Every iPod addict knows how fiddly it can be to escape the bounds of the iPod headphones to enjoy a bigger sound. While you can connect your iPod to your stereo, or a set of amplified speakers, or even one of a number of dedicated iPod ‘speaker’ docks, some of these solutions can be a right pain or sound pretty dissapointing.
Enter Apple’s very own solution, the iPod Hi-Fi. This is an all-in-one integrated speaker and subwoofer unit, with a cradle on top for the iPod to sit in. The idea is that you dial up your favourite playlist, pop it into the iPod Hi-Fi and it pumps your digital music library out to the masses. The cradle charges iPod at the same time, and an included remote control lets you skip tracks, adjust the volume, pause and play music and shut the iPod down. There’s also a menu button on the remote but this doesn’t seem to do anything at the moment; the only way you can navigate the iPod’s menu is via its own controls.
As the iPod Hi-Fi is designed by the very makers of iPod, it follows the same simplified design ethos that’s employed across the Apple range of products. In short, the thing looks great and will complement your desk, office or bedroom. A black speaker grille covers twin 80 mm drivers and a 130 mm woofer, but you can take this off should you want to show off.
Also integrated into the design is a pair of handles for carrying the 6.6 kg (without batteries) box from place to place. Apple wisely integrates a universal power supply so you don’t have and additional brick to lug around, and it takes six D-cell batteries if you decide to go bush. While the iPod Hi-Fi is made from thick plastic, I doubt the finish would wear up to a life on the road.
My other niggle is that your iPod stands fairly erect on top of the unit. While this provides a handy view of the screen, a flatter mounting option would be nice should you want to place the unit on a shelf with limited head room.
The good news is that the iPod Hi-Fi isn’t all just looks. It’s been meticulously engineered to provide a high-quality audio experience as well. The acoustically tuned speaker chambers are resin sealed, and the midrange drivers are dampened by special suspension. There’s also a ported bass-reflex design for the subwoofer.
What this translates into is a great sounding and considerably powerful speaker unit. It doesn’t distort with the volume cranked, and is loud enough to be the primary stereo for a unit, dorm or office, or a second stereo for a house.
While the quality of your digital music will certainly affect the overall sound fidelity, the iPod Hi-Fi does produce an impressive soundstage, meaning that if you close your eyes, music seems to come from a broader place than just a little box. Also, different instrument tones are will separated, and both low and high frequencies are impressively re-created.
Apple includes dock adaptors for all generations and models of iPods that have a the connector. For those that don’t, there’s a combined analog and digital 3.5 mm line-in jack at the back.
For owners of fofth generation iPods and iPod Nano devices, when you connect to the speaker unit, a Speaker menu will pop up enabling you to use Tone Control, which is a feature for choosing Normal, Bass and Treble Boost EQ modes. There’s also a Large Album Art setting that makes it easier to see album artwork from a distance.
While the excellent Bose SoundDock is a more compact option that also produces impressive sound, the iPod Hi-Fi is certainly attractive, very well designed and louder. Both have a similar price, but if you don’t mind the extra space it requires, the iPod Hi-Fi is the one to beat.