Pros: Cheaper than other soundbars. IPOD dock built in. Decent jack pack. Nice sound.
Cons: Not true 5.1 sound.
I just purchased the ILIVE IHS3 SOUNDBAR SPEAKER SYSTEM.
This unit also goes by the model number IHT3817DT. I've also seen it go by the number IHS3817BK. Don't know why it is listed that way.
I have a lot to say of this item.
This soundbar features a MOTORIZED IPOD DOCK. It is supposed to be compatible with many IPODs. It comes with many APPLE IPOD ADAPTERS. It can accomodate older 10-20 GB (black & white screen IPODS) as well as the recent 80 GB color video IPODS. The IPOD will charge as well as play while in the dock. You can also control the IPOD functions via the remote control. Once I get an IPOD, I will update again. I have one coming in a few days.
I can tell you this ILIVE system can be plugged into a computer via USB cable (included) and can either play or be set 'in sync' with your computer, when an IPOD is loaded in the IPOD DOCK. According to the manual, that means it is as though the IPOD was connected directly to the computer. If this is true, I may be able to download music from my computer to the IPOD while docked on the ILIVE unit. Will update when I try this operation.
First of all, I don't think the ILIVE IHS3 is an APPLE product. I believe that is a mistake. ILIVE is its own brand. It is a part of the larger DPI (Diversified Products Inc) if I'm correct. APPLE makes the IPOD. I think that is where the confusion stems.
This unit is part of the ILIVE STUDIO series. I assume that means it is a so-to-speak 'higher-end' unit of that brand.
WHAT IT IS:
This IHS3 is a version of the increasingly popular soundbar speaker system.
Soundbars are speaker systems designed to give the listener a theater-like experience without the clutter of separate speakers, rear speakers, etc. Soundbars incorporate all the components in one unit, a 'soundbar'. This type of speaker system looks attractive, fits nicely on a wall underneath a flat LCD or PLASMA TV, and is amazingly easy to connect.
Many soundbars come with hefty price tags of $500 to well over $1,000. I paid barely over $100 for this unit, brand new, via eBay. I have seen it listed from $177 to $300 retail. The original MSRP was $349, according to my research. Some soundbars offer built-in DVD players. Some come with matching subwoofers. And so on.
THE ILIVE IHS3:
The ILIVE IHS3 is a soundbar and an IPOD player. That is to say, it also features an IPOD dock for direct connection of an IPOD.
The ILIVE IHS3 comes with 4 sets of INPUTS, including both composite video and S-video types and L/R analog audio inputs.
It also features composite video output and S-video output jacks. Therefore, you can play your VIDEO IPOD and see the images on your TV, I imagine. You can also connect a VCR, DVD PLAYER, CABLE BOX, etc. Such components can be connected via Composite or S-video cables, and L/R audio cables.
It also features a subwoofer output jack (for a powered external subwoofer). You can buy powered subs for under $100 if you look around. They will still help increase the bass and impact of the sound.
A remote control is included. It can control a docked IPOD as well as the soundbar controls.
The ILIVE IHS3 is much less expensive than competing soundbars, but it also is somewhat more simplistic in design. So, it really depends on what you are in the market to buy.
The ILIVE IHS3 features a left and right full-range 4 inch speaker, and a left and right tweeter speaker. The full-range seems to be of good quality and the tweeter is 1-inch in diameter with a phase plug (which helps improve treble sound). I can't tell if it is a cone or Piezo or other such driver. Midrange (voice) and treble is nice and smooth, not shrill or harsh.
There are dual subwoofers, each 5 inches, with larger foam or rubber roll cone suspensions. The subs are loaded into a bass-reflex enclosure which leads to a long ducted port (opening) at one end. Bass is good, but not as powerful as an external sub. But it extends pretty low. Using TEST CDs and other such apparatus, I could hear bass output down to 40 Hz. It is not floor shaking, but it is audible and pretty smooth.
Speakers are magnetically shielded. I placed the system right in front of my PLASMA with no signs of distortion from magnetic fields.
The IPOD dock is motorized. It extends outward on command, or will stay in or out as you wish.
There is a display which displays the tuner and/or other functions.
On the side of the unit are the controls, which illuminate a pleasing blue color when pressed.
The unit comes with a table stand attached, and wall mounting brackets and hardware as well.
Also, there is a FM and AM antenna.
Multiple brackets to fit many different IPOD versions are also included.
This IHS3 has some sound options. In the FLAT mode, you can adjust the bass and treble to your preference, +/- 12dB. Some audio manufacturers might refer to this mode as 'custom'. When I boosted the bass, it sounded pretty low without much peaked mid-bass. I assume the bass frequency is set pretty low in frequency and with a narrower bandwith. The treble sounds more or less like an average treble boost.
There are also several sound preset tonal settings, such as ROCK, JAZZ, etc.
Then there are two advanced EQ settings similar to what might be found on a home theater system. One is SRS TRUBASS, and the other is 3D ENHANCED AUDIO.
SRS TRUBASS is supposed to optimize bass output to reduce distortion and offer balanced bass output at all volume levels.
3D ENHANCED AUDIO is supposed to give a simulated surround sound experience.
There is also separate FRONT LEFT and FRONT RIGHT speaker output controls which can adjust the respective outputs. I originally thought those controls were exclusively for the midrange/tweeter speakers. After some use and testing, I realize these controls are more or less like individual BALANCE controls. They control the entire left and right sides, including the subwoofers. You can adjust from a range of 0 to 12. I don't know if those steps are in 'dB', or just a simple reference steps.
