iHome iP1 review:

iHome iP1

One issue we had with the bass/treble adjustments was that it was hard to tell just how much bass or treble you'd dialed in because there are no numbers or settings to read. You simply hit the plus and minus symbols to raise and lower the levels. It's also worth noting that if you lose the remote control, it doesn't appear that you can set bass or treble levels. The only buttons on the unit itself are for raising and lowering the volume.

At first, we weren't impressed with the sound of the iP1. However, that was partially because of where we placed the unit in our early listening tests. We had it on a table away from the wall, and the bass sounded underwhelming. But we then moved it to another room and placed it on a shelf about 18 inches from the wall, and it immediately sounded better. The moral of the story is, placement is important for audio speakers.

We fed it various genres of music and concluded the iP1 offers aggressive sound (read: the opposite of laid back). The bass and treble are amped up, but its midrange doesn't have a strong presence (voices sounded a little higher-pitched than they should have). Engaging the "B" button helps to balance out the sound and smooth things out, so we suspect most people will keep it activated most of the time.

What's this all add up to? Well, the iP1 sounds better with rock, hip-hop, and thumping pop music from the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna, but isn't as well-suited to playing acoustical or classical music. In other words, because the system is on the aggressive side, it tends to sound better with equally aggressive music. With finer material, it just doesn't have the chops to truly impress. The audio detail is there, but it has a little too much edge to at times and we noticed some slight distortion in certain acoustical tracks (we listened to Dan Auerbach's "Keep it Hid," for example). Also, as with all compact iPod audio systems, it's hard to get great stereo separation from speakers that are so close together.

In terms of volume, the system does have some kick to it, and while it's not as powerful or as good overall as the identically priced Altec Lansing Mix iMT800, but it will fill a small to medium size room with sound. Again, placement is important, so if you do buy one, move it around to hear how it sounds in various locations.

Overall, the iP1 mixes an interesting, arresting design with relatively dynamic sound that's geared toward contemporary music. That said, while the iP1 is better than what Bose has to offer in this price range, $300 is still a fair amount to pay for an iPod music system, and this model would be more attractive if it cost less than $250. Altec's Mix iMT800 may not be as sleek looking, but it offers better sound, an FM radio, and a portable option for the same price. However, the Altec is considerably larger and does not have video outputs.

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