Consumer Reports: iPod Hi-Fi ‘mildly disappointing’

“Apple’s new Hi-Fi, $349, doesn’t sound as good as some older competitors. And it weighs much more, a drawback if you want to use the Hi-Fi portably,” Consumer Reports writes. “The boom in boomboxes designed for iPods continues, and now Apple itself has entered the market. To date, these boxes–which include a docking station that accommodates a proprietary port in the iPods’ base–have exclusively been made by audio manufacturers such as Bose and Altec Lansing. The iPod Hi-Fi, $349, is Apple’s attempt to compete with these aftermarket products.”

“Like most of its competitors, the Hi-Fi can be powered via an AC power cord or by batteries (in this case six ‘D’ cells) and comes with a remote that allows you to change songs or volume level from anywhere in a room. Rectangular and unadorned, the Hi-Fi resembles an elongated white breadbox,” Consumer Reports writes. “The unit’s performance is mildly disappointing–and somewhat surprising for a company that usually at least matches its competition. Though it sounds decent enough, the Hi-Fi didn’t match the audio quality of the best-sounding (and lower-priced) iPod boomboxes from our past tests. And it offers few unique features and capabilities–again unusual from a company known for innovation… The main drawbacks to the Apple Hi-Fi are avoidable to some degree. The unit’s hefty weight is moot if you leave it in one location. Also, you can improve (though not eliminate) the sound deficiencies we noted above by using the iPod’s equalizer (EQ) or (with newer iPods) ‘Speaker’ menus to reduce bass, boost treble, or both.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As MacDailyNews reader “MK” points out below, Consumer Reports fails to take into account that the iPod Hi-Fi is “AirTunes Ready.” Unlike the other speaker to which they compare the iPod Hi-Fi, you can connect it to an AirPort Express with a digital optical audio cable. The music is then sent from iTunes on your computer over the network to the iPod Hi-Fi using only digital signals. From the review, it’s not clear that Consumer Reports even understands all of the iPod Hi-Fi’s capabilities.

Sound quality is subjective, but the fact that Consumer Reports’ opinion is in the small minority, not the large majority, of reviews we have read is important to note. See related articles below for links to other reviews of Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi speaker system. For the record, we have “ears-on” experience with the iPod Hi-Fi. It sounds impressive for its size, plus it’s a quality unit. If you think you’re getting Martin Logan sound in a $349 bookshelf speaker like the iPod Hi-Fi, you need to think again. If you want a well-built, solid iPod speaker system, we can easily recommend the iPod Hi-Fi. (BTW, we also recommend ditching your iPod earbuds and replacing them with better models from companies like Shure and Etymotic.)

Not just because of this half-baked “review,” but from many past experiences with their shoddy Apple product reviews, we believe Consumer Reports is a garbage publication not fit for lining a birdcage and certainly should not be used for making purchase decisions about toasters or vacuum cleaners, much less speaker systems or personal computers.

[UPDATE: 9:46am EST: Added the last two paragraphs to the “take.”]

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Related articles:
Consumer Reports does their readership a disservice, says viruses target Apple Macs – December 13, 2005
Consumer Reports dubiously finds 20-percent of Mac users ‘detected’ virus in last two years -UPDATED – August 10, 2005

Chicago Tribune writer: ‘Don’t be duped’ by Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi – March 13, 2006
Time Magazine’s Gadget of the Week: Apple iPod Hi-Fi – March 13, 2006
CNET: Apple iPod Hi-Fi is a ‘box of delights’ – March 09, 2006
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


  1. Consumer Reports has lost my trust after they said that Mac’s have a “lesser vunerability” to viruses than Windows does. They are consistently wrong in their car specifications and their impressions. So with the mistakes i’ve seen i just don’t listen to them any more.

  2. After buying a refrigerator, and a washer/dryer, they recommended (over $2,300 total), I no longer give Consumer Reports the time of day.

    This review is indicative of how shoddy their reviews have become.

    Somebody should review the reviewers.

  3. “So-so sound quality. In our audio tests, two previously reviewed models, the Bose SoundDock, $300, and the Altec Lansing inMotion iM7, $250, both scored better in overall sound quality than the Hi-Fi. By comparison, the Hi-Fi overemphasized bass frequencies, yielding sound that was boomier and muddier than its competitors.

