We love Bluetooth speakers, but there's generally a problem we have with them. Either they're a solo speaker, or you're expected to buy a second, usually rather expensive speaker and go through the arduous task of pairing them together for great stereo sound. But what if there was a better way to go about it? What if there was a set of Bluetooth speakers that worked in tandem without being expensive and uncooperative? Well, now there are: Introducing iHome's iBT11, also known as iHome's Split.
We'll hit the most important aspect of these speakers first: the sound quality. The sound quality is surprisingly good for speakers that are this small. They've got a very full, very clear mid-range, they are capable of decent volume without extreme distortion, and the higher ranges don't get lost in the lower ones. As far as bass goes, it's a bit bass light, but we're not surprised. The speakers are small and don't have large air cavities, so they're only going to be capable of so much resonance. They don't, however, sound tinny, hollow, or blown out.
If you like most genres of music, these will work great. If you listen to podcasts and watch videos, these will work great. If you're looking for something with so much bass you annoy your neighbors and ruin your hearing? Well, you'll have to look elsewhere. We'd like to think that these are more for listening to music solo or in a small group of people rather than party speakers, so we encourage party animals to look elsewhere for their room-shaking, bass-thumping, party-starting speakers.
Now we're going to talk about our favorite part of Split, the fact that they're separable. Having the ability to separate the speakers easily for personalized stereo sound is awesome, and certainly takes listening to music on your iPhone to a whole new level. Sure, you could listen to the music with your headphones on, but what if you want to move around? What if you want to let other people listen? What if you just like having your ears unencumbered and open for other sounds? That's why these speakers rock: because they let you do just that.
Did we mention that there's absolutely no pairing between the speakers? That's right, they automatically pair with each other when you pull them apart, so there's no "hold the button on the left speaker down for five seconds" or "press each button for two seconds" or anything like that. It's a pull-and-play sort of deal, and we couldn't be any happier about it.
To Bluetooth, or not to Bluetooth
These speakers are Bluetooth speakers, yes, and they work quite well. They've got an average range of about 30 feet (we got roughly 25 feet before we started losing connection, but there were some walls between us and the speakers), and they connect easily and without needing multiple attempts. As usual, this is exactly what we'd expect from an iHome Bluetooth-enabled product. Of course, if you want to hook it up to something that doesn't have Bluetooth capability, you can do that as well. The speakers themselves will still work wirelessly with each other, but the left speaker, or the parent speaker, will have to be hooked into your Aux port on whatever device you want to listen to.
These speakers are pretty darn small, which makes them a great portable option. Don't like your laptop speakers? These little speakers can sit comfortably at either side of your laptop without taking up much desk space. Looking for a set of nightstand speakers that aren't going to crowd your tiny tables? These are perfect. Not to mention, because of their small size, these speakers travel well, even when you grab the charging cradle and take it along.
Big battery life
We were surprised at how long the battery lasted -- a solid ten and a half hours before we we got a low power alert, a half hour longer than the manufacturers estimated battery life states, and even then, it continued on for some time before it eventually puttered out and shut down. A full charge took us a couple of hours, though we did continue to use them while they were charging, as you can continue to use them while they sit on the charging dock.
We'd also like to take a moment to recognize just how nice the charging dock is, as it allows both speakers to be charged at once, looks nice, and helps keep everything tidy. Usually when you have a pair of Bluetooth speakers, each one is going to require it's own cord and own place to be charged, but no so with the Split: the charging cradle requires one single outlet, and you've got everything you need to charge both speakers.
The final verdict
Are they the best sounding Bluetooth speakers we've come across? No, but we've tested some speakers that sit in the $600 price bracket, and expecting these to compare to those would be unfair. Are they still great speakers for their price? Absolutely. The Split are some of the better Bluetooth speakers we've come across, and probably our favorite item from iHome to date.
We're big fans of multi-speaker sets, and these certainly make them far more accessible to everyone, not forcing people to spend hundreds of dollars just to experience surround sound. If you're in the market for a great set of everyday Bluetooth speakers, we think that these would make almost any music lover happy. iHome's Split is available from the iHome website for just under $100.
Who would like iHome's Split: If you want a couple of nice speakers to listen to your music, podcasts, or watch videos to, these are an inexpensive and easy to use way to go about doing that.
Who might not like iHome's Split: If you're looking for a booming surround sound experience, these aren't going to deliver what you're looking for.