When it was released back in late 2005, iHome’s iH5 iPod alarm clock (also reviewed here on Playlist) was a unique and compelling product. It also spawned a growing market of iPod-docking alarm clocks, which includes a number of new models from iHome itself. The iHome2go iH26 is the company’s portable offering.
The iH26’s dock will work with any docking iPod, letting you wake to your iPod’s audio or use the system as a portable iPod speaker system. You also get a top-mounted USB port for listening to an iPod shuffle (although you can’t wake to the shuffle). At just 8.25″ wide by 6″ deep by 1.75″ thick, and powered by four AA batteries, the iH26 is easy to take on the road. (You can use the included power adapter for home use.) iHome even throws in a protective carrying case. On a recent trip to Los Angeles, the whole package fit neatly in my daypack.
The system’s features are fairly basic. The clock features a single alarm with a single daily setting — there are no options for weekday- or weekend-only alarms. A snooze button that doubles as dimmer for the clock will let you sleep in for another 9 minutes. The sleep timer lets you play your iPod for 90, 60, 30, or 15 minutes as you go to sleep. There’s a line-in jack (a stereo minijack) to connect an external audio source, and the included remote control allows you to control the iPod, alarm, and sleep functions without getting out of bed. However, unlike every other iPod alarm clock we’ve seen, the iH26 has no radio — if you forget to take your iPod on the road, you will be stuck waking up to a buzzer (and without any source of audio enjoyment).
The speakers on the iH26 are one of its more interesting features. During use, you flip the speakers up and out of the base so they face directly towards you. When you’re ready to take the system on the road, the speakers fold down flat so they’re flush with the top of the alarm clock (facing the ceiling).
However, I was disappointed in the system’s audio quality. Although I achieved a maximum volume of 92 decibels, at anything approaching that level the system sounded absolutely terrible. There was so much static that it sounded as if you were playing a distant radio station rather than an attached iPod. At lower volumes, the speakers sounded better, but at no level did the system sound better than what you might hear on a mono shortwave radio.
Although I was slightly happier with the iHome 2go iH26 than I was the recently-reviewed Emerson Research iTone iC200 — mainly because the former offers good portability — both suffer from the same significant problem: the manufacturer has focused on getting the clock right while apparently ignoring sound quality.–Mathew Honan