Apple iPod Reviews: Accessories
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Reviewed March, 2006 by Jacob Spindel, Chief iPod Correspondent
I know, I know. Sometimes iPod and Mac people instinctively obey Steve Jobs almost to the point of being like a bizarre game of "Simon Says." So if you started wanting the iPod Hi-Fi as soon as Jobs touted it as being a cheaper replacement for fancier devices, I don't blame you. Unfortunately, even "cheaper" still means about $350, for the Hi-Fi. Considering this is more than the cost of some iPods, users may find themselves scrambling for a cheaper alternative. Today, I take a look at DLO's iBoom dock for iPods with Dock connectors, which lists at a very impressive $99.99, considering the level of features it offers.
The appearance of the iBoom is fairly normal by iPod speaker dock standards: left speaker area, right speaker area, and a Dock connector bay in the center. However, the iBoom is more rounded and "stylized" than some of its competitors. It measures 12.5 inches by 8 inches by 6 inches, making it compact enough to use the built-in handle without making it too small to produce good sound. Each of the speaker areas contains a woofer (80 Hz frequency response) and a tweeter (20 KHz frequency response), with the combination of all four speakers resulting in a total output of 20 watts. The volume is controlled by an analog dial rather than plus and minus buttons, which will likely be appreciated by users who are not very accustomed to high-tech gadgets.
The most unique feature of the iBoom lies directly below the Docking bay: an FM radio. The radio features digital tuning with a brightly backlit display for the current station, as well as two memory buttons for stored stations. I found it slightly strange that the radio features a separate power switch, even though the unit already has a button to switch between iPod mode and radio mode, and the radio won't function when the main power is off. However, the radio is still very simple to use and is similar in interface to most car stereos' radios, which makes the iBoom's radio a valuable addition that most speaker Docks don't have—even the iPod HiFi requires the separate purchase of the iPod FM remote for it to have radio functionality.
The unit can be powered by the included AC adaptor or by 6 "D" batteries, and when it is receiving power and has an iPod in its Docking bay, it will, of course, charge the iPod. The AC adaptor is built into the battery compartment, which makes it easy to store, but also makes it virtually impossible to keep the battery door attached while using the AC adaptor.
As for what's missing, there is no iPod syncing capability, even though it uses an iPod Dock connector, probably because it is intended as a "Boom Box"-type product rather than a home Docking solution. It also does not support AM radio, and it does not include a remote. Considering the price range, though, I think this list of potential "shortcomings" is impressively tiny.
Overall, I am impressed with the sound quality of the iBoom, especially the volume, which can reach a very loud level without sounding distorted. This makes it a good choice for social gatherings in addition to personal use. Here's how it fares with specific types of music: