iLive Outdoor Solar-powered Bluetooth Speaker REVIEW
Bring the Party with you.
From toilet paper shortages to bicycle shortages to component shortages to online product limitations to school shutdowns to a variety of mandates, there is no doubt that COVID has forced some changes upon each of us. As a family, we loved to go to movie theaters, go out to eat, jump at the local trampoline park, and window shop at the mall. Despite the limitations upon our previous family life, we have grown/expanded in our bonds and have enjoyed more family time through a variety of creative activities. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to have had a trampoline prior to the COVID shortages. We added a sprinkler feature for an enjoyable summer experience, and the children wanted a way to listen to music. The iLIVE Outdoor Solar-Powered Bluetooth Speakers allowed us to bring our indoor dance party to our trampoline. As a result, my kids were able to bring some of the magic of the trampoline park to our own backyard.
The iLIVE Outdoor Solar-Powered Bluetooth Speakers arrived in a 9 3/4 inches long by 8 1/2 inches tall by 3 1/2 inches thick retail package. The cover panel provided the iLIVE name along the top left, a solar-powered logo along the top right, a blue triangle with “Ground Stake Kit Included x2” along the bottom right, a large blue circle with “2 pack speakers and stakes,” and four green product descriptors along the middle of the panel: 360 sound, Party Plus Pairs Both Speakers With Ease, 20 hr Extended Playtime. Despite the vivid, colorful accents, the main focal point was the dual black speakers upon the grassy yard. Each of the glossy-black speakers contrasted nicely against the grass, the background plants, and bricks. Interestingly though, the image of the right speaker lacked the ground stake and appeared to be floating in the air like a juggler’s torch instead of appearing to be staked into the ground. I liked that the left speaker was closer than the right speaker and that it added scale and depth to the overall scene.
The grey-colored right and left side panels provided the iLIVE icon along the top of the panel and three photo-quality images depicting a home table scene “Perfectly Portable,” an outdoor family hula hoop party, “Backyard Fun,” and a friendly outdoor beach volleyball game “Ready for Adventure.” At the risk of sounding cliché, these pictures were worth a thousand words. I loved the diversity, colors, and ideas presented on each of the panels. The company provided a Bluetooth 5.0 logo and ink outline images of a phone, computer, and tablet just beneath the lower image. Like the cover/side panels, the top panel successfully utilized a colorful scene to provide additional ideas for the user. The solar-powered logo was present along the top left, “2Pack Speakers & Stakes” logo along the bottom right, and along the center of the image, you will find a fun picnic scene.
The rear panel provided the iLIVE logo along the top left, the Solar Powered logo along the top right, dual side-by-side images of the speakers along the left, and product details along the right side of the panel. You will find a paragraph that described the 360 degrees sound, removable stakes, portability, water resistance, and the ability to bring the party with you. The product specifications were displayed just beneath the descriptive paragraph: Special Party Pack: Includes two speakers & stakes, Bluetooth Wireless 5.0, Dual Speaker Drivers for 360 degrees sound, 20 hours extended playtime, Solar Power, IPX5 waterproof design, Party Plus: pair two speakers with ease, Aux-In (3.5mm), Micro SD slot, Handsfree Speakerphone, ON-Speaker controls, Rechargeable Battery, Includes 2 removable ground stakes, USB charging cables. The bottom panel provided a California warning, product SKU barcode, address, FCC warning, and a Made Green Logo. The company did a great job with the product presentation and overall design. I liked the colorful artwork and the promise of a touch of normalcy.
