More companies are making tiny portable speakers that plug into the headphone jack of your iPod, iPhone, music player, or laptop so you can enjoy your music while you're on the road. Like Altec Lansing's Orbit MP3 iM237, which is shaped like a hockey puck, the iHome iHM77 also makes a design statement with its mushroom-like collapsible speakers that attach magnetically to each other and morph into a capsule that slips into a carrying pouch.
We really liked the concept of the iHM77, which carries a list price of $50 and starting in November will come in black, red, and silver. Each speaker has its own rechargeable battery that gives you several hours of power (there was no rated time given but in our tests we got more than 4 hours). The speakers are linked together and are charged by a single forked cable that also includes a headphone connector that plugs into the 3.5mm headphone jack or audio output on any audio device. The top of each speaker unscrews and pops up to reveal some accordion-like ribbing. "Expanding" the speaker allows more air to pass through the speaker and, in theory, create a better sound, with more bass.
We liked how the speakers broke down for travel. In the base of each speaker there's a magnet; get the bases close enough, and the speakers adhere together, meshing perfectly and forming a capsule. You then wrap the cord (and all its connectors) around a cord organizer and throw the whole thing into the cloth carrying pouch. The rolled up cord is a little ungainly, but that's only a minor knock.
Other highlights: each speaker features its own on/off switch with a blue LED that indicates the speaker is on. To charge the speakers, you connect the mini-USB connectors (one to each speaker), then plug the larger USB end into the USB jack on your computer.
Note that the USB cable is for charging only--you can't use them as USB speakers for your computer (you'll need to connect the audio plug into the PC's headphone jack). That said, you can charge the iHomes from other USB-friendly power sources as well--we also had no problem charging them with an iPod USB AC adapter, for instance.