We first saw iHome’s Kineta series at CES 2015, and were intrigued enough by the design to award the speakers with one of our rare Best of Show nods. The Kineta series combines a Bluetooth speaker with a removable battery cell — the compact 2600 mAh K-Cell battery pack can be charged within the speaker (or via the included micro-USB cable), and ejected for use on the go. Kineta K1 ($150) is a portable Bluetooth speaker, while Kineta K2 ($100) is a Bluetooth stereo alarm clock. Both accessories provide a K-Cell battery level indicator right on the speaker — in fact, that’s the only way to tell how much charge is on the battery pack, as the K-Cells themselves have no such meter. iHome sells the K-Cell battery packs separately for $25 each; curiously, there are separate K-Cell models for the K1 (aka the iKN150) and the K2 (iKN105), though both speakers appear to charge either battery.
Kineta K1, the portable Bluetooth speaker, is 9.5” x 4.18” x 1.97” and weighs about 2.125 pounds. Its portability is restricted a bit by its size and weight, but it’s restricted even further by its design — a non-waterproof speaker with a charging battery right in the middle. It may be portable, but it’s surely not rugged, and we’d recommend it for home use, rather than as a “go-anywhere” speaker. K1 has a nice red non-slip base. On top are buttons for power, Bluetooth, and ejecting the K-Cell battery, in addition to volume controls and a play button. An additional small flap on the speaker’s left side reveals an aux-in port, pinhole reset button, and a charging port for the speaker’s AC adapter. K1 requires the included AC adapter to charge, though the K-Cell battery is said to extend the speaker’s battery life by “7+ hours” (presumably when docked and fully charged).
K2 is a bit lighter at 1.625 pounds, and it measures 8.27” x 4.26” x 2.52”. On top are buttons for power, switching modes between Bluetooth, radio, and aux-in, two alarms, volume controls, preset/play/pause/, a sleep button, volume controls, and a snooze/dimmer. As in the case of K1, you also insert the K-Cell battery and eject from the top on K2. On the back are the AC adapter port, aux-in port, FM antenna port, time set button, and a door that covers a backup battery. The side has a port for USB charging of an iOS device — iHome claims it can charge up to 2.1A for iPads. It’s a no-brainer, as many iPhone users charge their devices at bedside every night.
Kineta K1’s sound is good, but not great, for its price range. It does surprisingly well with the lows — the bass has more oomph than we expected. Bass-heavy songs generally sound nice and full. K1 can get pretty loud for its size, but the highest volume levels can also reveal a bit of distortion — and some discrepancies in the midrange when compared to better speakers. Overall though, K1 is priced right for what it offers. Speakerphone performance was average in both K1 and K2.
K2’s sound is acceptable for a bedside or desk speaker, and that’s about as much praise as we’ll offer. It doesn’t compete with top $100 Bluetooth speakers, but it’s a clock radio with other features, so high-performance in the sound department probably shouldn’t be expected. There’s distortion at high volumes — it gets plenty loud enough for its purposes — but you’ll rarely be in that territory. Think of K2 as a feature-laden alarm clock first and a Bluetooth speaker second. It has two separate alarms, and you can use Bluetooth to play a song of your choice upon waking up, which is a nice touch.
Kineta’s built-in K-Cell system is what really intrigued us at CES. It makes perfect sense: so many people buy a battery pack or two for their iOS devices, but there’s never really a great place to keep the battery. And when it’s time to use it, we’re guessing it’s a common occurrence to find the pack is already drained before you’re about to head out the door. With K-Cell, the idea is simple. You have a place to put your battery pack at the end of each day, and that pack will be charged by the time you’re ready to use it — say, the next morning. It’s even more logical in an alarm clock like K2.
We found that K-Cell’s 2600 mAh delivered a 94 percent charge to a depleted iPhone 6s in about two hours. The performance was fine, but even better is the compact form factor, as the 3.75” cylinder can easily fit in a pocket. A USB output and micro-USB input port are found on the top of K-Cell — the latter enables the tiny pack to recharge when not in a Kineta speaker. A small blinking light lets you know it’s recharging.
iHome’s Kineta series fulfills most of the promise we saw at CES — the removable K-Cell batteries are a great idea, and they work in perfect harmony with both speakers. While neither K1 nor K2 are must-have products, the Kineta series is a unique step into a saturated Bluetooth speaker market. We think the K2 alarm clock provides a bit more value with its features at $100 — it earns our strong general recommendation, while K1 earns our general recommendation.
Company and Price
Compatible: Bluetooth iPads, iPhones + iPods