CNET: Apple iPod Hi-Fi is a ‘box of delights’

“We’ve been playing (pictured) with the iPod Hi-Fi for a day now, and considering the price of the unit (£249, US$349), sound performance is very impressive. Though Apple has massively overstated the Hi-Fi’s capabilities — they describe sound output as ‘audiophile’ quality — it will impress casual listeners,” Chris Stevens writes for Crave at CNET.

“An Apple engineer talked Crave through the design of the speaker enclosure and amplifier stage. Apple has apparently designed the system with a very specific purpose in mind: to replace the living-room or bedroom mini-system. Judging from our cursory tests so far, it may have succeeded. The iPod Hi-Fi sounds equal in tone and clarity to many of the mini-systems we’ve tested from manufacturers like PURE and Yamaha,” Stevens writes.

“In our listening tests so far, the iPod Hi-Fi does extremely well at reproducing classical or acoustic music with a wide dynamic range. By this measure it far outdoes the competition in the same price range… on the whole we’re impressed by Apple’s stylish white box,” Stevens writes.

Full article here.

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Related articles:
Detroit Free Press: Apple’s new iPod Hi-Fi delivers ‘powerful, room-filling sound; mighty tempting’ – March 07, 2006
PC Magazine Editor’s Choice: Apple iPod Hi-Fi ‘this one’s a winner’ (4.5 stars out of 5) – March 04, 2006
Review: Apple iPod Hi-Fi – March 03, 2006
The Inquirer reports on attack of Apple cultists, blames MacDailyNews for inciting ’email fatwa’ – March 03, 2006
CSFB: Apple iPod Hi-Fi a harbinger of things to come – March 02, 2006
Inquirer writer: Apple Mac, iPod users are gullible saps – March 02, 2006
Apple iPod Hi-Fi photos from all angles – March 01, 2006
Videos of Steve Jobs introducing Mac mini, iPod Hi-Fi – March 01, 2006
Apple debuts iPod Hi-Fi speaker system, leather cases for 5G iPod, iPod nano – February 28, 2006

29 Comments

  1. Though Apple has massively overstated the Hi-Fi’s capabilities — they describe sound output as ‘audiophile’ quality — it will impress casual listeners,”

    Says it all right there

    It’s like this, if your some slob who has been listening to $100 cheap a$$ computer speakers and then listen to the iPod Hifi, it’s going to sound better, that’s a given, you don’t know any better.

    But if you go and spend a bit more for a real “audiophile” 7.1 surround sound system, quality speakers and a digital Toslink connector, the sound is so stunningly good that you would be b*tching that the iPod HiFi is a overpriced, overhyped piece of junk designed to take the novices money.

    Which it is.

  2. me
    I’ve never flamed me but your post has all the markings of a troll.
    You bought a piece of hardware that other people feel is not great value, that’s Ok, you are happy with it and that should be what matter. I think the biggest issue the so call flamers had was that it was overhyped, miss advertized and expensive. Trying to convince ourselves that we have made a good choice is such a drag. Just BE buddy.

  3. The iPod Hi-Fi is going to be the dominant system in college dorms across the country and will become a mainstay in secondary rooms in homes with “real Hi-Fi” in the living room and in apartment living rooms. This is a good business in itself.

    But the biggest deal of all is the lock in value for Apple. When you want to bring your music to the party, which mp3 device will you bring and how will you hook it up to the ubiquitous iPod Hi-Fi?

    And because the auto companies are making iPod ready entertainment systems, the lock in effect is even greater. Now if Apple can get its media center box (iMedia?) finalized and on the market, it will likely checkmate all of the competition — especially Microsoft.

  4. “I’d think a pair of wireless speakers integrated with your home stereo would be a better alternative. Fully-encoded audio instead of lesser-sounding lossy-encoded MP3/ACC files, too.”

    Click here – this is what you want!