WHAT I THINK OF THE ILIVE IHS3:
The preset tonal settings are the usual type. I don't use them.
I tried the FLAT setting and adjusted the bass/treble. It works pretty well. Bass sounded pretty good. A little fuller than when in the FLAT mode, but not necessarily any deeper. Treble sounded ok, although it sounds a little shrill if turned UP too high.
I adjusted the FRONT LEFT and RIGHT controls to +12. I can't tell if the system sounds any better if the controls are turned DOWN and the main volume turned UP.
I am disappointed with the SRS TRUBASS. I expected more. I played several CDs and DVDs, switching between FLAT (with bass boosted), SRS TRUBASS and 3D ENHANCED AUDIO. What surprised me the most, is the bass output seemed to be the least when in the SRS TRUBASS mode. Mid-bass was slightly more emphasized. But the deeper lower end of bass was a little fuller in the 3D and FLAT modes. So, I am really not impressed with SRS TRUBASS. It's too bad. I had high hopes.
When I played the system in the 3D ENHANCED AUDIO mode, the bass was, surprisingly, about as low and extended as in any other mode. When playing in FLAT mode with bass output boosted to +12dB, the bass was a little fuller, but the lowest end was not much different. If I turned the volume UP a step or two, the lowest bass in the 3D mode was pretty close to the fully boosted bass.
This really surprises me because most of the older 'soundstage widening' circuitry, such as the old Q-surround, just made everything sound shrill and bass output disappear, from what I remember.
In the 3D ENHANCED AUDIO, I played parts of several DVDs, first through my 5.1 system and then through the ILIVE IHS3. I played scenes wherein the sounds flew from front to back, left to right, etc. I plugged the same DVD player into the ILIVE unit. While the IHS3 did not give the surround sound effect of my true 5.1 system, it did a pretty good job. I did not expect it to sound as good as it did, or simulate the surround as well either. Sound did bounce from far left to far right, in the 3D mode. I almost got the illusion of sound from behind sometimes, when I sat several feet directly in front of the IHS3.
Distortion was low. I was very happy with that. Even when turned way up. This soundbar can fill an average room with sound with no problems.
Bass is decent, although not as deep as the small subwoofer of my 5.1 system. But, it isn't bad either. I think many listeners might be satisfied with the bass output. Especially since this system does not require a separate subwoofer,(most soundbars do). Less wires and better aesthetics. Besides, there is a subwoofer output if you wish to expand this system.
This system seems to be built very solid. I am very impressed with the build quality. It is actually made of wood or pressboard, not just plastic. It is heavy and will sit solidly where placed. Foam feet on the bottom of the table stand ensures the protection of your fine furniture.
WHAT NOT TO EXPECT WITH THIS SOUNDBAR:
Some of the more expensive soundbars out there are touting to be authentic 5.1 sound output. That is, they may have separate amplifiers for all 5.1 channels, and they have discrete speakers within their enclosure to output each channel. The various speakers then use a combination of electronic circuitry and/or reflections off walls to provide a simulated 5.1 sound experience, sometimes referred as 'front surround'.
By comparison, this ILIVE IHS3 is a 2.2 sound system, according to their manual. I don't know why it's listed as 2.2. Maybe because there are 2x built-in subs inside? Maybe just a 'typo'. It employes advanced circuitry to provide simulated surround sound, but there are not the 5.1 output and discrete channels as described above on more expensive units.
After extensive playing, I think the 3D ENHANCED AUDIO mode sounds better for movies and TV, but not always suited for music.
The BASS/TREBLE adjustments only work in the FLAT EQ setting.
You can only use one EQ setting at a time. For instance, you can't combine SRS TRUBASS and 3D ENHANCED AUDIO.
There is also a USB port.
There is a built-in RADIO with AM/FM. The radio reception is fair. However, the provided antenna is a very cheap single wire type, which probably does not pull in a lot of stations. Sound is good on well received stations.
There is also a built-in clock and wake and sleep timers.
I am trying to acquire more specs from ILIVE. So far I have learned the speaker sizes (stated above) and I was given a general output rating of 15 WATTS PER CHANNEL INTO 8-ohms @ 10% THD to the front left and right speakers, and 30 WATTS INTO 8 OHMS @ 10% THD TO THE SUBWOOFERS. I don't know if it's 30 watts to each sub, or total. I can state that the sound is good, with low distortion.
This ILIVE IHS3 soundbar is about a third to a tenth of the price of its competitors. Even less if you find a deal. And it includes a radio and IPOD dock. It still sounds way better than the built-in speakers found in most flat panel TVs, regardless of how expensive they are.
Its appearance is very sleek. Even my wife likes it. Gloss all black finish with some chrome striping on the ends.
Easy to use. Connections for several components plus an IPOD dock.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO USE THIS SYTEM WITH YOUR TV EITHER. I've looked around at various IPOD powered speaker systems. This ILIVE IHS3 compares favorably with many of them. Sound quality is good. Bass is decent. Volume can get pretty loud. And it has an IPOD DOCK just as do many other IPOD speaker systems.
IF you are IN THE MARKET for an IPOD SPEAKER SYSTEM, you should consider this ILIVE IHS3. For the price, it is comparable both in price, features and performance. Think about it.
I am very pleased with this ILIVE product. I really didn't expect as much.