by Tommy Ly
June 1, 2012
AirPlay, while still somewhat of a novelty, is continuing to grow in popularity. At the moment, Apple TV is the undoubtedly the best way to utilize AirPlay. However, if you only want to wirelessly stream audio, you'll need an AirPlay speaker like iHome's iW2. The iW2 is iHome's successor to their larger iW1 speaker. Connecting the iW2 can be done with iHome's free iHome Connect app, on your computer (using an Ad-hoc network), or through a direct connection with the iW2's ethernet port. In addition to AirPlay, you can also input audio through the built-in auxiliary input on the back of the iW2. Additionally, you can use your iDevice's charge and sync cable with the iW2, which your device will recognize as a dock, and play audio directly from your device without needing Wi-Fi. Once connected, you can control the iW2's volume with both your iDevice and the included remote. Bass and treble settings can be tweaked with the remote, as well as as setting your music to repeat and shuffle. How does the iW2 sound so far?
The GoodFor its size (10.5-inches wide, 5.8 inches tall, and 3 inches deep), the iW2 actually sounds great. Compared to the larger, more powerful Logitech UE Air Speaker (see our review here), the iW2 actually provides a much fuller sound. Admittedly, it sounded very thin right out of the box. Adding some bass made the iW2 sound perfect for the music and movies I tested. After some fine tuning, the iW2 can sound very respectable. The all black design allows the iW2 to be displayed virtually anywhere without looking awkward. It's small enough to be portable, despite one setback (more on that later), but don't be fooled by its size. The iW2 can get loud. In most situations, the speaker should be able to perform without being turned up 100%.
The BadDespite it's portability, the iW2 lacks its predecessor's rechargeable battery. So, wherever you decide to put it, be sure it's near a power outlet. Using AirPlay itself from my computer worked without any hiccups, the iW2's remote didn't seem to work. When connected to the iW2 from iOS, it works fine, but not at all when connected from Mac. Volume must be adjusted from the Mac itself, which is a let down. I'm not sure if my own Wi-Fi is the culprit, but connection to the iW2 seemed to drop fairly often (two to three times every hour). This is with iOS 5.1.1 on two different devices. The fix is as simple as activating AirPlay again as you normally would.
VerdictFor its size and price, the iHome iW2 AirPlay speaker is a solid choice if you're trying to cut the cords in your home or office. Audiophiles will avoid the iW2 like the plague, but for anyone else, the iW2 provides more than adequate sound for movies music. You can get the iHome iW2 AirPlay speaker for $199.99 (direct from iHome).
iHome Connect, the setup app for iHome AirPlay speakers