    I am not affiliated with this company in anyway, shape , or form. They’ve just really got something with this product! Check out all the info – this unit is sweet. Less than $300.00

  5. I had to laugh at the Dude’s line about:

    “go and spend a bit more for a real “audiophile” 7.1 surround sound system, quality speakers and a digital Toslink connector”

    I’m wondering what is meant by “a bit more”? $500? $1000? In the world of self-proclaimed “true audiophiles” that I’m familiar with, $500-$1000 might buy one or possibly two sets of speaker cables to hook things up with. (see http://www.dedicatedaudio.com/speaker_cables ). Among the hard-core, in fact, the terms “7.1” and “audiophile” would never be mentioned in the same sentence.

    I agree that Steve overstepped the bounds of reason when he used the “A-word” to describe the iPod Hi-Fi. (Those with Golden Ears would likely say that it should be called the iPod Low-Fi, given that many consider CDs to be mid-fi). But c’mon, this is just a marketing thing. Steve isn’t pitching this to the tube-amp vinyl-rules crowd. As inaccurate as it may be, the description, I think, is simply meant to convey to its intended market that these speakers sound really good for their price and intended use. My guess is that in this market, “audiophile” = “sounds as good as Bose.” Nothing more and nothing less.

    Back to the Dude’s comment…Why exactly would you want a 7.1 set up in a bedroom/kitchen/dorm room/portable device? And given the fact that, to this point at least, iPods are two channel, what would the point be?

    If I were looking to put together a modest but musical system “for a little bit more money” to push my iTunes through that wouldn’t completely embarrass me in front of the audio snobs, I’d probably go to Audio Advisor and choose something like the Cambridge Audio 340A Integrated Amp, a pair of Epos ELS3 Mini Monitors, and some decent stands (a-philes love it when they have spikes and can be loaded with lead shot!). Then I’d brush up on my audio lingo and start talking about things like soundstage depth, transparency, lack [or non-lack] of digital smear, and palpable presence. Oh, and having at least one outrageously priced piece of wire in your system is a must if you want to have any credibility with the Golden Ears. In this case, the Cardas iPod cable may by the cheapest way to go. It costs $130, but golly it “uses Golden Ratio, Constant Q, Crossfield geometry in a pure copper Litz array”, so it’s money well spent.

    (Continued in next post)

  6. Tip: When around A-philes, it’s always a good thing to talk about the different combination of cables/interconnects/components you’ve tried. They’ll be impressed if you say something like:

    Yea, I thought that the Van Den Hul MC-Silver IT MK IIs would be a good match for my system, but they just smeared the soundstage. I guess they were too revealing. Or maybe they were putting a little too much backpressure on the valves in the pair of Joule Electra T VZN-160-MkIII Grand Marquis Monoblock Amps I was using. So I switched out the Van Den Hull’s for a cheap pair of Harmonix CI-230s that I had lying around, and wow! The soundstage suddenly opened up. The problem now was that it had no depth. For example, I had problems picking out the second piccolo in the Adagio of Walter’s 1962 recording of Mahler’s 9th. Well, I thought, what can you expect from a set of $300 interconnects? Just on a lark, though, I swapped out the monoblocks for this cute little Cambridge Integrated that I was intending to use in the dog kennel. Yes, I know it’s solid state and the slew rate would probably skew the upper harmonics way over the top. But, hey, I figured dogs like that sort of thing. Well, I hooked up the little Cambridge, fired up an old Art Blakely recording, and I was blown away! The soundstage was literally 3-D. When I closed my eyes, I could actually hear Art raising and lowering his eyebrows as he played. The problem was, the bass was now too loose. Not tight at all. It was flopping all over the soundstage like a dead fish! Granted, it was a 3-D fish, but it was flopping nevertheless. So I said to myself, what’ll I do now?

