Apple put a frisson of fear across the burgeoning iPod accessories market when it introduced the Apple iPod Hi-Fi. This rectangular all-in-one speaker system is designed to provide the kind of performance an iPod user needs in an all-digital setup.
Controlled by an Apple Remote, the Apple iPod Hi-Fi is a large, heavy white box with a black grille at the front. The top of the Hi-Fi hosts Apple's Universal iPod dock cradle, while 10 adaptor inserts are included for compatibility with current and previous dockable iPods.
The back panel provides a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack that accepts either analogue or optical S/PDIF input. It also hosts a battery door – the Apple iPod Hi-Fi system can run off six cumbersome D batteries – and the jack for the AC cable.
One prominent omission is a video output port. Given that Apple sees the Apple iPod Hi-Fi as part of your home-entertainment system, a video-out port seems like an obvious missing feature. The system also lacks a USB port for connecting a docked iPod to your computer for syncing.
Behind the front grille are the Apple iPod Hi-Fi's speaker drivers: two 80mm wide-range drivers – designed to take the place of separate midrange and tweeter drivers – in sealed enclosures, along with a 130mm, dual-voice-coil, ported woofer. The grille hooks on via four metal pegs that make it easy to attach and remove, depending on how you want it to look.
The Apple iPod Hi-Fi has a rich, warm sound that doesn't grate or offend like many lesser iPod speakers and despite its relatively small size, it has actual bass. And it can go loud – incredibly loud, in fact, given the size of the system.
However, the Apple iPod Hi-Fi lacks upper treble detail, which, combined with slightly elevated midrange levels, makes the very highest frequencies difficult to make out at times. The Hi-Fi's other limitation is that it can't really overcome its one-piece design to provide expansive soundstage and precise stereo imaging.
Overall, the Apple iPod Hi-Fi provides good sound with some clever features that set it apart. It's an attractive option for people looking for good, room-filling sound in a compact package, though some will prefer the better sound separation and flexibility offered by other systems in this test.