iHome is one of the first companies that comes to mind when we think of “utility” speakers, ranging from the clock-radio designs that are the company’s hallmark to more interesting products like vanity mirrors and sleep therapy systems. While the company’s latest offering is a bit more pedestrian, it’s no less intriguing and in fact we think it might even be more practical. Aquio combines a 16-ounce double-walled stainless-steel bottle with a removable Bluetooth speaker, meaning you’ll have one less device to carry on your outdoor adventures.
The Aquio bottle is a metallic, BPA-free insulated bottle that promises to keep hot beverages hot for up to 14 hours, and cold beverages cold for up to 24 hours. A screw-on cap includes a fabric loop that can be used to hang the bottle from a backpack or bike rack, and the bottle and accompanying speaker are available in four colors: black, seafoam, blush and merlot.
Screwed on to the bottom of the water bottle is a five-watt Bluetooth speaker wrapped in woven fabric. The speaker is IP67 rated, although iHome naturally recommends that you don’t wash the water bottle with it attached, and features an internal rechargeable battery that promises six hours of listening time. A USB-A to micro USB charging cable is included in the package, but as with most speakers in Aquio’s price range, iHome leaves you to supply your own USB power source for recharging. A rubber flap covers the micro USB charging port on the rear of the speaker, but there’s no aux in port here, so it’s Bluetooth or nothing with Aquio, although we don’t think most people will miss the aux in capabilities. The base at the bottom fo the speaker can also be unscrewed, allowing you to attach it directly to the water bottle should you want to take that out without the speaker.
The speaker itself features only three buttons — a play/pause button is centered prominently on the front while power and Bluetooth pairing buttons are located on either side of the flap. There are no volume of track navigation controls here, so you’ll need to control all of that using your iPhone or other source device. Aquio also offers speakerphone capabilities that include digital echo cancellation and audio caller ID.
In terms of sound quality, we’d say Aquio is generally unremarkable. That’s not to say, however, that it’s not a decent speaker for its price range. There’s some bass present, but it’s definitely a bit on the anemic side, since of course the speaker doesn’t have much room for even passive radiators. While iHome has a solid history of punching a bit above its weight in small economy speakers, there’s still only so much you can do with a single five-watt driver in such a small enclosure. Aquio gets reasonably loud, and doesn’t distort at higher volumes, but it definitely leans toward the tinnier treble side of the fence. We’d say it’s fine for casual listening, but if you’re primary concern is audio fidelity, you can get better speakers even in this price range. Still, we think iHome did a better job here than with its earlier [SoundFlask], since at least this one actually is a water bottle, rather than just being designed to emulate one.
At the end of the day, it’s fairly obvious that Aquio’s appeal lies in its utilitarian nature more than its audio quality, and if you’re an outdoor enthusiast who likes to travel light and are willing to compromise a bit on sound quality, we think Aquio is worth a look, but it’s definitely a speaker for personal use and not something you’ll be taking to rock out with at your next beach party.
Company and Price
Model: iBTB2 Aquio