Well, it took much longer than we expected, but Apple has finally decided to jump into the accessories market for their famous iPod. Enter the iPod Hi-Fi; a "crystal-clear, audiophile-quality sound in a clean, compact design." Well, at least that's what the gurus at Apple marketing are telling us. Unfortunately, we disagree. Wholeheartedly.
- Apple styling, Works with every iPod, Produces decent bass
- Sound quality, Price, Size and weight, Dock-insert removal
If the iPod Hi-Fi wasn’t marketed as producing audiophile-quality sound, then perhaps we’d be inclined to be a little more lenient. At this price, we can’t recommend this system to anyone.
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
Basically, the iPod Hi-Fi has been designed and marketed to replace your current home stereo set-up. Apple's motto seems to be "Why keep CD's when you can store all of your music at your fingertips?" In theory, this doesn't sound too bad at all, but in reality, the iPod Hi-Fi doesn't come close to delivering the quality sound of a dedicated CD based home stereo system.
Apple has marketed the iPod Hi-Fi as "compact" despite measuring 431.8 mm x 167.5 mm x 175.3 mm. While we agree that it is smaller than your average stereo component, it still is quite chunky and isn't really as small as Apple would like us to think. The handles on either side of the unit are hinting at portability, but weighing 6.6 kilos, this is somewhat wishful thinking and we can't see anyone lugging such a unit very far at all.
The design of the unit is what we've come to expect from Apple - simple, stylish and quite attractive. Finished in an all white plastic with a removable black mesh speaker grille cover, the iPod Hi-Fi definitely wouldn't look out of place in your lounge room or bedroom. The rear of the unit houses a compartment with space for 6 D size alkaline batteries. This is locked by a coin operated slot lock, making it thoroughly secure in case of any accidents. There is also a combined analog and digital optical input jack that allows you to connect the iPod Hi-Fi to your computer or to any other device with an audio output.. We appreciated the fact that unlike similar units, the Hi-Fi doesn't require an external power brick; the power supply is built into the unit itself.
The iPod Hi-Fi uses clip-in pieces of plastic which slot into the dock insert on the unit. There are ten of these included in total; one for every model of iPod ever released. This ensures your iPod fits snugly and securely into the Hi-Fi and that the dock connector isn't damaged by unnecessary movement. These dock inserts are fine if you are only planning to use one iPod in the Hi-Fi, but if you plan to constantly swap them over, removing them is quite a hassle. We found ourselves using a small screwdriver to do so and this isn't really convenient.
Apple has bundled a remote control with the Hi-Fi, and this is the same remote that is included with the new range of iMacs. Basically looking like a miniature iPod Shuffle, the remote allows you to access most of your iPods features, including Menu, Play/Pause, Next/Previous Track and Volume Up/Down. You'll still have to change play lists etc. from the iPod itself, but most of the other functionality is possible with the remote. An excellent feature of the Hi-Fi is the speakers menu that appears on your iPod (this feature only works with the iPod nano and iPod Video) when it is plugged in This menu allows you to adjust Tone Control with three presets; Normal, Bass Boost and Treble Boost. Depending on where the Hi-Fi is placed and what your music tastes are this may be worthwhile adjusting.
To say we were disappointed when we quickly fired up our iPod into the Hi-Fi would be an understatement. We were waiting for crystal clear sound, but what we got was a lack of treble detail that made higher frequencies difficult to hear. Any complex music pieces, such as classical tunes, were overpowered by instruments in the midrange, which is not what "audiophile-quality sound" should be. Furthermore, there was an obvious hissing sound when the volume was cranked up to higher levels and this does affect your listening experience.
What we like about the Hi-Fi is the bass it produces; definitely ideal for heavier tracks and something that should please a lot of people. But this is where the good points end. You may think we're being harsh, but the fact remains that Apple is advertising the Hi-Fi as "audiophile-quality" and this is far from the truth. At a hefty $549 at the time of release, the Hi-Fi is one of the most expensive speaker systems on the market and unfortunately, it doesn't live up to its billing. If you're going to spend this much, grab the Bose SoundDock instead - you'll walk away with a far better system and change from $500.
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