iLuv’s iPod-integrating mini hi-fi system appears an ideal replacement for the mini stereo system in the digital music age.

iLuv may be first to market with its 7500 mini-system, but design and technological problems leave this side of the market wide open for a better conceived alternative

iLuv is expanding its range of iPod accessories, developing unusual and unique iPod solutions and swelling the already crowded accessory market.

The iLuv 7500 is a compact music system for iPods. Like most mini-systems it lacks a record and tape deck, making it a child of the digital music age (naturally including CDs and MP3 CDs).

Its Universal iPod dock recharges and plays music from most modern iPods. It offers a USB port that works with an iPod shuffle and many memory cards and USB devices. However, it lacks a line-in port for other devices, so it’s useless as a host for your old record deck.

Additional features include an AM/FM radio with PLL (phase-locked loop) digital tuning technology and a clock with timer that can be used as an alarm, waking you to music from radio, iPod, or CD.

The radio, which offers adequate reception, supports up to 40 programmable radio station presets. The various features of the device are navigated using the front-mounted LCD screen, which lets you shift modes and helps you move between the five preset EQ settings. The 7500 also lets you search by name for tracks on MP3 CDs. It ships with a 20-function, reasonably comprehensible infrared remote control, although this won’t allow you to navigate through your playlists and batteries aren’t included.

The unit has no problems with CD and MP3 CD playback, though the search feature is only effective if you’ve burned the relevant track info to an MP3 CD.

The system consists of a pair of satellite speakers, a bass bin subwoofer that integrates the iPod dock, and the main unit housing the controls. First impression was that the system was a little flimsy, though that isn’t unusual in any but the most premium music systems. Assembly was fast – it took more time unwrapping the components than fitting them together.

Unusually, the iPod dock is situated atop the subwoofer. This is because the top-loading CD player takes up the top surface of the main unit. You’ll most likely store the subwoofer beside the main unit.

There are some other odd design decisions. First, both the main unit and subwoofer have their own separate power supply, so you’ll need two wall sockets. Second, with two power supplies you’d expect two power switches, one for each unit.

But you’d be wrong – there are three. The bass bin cunningly hides a second switch at its rear, which needs to be on before the subwoofer works. Third, volume isn’t integrated: the satellite speakers have one volume control, and the subwoofer volume is tuned with a small, black knob on the front lower left of that unit. Also, controls on the subwoofer match the colour of the unit, making them hard to find them in the dark. And the remote doesn’t control the subwoofer. We think iPod users would prefer more integrated solutions.