Review: Apple iPod Hi-Fi

“Earlier this week, we gave you our First Look at Apple’s new ‘home stereo system’ for the iPod, the iPod Hi-Fi. At the same time, the public began weighing in with their first impressions—mostly from afar—and I admit to being more than a little surprised by the negative response. It seems many people are opposed to the very idea of the iPod Hi-Fi; more than once I heard or read the phrase ‘Why would anyone waste $350 on this thing?’ (Of course, nearly all of these comments were made by people who had never even seen the Hi-Fi in person.) Granted, Apple set themselves up for a measure of such abuse by introducing the Hi-Fi as an “audiophile”-grade system that will “redefine” the home stereo system, when it’s really a bookshelf-style speaker system—albeit one that can run off batteries—that attempts to improve on some of the more popular existing systems on the market,” Dan Frakes writes for Playlist.

Frakes writes, “what really sets the Hi-Fi apart from other transportable speaker systems are a number of interesting playback features. For example, a new Speakers menu appears on fifth-generation and nano iPods when you dock them with the Hi-Fi. This menu—actually present, but hidden, in these models since they were released, and updated via January’s iPod Software 1.1—provides several options specific to Hi-Fi-docking. Tone Control allows you to choose a Hi-Fi-specific EQ setting: Normal, Bass Boost, and Treble Boost; unlike the iPod’s EQ settings, the tone controls take effect in real time, so you can quickly compare the options as you scroll through them. (Note that the iPod’s standard EQ settings also appear to affect the iPod’s output when docked with the Hi-Fi; however, the Tone Control setting doesn’t affect audio output when docked with a different speaker system, nor does it affect headphone output.)”

“A few things immediately jump out at you when listening to the Hi-Fi. The first is that it has a rich, warm sound that doesn’t grate or offend like many lesser iPod speakers. The second is that despite its relatively small size, the Hi-Fi has actual bass. (Don’t let frequency-response snobs tell you that 53 Hertz—the official low-end of the Hi-Fi’s stated frequency range—isn’t “real” bass; unless you’re listening to pipe organs or putting together a home theater system, a relatively flat response down to ~50 Hertz is going to give you more bass than you’re probably used to.) Finally, the Hi-Fi can play loud. Incredibly loud, in fact, given the size of the system,” Frakes writes. “Although I’m sure a few iPod owners will get rid of a larger home stereo system—especially an older one—for the convenience and compact size of the Hi-Fi, I don’t see people with true high-end stereo systems trading them in. Rather, the Hi-Fi is going to be an attractive option for people looking for good, room-filling sound in a compact package: It’s a bookshelf system for the iPod generation, and one that can even be taken with you in a pinch.”

Much, much more in the very comprehensive full review here.

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53 Comments

  1. This guy has something of an answer for those idiots here who have posted that, unless a system plays 20-20k, it’s not audiophile; those guys just have no clue what they are talking about. It is the accuracy of a speaker system across its capable range that defines whether it is audiophile quality or not. A speaker could have a range of 60-15k, and still be audiophile grade, just as the wonderful Quad ESL was. I used to own a set of Strathearn ribbon transducers in a 6-foot tall column. Wonderful, beautiful, sound incredibly fast transient response. Clearly audiophile grade. But without the Dynaudio subs beneath them, they lacked any low end whatsoever. They were still audiophile grade. I am looking forward to hearing the iPodHiFi. it probably won’t come close to what is in my living room, but it will probably sound great in the bedroom and den.

  2. still think it’s just not what the company should be doing. Unless it’s part of a grand scheme (which I doubt), it’s just not what we need. Stockholders like me want to see Apple doing great stuff with the OS and the personal computing line.
    Let the music buffs keep playing and spinning their own business, which they know best anyway. With so many enterprises dependant on the iPod, Apple never HAD to get into the fray. What a waste.
    Time slipping away that should be spent fanning the enthusiasm for the new OS, new laptops, and the whole Intel-Inside thing. And why’s Intel not doing so well, stock-wise? Is there something we need to know that made them want to sucker-bait Apple in? Just saying. Radio guys like us wanna know.

  3. I listened to it and…

    Hi-Fi it isn’t

    well made, heavy pleasant midrange sound. no clean highs

    I have a feeling Apple will be introducing a pair of L & R speakers with proper tweeters to match this.

    I think it is meant to ne a center channel so expect 4 more to come

  4. imagine that, it’s priced right and kicks butt, with beautiful little features that only Apple would think to put in. I dunno ’bout you guys, but to me having a system that delivers rich warm sound and has killer bass is better than one that doesn’t have great bass but has more distinctive treble. Baby, gimme some thump!

  5. I think that’s it’s probably fair to say the the sound is impressive, rather than natural. From a strict audiophile point of view, that ought to be a bad thing, but in the real world, customers will be happier buying impressive stuff rather than natural stuff, so it will be more of a commercial success.

    The audiophile experts speak no more sense than Apple analysts do, so I never pay any regard to their opinions. Most of their comments and observations don’t hold up to any informed scrutiny. This is clearly a consumer product and will sell as such. HiFi aficionados might insist that the speaker should reproduce down to 20Hz, but I don’t think that many of those enthusiasts will have $350 speakers that can do that.

    The price does seem rather high, but that’s exactly what everybody said about the original iPod and also about the iPod mini. They managed to sell a hell of a lot of those, so I reckon they’ll be shifting loads of these too.

  6. It’s a piece of overpriced garbage

    Heck a equally priced Bose Wave Radio with cd player and a clock is a overpriced piece of garbage.

    You would do better getting a REAL HiFi system, like a quality 5.1 surround sound system.

    If you buy a iPod HiFi you’ll be the laughing stock of everyone who see’s it.

    Sorry Steve, but your putting out a piece of $hit and passing it off as something better.

  7. I have a feeling Apple will be introducing a pair of L & R speakers with proper tweeters to match this.

    Not going to happen, apparantly you haven’t looked at the back of this thing, it has no external connections at all.

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