With everyone and their mother getting in to the ultra portable speaker scene, it should come as no real surprise that iHome has joined the fray.  In this generation where tablets and smartphones are the norm, the ultra portable speaker allows one the ability to share their music (or podcast, audiobook, etc) with those around them, or to just jam out without having to worry about headphones.  These things are perfect for the office cubicle worker where you might not have room for a larger sound system, or for a traveler that wants to listen to their stuff on  long car ride.  While we have looked at a lot of other models of speakers like this, we haven’t looked at anything that combines this much in such a small package.  Tiny speaker aside, iHome comes into this in a big way.

One of the first things that you will notice about the IDM11 is its strange shape.  While you would be excused if you initially thought it to be a cube, it isn’t until you set the IDM11 down on something that its truly different shape is revealed.  Rather than being the perfect cube that it initially looks, the speaker has a flat surface opposite the top corner.  This leaves you with three perfectly square sides on the top, and three sides on the bottom that could have been perfect squares were it not for the pyramid that someone chopped off.  The resulting design is sleek, sexy, and completely different than anything else you will have on your desk – instantly setting it apart from other things before the sound is even on.

Since the IDM11 is a speaker with Bluetooth on board, it plays extremely well with smartphones – iPhones work particularly well.  It pairs just like every other Bluetooth device, so I won’t insult you by going over the steps to pad the review length – I’ll only say that if you have never paired something via Bluetooth before, you will be amazed at how easy it is to do it.  The IDM11 doesn’t just use Bluetooth though – if you don’t want to use it, or are using something that doesn’t support it, you can use a proprietary micro USB cable (God do I hate proprietary cables) to transfer sound from wherever to the speaker.  Conveniently, the same micro USB cable will charge the IDM11, giving you a “two for” if you use it on a laptop or tablet with a full USB port (like the Toshiba Thrive).

On the bottom of the IDM11 are the controls that get the whole thing pumping the noise.  There isn’t anything ultra special about them – your standard power button is accompanied by standard volume up and down buttons and a play / pause button.  All of that is really just “average”, although I am not really sure what you can do to make a button stick out as above average.  What is above average though is on that cut out pyramid – the base of the IDM11.  At first glance, you will see that it is semi-clear rubber with some black stickers on the very bottom.  This gives the IDM11 a thin “ring” of clear rubber going the entire way around the base, and while this is interesting in and of itself because of the color differential, it isn’t until you turn on the IDM11 that you see the purpose of it.  I admit when I first put this on a white counter, I thought that this part was there to give it the illusion of floating – that illusion was shattered once I started trying to listen to music, as what was once clear changed.  Light spews forth from behind the clear, creating a neat effect of making the IDM11 not only look like it is floating, but like it is some sort of tiny UFO casting light below it.  The light that is there is basically your way of knowing the status of the speaker – red for nothing happening, blue for paired and playing, flashing for “hey something is wrong here”.  They could have taken the easy easy way of putting a light on the power button or somewhere on one of the faces of the speaker, but this would have killed the look they had – I am so glad that they decided against it and went with this more elegant solution instead.

As for the sound quality, while ultra portable speakers are not normally known for having out of this world sound, the IDM11 does its best to try and keep up with other larger speaker systems.  For the most part, the IDM11 puts out some good sound, however it is not as rich as I am used to.  Bass sounds flat, highs sound a bit tinny, and mids are very middle of the road – however this is only something that someone who spends an inordinate amount of time listening to audio devices will pick up on, and for the average consumer the sound will more than likely be good enough to keep them satisfied.  In fact, I didn’t even really have a problem with it until I pushed the volume to almost max – when I hit max though, that was a different story.  At its highest volume, the little IDM11 had the sound distorted all to hell as it tried to keep up with some of the bass heavy techno I threw at it.  While country and classic rock played fine, metal was almost unbearable, and we won’t even talk about rap.  Again bear in mind that this was only when the volume was at 100%, but it might crust your dreams of filling a huge space with your jams.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★☆

Great

The Bottom Line:  While the sound might not be as great as some larger speakers, the IDM11 makes up for that by having a better design, more refined style, and a lower price point – just don’t lose the damn proprietary cable.

Pros:

  • The ultra chic style of the IDM11 will easily set it apart from other things on your desk
  • Easy to use Bluetooth and wired options
  • Priced less than comparable ultra portable speakers

Cons:

  • Any proprietary cable is a giant pain in the ass
  • Sound craps out at max volume
  • No case is included with purchase like with other ultra portables

You can pick up the IDM11 from iHome’s site for the price of $69.99










Staff