iHome's new headphones become speakers

HeadphonesUsually, you have to choose between headphones and speakers. After all, they're two different devices with two different purposes. iHome is trying to change that with the new iHMP5 Dual Mode Headphones. These over-the-ear headphones convert into portable speakers simply by clicking the ear cups together.

When you want to share your music with those around you, just take off the headphones, turn the ear cups sideways, and connect them via a small clip in the sides. The headphones automatically crank up the output and become a set of portable speakers.

It's a unique idea, but I'm skeptical as to how they can be effective as much more than an audio novelty. Since the headphones use the same 50mm drivers in both headphone and speaker mode, there are probably some major acoustic concerns. If they're built to be good headphones, the driver placement and power output, even cranked up, won't be optimal for speakers. If they're built to be good speakers, then turned way down they'll probably be muffled headphones. A two-driver system with a switching mechanism to actually change what driver the headphones use in what mode might be a more effective design.

Either way, it's certainly an interesting product, and handy if you don't want to carry portable headphones but want to occasionally listen out loud.

Will Greenwald