In the past, Apple has a fairly hands-off approach when it came to accessories for their venerable iPod. While offering a few essential attachments for their device, they always seem to stop short of stepping on the toes of the third party products coming from companies such as Belkin, Bose and Monster Cable. With the release of the iPod Hi-Fi, Apple has changed its course and is directly vying for a piece the add-on action. This first attempt looks and sounds wonderful, but still falls a bit short on features.
The iPod Hi-Fi is basically a complete speaker system designed to compliment your iPod. It houses two mid-range speakers, with a single large center woofer. A dock connector on the top makes it easy to drop in your player and go. For older iPods or other devices, a dual mode auxiliary input is available in the back, allowing playback from either an analog or digital optical source. The only controls on the Hi-Fi itself are a touch sensitive volume up and down on top of the unit, in front of iPod dock. The unit is powered either from a standard AC cord or with six D-cell batteries. The battery option, as well as the built in handles, make the Hi-Fi a rather heavy but still portable solution to take your music with you.
Setup was mindless, with the hardest part was determining which of the ten included inserts fit my particular iPod. With the iPod was securely docked, a new Speakers menu option appeared on the player’s display. From there, three options are available: Tone control, backlight settings, and large Album art. The tone control was very straightforward, allowing me to boost either the bass or the treble. The large album art setting turned out to be a mixed blessing. While it was nice to be able to see the album cover from across the room, the track information is never shown, whether the particular track has attached art or not. Unfortunately, it is likely going to be a feature that most people will play with for a few minutes before turning it off and forgetting about it.
In its main function, pumping out the tunes from my iPod, the Hi-Fi performed well. Sound quality was generally good and had a good range. It did a good at filling whatever room I put it in, without making the output too loud.
An Apple Remote, now universal across Apple’s product line, is included, which gets basic play/pause, next/previous tracks, and volume control. A subtle LED blinked from behind the speaker grill as an acknowledgement of commands from the remote.