I’ve tried a few models of voice amplifiers, all in the $20 – $40 price range, and it seems like each one was worse than the last. I needed one for my Cobra Commander costume helmet because, while I could hear what people were saying at comic book and sci-fi conventions, people were having a hard time hearing what I was saying. So a Mandalorian Merc at a comic con recommended a portable voice amplifier.
The headsets are thin enough to fit under the helmet without requiring too much space and the amplifier itself for most models can either be hung on a strap or attached to a belt using the belt clip. The headset cable discreetly ran out the back of my helmet, into my cape, and down to my waist.
The first one I bought was from DimeTech and it arrived with a broken power cable. I had spares, so I thought I might be able to do without it, but the sound quality was awful. There was constant feedback from the speaker and I continually had to wiggle the headset cable to get it to work. That one got sent back and I ordered a different brand.
Unfortunately, that next one wasn’t any better. It was from ClearHear and the feedback was also terrible. After using it twice, it stopped working. Occasionally, if I hold it just the right way and wiggle the headset cable, I can get it to work. But that’s pretty useless, since the whole idea behind these devices is that you should be able to move while using them.
After the last one broke, I decided to try something in a higher price range, hoping that the quality would be better and that I might be able to find one with a bluetooth headset. But while I was shopping, I found the AGPTek KY03 Voice Amplifier. I was going to write it off because it was actually cheaper than the other ones I bought and didn’t have a bluetooth headset, but I noticed it was also an FM radio and could play mp3s off a flash drive or an SD card. Those additional features caught my eye. Some pricier models didn’t even have that.
Recently, the mp3 player in my Jeep shorted out – probably due to an electrical problem from it being a Jeep and going places where Jeeps go. Rather than buying a new $300 in-dash mp3 player and risking shorting that one out, too, I got it in my head that I could get one of these to use with my costume for conventions and also carry it around to listen to music in my Jeep…assuming the volume was loud enough. In spite of my previous experience with the other inexpensive models, that was enough for me to give this one a try and I have to say that I’m really glad I did.
It arrived the same day I was heading down to the Atlantic City Boardwalk Con and worked perfectly as a voice amplifier. It was comfortable under my costume helmet and, even on the lowest setting, it was loud enough for people to hear me clearly, without any feedback.
After the convention, I decided to try out the mp3 function. I took the same 64 GB USB flash drive from my Jeep and inserted it into the slot on the voice amplifier. It started playing with no problems. Even though I was in the middle of nowhere at the time, several FM stations came through clearly.
There were a few negatives. One was that the power/volume knob popped off the first day I was using it. But it wasn’t broken, so I just slid it back on and now it’s fine. It also uses the “next” and “previous” buttons to control volume, but there really is no way to rewind part of a song. You either go to the next song or the previous song. Fast forward and rewind would have been cool features to have, but it’s still pretty feature-packed without those options. On a few occasions, I turned it on with the flash drive still in the USB slot and the device would not recognize that a flash drive was inserted. When that happened, I just turned it off, removed the flash drive, turned it back on, reinserted the flash drive, and it started playing from where it left off.
The instructions say the battery lasts 6-8 hours with a life of 2-4 years. I used it for almost 7 hours at the convention and have been using it daily since as a mobile mp3 player in my Jeep for over a week and the battery still hasn’t died. It might die sooner if used constantly as a voice amplifier, but as an mp3 player, it’s still going strong. The rechargeable battery is also removable, unlike other models, so it can be replaced if needed. The instructions recommend that it not be used while charging.
Another cool feature is that is has aux input, so you can use it as a speaker for other devices. I hooked it up to the audio out ports of a karaoke machine and was able to talk through it using the microphone from the karaoke machine. It could also be used to boost the sound from a laptop or portable DVD player.
I’m not sure how long this device will last. It doesn’t feel particularly sturdier than the previous models. But what you get is very much worth the price. The amplifier comes with a waist strap, a 3.5 mm audio cable, a USB charge cable, and basic instructions. The quality of the sound coming through it is not going to be theater quality surround sound, but I’m not really a sound snob. It’s loud enough and clear enough to do its job well. In the cellphone video I posted with this review, you can hear how loud it gets while playing a song off a flash drive with me barely moving the volume knob. There was still plenty of room to go louder, which means it could work well in a large room or out on a field.
It doesn’t have all the features or sound quality you might want or need out of a traditional dedicated mp3 player, but I won’t hold that against it. As a voice amplifier, it’s better than any of the others I bought at higher price points. I would have given it 5 out of 5 stars if the volume knob hadn’t come off. But even with that minor issue, I would very likely buy another one if it turns out that it’s capable of withstanding the frequent use and abuse I intend to unleash upon it.
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