I removed the tape, lifted the top panel, removed the small grey/orange enter to win review card and the white pairing instruction notice; you must connect the speakers together before pairing them with your smartphone/tablet). I slid the large clear plastic tray out from the main compartment and then the iLIVE instruction manual. Within the plastic tray, you will find two plastic-wrapped 12.9-ounce, 6 1/2 inches tall by 3 inches diameter black speakers within individual cutouts. Each speaker had a glossy 1 5/16 inches wide by 1 1/2 inches tall solar cell along the top, a 7/8 inches tall plastic section, a 2 5/16 inches tall felty material that covered the speakers, and a lower matte black plastic section. Along the middle of the lower section, you will find the iLIVE logo, an M “Connect Speakers” button, a “+” button, a “-“ button, a Bluetooth button, and a power button (call, play/pause). Just to the left of the vertically stacked buttons, you will find a column of three LEDs. Along the back of the cylindrical speaker, you will find the rubberized 11/16 inches wide by 1 1/4 inches tall input/out port cover. I did not like that the plug was 3/8 inches thick, as it was difficult to remove from the cutout. Without a pull-tab, I had to use a pen to pry open the plug. Unfortunately, this added an unwanted blemish to the rubberized cover. You will find a micro-USB input port, a 3.5mm Aux-in port, and a micro SD slot within the cutout. To maintain waterproofing, you will need to close the port when in use. If used indoors, you can consider using the devices via a wired connection. Lastly, along the bottom of the speaker, you will find four 1/8 inches diameter by 1/8inches tall rubberized feet and a central, plastic-lined 13/16 inches diameter ground-stake port.
Along the center of the clear plastic tray, you will find two 6 7/8 inches long ground stakes, two 20 1/2 inches long 3.5mm cables, and two 20 1/8 inches long USB-A to USB-micro cables. I plugged one of the included USB-A cables into each of the speakers and left them to charge for about an hour. During that time, I perused the instruction manual. The dual-panel manual displayed the product features (waterproof, BT, party Plus Mode, 360 Degree Sound, Built-in microphone, Solar panels, built-in rechargeable battery 20 hours playtime at 50% battery, micro USB charging), an overview of the stakes (remove the stakes from the casing, insert the stake into the bottom of the casing, then insert into the ground), and then reviewed the controls (Connect button, Volume up/next, volume down/previous, Bluetooth button, Power/play/pause button). Along the right side of the main panel, the manual displayed the packaging contents as listed above, reviewed the battery charging (3 hour charge time, 20 hours/50% volume), reviewed the limited solar charging capabilities, and then detailed the Aux In and Micro SD features. The reverse side of the panel detailed the Party Plus Mode, pairing process, the FM radio setup, customer support information, and FCC warnings.
Once the speakers were fully charged, I held the power button of the first speaker for 3 seconds. I was greeted by a female speaker who announced, “Power On, Bluetooth.” I pressed the power button on the second device for 3 seconds, and the female speaker again announced, “Power On, Bluetooth.” To pair the two speakers together, I followed the Party Plus Mode instructions within the instruction manual. I held the Mode button of one of the speakers for 3 seconds, and the female speaker announced, “Speaker Connected.” With the speakers paired, I grabbed my iPhone 12 Pro Max, navigated to settings, Bluetooth, selected the ISBW240 from the list, and the female voice announced the paired status of the speakers. Despite the warning to pair the speakers into Party Plus Mode prior to linking to your smart device, the setup was truly simple. I removed the ground stakes from the plastic sheath, combined the two halves, and then stabbed the ground section into the ground. I placed the speakers upon the stakes to complete the setup, and we started to enjoy the sound output.
Each of the cylindrical speakers provided a fun 360 degrees sound output, which made placement around our trampoline a breeze. It is important to note that the speaker Party Plus Mode is a stereo setup, with one speaker providing the left channel and the other providing the right channel. Some TWS speakers allow you to change between stereo and “paired” mode with full sound output from both devices. Similar to my headphone tests, I turned to the audiocheck.net website for the speaker parameters. For my first test, I evaluated the bass capabilities with the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10-200 Hz). Since we can hear down to approximately 20Hz, a good pair of headphones will produce a quality full sound around the 20Hz mark. Unfortunately, the iLIVE speakers had a meek output around 40-50 Hz and then increased steadily by about 80Hz. If your goal is a bouncing bass-heavy speaker, this kit will leave you wanting. Turning to the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22-8 kHz), I was pleased to hear the sound around 14kHz. This was on par with my age-appropriate hearing ability. Using the Left/Right (Stereo) Sound Test, I found one speaker to be “left,” one to be “right,” and they both played center channel.
