Just a few short years ago, the idea of portable Bluetooth speakers was a high-tech concept. They’ve become quite ubiquitous since then, but ready availability isn’t the only obstacle. They are, after all, delicate electronic devices, and sand, water, grit, and whatever else nature has out there can cause serious harm. Unless, of course, you’re packing an iHome speaker!
iHome sent us two speakers to review: the iHome iBT77 (rechargeable water resistant speaker) and the iHome iBT91 (rechargeable speaker with lantern capabilities and phone charging port). The naming system is boring, but the speakers are a lot of fun!
Let’s start with the iBT91, because there’s a lot more to cover with this speaker. It’s a light, a speaker, and a phone charger all in one. Oh, and did I mention you can also take speakerphone calls on it? Basically, you can take this thing out into the woods, and as long as the birds aren’t chirping too loudly, your office won’t even know you aren’t “home sick” on that conference call. All joking aside, the iBT91 should be in everyone’s camping bag. The speaker is excellent; music comes through crisp and clear, and because the speaker is at the top it really fills an area even without high volume.
Lights can be a gimmick, but in the case of the iHome, they’re both a gimmick AND a useful tool! The changing colors are a bit gimmicky, though my 4-year-old loved them. But the pure white light, while not overpowering, is bright enough to assist you in the dark without blinding everyone around you. You can also hit the light button until you reach SOS mode, which will turn on a flashing red light-very handy if you need help! Finally, on top of all of these features, you can also plug in your phone for a quick top off via the USB port (normally covered by a thick rubber gasket, handy if you’re in a dirty or wet area!) Basically, between the lights and the phone charging, this can be a useful emergency tool as well as a source of entertainment, not a bad mix for $99!
The iBT77 is a bit boring compared to its flashy comrade, but it is no less of a workhorse. It has an IP65 rating, so while I wouldn’t dunk this in your local pool, it should be safe sitting nearby during a splash fight or rainstorm. The sound quality is very good, and if you’re extremely picky you can pick up two iBT77s and make water-resistant stereo sound (at $49.99 each, that’s a pretty cheap way to have solid outdoor sound!) On its own, however, it’s an excellent choice for a day on the water or sitting by the pool. It’s small, stylish, and comes with a carry strap so you can hook it to your gear. The styling is really striking, with a thin rubberized design around the body of the speaker that gives it grip as well as a nice aesthetic. This doesn’t scream “RUGGED TOUGH RUN ME OVER WITH YOUR JEEP WHILE OFFROADING IN THE SAHARA” like some rugged speakers, but it’s plenty tough without making your gear look like it has an Army Surplus Store addiction. There’s no fancy lights or phone charging, but it does the job of being a rugged but attractive speaker quite well.
There’s a lot of Bluetooth products out there clamoring for your attention. It’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees with all the choices out there, but it’s important to look for products that sound good, are made well, and fit your needs. I can’t speak to what your needs are, but I can say that both iHome speakers are made extremely well and would be tops on my list of outdoor gear recommendations.
Source: Manufacturer provided review samples
What I Liked: Great battery life for both speakers; sound was excellent on both; iBT77 combines rugged with good looks; iBT91 combines several items into one small package.
What Needs Improvement: Would like to see a sturdier handle or carabiner option on the iBT91.