    Also, the Bose and the Altec Lansing units had a wider “soundstage” than the Hi-Fi, with better stereo separation and a greater spaciousness to the sound. (All three units were loud enough to fill an average-sized listening room.) “

    After doing some informal listening test myself, I really believe the reviewer here did not take note that the Hi-Fi has a very narrow sound axis “sweet spot.” To derive the best sound you must be ear level to these speakers otherwise the highs roll-off and you get “muddy sound” Proper speaker placement and listening position is crucial to getting the best out of the Hi-Fis and I believe they reviewed it from wrong angles. They are a little more difficult but the sound quality is absolutely the best among the ones mentioned. The Hi-Fi offers fuller, warmer midrange, very balanced and clear highs. It is also the one that creates a very nice sound stage without hearing any artificial sound processing, Something that is very apparent with the Bose SoundDocks.

    i find it disappointing that such an influential publication would review something so half-baked.

  4. If Consumer Report US is as useful as the UK’s ‘Which’ magazine, I would ignore it anyway.

    I haven’t yet listened to the Apple Hi-Fi so can’t comment on its quality.

    But with any sound system there’s only one golden rule — listen to it. If you like, buy. If not, don’t.

  5. “The unit’s performance is mildly disappointing–and somewhat surprising for a company that usually at least matches its competition. Though it sounds decent enough, the Hi-Fi didn’t match the audio quality of the best-sounding (and lower-priced) iPod boomboxes from our past tests

    Finally a unbias review without a ad revenue slant

    Here’s a company that specializes in testing as many products as possible, without a ad revenue bias, instead of something like PC Magazine, which just blindly gives the iPod HiFi a 4 out of 5 star rating because Apple peppers their “rag” with advertisements.

    Remember folks, when it comes down to brass tacks, the nitty gritty, it’s your money your spending for substandard quality. You have to deal with the fact you got crap, don’t blame anyone that we didn’t warn you.

    If you search CNet latest deals page, you’ll find a link to a site that’s got a quality Harmon/Kardon DRP2005 7.1 digital surround sound reciever for only $599 which will pump out a 120 watts x 6 satellite and a 200 watt subwoofer. You’ll get all the surround sound perks, optical in etc. A whopping 120-150 db max as measured in the center of the room, crystel clear, powerful sound that makes the iPodHi sound like a tin can in comparison.

    Now the fanboi’z can get upset all they want, but Apple is a company like any other, their first generation iPod sucked as well. Doesn’t mean later versions of the iPod HiFi will also suck.

    However in it’s present state, the iPod Hifi isn’t nearly up to Apple standards of being exceptional and a good value.

    I won’t buy it, and yes I heard it and tesed it myself.

  6. Consumer Reports has lost my trust after they said that Mac’s have a “lesser vunerability” to viruses than Windows does

    So what’s wrong with that? It’s the truth.

    With all the recent exploits of Mac OS X, many highly critical, if left unpatched for long there certainly would be Mac OS X viruses. There are certainly Mac OS X trojans right now as we speak.

    You can get JavaScript and Office viruses, Norton Anti-Virus viruses as well as many Windows viruses on Mac’s, most can’t do anything to Mac OS X itself currently, but certainly “Mac’s” can carry these viruses and pass them on in files and emails.

    So really “a lesser vunerability” accurratly describes the present state of Mac OS X security in relation to viruses.

    Just be glad they didn’t mention trojans and the recent rash of exploits on Mac OS X since it’s inception.

  7. What?

    Not a glowing review about a substandard product from my favorite company?

    Apple imperfect? NEVER!!!

    It insults me that I may perhaps have made a wrong choice in something I believe in.

    Will I listen to reason and perhaps accept the fact that my favorite company put out a first issue lemon?

    HELL NO!! Lets lynch the whole Consumer Report crowd from the highest tree’s we can find.


  8. does consumer reports ever even actually used the products they review?

    i hate them. they cannot be a trusted resource anymore.

    and why is there a microsoft ad on mdn?

    and what is with mcdonalds, ew!

  9. Yea it’s funny how quickly Macheads tout the better operating system over Microsoft which happens to be the truth, but then when Apple puts out a lousy product in comparison with others in the market they quickly dismiss all reason and find some dirt about the reviewers.

    This is a typical response of brainwashed people.

    Try to tell a bible thumper to prove heaven and hell exist and you’ll be treated like a heretic as well.

  10. macdailynews, lol so what if you can play music wirelessly, if it sounds shit who cares, maybe its about time you got your tongue from apples ass? Boom box is not ass good as others and they’ve well overproced it again!!!!

  11. mine was delivered yesterday by Apple Store France… its fantastic!! i love it! i have a bose sound dock as well and there is no comparison! i’ll be bringing the sounddock travelling with me and use the ipod hifi around the apartment (minus living room where we have a great stereo). i’m very pleased with this product, think Apple has a true winner.

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