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As far as iPod music systems go, the iHome iH15 is about as simple as they come except for a small but brilliant design twist: it changes colors.
With the lights on, we can say the iH15 ($59.99) may not be all that exciting to look at, but it is--dare we say it--kind of cute. A 5.25-inch cube with some curves and a milky opaque plastic finish, it's got a bit of that '70s throwback thing going for it. Three small speakers adorn three of its four sides (one is a "passive subwoofer"). And just four buttons--one for power, two for volume, and one for toggling the color--run across the top of the unit just in front of the iPod dock. You get a 3.5mm line-in jack for other MP3 players or audio devices, but that's it. No radio, no alarm, no remote control.
The iH15 doesn't sound all that great either. It's a step-up up from your basic clock radio--but not a big step up. There's some bass and the little cube can play somewhat loud, but the whole thing sounds quite unrefined (read: not much detail). But as we often say, for casual listening and charging your iPod, the iH15 is certainly an acceptable solution. Let's just say that in terms of sound, it doesn't distinguish itself from other entry-level iPod music systems in the $40 to $60 price range, most of which don't sound great.
However, clearly the value added here is the iH15's chameleon-like quality in the dark. Touch that "color" button and you give this iHome a new aura--you can choose between seven colors or have it cycle through all the colors in a "rainbow" mode with a short pause between color changes. You can also completely turn off the LED backlight if it keeps you awake. (The Altec Lansing Moondance Glow iM402 has a color "mood" backlight, but that model is significantly more expensive, sounds better, and has more features).
Like iHome's other iPod music systems, this one is compatible with virtually all iPods and comes with the requisite sleeves to make sure your iPod gets a snug fit it in the dock. You can also dock your iPhone, but this model doesn't offer GSM-shielding, so you'll have to put your iPhone in airplane mode (turn off the cell radio) or risk having the speakers pick up some interference.
In sum, this iHome's all about setting a mood with a little ambient color. Of course, some people may not find that all that neat. However, we thought it was a smart move on iHome's part--at least the iH15 offers something to differentiate itself from the rest of the $50 iPod music system pack.