The iHome iP46 is a beautiful compact iPod speaker dock that could just as easily be called the iGo. Slender, stylish, streamlined and lightweight, these portable iPod speakers have a retractable universal dock and two fold-away legs for an ultra-sleek iPod docking station that sounds as good as it looks.
The iP46 charges all docked devices when it is connected to AC power, but not while running on the internal battery. We think that the addition of an option to charge a docked device from the battery would be a useful feature, but the design choice coupled with the auto-off feature makes sense in terms of preserving battery life. It takes about two hours to fully charge the built-in lithium-ion battery, which lasts for five to eight hours on a single charge. There is a power-indicator light on the top of the iPod dock that lets you know when the battery is low and needs to be recharged.
The included AC adapter has fold-in outlet plugs to protect them from being bent or damaged in transport, which is a relatively insignificant detail but a smart design approach that applies also to the retractable dock and fold-away feet and illustrates iHome's attention to detail. The iHome MP3 docking station leans back slightly on its two supporting fold-away metal feet with non-stick rubber pads that keep the speaker dock in place and prevent your iPod or iPhone from falling off the adaptor-less dock.
This iPod dock has limited connectivity features and lacks a headphone jack and audio-video output. It only has a 3.5mm line input to connect devices that are not compatible with its dock. However, the sound quality of audio from devices connected via the line input is just as good as audio played from a docked device. The only other controls to mention are the onboard volume up and down buttons that usually control the volume settings on the iPod itself, though they still adjust the volume even if these controls do not properly interface with a docked device. All other settings and playback must be controlled on the iPod or iPhone since the iP46 does not provide a remote control.
This iHome iPod dock is designed for ultimate portability but does not include a carrying case or bag, which we feel would be a welcome addition for those who transport their iPod docks often. Still, it's lightweight and slender enough to slide into a computer bag or other padded case to protect it during transport. The fact that it folds down to protect its moveable parts is a big plus, however.
This iPod dock really impressed us with its sound quality, which is consistently good at any volume setting. The rich audio experience from such a compact speaker dock comes from its two active and two passive speakers in Reson8 chambers combined with the inclusion of optional sound retrieval system (SRS) TruBass circuitry developed by SRS Labs that can be turned on or off with an onboard control button. The SRS sound enhancement feature boosts the bass frequencies and improves the overall sound presence for a richer listening experience.
This iPod docking station is so easy to use that you'll probably never need to look at the manual. With so few control buttons that are all easy to locate and clearly labeled, you should have no problems whatsoever, especially if you can already navigate the controls on your iPod or iPhone.
Be aware that you may not always get a good connection between the dock and your iPod or iPhone, especially if they are in a case or protector. If this happens, you can probably solve the problem by removing the case before docking your device. The iP46 also has some difficulty interfacing with the iPhone 4 at times, though this issue can generally be solved by rebooting your phone.
The iP46 is covered by a one-year parts-and-labor warranty. If you need any assistance with troubleshooting or support for your iPod dock, you can access the user manual and a FAQs page online, or contact customer support by phone or email. The support team is excellent and responds to email inquiries within 24 hours.
For a bare-bones iPod dock that is well designed and sounds great, the iHome iP46 is an excellent option that sells for around $100. When you buy directly from iHome, you get free shipping and a pair of earbud headphones along with your iPod dock, which is nice even though you can't use them with your iHome dock.