You Can Rain on iHome's Parade

iHome's booth is a must-see on my yearly tour of the floor. They always have lots of cool stuff. This year, the iBN6 caught my eye; it is a waterproof Bluetooth stereo speaker. It also doubles as a speakerphone, and features NFC (Near Field Communications); you can take calls through the unit or your paired phone. It was a winner of the CES 2014 Innovation and Design award, as well as an iLounge Best of Show award.

The iBN6 carries an IPX7 rating; that's not an iHome product name; it's an international protection rating published by the IEC. In particular, iPX7 means that the speaker can be submersed in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes and live to tell about it. That waterproofness also confers added advantages like resistance to dirt and dust. The 4400-mAH battery life is rated at an impressive 14 hours. An added plus: it can be used to USB-charge your phone (cable not included). An AC adapter is included. As is typical with this class of wireless device, there is also a minijack input for wired listening. Bluetooth pairing is quick and easy; LEDs show pairing (and battery charging).

At least at the busy booth, sound quality was pretty good. Clean midrange, a bit of high-end air, and a hint of upper bass. Perhaps more important, it was loud enough for outdoor listening. Speaking of which, a switch lets you optimize playback for either outdoor or indoor listening.

And, finally, there is something especially awesome about this unit: it comes with a carabiner clip with a built-in bottle opener. For me, that is huge. I can't begin to count the number of times I've been caught short at the beach without a bottle opener to open a frosty one.

The iBN6 will be available in the first quarter of 2014. MSRP is $100. And remember: bottle opener included.