SDI’s iHome brand has been around for over a decade and is well-known among consumers looking for affordable audio accessories for their mobile devices. Having recently moved away from docking station speakers in favor of wireless Bluetooth streaming, iHome is currently taking on the great outdoors with their Weather Tough series of portable speakers.
From pocket-sized to space-hungry bricks, there are four sizes in the lineup to choose from, with the iBT35 currently coming in at second largest. While its plain, black, rectangular shape isn’t particularly striking, blue accents from the rubber seals around the grilles and the playback control panel on top provide a modest visual contrast. The minimalist design is clearly secondary to its durable construction. Seated in the plastic housing and wrapped in thick, shock absorbent rubber are two drivers and a passive radiator behind rust-resistant metal speaker grilles. The speaker is purported military grade shockproof and in our hands-on survived a 4 foot drop to the ground without a blip in playback. It is also IP67 waterproof rated, allowing it to get wet, dusty, and even submerged to 3 feet for up to 30 minutes.
A rubber sealed door on the left hand side covers the unit’s reset button, Aux-in port, microUSB charging port, and an eco battery mode switch. In normal playback mode, the fully charged speaker lasts about 8 hours of use, but with eco mode turned on, the volume is decreased slightly allowing it to run up to 14 hours. The playback controls on top are straightforward with a power button, volume controls, play/pause and Bluetooth pairing button, and skip track navigation which also double as answer and end call keys for hands-free calling when paired with a mobile phone.
The audio quality is fair, but not amazing. The midranges come across clear and crisp, with a balance that’s on the bright side, but the bass response is somewhat thin and flat. That said, the sound is not bad for a speaker this size. It does highlight the vocals on most tracks and sounds better than many mobile phones speakers making it a decent option for music at parties and small outdoor gatherings. The volume can be cranked pretty high, but at the max, you’ll get some grainy distortion and exaggerated sibilance in the upper ranges.
The iBT35 is essentially a stripped down version of iHome’s iBN6 speaker, minus features like NFC pairing and USB output and a few accessories to differentiate it and keep the price lower. If you’re looking for an affordable and decent sounding Bluetooth speaker that you can also take along for outdoor activities, either fits the bill. While the fully featured iBN6 costs $100, the iBT35 will only set you back $60, leaving it up to you to decide between cost or functionality.