Speck CandyShell Amped iPhone 5s case review

Let’s be honest: smartphone speakers are generally tinny, sibilant weaklings. Tiny amplifiers and minuscule enclosures, coupled with design limitations, often create music that sounds thin and voices that arrive soft.

Speck, one of the most popular smartphone accessory manufacturers, decided to do something about this with its new CandyShell Amped case for the iPhone 5 and 5s. The idea is fairly straightforward: using a larger cavity, sound is routed from the bottom-facing mono speaker throughout the enclosure, widening and deepening the sound, expelling through a series of small holes on the left side of the device.

The case itself is made from military-grade polycarbonate and, like the other cases in the CandyShell series, is well-constructed and comfortable, though my black demo unit was very glossy and prone to fingerprints.

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Though it only adds a quarter of an inch to the thickness of the iPhone, the extra bulk takes some getting used to. Still, if the payoff is significant, 0.28-inches is a small price to pay. Unfortunately, the iPhone 5s I used to demo the Amped case doesn’t magically sound like an HTC One M8, nor does it sound “over 2x louder+clearer” like the company claims.

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As you can hear from the Soundcloud clip above, the sound profile certainly changes for the better with the case: the highest frequencies are cut significantly, ending the unpleasant sibilance found in percussion, like cymbals, or high-pitched singing voices. The changes are not subtle, either: though certain music does sound more enjoyable, upper-midrange and lower-treble is somewhat buried, ending in a more muddied sound with lower dynamic range than with no case at all.

I actually enjoyed this shift, and were it not for the fact that the internal “horn” cavity extends the length of the device just enough to make a right-angle headphone connector impossible to insert, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the case.

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For $44.95, the CandyShell Amped is a difficult case to recommend unless you’re specifically looking to use your device more for conferencing or music. There is no way the sound is twice as loud — at maximum volume, I noted about a 20% increase in output from streaming Rdio tracks, but that could be merely limitations with the source — but the sound is significantly better, and that’s enough for me to issue a limited recommendation.

The CandyShell Amped case is available in Black, Bubblegum Pink, and Caribbean Blue.

Recommended with caveats

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