input (karaoke anyone?), and the ability to adjust each input independently makes it easy to balance levels. A rugged dynamic-type microphone is included that's a doppelganger for Shure's classic SM58.
Who's it for?
The Block Rocker isn't pretty, but it is practical, especially if you need a battery-powered speaker system that can withstand a ton of abuse. In all seriousness, the Block Rocker would make an ideal companion for street musicians, protesters, carnival barkers, bingo announcers, and sidewalk preachers. Most people, however, will probably seek out the Block Rocker as a way to add music to outdoor parties, camping trips, or tailgating.
We wish the Block Rocker's sound quality was better, and a remote control would have been nice, but you won't find a more rugged and functional outdoor iPod speaker at this price.