Bluetooth Bluetooth Bluetooth, it’s all you ever hear about anymore when the topic of speakers is brought up. The market is absolutely flooded with Bluetooth speakers right now. One of the problems with all these Bluetooth speakers is their inability to easily allow users to quickly switch between audio input sources. Another drawback of Bluetooth speakers is their inability to work in tandem, allowing the same audio to come out of several speakers simultaneous.
AirPlay speakers, on the other hand, easily allow different users to quickly connect without the need for a frustrating pairing process like there is with Bluetooth. AirPlay speakers are also able to work together and output synchronized audio from a single output device such as an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. iHome carries several AirPlay capable wireless speakers including the iW1, iW2, and iW3, which I will be discussing in this review.
One thing to consider with AirPlay speakers is that they require being connected to any kind of 802.11b or 802.11g Wi-Fi network whether it be your home network or a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. These speakers are intended to be used around the home, so even though you can move them from spot to spot, they are not what the industry would consider “portable.” The iW2, on the other hand, is not restricted to Wi-Fi for connectivity, though it does have an Ethernet port for connecting to your network. Unfortunately, the iW1 and iW3 do not include an Ethernet port.
Two of these speakers, the iW3 and the iW1 both have built-in rechargeable lithium ion batteries and are recharged by way of an easy to use AC outlet docking foot that each AirPlay speaker rests upon. These built-in rechargeable battery allows you to easily move the iW3 and the iW1 to various locations within your Wi-Fi range using their built-in handle on the back. The iW3 has a 2,200mAh capacity and the iW1 has a capacity of 2,600mAh giving you hours upon hours of use. The iW2, on the other hand, has no battery and needs to stay plugged into an AC wall outlet during use.
Each of these AirPlay speakers has built-in controls for Play, Pause, Volume, Next, & Previous. They also each have a USB port and come with an iPhone cable. This USB port will charge your iPhone or any other USB powered devices, which really comes in handy around the house. The USB port and iPhone cable also double as another way to send audio to any three of these speakers. Of course, you can also use the good old tried and true 3.5mm auxiliary input jack to send your music to any one of these speakers. This especially comes in handy if you have any kind of music player that doesn’t support AirPlay or USB.
The USB port, iPhone cable, and free iHome iOS app are also used for the network setup process. iHome states that the setup process is “Simple & quick”. Unfortunately, I found it to be neither. That’s not to say it’s as frustratingly difficult as programming an old VCR or thermostat, but the iHome AirPlay network setup process could certainly use an update, especially the iPhone app and firmware for each speaker.
All three speakers preformed quite well as long as the volume level is not maxed out. I recommend staying at roughly around 75% for best performance, with my suggested max usable level being 90%. I did notice that all three speakers slightly underperformed in the low-end department and didn’t produce quite the deep and rich bass as I would prefer. However, this is not a deal breaker with any of these speakers since the bass is still pretty dang good, especially considering these are not giant speakers.
When using these three airplay speakers simultaneously, they all stayed perfectly synchronized and provided quite an impressive surround sound effect. One thing I noticed that was problematic is how the audio can skip or stop and loose sync between speakers when there is too much other traffic over your local Wi-Fi network, such as multiple large file transfers combined with high quality video streaming. To further prevent any disruption to your audio, I recommend keeping each speaker well within the range of your Wi-Fi router and even using a dedicated Wi-Fi router for the music so there isn’t any other traffic. This option would be ideal if you were using the speakers to provide music for a party or special event.
To sum things up, I really like all three of these speakers from iHome. They are a great option if you are looking to add quality audio throughout the house without having to cut holes in your walls, string yards of wire, or have giant monstrous speakers taking up your precious floor space. The best part is that you can move them all around your house and any Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch that is connected to your network can easily utilize them. If you hate dealing with Bluetooth pairing and would like to have a full house sound system, then several of these iHome AirPlay speakers would be a great option. I highly recommend them.
iW1: Dimensions: 12.5″ W x 7.3″ H x 3.7″ D, Weight: 6.5 lbs.
iW2: Dimensions: 10.5″ W x 5.8″ H x 3″ D, Weight: 4.6 lbs
iW3: Dimensions: 4.61″ W x 9.38″ H x 4.61″ D, Weight: 2.20 lbs
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