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REVIEW: iLuv iSP100BLK Portable Speakers for iPod and iPhone

Contrary to popular belief, the Apple iPod need not be a solitary experience. Yes, it is marketed as a portable music player and the most common application is to stick those ear buds into your head and bob along to Madonna on your own, but there are a plethora of products out there that allow you to share those tunes with people around you.

Most iPod speaker docks are not exactly the most portable of things, but the iLuv iSP100BLK ultra portable stereo speaker easily fits into any backpack or purse. It’s sold as a portable speaker for the iPhone and the iPod, but because it makes use of a standard 3.5mm connection, the iSP100BLK will work with just about any audio device.

Highlights of Features

Among the features and specifications, you’ll find a pair of 2W (RMS) speakers, an integrated 3.5mm audio cable, a power indicator light, built-in volume controls, an included carrying pouch, power by way of three AAA batteries, and iLuv’s jAura technology for optimal audio quality.

Some people may say that this portable stereo speaker system looks a little too much like a suppository for their tastes, but I kind of like how it looks. It’s that perfect size that is small enough to easily slide into a day bag, but it’s also big enough to offer decent sound output.

The jAura technology, which includes the mesh-like exterior of this product, makes use of a “unique echo sound cell technology for the speakers.” According to iLuv, this “optimally balances the forward-firing sound and backward boost delivering unparalleled depth and richness to the music you hear.”

No, you won’t be blown away in the same way as a powerful 5.1 home theatre system, but it’s better than some of the other el cheapo portable speakers out there for the iPod.

First Impressions

The overall design of the iLuv iSP100BLK is both functional and fashionable. The build quality appears to be quite good and it seems hardy enough to survive the occasional bump or bruise. The controls — volume up, volume down, and power — are all located conveniently on top, in the middle. There is no display, aiding in battery life, but there is an indicator light. I would have preferred if turning this on and off required a user to hold the power button though, because you may accidentally turn this on (or off) as it bounces around in your bag, pocket, or wherever it may find itself.

A very handy part of the design comes from the fact that the (relatively short) audio cable is actually integrated right into the system. This way, you don’t have to mess with an external cable. There is a groove along the backside to accommodate the cable when not in use, so you don’t have to worry about any extra dangle.

This could be a good thing or a bad thing, but the iLuv iSP100BLK is powered by a set of three AAA batteries, which are not included in the package. By using a standard battery format, iLuv is making it easy for you to grab more power in a pinch, but why didn’t they use two AA batteries instead? The AA size is much more ubiquitous than the AAA format. I’ve got plenty of rechargeable AA batteries booting around for my various electronics, but very few AAA batteries.

A possible alternative, which was not explored, was to make use of some sort of internal battery that could then be recharged via USB or through a wall outlet. Better still, include a couple of rechargeable AA batteries and the iSP100BLK double as a battery charger. Alas, iLuv does not offer this option, possibly to keep the price down.

Audio Quality

Aesthetic design and relative utility don’t really matter if the audio quality is crap. Thankfully, the iLuv iSP100BLK portable speaker system is perfectly adequate for portable music sharing. Yes, the stereo speakers in this unit are only two watts each, so you shouldn’t expect the world of them.

The bass is far from booming and the highs are a touch on the shrill side, but the sound quality is decent. I’m not blown away, but any stretch of the imagination, but I think I went in with the right set of expectations. I’d tried listening to range of music — Coldplay, Jay-Z, Metallica, etc. — and the experience was reasonably pleasant.

Final Thoughts

With an MSRP of $34.99, the iLuv iSP100BLK is not terribly expensive. Its overall design and form factor make it much more portable option that some of the dock-style portable speaker systems out there, and the inclusion of an integrated 3.5mm audio cable makes it vastly more versatile. The carrying pouch is a definite bonus as well.

I would have preferred if the iSP100BLK used AA batteries rather than AAA batteries and the audio quality could be a little better, but all in all, the iLuv iSP100BLK is a suitable option for anyone looking to casually share some music at the beach, in the office, or while on vacation.

About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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  • mihal

    thanks for making this review, it’s the most comprehensive review on the iLuv portable speaker that I;’ve found… Nice 1