iHome iW1 AirPlay Speaker Ships August 31st

Announced last September and expected to launch in time for the 2010 holidays, iHome’s iW1 AirPlay speaker system will finally begin shipping in a a few days with orders starting August 31st at 2PM EST.

The iW1 weighs in at $300, the same price point as the highly regarded Sonos Play:3 connected speaker system. But there are some significant differences in how these two products move music around your home. The iHome speaker receives audio wirelessly directly from Apple products, such as an iPhone or computer running iTunes, via AirPlay technology – which hasn’t yet lived up to its potential. On one hand, you should be able to stream just music from just about any iPhone app to the iW1. Yet, you’re obviously restricted to the Apple ecosystem.

By comparison, Sonos streams audio from the Internet or home computer and you’d use your smartphone as a remote (if you so choose) – including Android-based handsets. In my household, this means that my wife and I can both control the Sonos experience from any phone or computer while the AirPlay experience is more a 1:1 relationship. Of course Sonos also provides a whole-home solution as you add more wirelessly connected speakers. But, as compelling as Sonos is, the charging dock of the iW1 appeals (see here).

Video of both premium wireless sound systems follow…

16 thoughts on “iHome iW1 AirPlay Speaker Ships August 31st”

  1. It seems this is a very dumbed down Play:3. The Play:3 might as well be a full featured PC in its ability to consume content from Internet / NAS as compared to this as a wireless speaker with a charging dock? I guess if this cost $150 I would be more interested, just doesn’t make the value for me. I am curious to see how you think the two stack up as I was thinking of getting a 3 soon.

  2. Yeah, unfortunately, I kinda find AirPlay nothing more than a glorified Bluetooth speaker at this point (potentially making the fine $200 Jawbone Jambox a better comparison). Well, beaming pictures from iPhone to AppleTV is pretty cool and if video was done better with broader support that’d be THE killer feature. But, as far as audio is concerned, Sonos is far more sophisticated than AirPlay… although I still can’t stream Slacker (but at least I can finally get my XM Online).

  3. “Yeah, unfortunately, I kinda find AirPlay nothing more than a glorified Bluetooth speaker at this point (potentially making the fine $200 Jawbone Jambox a better comparison). Well, beaming pictures from iPhone to AppleTV is pretty cool and if video was done better with broader support that’d be THE killer feature.”

    Well, if you want to take advantage of the limited functionality of AirPlay, the wonderful developer Erica Sadun’s Banana TV is a nice $8 add-on to your Mac Mini HTPC to toss AirPlay receiving into your Audio/Visual experience.

    (Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil is also highly recommended. However it is more expensive than Banana TV, though it does contain a bunch of very useful additional features.)

    The beauty of multi-purpose computers is that they can handle lots of different functions without having to buy expensive add-on boxes for each function.

    Have I ever mentioned that I love having a Mac Mini hooked up to my A/V system?

  4. “A million years ago I messed around with AirFoil. Wonder if my license is still good for something?”

    If your license is for version 3, the website sez there is a $10 upgrade fee to version 4.

    If your only desire is for an OS X AirPlay receiver, I’d advise Banana TV instead. But Airfoil really does have some nice additional features beyond that.

    Personally, I find Airfoil’s killer feature to be the one that lets me watch webvideo on my laptop with AirFoil streaming the audio to my stereo in sync with the video through some clever two second delay trickery. I also love being able to play audio from my laptop through my stereo without having to deal with the limited AirPlay ecosystem.

    And Airfoil has some added features that I don’t use, but may well highly benefit other use-case scenarios. All from a good developer that makes good software.

  5. Dave, AirPlay works the same as AirTunes, allowing you to also use the device as a speaker from any iTunes library nag thus control those remotely via the remote app from any iPhone. Basically the same as Sonos (although confined to iTunes/iPhone or airfoil) with the addition of direct streaming from your phone. You neglected to mention the iTunes speaker functionality above.

  6. “All from a good developer that makes good software.”

