Emerson Research iTone IE600
Emerson's iTone IE600 is the larger sibling of the company's iC200 iPod alarm clock, adding features such as a built-in CD player. The clock on the front of the IE600 shows the date and time, and the alarm can be set to go off to the radio, a buzzer, or CD or iPod (but not iPod shuffle) playback. There is only one alarm, and it lacks weekday- or weekend-specific settings.
Want to set the alarm or the clock? Good luck. The controls are baffling, with none clearly labeled to set the clock. Instead, the "mode" button -- which also changes audio sources -- doubles as the clock set button. Odds are, you're going to need to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the system's manual. The clock also features a snooze function (which lasts approximately 9 to 10 minutes) that can be controlled with the remote, and a sleep timer that can be adjusted to 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Once you do get the clock set, the attractive, blue-backlit LED display and handsome, curvy unit look nice enough to perch just about anywhere in your home.
If you plan on using the stereo primarily with an iPod, you may find the remote control to be lacking. The remote is set up to work primarily with the CD player -- all of its large major buttons are designed to play, pause, and skip CD tracks -- with just a few small buttons off to the side for an iPod. It also has buttons to change the radio station, control the volume, activate snooze, change audio sources and radio bands, and to sleep.
The radio works fairly well; reception is not exceptional, but is on par with some other clock radios I've tested. There are 10 station presets for each band (20 total), which can be set automatically or programmed manually. The unit can play audio from any dockable iPod, and includes with a variety of dock-cradle adapters to fit all dockable iPods as well as the first-generation iPod shuffle. The CD player worked as expected, and the system also includes an input for an auxiliary audio source.
The IE600's audio quality is good but not great. The five EQ settings are a nice touch, and the system provides decent bass response with good midrange and treble at low volumes. However, turn the unit up -- it can reach a maximum output of 102 decibels at close range, by my measurements -- and the bass tends to sound blown out. In fact, at anything over roughly 50 percent of the maximum volume, sound quality takes a noticeable hit. All told, the IE600's sound quality doesn't begin to compete with my current favorite portable system, the smaller Altec Lansing inMotion iM9.
Overall, the IE600 is a much better clock radio and iPod stereo than the iTone iC200; however it isn't on par with units from JBL, iLuv, or iHome that Playlist has previously reviewed. On the other hand, if you're looking for a unit that will also play CDs, this might be the player for you.--Mathew Honan
Emerson Research iTone IE600