Given the diversity of Bluetooth speakers currently on the market, companies are always trying to set themselves apart with different features. Our iHome iBT91 review takes a look at a Bluetooth lantern speaker which lets you listen to music wirelessly while also functioning as a light source.
The iBT91 Bluetooth Lantern Speaker has the following features and specifications:
- 4 LED lantern modes: Hi (white light), Mid (50% brightness) Low (amber night light), Hazard (flashing red light) and Off
- Play audio wirelessly from Bluetooth enabled devices
- Speakerphone with digital voice echo cancellation and talk/end controls
- Control the iBT91 with your voice using the Melody personal voice powered music assistant app — streams music from iHeartRadio, Spotify, and more
- Rechargeable lithium ion battery for up to 6 hours of audio with lantern on, 13 hours with only audio
- IP65 splash proof/dustproof rating protects unit from incidental moisture, USB power bank to charge mobile devices
- Dimensions: 4.8 x 4.6 x 9.3″
- Weight: 2.97lbs
What’s in the box
- iBT91 Bluetooth Lantern Speaker
- Micro-USB to USB-A cable
- USB power adapter
- User Guide
There’s no question that the iHome iBT91 Bluetooth Lantern Speaker looks like a camping lantern. The speaker is roughly 7 1/4″ in height, 4 3/4″ across at the base, and just under 4″ across at the top. The entire device is encased in fairly thick black rubber. While the rubber protects the lantern and speaker very well, it does attract dust, hair, and other small particles very easily. A pair of 4 3/4″ x 4 3/4″ light cutouts — which looks rectangular due to the curve of the lantern speaker — are on the front and back of the device. Attached to the rubber that runs up the side of the speaker is a solidly attached rubbery/plastic handle on a hinge.
On the front of the speaker below the light cutout is a row of six dimpled buttons. From left to right these buttons are for power, Bluetooth/phone, volume down, volume up, Color Mode/battery level, and Lantern Mode.
On the back of the speaker is a large, thick flap which, when removed, exposes the micro-USB in charging port, 1.0A USB-A out port, and AUX in port. This flap is quite thick and requires a bit of work to remove and push back in in order to protect the ports from water and dust, hence the IP65 splash proof/dustproof rating.
The top of the lantern speaker is where the actual speaker is located. The round speaker grille is about 3 1/8″ in diameter and is ringed by a thin gold accent ring. In the middle is a small badge with the iHome logo on it. The actual speaker itself looks to be about 1 3/4″ across. Finally, the bottom of the speaker has an add button — for linking two units together for wireless stereo sound — and a reset pinhole as well as the pertinent regulatory information.
Ease of Use
Like most Bluetooth devices, when you first turn it on you’ll be in pairing mode. If for some reason you’re not, or you want to pair to a different device, pressing the phone/play/pause button for a couple of seconds while the iHome iBT91 Bluetooth Lantern Speaker is on will enter pairing mode. Once paired, it works pretty much like most other Bluetooth speakers. Holding the power button for a couple of seconds will power the speaker on or off, pressing the phone/play/pause button will either play or pause the current track or answer or hang up the current call. The volume buttons control the volume, unfortunately, they do not double as previous or back buttons and the only way to skip tracks is through your phone.
The Color Mode button allows you to cycle between five presets and turning the lights off completely. Available modes include Slow Fade, Fast Change, Favorite Color, Pulse to Music, and Preset Pulsing. The Pulse to Music mode worked fairly well and was a favourite of the kids, while Favorite Color took a bit to figure out. Basically, you have to put it in Fast Change mode and then when the color you want appears, press the Color Mode button again to keep it on the current color.
While the speaker is powered on, you can press the Lantern button to cycle between High, Mid, Low, Hazard Modes or turn the lantern off. With the speaker off, you can press and hold the Lantern Button for a couple of seconds to turn just the lantern feature on, and pressing it again cycles through the different modes as well.
To check the remaining battery levels, press and hold the Color Mode button while the speaker is on. The bottom portion of the lantern will light up red and a voice will state battery life is very low or it will fill up to one of three different levels in green and the same voice will indicate if it’s low, good, or excellent.
As far as performance goes, I’ll be talking mostly about the light performance. The various modes worked as expected, and as mentioned above the Favorite Color mode was a bit tricky at first. When used in lantern mode, the light was nice and bright at on high, very sufficient at the middle setting, and makes for a pretty decent night light in low mode which has an orange-ish hue. Hazard mode worked as one would think and the lantern flashes red when this mode is used.
You can also install the Melody app, connect your iHeartRadio or Spotify Premium account to it, and control your music using voice commands. It’s not 100% that seamless as you need to double press the play/pause button and wait for a beep. However, once you hear the beep you can say things like “Play Coldplay” or “Play some Rap” or “Play next track” and numerous other commands. As mentioned above, you can’t use the buttons to directly skip to the next or previous track, but you can definitely use the Melody app to do so if you wish. While I did find it a bit gimmicky, it does work pretty well and let me quickly access my Spotify playlists, skip tracks, or play a particular song without having to pull out my phone.
The one thing I’ve found about Bluetooth speakers is the wide range of sound you get out of them — and size doesn’t necessarily correlate to the sound they produce. Even though the iBT91 Bluetooth Lantern Speaker is fairly large, the speaker area is quite small and the sound suffers as a result. While the sound it produces is fairly loud, it definitely lacks any type of bass punch and even with an equalizer enabled there wasn’t much on the bass end to be experienced. That being said, even at high volumes the sound was pretty clear and crisp.
Reception is pretty decent while outdoors and there is a clear line of sight between the speaker and the paired device. As far as call quality goes, during our test call — and as is the case with most Bluetooth speakers — the closer you are to the speaker the better for the other party to be able to hear you.
While the battery size isn’t listed in the specifications on the iHome website, a response to that question from iHome Support indicates that it is a 3.7v 2600mAh battery. According to the specifications, the battery should last roughly 6 hours while listening to music with the lantern mode enabled and up to 13 hours if you’re just listening to music. During testing, we were able to get just under 7 hours while listening to music and cycling through the various LED modes and just under 13 hours when just listening to music. Considering the different brightness settings and modes of the lantern, your mileage will definitely vary depending on what LED or lantern mode you are using.
When drained, the iBT91 takes about 3 1/2 hours to fully recharge.
With an MSRP of $99.99USD, the iHome iBT91 Bluetooth Lantern Speaker seems like a pretty decent deal considering its size and construction. Unfortunately, the lack of quality music output brings that value down considerably.
The iHome iBT91 Bluetooth Lantern Speaker works great as a multi-purpose LED lantern with its different modes and brightness levels. While the sound quality isn’t quite there with its lacking bass levels, it still makes for a decent camping lantern/speaker for listening to music while outdoors or at the campground.
*We were sent a sample of the iHome iBT91 Bluetooth Lantern Speaker for the purposes of this review.
iBT91 Bluetooth Lantern Speaker$99.99USD
Ease of Use10/10
- Fun LED light presets
- Multiple lantern modes including hazard
- Durable construction
- IP65 splash proof/dustproof rating
- Decent battery life
- Fairly loud sound
- Sound isn't very balanced (extreme lack of bass)
- Can't skip tracks from the speaker buttons
- Bit high priced considering the sound quality