iHome iH6 iPod Clock Radio (Review)
March 7, 2007
Oh well; lack of originality in a name never hurt anything, iSuppose.
In any event…
I got my first iHome iPod clock radio (the iH5) for Christmas, 2005.
It was exceedingly cool, and then pretty cool, and then mostly cool, and then (just recently) it sucked enormously.
The concept was great — wake up to your playlist, keep your iPod handy and charged, and it doubled as a damn good iPod speaker dock.
Unfortunately, the execution lacked a bit — the display was hard to read (there were very few brightness settings that were readable during full light that didn’t try to give you a fluorescent tan while you slept), and the clock had a tendency to lose a minute or two each month.
Annoying, but livable.
Lately however, it started making a horrid noise during iPod play if the iPod wasn’t in the dock just “so”. Then it started making it regardless of how the carefully the iPod was placed in the dock. At the same time, the iPod or radio buttons would turn on the associated function (or noise, as the case may be), but not turn it off.
At which point it got kicked to the curb.
All in all, not overly terrible — while fifteen months isn’t a tremendous life span for an under $100 piece of consumer electronics, it isn’t completely unreasonable, either.
Still, I decided I’d give the iHome another shot, with the iH6. Since the original product has been on the ground for well over a year, hopefully they’ve had an opportunity to sort out some of the issues.
So far, so good…
A couple of improvements are noticeable right off the bat.
The “insert” that you select in order to correctly snug up your particular breed of iPod is noticeably better designed. Since it would appear that the dock connector is what failed on my old one (and searching around a bit, appears to have failed for a few people), the new insert design will hopefully stabilize the connector a bit and make it less prone to failure.
The clock display has a lot more graduations between bright and dim backlighting than the iH5 did, which will help somewhat; unfortunately, the display backlight level problem is somewhat inherent in an LCD design — frankly, this is a great place to still be using nice glowing LEDs on a black background instead of a backlit LCD.
There are several other enhancements that will doubtless be handy for some folks.
An extra connector allows you to dock an iPod shuffle separate from the main iPod dock.
A second alarm setting has been added, as well as four preset buttons for the radio.
There aren’t many iPod speaker docks out there in this price range (around $100, give or take $10 – $20, depending on where you buy it) that sound anywhere near as good as the iHome does (either the iH5 or the iH6).
For the money, it’s like getting a decent speaker dock with a clock radio thrown in in the bargain.
The alarm function automatically lowers the volume of the music when it starts, and then ramps it up to wherever it’s currently set. While this could be a bit slower, it’s certainly a bit less jarring if you tend to listen to “aggressive” music (and I do.)
The unit comes with a “bag-o-inserts” that should fit pretty much any existing iPod out there with a dock connector. There’s also a line in connector for hooking up external audio sources other than iPods, and they even throw in the cable for it.
Like the iH5 before it, the iH6 comes with a remote. While I’d have been as likely to shop for a clock radio with a remote as a “must have” feature as I would have been to shop for a wing grooming set for a pig, I have to admit that it has actually been handy at times.
The styling is reasonably nice — unobtrusive, particularly when compared to some of the competitors (like the JBL unit with the “hoop” over the top, for twice the money.) I took the opportunity to go with the black version this time, which goes well with both my black satin nightstand, and my black iPod Video.
This thing comes with a gynormous power brick (as did the previous model). You could use this thing as a boat anchor in a pinch. I can’t imagine why it needs a power brick twice the size and weight of the on my MacBook uses.
At the end of the day, a backlit LED display is still a pain on a clock radio, no matter how adjustable it is. Assuming that you want to read it from across the room both when the room is lit and when it’s dark, there’s just not a terribly happy medium.
For the price, this unit is very, very tough to beat. It works well and sounds great.
I’m still a little leery of the long-term quality of the device, after my experience with the previous one, but (again) given I’d spend at least twice as much for any other model I’d consider, I won’t feel abused if it only lasts another 15 months.