Editors' note: This product's full name is "Beats by Dr. Dre Beatbox iPod Dock" but we're sticking with "Monster Beatbox" for this review. Like the Monster Beats headphones, it's part of the "Beats by Dr. Dre" line of products from Monster that are created in collaboration with Beats, a company founded by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.
The Monster Beatbox has a simple mission that goes something like this: deliver big sound from a small box. We'd call it monster sound, except the Beatbox doesn't quite go that far. But it certainly is compact and it certainly plays loud, filling even a fairly big room with sound. The Beatbox lists for a hefty $400.
That in itself is an impressive feat, and the Beatbox may just be the loudest-playing iPod dock for its size. The first thing you'll notice about it when you pick it up--yes, there's a convenient carrying handle at the top--is that it's heavy, weighing in at a solid 13 pounds. Though it's not battery-powered (the power supply is in the unit, which contributes to the weight), it's designed to be portable and turn into a party box wherever you take it.
No, the unit isn't ruggedized per se, but it appears well built and has an attractive minimalist--yet muscular--styling to it. The dock is on the top left of the box not far from a power button, and the volume knob has been placed in the top right corner of the unit. In terms of buttons, that's it, though there is an auxiliary input for connecting other audio devices, and there's a special port for an optional wireless dongle known as the Monster Streamcast Wireless System. Unfortunately, Monster hasn't specified the price, availability date, or features of that supposedly forthcoming add-on. We wish the Bluetooth was integrated into the unit, but so it goes.
As we said, this is all about the big sound, and we found that close range (4 feet or so) wasn't the best spot for listening to the Beatbox. Because the sound is pretty aggressive, you're better off standing back a bit and listening from longer range. That's usually not the case with these iPod stereo systems, where the speakers are right next to each other and there's very little in the way of stereo separation. But in this case, Monster has some digital trickery working to widen the soundstage (it works well enough, though not great) and the optimal listening area is probably more in the 10- to 15-foot range, rather than less than 5 feet.
To get maximum bass, Monster recommends sticking the Beatbox in the corner of a room where the walls meet (that's why the sides of the unit are tapered, so it can really fit in a corner). Alternatively, you can just stick it close to a wall so you can get some reflection for the bass. And overall, we thought the bass was big (again, there's that word) and good, thought it didn't exhibit great definition. In other words, this isn't the bass you'd get from a separate subwoofer, but the Beatbox pushes around a lot of air and we should warn you that some objects in the room can end up rattling when you crank the volume.