Nothing is worse than showing a hilarious YouTube video to friends who can't hear it because your phone is too quiet. The Speck CandyShell Amped case aims to fix that by promising twice the volume as your iPhone 5 can pump out, without the need for a powered speaker. The case will also protect your phone from accidental drops. Unfortunately, this $44.95 accessory is better at shielding your device than boosting the audio.
The outside of the Speck CandyShell Amped case has the same sleek aesthetic as other Speck CandyShell products. The case is made of a smooth shiny plastic that comes in pink, blue or black and meets the MIL-STD-810G U.S. Military Standard — meaning it's rugged enough to survive an 8-foot drop. While it will protect your phone, the Amped case itself didn't fare as well: Our black case quickly picked up scratches and fingerprints in less than an hour of general use.
The ports, hold switch, power button and volume buttons are all easily accessible on the Amped case. The case adds only 1.25 ounces to the overall weight of the iPhone and, at 0.6 inches deep, it doubles the phone's thickness. Still, it was easy to put our encased iPhone in our pocket.
Much of that extra chunkiness is due to Speck's Horn Design. The molding on the inside of the case channels sound from the iPhone's speaker to a speaker grille on the left side of the case. It's a neat bit of design intended to amplify the volume without requiring additional batteries or hardware.
Speck claims that the Horn Design will provide two times the volume as a naked iPhone 5s. However, tests in our lab showed a far less substantial boost in volume. When inside the Amp, the iPhone 5s' best volume output was 80 dB, as measured from 13 inches away. That's exactly 1 dB more than the 79 dB the phone got without the case, making it just 1.25 times as loud.
Aside from volume, the Horn Design changes the sound of the iPhone, but not always for the better. Consistently high tones sounded muted, while the mid and low tones were rumbled. This made for a muddy, but not altogether unpleasant, sound.
The subtle snare drum in the intro of Chris Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing" is normally quite clear on the iPhone's speaker, but quickly disappeared into the guttural guitar when channeled through the case. The complex noise of the harmonica in Sleater-Kinney's "Modern Girl" was completely obscured, sounding muddy and distant in the Speck Amped.
Worse, the shrill tone of the default iPhone ring was dampened by the Horn Design as if the phone were resting in the outer pocket of a purse.
The Speck CandyShell Amped sports an attractive coating and will help protect your iPhone from drops, but it doesn't quite deliver the big sound it promises. Additionally, the horn design makes audio from the iPhone sound muddled. At $44.95, the Amped case costs $10 more than the normal CandyShell case, and its added bulk does not make it worth the price.