Similar to my audio tests for headphones, I ran the speakers through my typical test tracks. I navigated to Amazon Prime Music and to Apple music and played a variety of selections. I started with Bright Lights Bigger City” by CeeLo Green and enjoyed the synth-pop vibe but missed the bass support. Similarly, “Train Song” by Holly Cole,” lacked the bounding, jazzy bass line that I expected to feel in addition to hear. The song “Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold” retained a degree of the somber ballad feel but lacked a bit of depth. Honestly, it felt like I was using a surround sound minus the subwoofer. The output was not bad, but it was not as full, dense, or rounded as expected with a good pair of headphones. Interestingly, the mid blends and the upper sounds were crisp, clear, and never became tinny or overpowered without the bass. To test/prove this aspect, I would encourage you to listen to Enya Caribbean Blue. With a high-quality mixed/EQ supported earphone setup, the Enya song becomes an experience more than a simple song. The iLIVE speakers did a reasonable job for the mids but again lacked some of the bass support that the song demands. The speakers did a good job at instrumental pieces as well due to the tuned mid-range frequency. I used both the Robinhood Prince of Thieves and the Far and Away soundtracks to test this aspect. Each of the songs had a pleasing output but lacked the undersupport that I knew should be there.
As noted above, the mids/upper sounds never felt tinny or harsh. These speakers are designed to be generalists and worked quite well for pop and rock. My children loved Kids Bop, the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack, Shallow from Star is Born, The Trolls 1 and 2 soundtracks, and the 80’s mixes from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks. If your goal is audiophile-grade sound output, the iLIVE speakers are not the right option for you. However, my children absolutely loved to dance and bounce with the music. At max volume, you will enjoy a good deal of sound for a small outdoor get-together. You may need to purchase larger speakers for larger gatherings or locations with increased background noise/sound. We listened to a variety of songs from the Beach Boys, Pentatonix, Charlie Puth, Alabama, Megan Trainor, Anna Kendrick/Pitch Perfect/Trolls, Little Big Town, “Lost Boy”, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack, “Sunflower,” Bon Jovi, Rascal Flatts, and Imagine Dragons. We were pleased with the design, the portability, the 20-hour playback, and the solar panels. Even though the solar panels lacked high-efficiency charging, the ability to leave the devices outdoors for a few days meant that they were charged and ready for their energy-filled hour jump fest.
To summarize my experience, I did not expect the speakers to provide the same output that my 1MORE HI-FI or BOSE over-ear earphones would provide. However, the speakers did a good job of providing a nice mid-range blend. We enjoyed the paired 360 degrees sound and the pop-centric programming. I can honestly say that my kids never stopped their jubilee to question me about the bass or the blend. I liked the Left/Right programming (Boondocks/Bohemian Rhapsody), the stakes, and the ability to set them up anywhere that there was a patch of ground. I was pleased with the appearance, the shape, the feel, the battery life, and the overall design. If I were to design a version 2.0, I would boost the bass at least 25%, add a pull tab onto the rear rubberized port, and include a stake/speaker carrying bag/case. I felt that the design was for portability and outdoor adventures. For that purpose, I would have loved some method to keep track of the stakes, 3.5mm cables, USB-A charging cables, and speakers. The Bluetooth range proved to be more than adequate, and the buttons worked well to control the features. I never used the Radio function, nor the micro-SD function but felt the modes were a nice add-on feature. The instruction manual described how to program the speaker to the available stations and to input the card into the slot.
Overall, I would rate the 7.5/10 for sound, 10/10 for fun/enjoyment, 10/10 for battery life, 9/10 for accessories, 10/10 for portability, and 10/10 for packaging. If you are looking for an inexpensive dual speaker stake setup, look to the iLIVE speaker kit to fulfill your outdoor listening needs.
Learn more about the iLIVE Bluetooth Speakers.