Apple iPod HiFi

It’s often difficult to talk about Apple products in great detail. There often isn’t any great detail to them. When you’re dealing with a product that does with it says it will with virtually no set-up hassles, looks beautiful and has a refreshing minimum of controls, there’s not a lot left to say.

Whatever else you can say about Apple, they have perfected the arts of both design and ease of use. Almost without exception since the release of the first iMac in 1998, buying an Apple product has meant you’ll unpack a machine comprising beautiful clean lines and angular white plastic that has almost no learning curve to operate.

Contrast such an ethos with that of most phone, computer or stereo equipment manufacturers — the number of sockets is usually enough to intimidate you, let alone what they all do. Most Apple devices have one or two ports, and you’re ready to rock and roll within minutes of taking off the wrapping (literally, in this case).

The iPod Hifi is no exception. Seemingly a natural progression for Apple after capturing the imagination and most of the global market in digital music, it makes perfect sense for them to provide the delivery system to replace your existing stereo. The smooth plastic and two handles at each end of the 43-centimetre wide case invoke both the iPod and G5 PowerMac — it’s definitely one of the family.

Just plug your iPod into the cradle on top of the deck, attach the unit to power (or install batteries), and play music. You already know how to use your tuner and music selector (the iPod), and the sleek little remote lets you adjust the volume and skip ahead or back between tracks.

A look at the picture of the speakers on Apple’s website will give you an idea what you’re in for. Ideally placed, their configuration fills a room like you’re at the concert. It’s not just a giant, thrown-together iPod player, Apple has called in serious sound engineering. Even at top volume, neither the hardest techno track or punk anthem gives off a whisker of distortion.

The press release for the product claims the sound quality rivals large stereo systems, and unless you’re a Hifi freak who knows every nuance of an equaliser band and whose living room is crammed with six-foot you’ll be unlikely to tell the difference between the iPod Hifi and your current sound system. The speakers project any tune you throw at them with ease.

Apple’s other trick has always been to marry simplicity with expandability. With only the power socket for company, there’s a single 3.5mm stereo port that can read both analogue signals and digital data. Hence, the iPod Hifi can be the sound system for your usual CD player, DVD and TV, PC or game console.

Unlike Apple’s behaviour of late, it also has adequate backwards-compatibility. Whether that has to do with the number of video iPods sold is open to question, but Apple’s usual m.o. has been to encourage regular upgrading. You know, the latest software only kind of works on an older machine but if you buy the latest lightning-fast dual processor G5′ Included are ten cradle adaptors that you snap into the cradle to fit any model iPod you have.

Having said that, only the latest model iPod offers you a system called ToneControl, boosting the bass or treble according to the circumstances and tracks and offering you a virtual equaliser.

The Hifi comes with a fabric grille to hide the speakers, but the matt black plastic speaker plate is something you’ll want on show as it complements the shiny white casing perfectly.

At around seven kilos depending on whether you put batteries in it, it’s not this generation’s boom box to sit on your shoulder and annoy the grownups, but it’s much easier than transporting the copious components and cables of your existing stereo across the room.

There’s going to be an element of keeping up with the Jones’ to any success Apple has with the iPod Hifi. Most of us have much better things to spend several hundred dollars on when we already have an adequate home stereo. But if you’re young, cool, technology-conscious and you’re just moving out of home, it’s a pretty and high-performance alternative.

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