When we were offered a review sample of iHome’s colorful iP76, we were intrigued enough to give it a go. iHome’s product photos made the tower look like a lot of fun with its light show using myriad fun colors, array of four speakers and Bluetooth streaming capability. We couldn’t think of any kids who wouldn’t have fun transforming their bedrooms into their own personal discos with this unique speaker dock. Frankly, the kid inside of us was excited to try it out, too.
Our sample arrived one day before iHome announced the product to the public, so we de-boxed our iP76, played with it a bit and gave the thing a listen before cranking out our introduction and initial impressions story. Now having spent more time with the iP76, we decided to give it a more formal review. Something tells us this item could end up attracting attention come the holiday season, and we think you should know whether it’s a worthwhile candidate for your gift list.
Out of the box
The iP76 is extremely light – a little too light, if you ask us. We weren’t expecting anything fancy, mind you, but this almost entirely plastic 8.25-pound, 3-foot tower doesn’t exactly reek with quality. As you pull it out of its box, you sense that the tower you’ve just bought is more toy than it is audio equipment.
In the box with this glowing tower of sound was a massive wall-wart power supply, a remote control and three iPod/iPhone adapter trays.
Features and design
In spite of its relatively low price of $200, the iP76 is packed with features. Lighting up the color-changing tower is a series of LED lamps that run the length of the tower along the back side. The LEDs can change into nine colors: indigo, blue, green, white, orange, red, violet, amber and yellow. Lighting effect options include a slow fade, pulse to the music, strobe, favorite color (remains solid) and mood light (a dimmable amber-only option). White plastic panels flanking the speaker array diffuse the light.
Four speaker drivers (size not disclosed) run the length of the tower’s front. iHome claims that the speakers fire into what it calls “Reson8” chambers, indicating that some sort of bass reinforcement approach is at play. The speakers are well protected behind what feels like a rigid plastic grille, which is covered with speaker cloth.
The tower’s base is made of glossy black plastic with rubber pads on the underside to protect flooring. The top cap of the speaker is where you’ll find the iPhone/iPod dock along with lighting and playback controls. A lone Bluetooth button provides quick and easy pairing with Bluetooth devices. On the back face of the “control cap” we found component video outputs along with an auxiliary input jack for use with pretty much any external audio device.
Pairing the iP76 to Bluetooth devices is a snap. Press and hold the Bluetooth button until the unit beeps. The iP76 will appear as an available device and requires no passcode to pair. Once paired, you’re ready to start streaming music.
The iP76 will be most entertaining in dim or dark rooms. Even on a cloudy Portland, Ore., day, light coming through our office windows and falling onto one of the tower’s light panels was enough to all but wash out the iP76’s colorful display. Even in dark environments, the tower’s lighting is dim, but it is enough to get the device noticed and provide ambient color.
We liked the slow-fade setting. The “pulse to the music” setting worked well, but we found the strobe setting to be alarming. The strobe’s slow pulse gave a vibe as if something were wrong. The dimmable amber light should work well as a night light, though.
We went into our listening evaluation with tempered expectations. We didn’t expect the iP76 would shake our building foundations with bass, but when we read marketing jargon such as “Reson8: specially designed sealed speaker enclosures deliver astounding clarity, depth and power” and “tower stereo speaker system,” we started thinking that this product might actually exceed our meager expectations. Unfortunately, it did not.
Bass response is nearly non-existent. Even with our most bass-heavy test tracks, we got only a hint of low end. The response was just enough to let us know we were missing bass information in the track.
What the iP76 lacks in bass it attempts to make up in midrange presence. To be sure, this speaker can sound “big” because it fills up even large spaces with sound. The quality of that big sound leaves much to be desired, though. As we listened to a Jamiroquai track heavily laden with Moog-style analog effects, we found the iP76 tended to distort, especially at moderately high volumes. This tower is poor at keeping any separation between multiple instruments.
Treble response was decent. Highs weren’t aggressively bright but were audible among the wash of midrange sound. The treble did, however, lack the clarity we think younger listeners associate with quality sound. This, coupled with the lack of bass, has us wondering how young-uns will feel about the overall sound quality of the iP76.
The iP76 is cleverly conceived and well marketed, but the product you pull out of the box doesn’t deliver on iHome’s advertised promises. We have no doubt that this item will appeal to youngsters, thanks to flashy product images and convincing marketing copy, but we worry that lackluster performance might find this illuminated audio tower in the garage or attic within record time. iHome makes some great iPhone and iPod speaker docks. But the iP76 isn’t one of them.
- Wide array of lighting modes and colors
- Component video output
- Easy Bluetooth pairing
- Auxiliary input jack
- Little to no bass
- Distortion at high volumes
- Lighting can’t compete with bright environments
- Cheap feel