About 18 months ago, inventor and father of three, Moshe Wiess was given an iPad as a gift and quickly fell in love with it. One thing he didn’t like however was the rather poor speaker and audio output, and soon found himself (much like everyone else has) cupping his hand over the speaker to bounce the sound waves out towards the front. He grew tired of having to operate the iPad effectively one-handed, so grabbed an old box, cut one side off of it and used a rubber band to secure it to his iPad. Hardly a pretty solution, but it’s from there that the idea for the SoundBender was born.
After an unsuccessful Kickstarter at the beginning of 2012, Wiess learnt his lessons and quickly tried again. This time he succeded in raising over $10,000 against a target of $4,500 and the SoundBender was put into production. The initial batch ran into a small problem with the integral magnets being aligned the wrong way around for some iPads, and Wiess had to replace some of them. It wasn’t the first gizmo of its kind or the last, but he got it out there. Then along came the iPad 2 with its sleeker design, requiring a new design and another Kickstarter – this time with a removable magnet that can be switched to match the polarity of the ones in your iPad, and stop it jumping off.
The Soundbender itself is a very small bit of injection-moulded plastic and simply slips over the iPad’s speaker and is held there with the aforementioned magnet. If you do have one of the repelling ones, reversing the magnet in the SoundBender only takes a few seconds. It pops on and off very easily, but stays stuck when you need it to. I have one of Apple’s Smart Covers and with the SoundBender attached, it can still close pretty much as normal and put the device to sleep, but I don’t think it would work with some of the more bulkier covers available. However, it’s so small and easy to pop on and off, that it’s no problem to just remove it and take it with you.
The difference it can make to the audio output of the iPad is quite impressive. It doesn’t so much amplify the sound, but rather directs it more towards your ears. The high frequencies are much crisper and the bass seems fuller. It’s never going to replace a set of external speakers, but it’s perfect for watching videos and playing games. I have developed a ‘second-screen’ approach at my desk – keeping my Twitter, RSS feeds and other ‘distractions’ on the iPad whilst I work away on the iMac. Every now and then an interesting video pops up on YouTube and now I don’t have to bother putting on the headphones to hear the sound clearly. It also works perfectly well for when I’m catching up on my Doctor Who via the BBC’s iPlayer or streaming the IT Crowd on Netflix, but I’ll still dig out the cans when it’s the music that’s important.