I have been in the market for some Bluetooth speakers for some time; however, I never took the plunge until now. I picked up a set of iHome iBT8080 Bluetooth speakers for $60 from Samsclub during our monthly grocery shopping trip and here are my thoughts on this soda can sized speaker set.
Starting with the appearance, they do look very nice with their sculpted cylindrical light shifting design which measures 5 1/2 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter. The speaker driver is a top firing design which I would estimate to be 2 1/2 inches in diameter. There are four buttons, volume up and down, color mode, which doubles up as battery check and call/answer button which doubles up as a Bluetooth pairing switch. Secondary functions can be accessed by pressing and holding the buttons for 2 seconds.
In the box were the speakers, charging cables (USB MicroB to USB A / 3.5mm jack for analog connections), carrying straps, product brochure and printed manual. Take note that a wall charger is not included in the package, you will need to charge them using a computer or cell phone charger. It would have been nice to have a dual USB wall charger included, but it’s forgivable at this price point.
Audio performance is solid for what they are. If you expect Hi-Fi sound you will be disappointed. However, if you want decent sound for your cell phone, tablet or mp3 player, the iBT8080 hits the mark at the $60 price point. The sound is relatively balanced with solid bass punch when the volume is cranked up;, however, the mix is very bright and a little harsh on the ears when near maximum volume.
I did notice some vibration of the unit when running at 100% volume on the device and my phone, especially when playing the blast beats from Metallica’s One. This vibration was clearly audible and was annoying enough for me to turn down the volume a notch or two. The 8080’s are loud enough to satisfy most people even in an outdoor environment, but not loud enough to piss off your neighbors.
Battery life is just OK, iHome claim 10 hours of listening at moderate volume, but my testing shows between 4 to 6 hours. I fully charged the 8080’s and watched Futurama on my Surface tablet for about 2 1/2 hours at 1/2 volume before going out for 3 hours leaving the speakers on. When I arrived back, the speaker batteries were dead, they died sometime in those three hours without any audio playing.
The operation of the 8080’s is very simple and intuitive, paring with my devices was simple, just press and hold the phone button for 2 seconds, search for “iHome iBT8080” on your phone, tablet or mp3 player and click on “pair”. The second speaker is recognized immediately when powered on and in range of the first speaker for stereo sound. Each speaker can be used independently of each other if you wish.
There are five different lighting modes accessible by the ” * ” button, slow color cycle, fast color cycle, solid color, sound reactive and off. These lighting effects are a gimmick and eventually will probably annoy you, but it’s sure pretty to look at and it can be turned off after the novelty does wear off. Turning the lighting effects off will more than likely help with battery life as well, how much, I have no idea.
I would still recommend the iBT8080’s despite its shortcomings. I like the design, sound quality and volume. Battery life does bring it down, you’d need a couple of portable battery banks if you wanted to use these speakers wirelessly for an extended period of time, for some that might be too much to carry.