Reviewed Dec. 18, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor
"Big sound" portable speaker systems
for the iPod are booming these days. Not so long ago, we had only
choose from, but now Altec Lansing and Klipsch have gotten into
the act, with more to come in 2006. These speaker systems aren't
meant for your travel bag but rather your bedroom, living room
or small business in need of some tunes. Weighing in at 4.6 pounds
and measuring more than a foot across, the Klipsch iGroove is perfect
for carrying from room to room and is loud enough to fill even
a party with sound. They list for $20 less than the Bose SoundDock,
the first and most popular large sound solution for the
iPod, yet beat the Bose on a few key points.
The iGroove, like the SoundDock, uses a wall
of sound design, with the iPod nestled in a docking cradle just
in front of the spacious speaker grill. Their design is modern
and artsy with a funky backward rake most apparent from the side.
The finish is silver and the enclosure is made of ABS plastic.
One thing we really like is the rubberized adjustable back support
for the iPod— side it up or down to hold the iPod snug. Side
rubber grips also keep the iPod in place and provide some isolation
from woofer vibration. The iGroove works with all iPods that have
a dock connector and an adapter is needed only for the iPod nano
(the adapter is included in the box now, if yours came without
one, contact Klipsch with your speaker's serial number and they'll
send you one). Klipsch also includes a J-cup adapter and short
3.5mm stereo audio lead should you wish to use the iGroove with
a different brand of MP3, MiniDisc or other portable audio player.
This trumps the SoundDock which only works with the iPod and has
no auxiliary 3.5mm stereo inputs.
The iGroove, like most
iPod speaker systems, will charge your iPod while it's docked. Like the
Bose, the included AC power brick is surprisingly large and heavy and
the unit operates only on AC, not batteries. The front panel has volume
controls and a power button. The included IR remote has buttons for changing
track, volume, play/pause and power. It's an attractive, curvy silver
affair, like the iGroove itself.
How does it sound?
Great! For speakers this compact, the sound is surprisingly
good. Of course they beat the super-portable iPod speaker solutions (the
kind that fold and fit in your bag) because the iGroove has larger speakers
and greater physical channel separation. The iGroove uses a pair of 1" Tractrix
horn loaded tweeters and a pair of 2.5" woofers. They have a crossover
at 2.9kHz completing the true two way speaker design. If you're a classical
fan, you'll particularly like the iGroove which offers flat frequency
response, punchy highs and a bit deeper (yet clear) bass than the Bose.
The iGroove's sound is best described as accurate, as much as this can
be true of small speakers. Bass isn't overemphasized and the treble doesn't
overwhelm, which could be a problem with small drivers. The highest frequencies,
such as the top violin notes in an orchestral movement can sound just
a tiny bit harsh, but the speakers did a great job of reproducing the
lower treble sound of Miles Davis' muted trumpet in his duet with Coltrane
in Fran-Dance. Bass is strong by small speaker standards
and it's clear; never muddy. The iGroove won't shake your desk like the
Altec Lansing iM7 but the bass is properly represented. The speakers
do well with rock and pop music, with bass, drums, guitar and other instruments
clearly represented yet not overwhelming vocals.
Klipsch iGroove vs. Bose SoundDock
and tastes that govern home hi-fi audio are in effect in the portable
market too. There are those folks who love the Bose sound, which creates
a very good 3D space and uses active EQ and a DSP to control frequency
response, generally filling out the midrange. And there are those who
prefer a more pure sound and don't want anyone or anything else messing
with EQ and dynamic range: Klipsch people. Klipsch has been in the speaker
business a long time, and I remember 20 years ago considering their offerings
as some of the best bookshelf audiophile home stereo speakers available.
The sound, just as digitized, is what you'll hear: no mid-range padding,
no extra bass, no cut-off highs and not a smidgen of dynamic range compression.
As a classical music fan, I personally prefer colorless
speakers and so love the iGroove. The drawbacks are few, the most notable
is that highs such as high passages in string sections or even high electric
guitar solos played up the neck can sound the slightest bit harsh while
the Bose roll off those frequencies so you'll not think the same passages
as harsh. While Bose compresses the dynamic range the Klipsch leave it
intact, revealing the full emotional range of the music at hand (though
you may have to fiddle with volume during a song as a result).
Pure music. Loud music. Great dynamic range.
That's the iGroove. While these speakers can't compete with a good
home stereo system, they will beat the pants off of ultra-portables
and most computer speakers. They hold their own against the Bose
SoundDock, offering slightly deeper bass and greater dynamic range
in the process.
Pro: Great clarity
and colorless reproduction of music. Big enough sound to fill a
large room. Attractive design and useful integrated carry handle.
Can be used with other portable music players that have a standard
3.5mm stereo out jack.