Review: iHome W3 AirPlay Portable Wireless Speaker
December 4, 2012 by Bill Palmer
Back at CES in 2011, iHome showed us three different portable wireless speaker systems, which were among the first to employ Apple’s AirPlay wireless music streaming technology. While the wide-based iW1 and iW2 shipped some time ago, the comparatively tall and thin iW3 is just now hitting the market as the last of the bunch. Was it worth the wait, and is it worth your money?
What intrigued me about the iW lineup before I even heard their audio was the fact that while you have to plug the cable into most portable wireless speakers for charging, iHome has included a small base at the end of the power cable which the unit simply sits on when charging. That means less hassle. The inclusion of playback buttons on the top of the unit, which some wireless speakers skip out on, means that you won’t have to access your mobile device’s playback settings as often.
Setup was about as easy as you can expect from AirPlay: I paired it with my iPhone simply by connecting it with the included docking cable, and while there’s also the option to use the iHome app for pairing, I didn’t need to. That compares favorably to some AirPlay speakers, which require you to use their app for what ends up being a complicated setup process.
But even in this increasingly wireless and portable era, the likability of an audio product still comes down primarily to its audio quality. In my tests I found that the iW3 is the best sounding wireless speaker in its $199 price range. There are other respectable options in the range, but this one is the obvious choice. As I’ve come to expect from iHome, music sounds crisp and clear on the high and low ends. And this product can be cranked to significant volumes without losing fidelity.
The question then becomes whether the $199 iW3 compares to the $299 iW1. My tests told me what I was expecting, which is that the larger and wider iW1 offers higher quality audio and more stereo separation, and in particular sounds better from longer distances away. That said, the iW3 holds its own. It’s not only a hundred dollars cheaper, it’s easier to carry around. And thanks to its much smaller footprint, you’ll have an easier time of figuring out where to set it down when you get where you’re going. The iW3 also comes in a choice of black, silver, or red, the only member of the iW lineup offered in a color other than black.
As we head into trade show season once again, it’s on the competition – or iHome itself – to top the iW1 lineup which remains the most recommendable wireless stereo lineup in the two to three hundred dollar range.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5 • Price: $199 • ihomeaudio.com