Battlemodo: iPod Dock Bracket, iLive Studio vs. iHome iH52

BATTLEMODOi.jpgIn our next iPod Bracket Battle, two companies with "i" in their name are trying to make it in a world where "we" are all a little sick of the lower case lettering.

The iHome Studio ($179.99) and the iLive iH52 ($200, a price increase for the second "i") battle it out after the jump for your iLove.

And the iHome wins. So don't bet against it in the next few seconds before you hit the jump.Design

iLive The iLive has a retractable docking system. You push a button and it ejects á la CD tray. It's neat, until you realize that the tray is flimsy to the touch. We dig the piano black finish, which classes up the unit while promising to become every bit as dusty as our PS3. And the remote is large, which is both overkill and refreshing in a world of Front Row wannabes.IMG_2728.JPG

iHome I'm not going to bullshit you—the iHome is not an iPod speaker system. It's a computer speaker system with a hefty iPod dock attached. However, real speaker wires attach to the sub, which means that if you are willing to hide some cords (and dismiss the GIANT iHOME GRAPHIC), the system offers some level of flexibility. Our other impression: too many buttons with inefficient mapping. Tools like EQ require two button presses where one could do. IMG_2714.JPG

Functionality Both units feature video out, including S-video. Sure, they've also got AM/FM, will sync with your computer, wake you up, and...uhh...amplify your iPod.

iLive The iLive is one of the only docks we've tested that allows full iPod navigation from the remote, which beats most setups that limit you to playlist support only. The Studio is also very good at leaving rubber smudges on your kitchen table that can't be cleaned entirely. ilivedetails.jpg

iHome The display shows the artist and song if you opt not to know the time. It's big enough to see, too, but we wish we could crank the contrast a bit higher. ihomedetails.jpg

Sound We listened to Beck's Clap Hands. And then we danced around like Beck because no one was watching/grading us.

iLive The iLive really has some kick to it. The system can thump—but there's a caveat. The thumping simply isn't very good. It sounds a bit synthetic and significantly garbled. And the rest of the sound isn't much different. While the mids and highs certainly fair better than the bass, there aren't any moments in particular where any range shines.

iHome If the iLive has "some kick," then the iHome is Jackie Chan. Because the iHome puts out so much bass between its EQ and extra tweaks on the stand-alone sub that you will need to consciously crank down the lows to find balance.

The real issue with the iHome—which by all accounts sounds good—is that the mids and highs don't sparkle. I kept thinking, "more cowbell," literally. The system is solid, but it left me craving something even better. Because the woofer delivers in ways the speakers don't.

Winner: iHome iH52 10110_47_2.jpg The iHome iH52 wins by cheating—it ignores the rules of simplicity of setup and navigation. But in doing so, the iH52 follows a successful model already pioneered by computer audio enthusiasts.

The iHome fills an odd niche that I'm not sure actually exists (do I want computer-style speakers in my living room, or iPod speakers on my computer?), but it sounds a lot better than its competitor. So the iH52 moves on!


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