The new iHome iW2 AirPlay speaker system streams your audio from an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch fitting nicely into a smaller environment like your office, a kitchen or on a shelf at work or home. The sound could be better but for anyone looking for some background music, it’s a good choice.
The AirPlay standard created by Apple connects audio to your home network either wirelessly or via Ethernet and lets you stream audio from your iOS device or Mac. It seems that most AirPlay devices carry a hefty price tag with them, likely due to licensing requirements.
iHome typically targets the middle of the pack or lower end sound markets with their products and the iHome iW2 AirPlay speaker system fits that lower end in terms of sound quality. Music sounds a little tinny, like there isn’t enough bass. You can engage a the SRS TruBass mode and improve this a little but then you get a slightly muddy sound.
The speaker offers plenty of volume and no distortion even at maximum. I turned up my iPhone and the speaker all the way. I placed them next to my desk at my office and the speakers aim right at my right ear and the sound hurt. I walked out of my office and down the hall about 30 yards away and heard everything distinctly. You don’t get a stereo effect with speakers this small.
If you’re looking for a primary speaker system for your entertainment system or a professional solution, move along. There’s nothing to see here. If you want decent sound in your office or kitchen, they speakers sound okay and will be plenty loud enough.
Build & Design
I’m told that iHome had a reputation for cheap build quality. I reviewed my first set of iHome speakers two years ago. The build quality exceeded my expectations. The speakers in the iW2 fit the lower end of the market, but the rest of the system offers excellent design and quality.
The iW2 feels hefty for speakers this small. Buttons and connectors don’t feel cheap.
The remote, the size of a flat Snickers bar, could be better. The system responds quickly. Most of the buttons only have icons. I’m not going to use it much since I control my music and videos from the device, so they don’t have to offer an awesome remote.
The power brick on this speaker system takes up a lot of space on my power strip. I don’t understand why these companies can’t get creative and fix this issue now that we have so many devices to plug in.
AirPlay speakers connect to your home or work network and stream the audio from your device.
You can connect an Ethernet cable or use Wi-Fi. Go with Ethernet if you can. Things just worked faster and connected smoother.
Using Wi-Fi you plug your iPhone or iPad into the speaker using the included dock to USB cable to configure the speaker with the free iHome Connect iOS app.
It takes forever to get the first connection to your Wi-Fi network and at home I had to attempt the connection a couple of times. I received no explanation as why it failed the first two times and on my third attempt it just worked.
Once I configured the speaker to work with my network it connected each time I turned it off and then back on. It still took awhile so wait patiently.
Streaming audio sounds the same as audio connected via the auxiliary stereo input. When you press play on your device it will take a couple of seconds before the audio travels from your device through your router and to the speaker.
Value & Recommendation
AirPlay products cost more than they should! I’m sure it’s a licensing problem. The iHome iW2 retails for $199. You can find them for $177 at Amazon which feels better. iHome offers cheaper Bluetooth speakers of the same quality, like the iDM15, which offer battery power and a speakerphone function. If you really want the AirPlay functionality, the iHome iW2 offers a competitive solution and at one of the least expensive prices I’ve seen for basic AirPlay speakers.
AirPlay offers a level of convenience that other wireless solutions don’t. I’m not sure that convenience offers $75 to $100 of value, the amount I estimate added to speakers just because they include AirPlay functionality.
People who want an AirPlay system for their office or kitchen will like the iHome iW2 speaker system. They compare to other AirPlay systems in value, quality and price. I’ll use them in my office replacing my older iHome system that connected to my iPhone via a dock connector.