The Tailgater from ION Audio does exactly what the name suggests, it provides a portable audio solution. It's a single speaker system with microphone, musical instrument, auxiliary inputs, and an iPod/iPhone dock connection to play audio from a variety of sources.
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The ION Tailgater weighs 20 pounds and is fairly large, measuring 12.5 x 9.5 x 14-inches (wdh), but it is fairly easy to move around. The rugged black plastic body is extremely sturdy and the corners are accented with metal curved plates. The bottom of the device has four rubber feet to protect from scratching or scuffing. To make it easy to carry, there are two nicely-sized handles on both sides of the device. We can definitely see ourselves using it at the beach on a nice warm day.
On the top front of the Tailgater is where all the controls and inputs are located. The first two are microphone inputs (the second one supports an instrument to use the Tailgater as an amplifier), the third input is left & right component audio in. Each input has its own volume control and there is a master volume control as well for mixing of audio sources simultaneously. The iPod/iPhone volume level is controlled by the auxiliary input knob. The volume knobs themselves feel to be pretty sturdy themselves.
Unfortunately, there is no remote control for the unit, but this seems reasonable since the controls are manual and not digital. It would be nice to be able to control the iPod/iPhone through a remote to control audio playback, but that isn't possible with this device.
The iPod/iPhone dock on the top has an adjustable back support to provide a back rest for your device while it is docked. The manufacturer does recommend that you use the universal dock adapter to provide a better fit for your device, but that's up to you. The ION Tailgater can be used with any iPod with a dock connector (this leaves out the iPod Shuffles) and all iPhone models. You can play any audio content from the iPod, including podcasts and audio books.
Any audio source with a white & red component out can be plugged into the Tailgater, which means you can use things like a satellite radio receiver or other MP3 player. ION also includes a microphone that is also very sturdy and works quite well. The use of a microphone allows for karaoke use with an iPod or other MP3 player playing music at the same time.
The audio quality of the ION Tailgater sounds absolutely fantastic and with no distortion or audible flaws. The 20W speaker pumps out a lot of volume, with the highest level being way too loud for close range hearing. It's definitely worth using at an outdoor party during the summer, birthday party indoors, a football tailgate party or wherever you may need portable audio. The unit does have fairly good bass, but there's no adjustment for treble, bass, or anything like that.
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The unit can be used with the power adapter plugged in or on battery power. The rated battery life on 2/3 volume is 8 hours, but we were able to get just short of 9 hours on a comfortable volume level for an outdoor setting. The recharge time is around 12 hours, which is rather lengthy. We do like that the Tailgater can charge your iPod/iPhone while it is docked in the unit, and that the recharging feature can be turned off via a switch on the back panel to save juice if the unit is running on battery power. There is also a four light battery indicator to show the current battery level, which is very handy and useful.
The back panel also has an input for connecting more than one Tailgater to provide even more sound inputs or additional speaker placement. The cable for doing this is not included in the package and is sold separately.
In all, the ION Tailgater is a great device that provides excellent-quality portable audio from an iPod/iPhone or any other audio source with audio out capabilities in a relatively cheap and easy to use unit. The sound quality of this device coupled with its portability make it an excellent summertime beach companion of college football tailgating entertainment device. If you're brave enough, you can use it as a karaoke unit too!