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iHome iHM77 portable multimedia speakers review: iHome iHM77 portable multimedia speakers

iHome iHM77 portable multimedia speakers

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks and Nook e-books, as well as audiobooks.

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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.

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iHome iHM77 portable multimedia speakers

The Good

The iHM77 is a set of very compact portable speakers that are rechargeable via USB. When traveling, the two tiny speakers adhere together to form a mini capsule. Each speaker has an on/off switch and power indicator; an all-in-one cable incorporates USB connectors and a headphone plug for MP3 players, laptops, and any other audio source.

The Bad

Not surprisingly the speakers sound thin; they're a bit pricey compared with competing mini travel speakers.

The Bottom Line

iHome's iHM77 portable speakers get high marks for design, but they don't exactly shine in the sound quality department.

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.

Tiny speakers usually don't sound all that good and the iHM77s are no exception. To put it simply, there's almost no bass here--and things just sound flat and tinny. We played some Kings of Leon and Snow Patrol on both the iHM77s and the Orbit MP3 iM237, and the bigger Orbit came out the winner even though it's only one speaker.

As we said in our review of the Orbit, the key thing with the iHome speakers is not to crank the volume on your source device too much (you can't control the volume on the speakers). At lower volumes, the flaws in the sound quality aren't as pronounced.

In the final analysis, the iHM77's strength is clearly its design. If you're looking for a supercompact set of speakers to get some sound out of your iPod or other audio device on the road, the little system does the job. But to say it does it well would be a stretch. Of course, if it cost $25 instead of $50 we might be a little more forgiving.

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iHome iHM77 portable multimedia speakers

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 4