iHome iH19 Review

The iHome iH19 iPod speaker-cum-case is built for the outdoors. It’s fairly rugged so your music player gets great protection, and it’s also water-resistant. (That’s water-resistant, not waterproof; this thing’s not about to protect your valuable Apple investment if you drop it in the river while out on a high-volume yet romantic stroll, listening to your old Belle and Sebastian albums).

Aesthetically, the black-and-silver case design is reminiscent of an 80s ghetto blaster, though it’s a lot smaller (230 x 108 x 90mm) and doesn’t honestly match those once popular devices for volume – a blessing for people who used such devices in public back in the day, who no doubt complain about the youth of today now, being parents themselves.

As you’d expect, the case zips up to conceal your iPod, and hosts a pair of stereo speakers controlled by a central click-wheel replacement situated on the front of the device. It weighs 842g without the iPod; weight with an iPod depends on which model you use with the machine but it won’t weigh you down. It works with all dock connector-equipped models, bar the third-generation version, for which it offers only limited support (no recharge or controls).

The sturdy construction of the product is let down in our opinion by its weedy carrying strap. This is about as thick as a bootlace, which means that when you proudly strut down the street with your £60 case, you’ll look as if you’re carrying a handbag. Sure, it’s an unusual handbag, and there are many men and women who like to carry handbags, but it does miss the ghetto blaster chic in a big way, and suggests the strap was added as an afterthought. The iH19 is also available in pink and white.

For the money, you get the iH19 (with ‘that’ carrying strap), a power adaptor with UK, US, and European clip-on plug adaptors, and two brackets which you can use to attach the contraption to a bicycle or exercise equipment, if you believe keeping fit is the path to long life. (There’s a mounting system situated on the rear of the unit, which is used to hold these brackets in place). There’s also a 3.5mm jack so you can use the shuffle and non-iPod players with the system. There’s a Velcro fastening at the top of the case that lets you access some of the device’s internal connectors, which are housed at the top of the unit on the inside. You’ll need to protect this area from drips if it’s raining heavily in order to prevent water trickling through to the electrical components. These accessible points include the DC in point, a hold button, the line-in and headphone-out ports.

When you open the iH19, you’ll find a snug space (with removable foam inserts) to hold your iPod, which is secured in place by an elastic strip, and a dock connector-equipped cable that links the music player to the speaker system. There’s also a compartment that holds the four AA batteries you can use to power the stereo. When you choose to use the iH19 with the mains, the iPod will be recharged while you use it, so you can play your music that bit longer. As mentioned, 3G iPods don’t benefit from this feature, and the product doesn’t recharge your music player when drawing power from the batteries, conserving battery life.

Controls are spot on and perfectly emulate an iPod’s click wheel. Arranged in a circle between the speakers at the front of the unit you’ll find a central play/pause button, forward and reverse buttons and a volume up and volume down button. These are solid-state buttons. There’s also a blue light below the controls that shows when the unit is in use. Going back to the design aesthetic, the circular speakers are protected by a mesh grille and surrounded by a silver metal circle, as are the controls.

At the end of the day, a speaker system is all about volume. We were impressed with the sound from the iMainGo, but unfortunately in terms of volume, the iH19 doesn’t come close to that machine. However, the sound it does produce is well balanced and lacks distortion even at high volume – it’s pleasing but not amazing. You also get the benefit of iPod recharging (though only when it’s plugged into the mains. Introduction of a dock connector for syncing your iPod with this device would have added an extra benefit to notebook-toting road warriors.

OUR VERDICT

Its distinctive looks may alienate some, but others will like its retro styling. The fact it’s waterproof with a line-in port for non-iPods reinforces its outdoors-bound attraction. It is a shame, though, that your iPod won’t be recharged unless the iH19 is connected to the mains. On the whole, this is a good system with sensitive sound reproduction that will find a place in many an iPod user’s arsenal.

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