Now that the furore over last week's Apple launch has died down, crash investigators have begun picking through the wreckage, uncovering survivors with incredible tales to tell. Take the iPod Hi-Fi, for example. Initially thought to be dead, haemorraging thick gloopy hype-blood all over the stage in Cupertino, it has actually turned out to be a fairly impressive beast.
We've been playing (pictured) with the iPod Hi-Fi for a day now, and considering the price of the unit (£249), 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.
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.
Apple's proposition is a very simple one: to minimise vibration in the speaker units and to provide adequate power to drive the speakers at high power with no distortion. They've used a range of established techniques to achieve this, including a dense polycarbonate chassis and isolation of the mid-range and sub drivers.
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.
Listening to rock or highly compressed pop at high volume did reveal what sounds to us like very soft clipping. Soft clipping is not distortion in the typical sense -- the speakers in the Hi-Fi don't generate static, but there is some unintended compression in the mid-range. Subtle points, but perhaps not to an 'audiophile'.
These are high demands for a small unit, and on the whole we're impressed by Apple's stylish white box. Expect a full review soon. -CS
Update: a full review of the Apple iPod Hi-Fi is now live.