Review: The iSphere from Sharper Image - Macenstein

Review: The iSphere from Sharper Image

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

There is certainly no shortage of great sounding iPod speakers out there that fall into the $200- $300 price range, but music lovers on a budget can still enjoy their music sans headphones thanks to the $99 iSphere from The Sharper Image.

The iSphere (available in both black and white) employs SRS WOW technology to produce some fairly impressive sound given its small size. Its developers claim SRS WOW can improve the audio dynamics of compressed recordings, and can create “an immersive and natural 3D listening experience.” I’m always suspicious when any stand-alone unit claims to be able to produce 3D or surround sound, and the iSphere does not quite deliver on 3D sound, but what it DOES deliver sounds pretty darn good.

Created by Sharper Image Design, the iSphere’s compact spherical form factor helps it stand out from the hundreds of competitors in a somewhat over-saturated market. I found the round form quite charming, and think it would likely appeal to younger iPod owners. Both my kids immediately fell in love with the iSphere, and enjoyed the way a docked iPod stands upright in the unit, making watching their favorite shows easy (I’ll still never quite understand why they love watching shows huddled on the floor in front of a tiny iPod screen, but such are kids).


The iSphere has 3 speakers; one on either side for stereo sound, then a 3rd containing a built-in subwoofer in the rear to handle the bass duties. While you do not quite get window-rattling bass from the iSphere, you certainly get more than you’d expect at this size and price point. We found for best sound, your iPod should be set to an EQ setting such as “Rock” that will help boost the treble and bass, as the default sound is a bit mid-rangy, which is often the case with smaller speakers. Additionally, the bass sounded noticeably better when we placed the iSphere about 3 inches from a wall to give it something to bounce off of. (On a related issue, while the iSphere’s volume scales well and can fill a large room, we found the iSphere sounded better in smaller rooms, again likely because the bass could more easily bounce off its surroundings).


The iSphere sports a line-in port for connecting any number of devices to the iSphere, but iPod users will want to take advantage of the built-in dock connector for playback. The unit ships with adapters which will accommodate all iPod models with dock connectors. The iSphere can charge your iPod while in the dock as well, but the iPod-centric features regrettably stop there. There is no option for navigating the iPod using the iSphere, such as “skip” or “select” buttons. Instead you must use the iPod itself to select songs, as well as set EQ settings. The iSphere’s controls are extremely simple, consisting only of a power and volume controls. It would have been nice to see controls for adjusting bass and treble, but this would perhaps have necessitated adding a display of some sort, and jacked up the price a bit.

The iSphere’s limited controls consist of a power button and volume controls.


The iSphere sounds as good as or better than the other speaker systems in its price category, but that still doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Since the unit is only 7 inches in diameter, you feel tempted to to want to move the unit from room to room, or even take it outside with you. However, the iSphere is AC only and doesn’t take batteries, so you are stuck dragging around a power chord and searching for a nearby outlet. This obviously isn’t an issue if you plan to use the iSphere as a bookshelf audio player in a dorm room or kitchen setting, but there are similarly priced (albeit, bulkier) iPod speakers out there that offer more portability. Additionally, it would have been nice to see the dock connector put to better use, and the ability to skip songs would have been nice (or even a remote).


The $99 iSphere is an affordable and stylish iPod speaker that delivers one of the biggest “bangs” for your audio buck out there. The SRS WOW certainly adds an extra audio kick many speakers in this category lack. We’d recommend the iSphere primarily for students, as its small size makes it ideal for a dorm room/bedroom, and its unique stlye will likely appeal to those people looking for something that looks cool in addition to sounding good. You will not think you are listening to the $300 Harman Kardon Go + Play or Apple Hi-Fi, but you won’t feel cheated either. Plus, you’ll have plenty of money left over for Ramen Noodles.

iSphere from The Sharper Image.

Price: $99

Pros: Larger sound than its small size and price would imply, good looks, affordable, SRS WOW audio enhancements, charges iPod

Cons: Unable to control iPod via the unit, no audio controls, not portable

2 Responses to “Review: The iSphere from Sharper Image”
  1. rowling says:

    We got this for my 14-year-old son when we got him a 30 GB iPod, and he loves it.

  2. Toby says:

    I love these. For the price, they sounded better than anything else I tried. And I like the design. My friend bought one after hearing mine.

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