Griffin’s latest iPod speaker, the Amplifi, is about as simple as they come, and the price tag won’t leave you wishing you hadn’t just bought that $4 Starbuck’s cafe mocha. The sound is a lot better than you’d expect for a $150 speaker and can fill a 15 by 15 foot living room with little problem. The included infrared remote doesn’t give you total control over your iPod, and the speaker lacks any tone controls or video outputs, but the Amplifi’s no-frills (but still elegant) design keeps the price down and the quality up.
The Amplifi’s matte black rectuangular wooden enclosure has silver sides that extend below the speaker to raise it, letting the 5-inch woofer fire straight down to give the two 2.75-inch front drivers help with the bass. In the middle of the black metal grille on front there’s a single knob that’s surrounded by a blue light when the speaker is powered on. The speaker is fairly compact at 13.75 by 8.75 by 5.5 inches (about the size of a toaster oven/broiler) and comes with an AC adapter, but there’s no battery power option.
A universal iPod dock on top works with the iPod Mini up through the current generation, and you get several rubber inserts so your iPod fits securely in the dock. You can also use the speaker with any other audio source via the eighth-inch line-in jack on the back and the included audio cable.
Operation couldn’t be any simpler: Push the knob to turn the speaker on, and turn it to adjust the volume. The IR remote gives you plenty of range for a small room and lets you control play/pause, track skip, volume, and power — that’s it. Not that you’d want to squint at the iPod’s 2.5-inch screen from 10 feet away for menu navigation, of course.
I’m very impressed at the speaker’s construction, which is solid enough that I couldn’t hear any vibrating or distortion even at top volume on loud tracks — highly unusual at this price point.
Here are the results of my listening tests:
Against Me!’s “I Still Love You Julia” sounds harsh and sibilant but that punk rock bass drum comes through with plenty of aggressiveness. On the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Power of Equality,” Flea’s high bass pops cut, but low notes are a bit muffled; the rest of the music sounds well balanced.
On John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” the ride and high hat cymbals sound a bit harsh, but the acoustic bass isn’t muddy, and you can hear the piano clearly. The mids (‘Trane’s tenor sax) are muscular. Seu Jorge’s cover of “Rebel Rebel” sounds excellent: The acoustic guitar is extremely clear, and his baritone voice gets a little edge from the emphasized highs, making it sound very lively.
The Amplifi does pretty well with Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be,” handling the quieter sections with enough delicacy; the rocking parts lack a little punch but everything is still clearly distinguishable. Marvin Gaye’s
“What’s Going On” fared best: Jamerson’s bass doesn’t get lost, and the vocals aren’t too in-your-face. The multilayered retains all of its individual elements even at top volume.
Griffin did a great job on the Amplifi, and the bass isn’t so overwrought that your neighbors will call you out for disturbing the peace. I’m most impressed with the overall clarity and integrity of the sound even at top volume — which serious rockers will no doubt take advantage of. For $150, you can’t do a whole lot better than this.