For people like me who hate earphones and have trouble finding a pair comfortable enough to wear for long periods, Apple’s recent inclusion of speakers on their iOS devices has been very welcome. However, those speakers are tiny, and they can’t produce room-filling sound. There are a variety of external speakers on the market that are designed for use with iPhone and iPods, and some speakers are designed for use with iPad. Leave it to iHome, who pioneered these external speakers for Apple products, to come up with an external speaker that works for iPhone, iPod, and iPad. I was happy to give it a close look when iHome offered an iD9 to The Gadgeteer. I was especially happy when I realized the iD9 could be used with the iHome+ Sleep app to turn the Apple device and iD9 speakers into a full-function alarm clock.
The iD9 speaker system is 12.75” X 4.1” X 2.38”. It weighs 3.5 pounds. It has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery, so you can take the music with you wherever you go. The only accessory supplied with the iD9 is a universal 100/240V AC switching power supply to power and recharge the unit.
No remote control is included with the iHome iD9. However, a note included with the documentation says you can purchase the iHome Rz7 remote for $19.99. Should you purchase it, the remote will control playback of music on the iPad/iPhone/iPod and control or mute the volume.
The iHome iD9 is silver-toned plastic with shiny black accents and black matte speaker grills. The front has a volume rocker, a power button, four LEDs that function as a battery meter, and a docking connector for Apple iOS devices.
The speakers are mounted in the ends of the iD9. The ends are cut so the speakers are angled a bit to the front. They are covered with matte black metal grills.
The back of the unit has a DC 9V, 2.5A connector for the supplied power adapter. There’s a line-in jack to connect audio devices without the Apple connector. You’ll have to supply your own 3.5mm cable to connect devices here. There’s also a switch that controls the remote sensor. Sliding the remote sensor to AUTO disables remote functions when operating from the battery.
The AC adapter can be used to power the iD9, and it also charges the internal battery. It takes 6 hours to fully charge the battery for the first use. The LEDs on the front cycle to show the battery is charging. When operating from battery power, the LEDs indicate 100/75/50/25% power levels.
When operating from the AC adapter, the iHome will charge your iPhone/iPod/iPad. You cannot charge your devices when operating from battery power.
Documentation says the iD9 fits an iPad in most cases or skins. I found that my iPad (1st generation) fit perfectly while wearing the Belkin Grip Vue case. If you use your iPad naked or with only a sticker skin, you should attach the two rubber bumpers (included) to the specified points on the docking area to provide support.
Although the docking area is sized to accommodate an iPad, it doesn’t look “funny” when a smaller device is plugged in. You can see that my iPod touch (2nd generation) wearing its Belkin Grip Vue case also fit easily on the dock.
The iD9 has two speakers with 5W per channel. There are two sound enhancements that promise “an exceptional audio experience.” SRS TruBass uses “digital sound processing to give your music extra bass and clarity.” Reson8 speaker chambers are “specially designed high-end drivers that deliver astounding clarity, depth and power.”
In my experience, the iD9 does deliver very pleasing sound. Music is clear and sharp, even at the highest volume. By the way, the iD9 doesn’t seem to have an “independent” volume level; adjusting the volume button changes the volume bar on the iPod.
I tried a variety of music through the speakers, and it all sounded good. Bass wasn’t thundering, but Chris Squire’s bass was “Fishy” enough to be pleasing. I tried Art Garfunkel’s “I Only Have Eyes” to check the stereo separation, as I always do when reviewing speakers. The iD9 is the first small speaker system where I not only heard the separation – I could feel the music bouncing from ear to ear. Amazing!
The iD9 isn’t quite as “app enhanced” as the iHome iA5 reviewed by Julie last year, but it does work with the free iHome apps available in the iTunes app store. The iHome+Radio app let’s you listen to local and global internet radio stations. The iHome+Sleep app lets you use your Apple iOS device as your alarm clock, and the iD9 speakers amplify the alarms so deep-sleepers like me might actually hear them.
Although this isn’t a review of the apps, I’ll mention a few features of the iHome+Sleep app. You can have multiple alarms, you can have weekday-only or weekend-only alarms, and you can wake to music or buzzer. You can sync with the iHome+Radio app to incorporate the radio stations as sources for the music. You can use the Gentle Wake feature to start the alarm at a low volume and gradually increase it until you wake. It also has snooze, and it can display local weather and news, Facebook and Twitter activity, reminders and messages. It can even track and report statistics about your sleep patterns. And if your version of iOS allows, it can do all this without requiring either the iPad/iPhone/iPod app or the iD9 to be constantly on. The iD9 combined with the iHome+Sleep app makes a very nice alarm clock that works well for me. Because I have to use the touchscreen to turn off or snooze the alarm, I’m not so likely to just slap at the clock until I hit something to make it be quiet – and end up over-sleeping because I accidentally turned it off.
I like the iHome iD9 portable, rechargeable stereo speaker system. It has good sound in a small package, I can use it at home or on the go, and it charges my iPod touch, iPod nano (6th generation), or my iPad. I can even use it with my touch or iPad as a feature-rich alarm clock. At $100, it’s a bit expensive, but it does offer a lot of function for the money.