ILuv i199 review:

ILuv i199

Sound quality is right on par with what we'd expect from a mini audio system like the i199. Played at a normalized level, the unit sounded crisp and clear regardless of which audio source was playing. The only exception to this was quality via Bluetooth (more on that later). It was only until we really pushed the unit did it begin to sound clouded and muzzled. That said, the system can easily fill up a large size room, as it did in our 15x22-foot testing area. We would have liked to have been able to tweak some of the audio, but unfortunately, there is no EQ control on the i199.

USB mode worked well, but we did notice a few minor hiccups with its functionality. The i199 will recognize WMA and MP3 files on a flash drive or mass-storage-compliant MP3 player, but if you switch to another source and then back to USB, you'll most likely need to toggle the i199's power in order for the unit to reread your USB drive. Navigating through our drive was easy, and the i199 will also recognize "albums" if you place groups of music files in separate folders.

The i199 is equipped with a small removable Bluetooth transceiver iLuv dubs "Bluepin" that can send or receive audio to compatible Bluetooth devices--pretty much anything with the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP). That means it can stream audio from Bluetooth-enabled sources (MP3-friendly cell phones) as well as stream audio to Bluetooth headphones. Unfortunately, this was the only place where we found the audio quality noticeably lacking--the songs playing off our Motorola Q cell phone sounded like FM radio quality. That's probably because the i199 utilizes the older 1.2 version of the Bluetooth spec, not the more music-friendly 2.0 or better version.

One strange issue we did have with the i199 was completely unrelated to its performance, but rather a cosmetic concern. The unit shipped with a sticker on the top of cover to the iPod dock--visible in the main product photo--and removing it was incredibly difficult. In fact, we were never able to completely remove the residue left by the decal. Usually these peel right off, but in this case, we may have been better off leaving it on--it's something to keep in mind.

In the final analysis, the i199 is a solid all-in-one tabletop audio solution that offers more features than many competing models--some of which cost hundreds more. Models that include both an iPod dock and a CD player are actually few and far between--the $300 Sharp DK-A10 i-Elegance lacks the advanced dual-alarm features on the iLuv, and the $400 Cambridge SoundWorks Radio CD 745i has a somewhat cumbersome outboard iPod dock. By comparison, the i199 has a retail price of $250, but it's widely available online for less than $200. Considering its plethora of features and decent sound quality, it's a great value.

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