    “Then I remembered reading something in The Perfect Sound about how bi-wiring with Kimber Kable 8TC could tighten up the bass on the Epos monitors. No problem, I thought, I’ve got 30 feet of 8TC out in the garage, left over from hooking up the nursery monitor. So I pulled out the Solo Crystal Oval 8s, put in the Kimber Kable, and put Art and the boys back to work. The bass had tightened up considerably and the soundstaging was still 3D. It was sounding pretty good, till I noticed that the dog had a funny look of his. “What’s wrong, old boy?” I asked. “Bad transient response? Digital grunge? No air around the instruments? Smeared sibilants?” When I mentioned the sibilants, old Buster started to howl like a Bose Wave Radio. So I sat back, closed my eyes, and listened again. Yep, Buster was right. About four feet back in the soundstage, about five inches from Art’s raised left eyebrow, there it was, plain as day: a smeared sibilant. “Yegads”, I muttered. “What’s to be done about THIS?”

    I was just about to give up on this silly iPod idea and go back to vinyl. After all, I thought, this is a guest bathroom and what kind of host would I be if I subjected folks to the digital grunge of [shudder] compressed music? Besides, there’s that new Armour Electronics Goldring GR-2 Turntable that’s supposed to go into the kennel. I’ll put the Goldring in here and give Buster the iPod. He shouldn’t mind too much.”

    Well, Buster must have read my devious mind, because at that exact moment he walked up to me, tail wagging, and carrying in his mouth a Cardas iPod cable. “What’s this, old boy?”, I asked. Then I remembered that my wife had gotten Buster the Cardas for Christmas. She thought it might make a nice chew toy for him. Well, it seems Buster had been saving it for an occasion such as this, ’cause it had nary a tooth mark on it.

    It seemed a little crazy, but I grabbed that Cardas, and used it direct connect the Pod to the Cambridge. I hit the play button on a Chesky Sara K. recording and viola! We had music! Sara’s voice sounded gorgeous, silky, and uncolored! The piano had a warm, rich, woody tone and the middle register sounded organic with linear dynamics. Radiance also highlighted the Epos’ impressive high frequencies, which were extended, detailed, delicate, and uncolored. And soundstage? We had soundstage in buckets! Air was around everything. Bass was tight but not too tight and sibilants were well controlled. Yea, there was a lot of digital grunge, but what do you expect from an iPod? Besides, when the bathroom fan was running, it masked the grunge pretty good. What impressed me the most was the presence of the system. I tell you, it was palpable!”

  7. “The iPod Hi-Fi sounds equal in tone and clarity to many of the mini-systems we’ve tested from manufacturers like PURE and Yamaha,” Stevens writes.

    Does Stevens also write about how much more you get for your money with these mini systems? Like AM/FM, a CD player, interconnects for tape decks, VCR, or TV or an iPod dock? Like the ability to have a discreet stereo soundfield?

    No. I guess that would require saying something negative about the price.

  8. if you buy the iPod Hi-Fi actually thinking that you’re going to get audiophile quality out of it i’ve got some oceanfront property on the moon to sell you.

    if, on the other hand, you’d like to have a bookshelf or semi-desktop system to directly connect your ‘Pod to, then it seems like a pretty good idea. probably worth a listen.

    i havent heard it yet so i wont comment on its sound quality, but if it sounds at least as decent as my son’s bookshelf stereo, then i wouldn’t mind having one in my home office.

    if it’s too rich for your blood… dont buy it. go cheaper. i’m certain you’ll find something that’ll suit your tastes and wallet.

    if you don’t like it’s all in one design, get yerself a pair of powered loudspeakers and hook ’em up with AirTunes or sum’pin.

    if you want audiophile quality sound i suggest that you hotfoot it to your local “high end salon” and git yerself hooked up with a real high end rig instead of sittin’ here and bitchin’ and whinin’ about how unaudiophile this iPod Hi-Fi is!

    buncha dumbass wankers.

  9. I’m sure the gizmo sounds terrific, but the review discredits itself by using the phrase “audiophile quality.”

    MP3s, AACs, and boombox-sized speakers are not and cannot be audiophile quality. The music files are compressed and stripped of the data makes sound “audiofile” instead of just “very good.”

    Music played through an iPod of any sort can be very good and very fun, but they cannot be audiophile quality. An audiophile is someone who forsakes convenience for the sake of sound quality. That means ultra-expensive gear, big speakers, or at least nice headphones.

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