iHome's iP76 is a colorful, good-sounding speaker dock
At a Glance
iHome’s $200 iP76 LED Color Changing Tower Stereo Speaker System with Bluetooth for iPhone and iPod—or just iP76 to its friends—is a tall, glowing speaker dock, thanks to lighted panels up and down the left and right sides. That the iP76 weighs barely more than eight pounds is impressive when you consider its dimensions: It’s 10.1 inches wide and deep at its circular base, but just over three feet tall.
At the top of the unit sits a dock cradle for your iPhone or iPod. The iP76 ships with three dock-cradle adapters, for the iPhone 4 and 4S; the second-, third- and fourth-generation iPod touch; and the sixth-generation iPod nano. Also on the top of the unit sits a crowded array of buttons. Five tiny circular buttons directly in front of the dock cradle control the iP76’s lighting features: Slow Color Change, Solid Color, Pulse to Music, Strobe Light, and Dimmable Lamp. Each of those buttons offers multiple modes, which you control by pressing the button repeatedly. With Slow Color Change, for example, the presses affect whether the lights fade in from top to bottom, from bottom to top, outward from the middle, inward from the edges, show solid bars, display rainbow color effects, and so on.
The mode I was most eager to try was Pulse to Music, but I was mostly disappointed with it. The best options with that mode—that is, the ones that seem to best reflect the beat and levels of the music you’re listening to—are limited to a glowing red. The speaker’s light panels are capable of shining in seven different colors, so I don’t understand why the best Pulse modes are limited to a single hue. The one pulsing option that employs the iP76’s full array of colors seems better suited to a rave or an epilepsy-testing facility than your home.
The other buttons on top of the iP76 are power, volume down and up, a toggle to switch lighting on or off, play/pause, iPod mode, and Bluetooth mode. Press and hold the Bluetooth button and the speaker beeps to indicate that it’s in pairing mode. The iP76 paired painlessly with various iOS devices in my home. In my testing, however, the iP76’s Pulse-lighting modes seemed to sync with the music better when playing through the system’s dock cradle than when playing over Bluetooth—during the latter, iP76’s Pulse mode feels kind of random. You switch between listening to a docked iPhone or iPod and listening to Bluetooth audio by pressing the iPod or Bluetooth button, respectively.
On the back of the iP76, at the top, you’ll find a 1/8 inch (3.5mm) auxiliary-input jack for listening to another audio source, along with component-video-out jacks for watching your iPhone or iPod’s video on a TV. Below those sits a small plastic holder for the included remote control. At the bottom of the tower is a connection for the included power cable.
Speaking of the remote, it’s a small, black-plastic, infrared model that sports buttons for mute, power, lamp toggle, volume up and down, previous, next, play/pause, iPod mode, Bluetooth mode, and Light Mode, along with directional buttons to switch between the individual light modes. I suppose there wasn’t enough space on the remote to fit all five lighting-mode buttons, but it is a bit confusing to cycle through the available lighting options using a completely different method on the remote than when using the onboard buttons.
The iP76’s big acoustic challenge is that its narrow design doesn’t lend itself to stereo separation; indeed, I heard none. But that’s my sole real complaint about the iP76’s audio quality. I appreciated its bass presence, its maximum volume, and its balanced, well-defined midrange. There are occasions, at maximum volumes, where both the upper and lower ends start to distort, but backing off just a few ticks eliminates those issues without sacrificing the ability to fill your room with sound.
My other significant complaint about the iP76 is that it feels a bit cheap. The plastic parts feel flimsy; the control panel on top feels too crowded. The lighting element is fun—cool, even—and the sound is plenty good at this price, but the whole package just doesn’t quite feel solid.
Macworld’s buying advice
I certainly wouldn’t recommend the iP76 if you don’t care about its lighting features, as they’re the speaker’s primary draw. If you don’t care about them, your $200 can be better spent—indeed, iHome’s own iHome iW2 ( ) trades the lights, dock, and Bluetooth features for a compact AirPlay audio system. If, on the other hand, you’re attracted to the iP76’s bright lights, you likely won’t be disappointed—despite the slight letdown of the unit’s plasticky feel, the iP76’s audio quality is good, too.