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Friday, February 01, 2013, 05:35 pm PT (08:35 pm ET)

Belkin's Thunderstorm speaker dock brings room-filling audio to iPad

In showing off their wares, companies sometimes put product reps in odd positions, but mild sensory deprivation isn't terribly common. So it was novel to find myself in a soundproof booth with a Belkin representative, checking out the Thunderstorm. "I have no idea what's been going on outside this room all day," he admitted to me before starting the demo.

Belkin Thunderstorm


He'd been in the booth since the show started this morning. It was, after all, a popular exhibit, earning a Best of Show award from Macworld/iWorld's organizers on Friday.

The booth was soundproofed in order to give visitors a taste of just what the Thunderstorm ($199, Amazon) brings to the table. It's a speaker attachment that plugs into the iPad's dock connector, wrapping around the tablet and turning the thin and tinny sound of the device into a fuller, more tangible audio experience. Or so the pitch goes.

With the door securely closed, the dull, ever-present murmur of the Macworld show floor disappeared. He moved immediately into the demo, playing sound from the Skyfall trailer out of the iPad's normal speakers. In thin, unaltered iPad audio, Daniel Craig glowered and fought, and Judi Dench dryly gave kill orders.

Right about the point where Naomie Harris puts a bullet into Craig, he plugged in the Thunderstorm's connector. The difference was audible. He advised me to pick up the unit, and I did, just as the MGM lion roared.

Belkin constructed the unit so that it sends air along channels built into it, producing a rumbling effect. The difference is literally tangible.

Belkin


It is, of course, something one has to experience in person to get the full effect. Suffice it to say, the lengths to which Belkin went to demonstrate the tech are justified. It's not a home theater audio experience, of course, but compared to what one gets out of the standard iPad speakers, it might as well be.

There was, for once, no one waiting in line for the Thunderstorm experience, so we lingered in the soundproofed room for a while. With the Bond trailer over, the quiet of the room was a welcome respite from the thousand other conversations on the convention floor. The attendant did turn on more music, West Coast hyphy pounding out of the Thunderstorm's speakers.

Belkin Rep


Eventually, I had to move on. There's a lot of "Best in Show" to cover. Going for the door, though, I found it stuck fast. The Thunderbolt experience was fun, but the prospect of filing the rest of my Macworld coverage from a soundproof room was unappealing. The attendant was unperturbed.

"Happens probably about twice an hour," he said, putting his shoulder into the door three or four times. The door finally budged, and I sighed in relief.

"Hazards of the job," he said, rubbing his shoulder, and I was on my way.