Bringing tech to the corn fields of the Midwest, gadgeteer and cat lover Adam Miarka contributes to Zatz Not Funny when the overlord allows. When not on ZNF, Adam posts pictures to http://www.adammiarka.com and harasses the public from @adammiarka on Twitter.
Background and Initial Impressions
My new iHome iW1 AirPlay speaker system has arrived. And it’s probably one of the more anticipated AirPlay speakers to hit the market due to its portability. In fact, demand was so strong, the device was sold out within a half hour of going live on iHome’s site when it debuted August 31st. iHome took to Twitter and Facebook to calm those who didn’t get in on the initial launch, indicating a broader iW1 release on September 26th. Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones.
As for an unboxing, the iW1 consists of the speaker, AC adapter, charging “dock”, remote control, and a set of instruction manuals. Upon first picking up the speaker, there is definitely some heft to the device – it doesn’t feel cheaply made at all and features a nice clean design. The instruction manuals are straight forward and easy to follow.
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Charging / Power
After I removed everything from the box, it was time to charge it. iHome has taken a unique approach to charging the iW1. Instead of having a plug and unplug the device, you simply remove it from the charging dock. Around the back of the speaker is a hidden handle to allow you to move the speaker easily from the dock.
Also around the back is a battery indicator button on the back which lights up the top panel of the device and shows the amount of battery left. Lastly, there is a power switch which can toggle the speaker’s power on and off.
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Once the iW1 was somewhat charged, it was time for setup… which I found quick and painless. I had the device streaming music from my iPhone and computer in less than 5 mins. The iW1 comes with a USB cable to tether your iOS device for the initial config. The USB slot on my unit was actually quite loose and not as secure as I would have liked. This caused my iPhone to initially not recognize the iW1 due to the unstable connection. But once I was able correct the issue, I setup the iW1 via iHome’s Connection app. Once the app loads, you simply select your Wifi network and name the iHome AirPlay node.
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In Use / Controls
Controlling the iW1 is again fairly straightforward. iHome offers touch sensitive controls on the top of the speaker to adjust the volume and also handle FF/RW/play transport control. Unfortunately, there’s no tactile feedback. I wish there was some indication that a button was pressed as I sometimes hit a button multiple time when I did not mean to.
Of course, you’re also able to control from the native AirPlay control found on any iOS device or iTunes on your computer. The advantage of using a computer to stream your music is that it will allow you to send audio to multiple AirPlay devices at once. I tested this using the iW1 and an Airport Express with no issues.
For the remote, you are able to control playback, but also have the option to slightly adjust the bass and treble or enable the Bongiovi effect – which creates a louder presentation of the music. There’s also an additional companion app called iHome+Set which allows you to visually control all these settings. Overall, I’m impressed by the different ways to control and adjust the iW1.
So how does it sound? Let me first state that sound is very subjective. Everyone has their own opinion on what sounds good. My personal preference is for a more warm sound which means a thicker bass which has more impact. I want to feel the music, not be analytical.
When first listening to the iW1, the sound was pleasant enough. No part of the music out powered the other. There seemed to be a balance both for treble and for bass. Separation of music was average. The more distance you put between you and the iW1 helped with the separation a bit. The sound was loud enough to fill our living room and it can easily be taken outside for a backyard party.
The more I listen to the iW1, the more the sound grows on me and I’ve found listening to it enjoyable this far. Although, I would enjoy a bit warmer sound. Even with the adjustments to the sound signature and having the Bongiovi effect enabled, I felt the system could have a little bit more impact and realness to the sound. I’ve heard the Sonos Play:3 and Play:5 and both have a more engaging sound.That’s not to say the iW1 is bad, just different, and potentially well worth the $300 because of its unique features.
- Easy setup with either tethered iOS device or logging into the iW1.
- Stable audio connection despite running around my house with it.
- Rechargeable batter to allow to take anywhere you have a WiFi connection
- EQ adjustments on the device itself via the iHome+Set app or remote control.
- Somewhat condensed sound. Not as wide as I would have hoped.
- Cloth material around the speaker just waiting to be torn
Overall there is a lot to like about the iHome iW1. For $300, you get a lot features, the best being the first AirPlay device that offers both portability with decent sound. I believe these are the reasons many folks seem interested in the product. There will soon be competitors from Sony and Altec Lansing, but those options will land in the post $400+ range and aren’t shipping until October. As of now, the iW1 is the best native and self contained AirPlay device out there.