    I feel I must expand. Rogue Amoeba absolutely rocks. I have licenses for Airfoil, Audio Hijack Pro, and Fission, and I highly recommend them all. (Though if I had it do all over again, I’d probably buy Radioshift instead of Audio Hijack Pro, since that’s all I ended up using it for.) I’d expect their other products to share the excellent user experience and functionality.

    An absolutely crucial and excellent developer if you’re into A/V and OS X.

  7. The Sonos PLAY:3 offers a solution to most Apple files except DRM protected one from a computer or networked drive. It does have a digitally read iPod dock available for $119 that can read the DRM protected files. Most of the DRM protected files were low bitrate as well – for $.30 each – you can upgrade them and lose the DRM. Add MOG, Spotify, and RDIO at 320K, Rhapsody and Napster, Wolfgangs Vault, Aupeo!, Pandora, Last.FM, Stitcher, Tune-in, and whatever you have on your network, it seems to offer a lot more!

  8. Jim, that’s for the reminder and clarification. It’s true, I don’t know much with/in iTunes these days.

    Chucky, I’ve used Audio Hijack Pro for a few projects over the years as well.

    steve, I upgraded both my wife and I’d iTunes to the DRM-free variants at some point and many, many challenges were eliminated. Regarding the streaming offerings, I agree Sonos has a solid lineup. But there quite a few compelling AirPlay-enabled audio apps… assuming one has an iPhone.

  9. There was an article back in June which mentioned that Slacker was in testing on the Sonos platform. Hope they release soon. I much prefer Slacker over Pandora or Spotify.

  10. Another nod to the Jawbone Jambox. I’d been thinking about picking up a FoxL portable speaker for some time, and the inclusion of the same tech in the Jambox sealed the deal, despite not being a fan of their bluetooth earpieces which I think are kind of stupid (press the piece into your ear since its getting a little loose and hang up the call).

    Great sound. Elegant execution. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

    Like you said Dave, there are lots of perfectly good Bluetooth solutions that people should consider when looking at AirPlay audio-only solutions, especially expensive AirPlay solutions. For example, Belkin makes a Bluetooth Music Receiver you can pick up on Amazon for $34. Lets you upgrade your existing receiver, Bose clock radio or whatever to handle bluetooth audio transmissions from your iPhone without spending a lot of money. You just need an audio line in jack. Yes you’ll have to ‘switch inputs’ to make it work, which a good AirPlay solution would not require. But you should think about whether this will meet your needs.

  11. Was able to snag one during the launch today. We’ll see if it gets here before Labor day weekend. Will have to write up some thoughts.

  12. well I can see this is a gadget guy website. you love to mix and match all the possibilities. like Sonos can. that’s very cool, but you’re bringing the wrong perspective to AirPlay and the new iW1: IT’S NOT FOR YOU!

    it’s for dummies like me who are happy enuff with iTunes and Apple stuff. we don’t want to mess with gadgets, we want it all to Just Work. and we number in the tens of millions. iHome is hoping to sell to us, not you guys.

    so I came here hoping to learn what really matters from that perspective – is the iW1 sound any good? being portable with battery is already a big plus – the backyard is prime territory – so if the audio is decent i’ll buy one.

    as to AirPlay, what a picky bunch. more and more media apps keep enabling it. the rest are probably waiting for the iOS 5 update next month to use its new features, including Screen Mirroring, which adds more UI possibilities.

    sorry you’re not gonna get that pony for Xmas. you’ll have to make do with a cute puppy.

  13. Hm, have you ever tried a Bluetooth speaker like the Jambox? It also just works… and universally. Whereas AirPlay and Screen Mirroring work inconsistently (along with Apple’s HDMI dongle).

    Having said that, I too wonder about the iW1’s audio properties. I’m hoping Adam will fill us in this weekend and I’ve encouraged him to submit a guest post.

    By the way, I could do without the condescending attitude. As this gadget guy is graciously providing you a forum to express yourself.

  14. Looks like mine will ship out today, probably won’t be here until Tuesday at the earliest. I knew I should have paid for overnight shipping, but then again that would have been $70! I was able to use a 20% coupon to at least get the price down.

    As soon as it arrives I’ll start my write up.

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