One thing I have to say about the iPad is that the speaker isn’t very good. It’s mono, it’s not loud enough, and it fires toward the back, away from my ears. Earbuds and headphones work well with the iPad, but I don’t always want to wear them. Luckily for Apple users, there is a wealth of docking speakers, Bluetooth speakers, and AirPlay speakers that can provide better sound. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and one strength of the docking speakers is they charge your device while you listen to music. Today, we’ll be looking at the iD55 portable docking speaker for iPad, iPhone, and iPod from iHome.
Most pictures in this review can be clicked for a bigger view.
The iD55 is made of black plastic with a leather grain-like texture on the surface. It measures 15.35″ W x 6.69″ H x 3.54″ D and weighs 2.64 pounds. It has a sliding cover that protects the docking connector while the iHome unit isn’t being used or while it’s being carried in your gear bag.
There’s a DC-in port on the back for plugging in the included power adapter. You’ll notice there’s also an Aux-in jack so you can use the iD55 as speakers for other devices that don’t have the Apple 30-pin docking connector. You simply connect any device with a headphone connector to the Aux-in port with a 3.5mm audio cable.
As the top opens, it exposes the power and volume buttons and a silver metal grill that protects the speakers. At the back, a metal and rubber-coated back support for the Apple device springs up behind the 30-pin dock. Surrounding the dock is a channel wide enough for an iPad. Click on the above photo, and you’ll see that the dock is elevated a bit above the bottom of the channel. The dock is hinged, with just a bit of back-and-forth movement.
I found it difficult to get my new iPad to plug onto this dock. There wasn’t a lot of play in the dock, and the sloped back of the iPad didn’t line up and connect easily. I had to try several times, and I could hear the metal dock scratching against the aluminum back of the iPad.
I finally did get the iPad docked, as you can see here. The packaging says this system will work with many iPad and iPhone cases. Lately, I’ve been using my iPad completely coverless. I should note that I could only try the iD55 with my new iPad, as I have both the iPhone 5 and the latest generation iPod nano, both with the new Lightning connector. I don’t yet have the 30-pin to Lightning adapter, but I fear that it would lift the iPhone or iPod high enough that they don’t get a lot of support from the pop-up back support bar.
When I plugged my iPad in, it immediately started charging.
There was nothing in the channel to support the iPad. As you can see in the above photo, it was easy for the iPad to get tipped to one side or the other. The instructions with the iD55 also warned against rocking the iPad backwards or forwards while it was docked to prevent damage to the iPad or the iHome unit itself.
Specifications for the iD55 says it has “full-range stereo speakers featuring Reson8 chambers for detailed, dynamic sound.” It also has “SRS TruBass digital sound processing for dynamic audio performance.”
As usual, I tried the iD55 with a variety of music. I listened to Peter Gabriel (as always), orchestral, vocal, rock, and pop music. I found that the music sounded clear and clean, even when the volume was pegged. And I did have to peg the volume on both the iPad and the iD55 to get much volume from the unit. I don’t think this will be your party sound system, but it should perform well for listening at your desk with the iHome sitting on the desk, too. I listened to Art Garfunkel’s “I Only Have Eyes”, my go-to song for stereo separation. As you would expect when both speakers are encased in such a small box, there wasn’t really any stereo separation.
The biggest shortcoming I noticed was the speakers were missing the bass end, and the music was overly bright. I don’t think this is what you’re looking for if you like window-rattling bass, but it performs pretty well for pop and vocal music.
If you want to use this on your night table, you’ll be able to use it with the iHome+Sleep app on your Apple device as your alarm clock. You can also use it with the iHome+Radio app to listen to local and global internet radio stations.
For $80, the iHome iD55 is a decent little speaker system for Apple devices that have the 30-pin connector. It would work well on a night table or desk, and it’s small enough and can be powered by batteries, so it would make a nice travel speaker system. It just won’t be making your skull buzz as you listen to music.